Marjane tapped the frozen glass of the passenger-side window in her mother's rental car from the airport. Her brother Jean-Luc played Jelly Defense on her mother's iPad, giggling at the little jelly monsters and the sounds of the jelly canons as they fired (you guessed it) jelly at the monsters. Her mother played with the stereo, flipping from autotuned Christmas song to audotuned Christmas song. She'd been really scatterbrained since the move. Even now, a month after settling into their new apartment in St. Boniface, the French quarter of Winnipeg, Manitoba.
She looked out the window and stared at a small brownstone building, the walls plastered with concert posters, new CD releases and sales advertisements. The store's sign was painted in black, against a neon blue board: Musique Très Chic. Marjane remembered the old record store, a block from her old house in Québec City. She remembered the isles of music, from new releases, to original records from way back in the 70s, like Fleetwood Mac's Rumors or Stella by Yello. Her dad used to dance in slow motion to that album to make me laugh when I was little.
Marjane bit her lip to keep from crying or remembering too much. She stopped the tears, but the memories flooded back to her: the last time she saw her dad at the airport, getting onto a plane and standing there, grinning in his Canadian Forces uniform. Then came the letter. The little yellow paper, handed to her mom by the man in the uniform. Marjane knew already that her father was dead, even before her mom opened the letter. Then came the funeral. The flag covered casket, the medal of sacrifice handed to Marjane's mom, the 21 gun salute that deafened her for a minute, and the bagpipes and snare-drum band playing as her father was lowered into the earth. Then came the move. Bu it had been "for the best", as her mom repeated over and over again.
"Marjane?" Her mother's voice brought her back. "Marjane, you day-dream all the time, sweet heart." She smiled warmly for the first time in days. She was getting stronger and Marjane knew it. It made her feel safer and if anything, happier.
"Maman?" JL broke the tender moment. "Why do we 'ave to listen to Marjane's music? Can we listen to my dique compacte?" He was only eight and barely knew English. Marjane knew better English because her old friends and her surrounded themselves with popculture which came most of the time in English, not her native-tongue, Francais. Her mom had encouraged them to practice English, despite going to French immersion schools, living in the French quarter and speaking French at home.
"You mean your CD, mon cher fils?" She cranked up the heater yet again. That was the other thing that Marjane hated. The cold. It was -12 outside, making Marjane shiver 24/7.
"Oui, maman. He paused for a moment, his CD in his little hands. "Maman, why is it so cold here?"
"Because," Marjane interjected, "the plaines here are so thin and flat, that the wind can get to you faster." She popped in the little blue disc - JL's Christmas music. She flipped around, playing a random song. Then, a new one came on. It started like a piano solo, but then the instruments and singers joined in. Marjane actually... liked it.
"Jean-Luc, what's this? Is it new?" She rubbed her hands against the heater.
"Oui, I bought it before we left. It's called... uh... Chanson d'Hiver? By two girls." He tapped furiously on the iPad screen.
"Chanson d'Hiver? But it's in English. Wait, "Winter Song"?"
"Oui, that's it!"
Marjane's mom turned her head and grinned at the stereo. "It's a nice song. Very calming." She looked ahead onto the road, through the frosted windows. I looked at her cloder, noticing the sadness in her eyes that she always shielded by her strength.
But I had a different view of it. She was hurt inside. Not just by my dad's death, but, maybe she was scared to look forward without him. I sure as hell was. I hated thinking of things like the future without Dad, but it always popped into my head. Especially during the winter. The winter was when we had the most fun because he was always home, always being around. But he was gone now.
"Ma cher..." My mom sighed. I wiped the tears from my eyes. She rubbed my shoulder. JL burst into tears behind us.
"I hate winter, maman..." He croaked. She pulled over the car and leaned back to kiss him. I opened the window and let the cold, crips air freeze my face, hoping the tears would freeze in their place. The sky was gray, cloudy and the streets were white, everywhere.
"You two... we have to be strong..." She pressed her hands to her forehead. "This is the worst time, I know. But... we have to be strong..."
I rolled up the window. I laid my head on her shoulder and felt like ice was growing inside my heart. I laid my head there for what seemed an eternity. Winter. It's cold, bitter and unrelentless. Like death.
The title was inspired by this song. It's called "Winter Song" by Sara Bareilles & Ingrid Michaelson.
And the main story line was based on my friend Danielle's move from Québec to Winnipeg.