Snow in the Desert
There had to be something more.
Veronica gazed unmoving at the blood-red sun as it slid closer to the horizon. The cumulus clouds woven throughout the rosy sky were bathed in an unnatural kaleidoscope of colors. At the edge of her peripheral boundaries, a dim star shivered from the winter winds.
It had snowed the day before, six inches. This was odd, since Veronica lived in the desert. The temperature was at a record low, shattering the previous record from over a century ago. No one felt honored from such a victory. It meant they had to buy coats and turn on the ancient heaters in their homes.
Two days ago Veronica had quit her job at the local bookstore. Her manager knew nothing about how to run a store or treat people. She had chosen to give it a couple months to see how things worked out, but the minute her pay was reduced and her schedule changed something broke. The red-haired Veronica left a note on the locked door.
Thanks for the experience, hope you show up to open shop.
Tom had proposed three days ago. The ring was white gold with a small half-karat diamond centered in star shaped prongs. He was a great guy, handsome and refreshingly mature with a charm that could rouse even the most stubborn of cobras. Black hair, olive skin, sea-gray eyes, he stood a full foot above Veronica which often caused cricks to form in her neck. The dinner table had been covered in a silken white cloth and five candles—all of differing heights—illuminated his one room apartment. Lobster and some sort of strange, juicy cactus was the menu for the evening—it was perfectly cooked and succulent. Veronica declined his offer.
Four days prior a sandy-haired biker had walked into the bookstore. He bought a book about petunias. Veronica had found it strange, yet oddly charming. His voice sounded like waves hitting a cliff, silently overlooking the lonely expansive ocean, or perhaps it was more like the wind blowing through the desert, howling as if searching vainly for some wounded child. His voice stirred the dust of decay and barren fruit into an awe-inspiring array of crystal promises written on the sky. He was rough to look at, with a large scar descending down his nose. In an amicable manner, Veronica had inquired what had happened. The biker gave her a cocked grin and said it had been a bad tumble down a hill when he was ten. She grinned widely at him, how adventurous he seemed.
Her father had left her mother five days before. He had had enough. Veronica was out of the house now, self-sufficient and "a million miles away." Maine was where he was headed; supposedly there was some young fox waiting with a mansion and a generous inheritance. It was that day when the first weather reports arrived about the snowstorm headed for the arid desert. No one believed it, rain was an oddity enough, much less snow. Veronica's mother hung herself that night; no one ever knew he left her because she was bipolar. The medicine had helped her hide that for a time, and she had been an amazing actress in her youth.
Six days ago Hallie stopped in the bookstore for a quick latte and hello. She was a vixen, with corn silk hair and azure eyes. Five foot seven and voluptuous with the best damn legs in the world, or so Richard always said. Going to school with a best friend who got all the attention had been difficult although Veronica didn't mind so much, being a fairly plain five foot tall girl herself, it got her attention too. Plus, unlike Hallie, she had a steady job and a decent guy. Tom was treating her better than anyone she had ever met. If he asked her to marry him, she would have died in euphoric ecstasy.
It had been seven days since Veronica's sister gave birth to a drooling baby boy named Thomas. It was a bit disconcerting to Veronica; she already had a Tom in her life. The phone call was rushed and crackly. Joe sped through the description of the birth, emphasizing his ability not to faint. He told her it was really too bad she couldn't come and support her sister, but they understood, it just would have been really nice to have some extra female support. Veronica shrugged it off. Joe always tried to invoke pity, and somehow it elated him to be the alpha wolf in any relationship. She had laughed out loud at such a thought—and it was during her lunch break when she was sitting on a bench. Everyone had stared at her (one boy, a blue mohawked "punk" even called her crazy). Joe was the most spineless blob of fat she knew, and her sister was a vulture for pain.
The sun barely peered out over the horizon, playing a childish game of peek-a-boo. If only it knew that no one really cared. A burning ball of gas—no matter howbeneficial to people's health—rarely offered amusement. In fact, it hurt to look at. Veronica tried to close her eyes but found the task impossible. Perhaps the snow she was laying in had frozen her eyelids open.
Tom had visited her the day before, escaping from the snow to chug a warm cup of coffee—black. His face was a carefully crafted mask of apathy, yet his gray eyes were still moist with rejection. Veronica sat at the table, a small smile on her face while she talked to him. A randmother and her grandson were playing a rollicking game of hangman at the table to their right. The category was "Movies." The young boy had trumped his grandmother; no one ever said numbers weren't allowed. U-571 was the movie, the woman tried to protest the unfair nature of the answer, but the rules weren't specific enough, until now.
Veronica stared intently at the man across from her. "Are you even listening to me, Tom?"
"Yes, keep going." His voice was unconvincing.
The sun was completely gone now, allowing the brilliant gemstones of the universe to play out their antique myths and escapades. The wind had calmed to a babble, yet it still blotted out the sound of footsteps and children making snowmen. What a marvelous thing it was, to see snow for the first time. Its delicate flakes melted like rock candy in the mouth and if there was enough snow in one place a ball could be made out of it and tossed at the annoying neighbor boy. He always threw sand at recess; snow was so much worse a punishment.
Three days before, the biker had returned to buy a book on lilies, though he didn't seem too interested in the funeral flowers considering he asked Veronica out for a dinner. Her cheeks turned a subtle roseate—she accepted. Hallie always told her never to pass up on an opportunity for adventure. Veronica had never ridden on a motorcycle before.
A hand—covered in a navy blue, furry glove—reached down to Veronica where she lay. It waved a couple times in front of her eyes, blocking out the twinkling stars above. She couldn't tell if it belonged to an adult or a child; the fingers were thin yet unnatural in length and the palm was plump yet had a small circumference.
There had to be something missing. The snow felt too foreign, too cold.
A day later the television crew drove out to the park where the children had been playing. A newscaster arrayed in a haughty pinstriped suit stood directly in front of a rising sun. A breaking story was at hand.
"Just the other day, the man suspected of killing seven women in the past six years claimed his eighth victim—Veronica Este. We are now going to talk to detective Goodwin for any details. Detective."
A man with sandy-colored hair stood in front of the camera, a black biker's jacket snug around him. His face was serious, yet the scar descending down his nose made his appearance one of hellacious sorrow. "We're looking for a man named Tom Jeckings..."