“When she’s older, she’ll realise it was just some performing arts graduate trying to make a quick quid by dressing up in a sparkly dress and a crown. The pictures I saw, I could have done better with my old prom dress and a few pints of glitter.”
Janie struggled through the snow to the back door. She stamped off the worst of the icy sludge from her boots before going in. The kitchen was almost too warm after hours in the freezing stable and she had to sit down hurriedly on the nearest chair as she went light headed.
“Boots off,” her mother said automatically, sticking her head around the door.
“In a minute,” Janie said, rubbing her stinging, stiff hands to try to get enough feeling into them.
Her mother came forward and knelt down beside her. Apparently not caring about the dung and hey that must be lurking under the snow and mud, she took hold of each of Janie’s boots in turn and drew them off. Janie couldn’t help a smile. She knew her mother would claim that it was purely for the sake of the floor but she knew better. All the same, her mum’s expression looked pinched as she straightened up.
“What’s up?” Janie asked, flexing her socked toes against the kitchen tiles.
“Go and get a hot bath, I’ll bring you a mug of tea.”
Janie wrinkled her nose as her mother put her riding boots neatly on the rack with the other outdoor shoes.
“Now you have me really worried.”
Her mother sighed and her shoulders slumped as she turned towards the kettle.
“The people meant to be doing the kid’s party cancelled.”
“What?” Janie asked. She half got up, then remembered just how much her legs ached from all that time running to and from the feed store and thought better of it.
“Weathers too bad, apparently. Won’t risk it.”
“But you spent months planning that!”
“I know,” her mother sighed. “Can’t be helped. They’ll just have to make do with the crafts and cakes.”
Janie nodded, though she could tell her mother was crushed. Ever since she’d had to give up work due to her health, doing events for the community centre had been a good focus for her. She’d been so invested in making them better than the shambolic, glitter encrusted messes Janie had gone to when she was little. It wasn’t fair to have the work undone by a bit of snow.
“Lily will be disappointed,” her mother said, flicking on the kettle. That would be an understatement. Janie’s six year old sister would be destroy-the-house-scream-the-place-down-devastated. Or worse, wide eyed and solemn, silently heartbroken like she’d been last year when mum hadn’t gotten discharged from hospital in time to watch her school play.
“She really wanted to meet the snowflake queen, didn’t she?” Janie couldn’t help herself, though she knew dwelling on it would make it worse for her mum.
“She did,” her mother agreed, reaching for a mug.
“She’ll get over it though,” Janie tried again, “When she’s older, she’ll realise it was just some performing arts graduate trying to make a quick quid by dressing up in a sparkly dress and a crown. The pictures I saw, I could have done better with my old prom dress and a few pints of glitter.”
“Not really the point at their age, is it?” her mother smiled ruefully at her.
Janie could tell she was reminiscing about how Janie had been far more interested in going out and trying to make a snowman out of muddy sludge than sitting on Santa’s lap. Lily was the one who imagined that the horses Janie mucked out were actually unicorns and pegasuses (pegasi?) in disguise. Janie had taken her out riding a few times and Lily was so determined to cling on to her fantasy that she hadn’t even cried when she’d fallen off. Janie was sure her sister hated the bumpy, cold, smelly reality of riding but she’d never say as much. Her head was too stuffed with fantasy to accept defeat that easily.
“You’re right though,” her mother said, “She will get over it.”
“Yeah…” Janie finally managed to lever herself out of the chair.
“Bath,” her mother insisted.
Janie made an ‘I’m going, I’m going’ gesture and began to stump out of the kitchen, her legs complaining all the way. She could hear a swelling orchestra from the living room and knew Lily would be sitting transfixed in front of some glimmering fantasy, dreaming about it coming true. Janie began to drag herself upstairs. Her mother was right: she would get over it. But Janie had been right too: she could do as good a job with her prom dress and Lily’s craft supplies. Snowflake queens could wear masks, couldn’t they? Providing they were sparkly and unthreatening enough. She just had to find out where she could get her hands on enough glitter…