The Subaru pulls into the gas station
crunching against newly fallen snow,
replicating the sound of a wood burning stove,
warming a sleeping home.
The only light comes
from the sterile station lamps.
Arctic mountains in the distance powdered
with snow loomed in the night.
Spiked trees peek out,
scraping the dark blue sky.
He parks the car near an empty pump,
clicking the keys to the left twice.
The hum of the engine mellows,
but the window wipers continue to maneuver
left to right, right to left,
chipping away at the frozen fragments of ice,
pasted onto the windscreen.
He looks in the rearview mirror,
checking to make sure she’s still asleep,
the peaceful smile still consuming her young face,
her body still curled into fetal position,
and her fist still clenched tightly
holding onto something or someone not there.
Stepping outside of the car,
his work boots becoming covered in snow,
he grabs an iced-over pump,
pulling at the handle,
until it finally pops out with a clank.
He leans on the left backseat door
waiting for the car to fill itself.
He didn’t notice the waking girl.
rubbing her eyes, trying to remove
the muck from her eyelids.
Her eyes adjust to the surroundings.
Staring into the dark night sky,
following the tiny twinkling stars.
Her hazel iris widening
and her mouth stretching open
a yawn slipping out into the silence.
Her brows scrunch together,
like a caterpillar moving across pavement.
He had angled himself in a way
where only his side profile was visible
but even from there she could see the glow of his cigarette,
its bud growing red - red as a stream of blood
trickling from a fresh paper cut.
The smoke escapes his lips
and dissolves into the icy atmosphere
turning around once again, removing the pump,
he enters the vehicle.
The freezing air rushes into the car
a chill shooting up both of their calves.
The whirling sound of the winds motions
outside filling their ears,
the snow from his boots melts into the mat below him,
and he clicks his seat belt back into its buckle.
Then once again he looks back at her,
and she pretends to be asleep to avoid the burden
of walking grudgingly through snow
once they reach their destination.