The Night it Snowed in L.A.

An Editing & Publishing student at BYU, I write Wikipedia articles for the Harold B. Lee Library—and stop by the short story dispenser whenever my hands aren't full of books.

Image of Long Story Short Award - Fall 2020
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“It’s snowing outside,” Lionel lunged for the windowsill, gripping the cold plastic with the eagerness of a child. There he stayed, equally enthralled and at ease, only glancing away to look back at his wife. Mrs. Navarro was swaddled in blankets, her pregnant belly bulging beneath layers of wool and cotton. She seemed completely unimpressed by the spectacle occurring in the darkness just beyond the window. Her only response was silently, slowly blinking and adjusting her swollen feet up onto the coffee table. Lionel winced, not only at the impending doom of the germs from the floor crawling into his cup of champurrado, but at his wife’s drowsy indifference to the miracle they were both now witnessing: snow in L.A.
Finally, she spoke: “I’m going to bed, mi amor,” she yawned, waving her hand weakly at the TV, “don’t forget to record the new episode of Rosa de Guadalupe for me.” She gathered her blankets around herself and waddled towards the kitchen. Lionel watched the snow fall in flakes the size of pinecones until he heard the microwave ding. “Constance?” He called, “are you cooking?” He then heard the light, tinkling sound of a spoon stirring hot chocolate powder into milk. “I can’t sleep without it anymore,” she responded. “I’m just so cold all the time.” Lionel ventured, “maybe you should just have warm milk, mi amor. Save the caffeine for the morning.” His wife limped back into view, her dark hair wrapped in a long, loose braid, her skin dotted with blemishes and sagging with fatigue. Any onlooker would have branded her an unhappy, exhausted child bride; she was, after all, only nineteen. But she smiled. And Lionel smiled, because she was carrying his child, and because it was snowing in L.A. After twenty-two years’ worth of pain, two miracles seemed to be too many.
When the city air got too difficult to breathe, and their parents’ opinions too difficult to handle, Constance and Lionel Navarro packed up their old Subaru and prayed it would survive the long drive to Park City. The memory of the miscarriage hung on their backs, but—for Lionel—its ache and burn lessened with each mile they drove. And upon their arrival, the fire that had been burning unwarily within him was doused with snow.
“I won’t ever go skiing,” Constance vowed. “Not if my life depends on it. I’d throw myself off the mountain before I got strapped into those ridiculous things.” Lionel laughed somewhat at her dark humor, and remarked, “they’re called skis, you know.” She threw back a look that could kill, but one that would mercifully, not vengefully, murder. She was not a cold woman. Yes, the warmth within her was fading; yes, she was weary, overcome, and crushed. Still, her soul was not lost. Her heart was not frozen, though she thought it was.
He bought her some hot chocolate at a Seven-Eleven and drove to an overlook to watch the snow. She did not want to emerge from the cocoon of blankets she had formed in the passenger’s seat—the wool and cotton weaved around her empty belly and concealed it from the harsh, cold Utah wind—but Lionel gave her his gloved hand and she took it. “How am I going to survive in this cold, mi amor?” Her deep, black eyes absorbed miles of mountainous terrain but saw only darkness. Mr. Navarro watched as the snow gathered around his wife’s hair, illuminating her face and casting, in his eyes, a halo upon her head. But she did not smile. After twenty-two-and-a-half years of unrelenting struggle, Lionel was still waiting on his miracle.
Christmas came after months of plentiful sun, a little more snow, and very little rain. The holiday season was the season of Constance. Lionel knew that if there was a time for his wife to return to the land of the living, it was now. He was convinced of this, and self-assurance became was his daily bread. He had watched for six months as his wife dressed in black every morning, went to work every day, and returned home every evening in the most woeful of moods. Her flautas had lost their crunch, her chiles rellenos their spice. Her smile had disappeared after the night it snowed in L.A., and he was ready for it to return.
He drove quickly, if not a little haphazardly, to the Christmas party. Louis Hepworth—Lionel and Constance’s shared employer—welcomed him in. “Constance and the other maids are still getting everything set up, Chef Lionel. Why don’t you go try some of the cranberry punch?” Never daring to go against the old man’s wishes, Lionel sipped the tart concoction as the maids scurried about from place to place, draping lights and red linens, lining every inch of the mansion with tinsel and holly. This will be the most festive thing she’s ever seen, he thought to himself. I wonder where she is.
Guests began to arrive, and the mood in the room soon began to shift from awkward tension to comfortable celebration. The sun was long gone, but the decorative lights handily illuminated the nooks and crannies of Mr. Hepworth’s manor. Louis had long been in search of his wife, and his anxiety soon turned into crippling worry. Where could she be? The house grew silent as a figure appeared atop the grand staircase. Louis followed the crowd in lifting his gaze.
It was her. She had forgone her black garb in favor of a grand, sparkling red dress. She didn’t wobble down the stairs; she pranced with confidence. Her black curls were wrapped to one side, and her clear diamond necklace reflected red and green. She reached him, and took his hands, and the two were dancing before the young husband knew what was happening.
Finally, he spoke: “It wasn’t me, was it?” Her eyes narrowed in confusion, so he continued. “I wanted to be the one to... to cheer you up. To fix you. But it wasn’t me who fixed you, was it, mi amor?”
She kissed him briefly, her gesture of consolation interrupted by the jazz band’s lead singer announcing the next song. The sky outside erupted in an instantaneous blizzard. Lionel could see swirls of white through the huge glass window, mingling with reflections of red and green. He tightened his grip on his wife’s waist, afraid she might slip back into herself at the sight of snow.
But instead, she calmly announced: “I’m not afraid of it anymore, you know. I still don’t like it, but I can live with it. I’m going to be okay.” Her red-painted lips broadened into a gentle smile as Lionel realized her words applied to not only the snow, but their shared hardship. “But,” she chuckled, “you didn’t fix me. You were there, you were wonderful, and I needed that. But I didn’t need fixing, mi amor. I just needed time to remember myself.” Then, the smile she had so graciously bestowed upon him swelled into laughter. “I think,” she chuckled, “that I’m even better than I was before. I’d never been through anything that difficult. I think it made me stronger, by the end—giving me more power to weather the storm. I used to be constantly exhausted,” after a pause, she concluded, “but now I think I’ll stay up all night.” He blinked, then wrapped her into a hug. “Thank you for coming back to me,” were the only words he could say.
And time seemed to slip away from them that night. They danced until Mr. Hepworth sent the jazz band away, gathered a copious amount of culinary intel from Lionel, and declared he was going to bed. After twenty-three years of intertwined bliss and agony, the young husband pressed his one miracle to his heart with unyielding passion, and watched the swirling snow like a little child.