"I think you can fit in a little walk before Father gets back. Don't stay out for too long though," fretted her mother. "You know how your father gets when you're not home on time.
" She handed her daughter a scarf and herded her out the door. The air outside was cold and sharp, and it smelled like the pines that shrouded her house from the neighbors.
Eva stopped a moment on the stoop of their porch and observed her surroundings. There was fresh snow on the ground, untouched as it had only snowed that afternoon.
The snow was white and flawless; there were no footprints, no snow angels, no sign of life on her front lawn.
Eva walked across her lawn, feeling the pleasure one does when they are the first to walk across new, untouched snow.
She enjoyed the crunching sound it made beneath her feet, and the sinking feeling of her boots in the snow. She got to the front gate, and had to push and shove quite a bit to get it to open.
It finally did, but with a creaking noise that was uncommon in her neighborhood.
She walked out the front gate, and felt a huge weight lift off of her shoulders, as it always did when she left the house. This weight was the weight of expectations and promises.
Her father expected so much of her; he always thought that she wasn't trying hard enough. When she was younger, she used to hate seeing him disappointed in her.
Now, however, she'd gotten used to it and moved on.
Eva walked along the sidewalk that ran the length of the street.
The moonlight reflected off of the snow and provided a soft, glowing light that allowed her to see the other houses in the neighborhood.
The Christmas lights were strung on every other house on the street. There was such a variety; brilliant multi-colored lights on one house, warm, golden ones on another.
There were families of snowmen on front lawns, and footprints both small and large in the snow. There were fake deer on most of the lawns, and wreaths were hung on the doors.
It looked homey and inviting; to Eva, it was all she had ever wanted. Not necessarily the decorations and the lights, but something for her family to do together.
Something for her family to bond over.
She looked into the window of the second house to the right. The house was cluttered; the armchairs were squishy and used, blankets were thrown in a haphazard manner over the backs.
A fire was roaring in the fireplace on the far wall, and a dog was curled up next to it. The sturdy coffee tables were covered in books, pictures and mugs.
A Christmas tree stood in the corner of the room, towering over a stack of presents wrapped with love and care.
There was that little girl who was always beside her big sister; they seemed to be attached at the hip. They sat together in front of the fire, laughing and drinking hot cocoa.
They had rosy cheeks, Eva assumed that they had just come back in from outside. The mother was straightening cushions on the couch, and the brother was setting the table.
The father sat on the couch reading a Christmas story to the toddler sitting in his lap. Shortly after, the whole family gathered around the table, joined hands, and said grace.
She smiled, though a little sadly, to know that there was happiness in the world.
Just then, a gust of nippy air blasted Eva's chin-length brown hair and brought her back into reality. It whipped around her face and stung her cheeks.
She turned from the window, away from the light, and started the walk back to her house.
Eva was filled with a small sense of hope. Hope that, maybe, one day, her life could be normal too. That, one day, her parents would love each other like spouses were supposed to.
That, one day, her father would love her and accept her for who she was. That, one day, he would bother to get to know her.
Fat chance, she thought, a little drily. Why would he? He's always wanted a son. I'm just not good enough... He doesn't care.
Eva's boots crunched over the salt on the sidewalk, and as she neared her home, each step was filled with more dread.
She hoped that her father was not home yet, because if he was, he and Mother would surely be fighting long into the night. She opened the gate, and stepped behind the wall of pine trees.
Here, there were no family meals around the table, no lights strung with care on the roof, and inside, there was only an artificial tree in the cold, drafty main hall.
There were no families of snowmen in the front yard. Eva stopped and listened; she could hear her parents yelling at each other from inside the house.
Something pushed her to make her home a little more festive. She slowly began to make a snowman. She rolled a first snowball, packing, rolling, pressing, until it was about knee height.
She then started another one; packing, rolling, pressing. When it was large enough, she picked it up and gently placed it on the first snowball.
She then formed the head, making sure that it was perfectly round. The final product was a snowball about the size of a grapefruit. She left it on the torso of the snowman.
Then she took a deep breath, turned on her heel, and walked through the front door.
Though the fighting in the house continued long into the night, Eva slept soundly, thinking about the family in the second house to the right.
No one came to tuck her in or kiss her goodnight, but the snowman stood guard outside alone the whole night long, for Eva, which, to her, was just as good.