The snow is falling, soft and light.
I have my mother’s silver and black shoes, the ones with the click-clack heels. She can no longer wear them: her feet are old and crabby and she cannot balance, she says. But if I listen carefully I can hear her heels on the tiled floor as she fetches another tray of canapés from the kitchen. As she throws her head back and laughs.
She doesn’t laugh like that now.
The snow falls and the silence folds in. I slip my feet into the shoes and shimmy round my room. There is no one to see me. Only a blackbird on the frozen lawn and the snow-bound trees.
My mother sits in the house in her old blue slippers remembering parties long gone, the flickering of the candles and the soft hubbub of talk, my father at the edges and when she telephones the silence of her house reaches me down the line.
‘It’s so quiet,’ she says, ‘With everyone gone.’
It’s quiet here, I think. All the same, my son is in his room clattering the keyboards and the dog is snoring in the corner. Perhaps not so quiet. Only the snow makes it seem that way.
‘Hasn’t anyone been round?’
‘What sound?’ my mother asks.
‘Have you had any visitors?’
‘No, it’s quiet.’
Outside the flakes are flying through the air like a thousand tiny moths. Their white eyes are on the window.
‘Don’t get old,’ my mother says.
As if anyone can decide such a thing. I stare at the snow again and I say, ‘The old woman is shaking her quilt.’
‘I haven’t split anything.’ Now my mother is angry.
‘The snow. That’s what I meant. Is it falling where you are?’
‘Yes, snow, white and cold.’
‘Ah, snow. It always snowed in our day. Your nappies froze on the washing line. They were like cardboard.’
‘It’s snowing here. Now. Today.’ My room is filled with shimmering light.
‘Oh,’ my mother says. ‘Is it?’
‘Do you remember that winter? You must have been five or six. The snow-drifts rose as high as the roof of our car and we had a bonfire on the pond and everyone went skating. Perhaps you don’t?’
‘I loved the snow. But I don’t like it now. I can’t get out of the house.’
‘What about those special shoes I bought for you?’
‘Shoes, mum. Shoes for snow.’
She sighs. Like a breeze that knocks against the branches and brings the snow down. ‘We used to climb mountains, your father and I, whatever the weather.’
When our call ends I kick off my mother’s shoes. They are a little tight for me, not comfortable. Later I slip them on again and step out into the bright, white world and the heels leave small holes in the snow as if an animal had snuffled its way across our lawn.