The sound of his key catching in the lock could barely be heard. As he slowly pushed open the door, he caught the last few bars of a cereal commercial blaring from the aging television set. Children were screaming all around him. The stereo was playing at an indecent volume. His parents were arguing. His youngest nephew was crying.
Jamie Daniels felt as though a pillow had been pressed over his face. He couldn’t breathe in his own home. There were just too many people.
The worn out rubber of the soles of his sneakers squeaked as they thudded across the dirty floor. A year ago, that alone would have signaled his arrival. But now it took more than slight noises to make his presence known.
Jamie crossed to the kitchen and escaped out the back door. No one noticed him. He was invisible.
The air was crisp and clean. Steam rose from his mouth with each breath. He breathed deeply. He smelled snow. Minnesota would have its first December snow that night.
Perfect skating conditions were no longer amorphous; the pond would remain frozen from now until spring.
A small smile tugged at his lips. He had always loved this time of year. All of his best memories had happened when it snowed. His best birthday. His first kiss. The first time he ever touched the ice.
But none of that meant anything to him anymore. Not even hockey. What once had given him nothing but pleasure now caused his heart to ache. And nothing – and no one – could make it stop.