It did snow in The Hague, not very often, but it did happen. The snow never stayed very long, but every once in a while, it would snow and cover the world around us in a powdery white blanket. It was so beautiful when it did happen that I could not help but sit by the window and look at how lovely it was.
Snow had a special magic about it that made everything look clean. The dusty streets, the fish drying house, and the butchery all looked rank and dirty under normal conditions. However, when it snowed, a sparkling white sheen covered the ugly parts of our city and made it look fresh and new. I loved the snow no matter how short lived it always seemed.
Moeder used to ask me why I would not go play in it like the other children.
“They are messing it up. It is too pretty to bat around like idiot kittens,” I would reply to her.
She stopped asking me after a time. My answer was always the same.
The day before Christmas, I could tell that my first wish was in jeopardy. We had been forced to eat black bread soaked in water again for breakfast, and no new envelopes had arrived with money from Vincent’s family. I looked to Moeder for some reassurance that we were only eating bad food now to save up enough for a feast tomorrow, but she refused to look up from her breakfast. The table was full of quiet, solemn people. I began to fear the worst.
That night, I overheard Sien and Vincent talking in the kitchen.
“What shall we do, Vincent? Would you have us eat black bread and coffee for Christmas dinner?”
“No, I do not wish that, but I have not received the letter from Theo that I have been expecting. Surely he would not abandon us so on Christmas.”
“He has abandoned us. I suspect that the mail service will be taking tomorrow as a holiday. We have no money to buy food tomorrow.”
“I do not know what you want from me.”
“To feed us, Vincent.”
“I have nothing to offer you but my love, Sien.”
“We cannot feast on your love,” she retorted.
Silence crept into the room and pulled up a chair for a nice long visit. He replaced the sound of arguing with the uncomfortable buzz of nothing. In fact, he stayed so long that the grumbling in my belly ceased, and I drifted away to sleep. Dreams of silent demons sitting at empty tables haunted my rest all night long.
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