The first few days had been both the most entertaining and predictably the raunchiest. Most of the traders were still male, and just by sorting out the pictures alone, she had identified more then half the non-relavent files, just by identifying all the porn-pics her clients had sent to their buddies. It was nothing classy,and some of it went a few steps beyond her normal level of tolerance, but it was all from a British company, so what could you expect? However, the days of crotch shots and busty secretaries were over, and now it was just endless prospectuses, and emails filled with words like "fiduciary," "liquidity," and a lot of mumbo jumbo revolving around mutual funds being their client's lifeblood that made her want to tear her eyeballs out of her skull. Right now the only upshot she could see to her life was the fact that her office had a window that overlooked the street.
The window, something normally reserved for people much more senior than herself, was in her office because the seals were not done correctly, so the frigid air seeped in from outside. It meant that Madison often wore bulky sweaters and long wool slacks, which resulted in fewer men checking her out. A result that Madison felt justified being a little cold at work. In addition, she was able to look out onto a small park that was just outside of her office building.
Today the park was covered in fresh, new snow. Four inches had fallen, and while they had plowed the streets, the park had remained untouched. Pristine. As the words on Madison's screen began to slide one into the other, she glanced out the window and saw a small girl in a pink snowsuit making a fresh snow-angel. Something she had not done since she was a young girl.
"Madison, don't forget your gloves," her dad said, as she ran for the door, ecstatic that she had been granted a snow day. Her father, who had an acrid smell of cherry tobacco hanging around him from the pipe that he would smoke, knelt down and said, "It's wet snow, and you'll catch pneumonia out there if you don't have your gloves." He handed her the gloves and said, "Now, don't go past the big hill, and try and stay out of the tree line so I can see you, OK?"
"OK," she said, pulling on her gloves, which were pink with white faux-fur edging the hole she crammed her hand into.Then with a quick kiss on her dad's cheek, which she still thought tasted bad, she opened the door and raced outside the house. The sharp air immediately stung her lungs, turning her breath into vapor before her eyes. After running a few feet into the wet snow that came up to her waist, she stopped and tried to blow her breath out in rings the same way that she had seen her father blow his pipe smoke. She never got the perfect rings that he was able to achieve, but after a few minutes of trying she was able to produce a shaky looking ring of vapor that looked more like an egg than anything else, but still, she was pleased.
Next, she ran around her house to the front yard. The main road passed by the house about twenty feet away from the front door, but in between there was nothing but dead grass lying under the mass of snow. Madison attacked this dead zone, and managed to build both a snowman and woman. She even banged on the front door and got her dad to donate an old pipe that had cracked a little, so the snowman could smoke. He also got a carrot nose and she forced two black liquorish strands into a grin and ground them into his face until he had a passable smile. For the snow-woman, she found one of her mother's old scarves that she never wore and put that around her throat. She added a kitchen apron and for good measure, she took red liquorish strands and gave her snow-woman red lips. She also got a carrot for a nose, but it was smaller and more pointed then the one on the snowman.
As she finished the snow-woman, Madison looked around. The front yard's snow was now trampled and had bits of grass and brown stuff mixed in with it. She had rolled the bases of the snowmen rather than just trying and make them out of hand packed snow. It was a sign of her good work, but it was not very pretty, so she decided to move on to fresh, glittering snow and began to inch her way back around the house. When she got there, she could see her own footsteps from earlier in the day, along with something new: deer tracks.
Her dad said that the deer around their house were pests, and he was always trying to figure out ways to make sure they didn't eat his garden. She had seen them a few times, and they did not look like pests to her. They were much bigger then bugs for one thing, and not nearly as ugly as rats, so Madison could not see how they could be a pest. Everything needed to eat, and if the deer ate the vegetable plants her father planted, all the better for her. That meant she would not have to eat them. Pleased by that thought, Madison began following the tracks in the snow. A deer was much more exciting than anything else she could think of at the moment.
The tracks lead into the tree line. She stopped right at the edge of the forest and looked back at her house. It looked like something out of a storybook. The roof was all covered in show, and there was smoke coming out of the chimney. Madison admired the view for a second and then began to scan the windows for her father. She did not spot him, and for a moment, she thought about just going back to the house and warming up by the fire. But she knew that if she went inside, she would not come back out. Inside there was hot chocolate, a hot bath, and television. Also, it was not like she had to do her homework. She had done it the night before, which she was sure was the only reason it had snowed.
It would only take ten minutes she decided. Either she would see the deer, or she would not, and if she didn't see it right away, she would come back to the house and get warm. With that thought, Madison stepped into the forest. Immediately, the sounds of the road dropped to almost nothing and the world grew several shades darker, even though the trees had already shed their leaves. Madison did not give this much thought; she had gone in and out of these woods since she could remember.
The tracks meandered for a while, and just at the point that Madison was going to give up and turn back, she walked into a clearing. It took her a moment to orientate herself and discover that she was on top of the big hill. It was, she thought, an apt name for where she stood. She could see her house, about a half mile off and alongside of it was the road. From this distance, she could make out that there were two figures in front of the house, but it was impossible to tell which one was the man and which was the woman. Off to her right, the hill ended in a bluff face that dropped about three hundred feet to where the road snaked past. To the left of her was more forest, and in front of her was the crest of the hill. Behind the crest stood more trees, and Madison could see that several of these had bright orange flags hanging off them.
She walked the few extra feet to the top and looked around. The air here was colder than by her house, but it was so crisp and clear that she could see for miles in any direction she chose to. The sky had cleared of clouds and all around her the world glistened. It was almost as if she had shrunk down to being only an inch tall and was standing on one of those tables with a light set in the base of it. The light was shining and all the diamonds were sparkling. Smiling, she pulled the hood up on her jacket and then turned, arms outstretched, and fell backwards. She landed with a soft WHUMP and instantly felt the icy snow clawing its way past her layers, including the faux-fur on her gloves. Sweeping her arms and legs back and forth, she made the best snow angel she could.
Madison finished her snow angel and lay contently for a moment. Then, just as she was about to get up she saw a stream of vapor move over her head, and suddenly she was aware of the sound of heavy breathing. Carefully, Madison reached up with her pink gloves and pulled her hood down so that she could see what was behind her. There, standing almost directly on top of her was one of the largest bucks she had ever seen. From underneath his head, it was impossible for her to see how many points he was, but his antlers looked to be three feet tall, and both sides of them extended a good two or three inches past the creature’s ears before curving up. He was mostly the dun brown of all the deer she had seen, but on his neck and running up to underneath his jaw there was a wavy line of white spots, and the fur around his face appeared much lighter than the rest of him. His nose was incredibly black and looked to be almost square at the end. The animal looked down at her, and for a moment, Madison could see reflected in the large eyes of the huge buck her pink gloves frozen in front of her face. She exhaled loudly, trying to let the buck know she was there without scaring it.
BANG! Madison's office door bounced off the door stop, and the lead-lawyer, Tanner Hollinsworth, came barging into her office. Madison, who had been staring at her computer screen, nearly cleared the whole desk as she jumped in surprise.
"Oh. Sorry," Tanner said. "I didn't mean to scare you."
Madison gave herself a little shake and said, "No. It's fine. What's up?"
"That!" Tanner said pointing out the window, where the snow had started falling again. "The SEC was closed today, and we just got word that they are going to be closed for at least the rest of the week. Probably longer as it's supposed to dump another three feet. I got them to agree to a joint motion to continue, so there is no reason for you to be stuck here. Go home and stay warm. This can wait a few days."
Madison managed a small smile. "Will do, and thanks."
Tanner nodded and then in a softer voice he said, "You OK? You look like you just saw a ghost or something."
Madison tried to smile. "Fine. You just startled me is all."
Tanner looked at her for a moment, and Madison could see he was trying to gauge how much of a lie he had just been fed. After a second, he just said, "Sorry about that. Now, get home safe," and before she could say anything else, he turned and left.
As soon as the bullet struck home, it ripped a huge hole in the buck's neck, right where the first of the white spots furthest from his face had been. Blood gushed from the wound, and the maimed creature leaped over Madison, covering her in blood. It landed unsteadily on its feet and ran about thirty feet before its forelegs buckled and it collapsed. By that time the first, piercing scream that had erupted from Madison's throat was still echoing throughout the clearing.
"What the hell is that?!" Madison heard, followed by the sound of heavy foot falls and the banging and jangling of equipment held to someone by a shoulder strap. Suddenly a large man wearing camo and sporting a huge black beard was standing over Madison as she screamed.
"Jesus. There's a little girl here. Why the hell didja shoot?"
"Christ man. Look at where she is. I couldn't see her. She OK?"
The man with the black beard reached down and picked Madison up. Madison could see that one of his feet was firmly planted in the right wing of her angel, which was now various shades of red and pink. Already the warm blood was melting the cold snow. The whole thing was blotchy, but where she had been laying, it was still perfectly white underneath. It still sparkled like diamonds. As she watched, a second man sporting a large rifle with an even larger scope ran by her and up to the deer that was bleeding out. She screamed again, but then the bearded man put his hand over her mouth and started saying "Shush. It's over now. It's over. Try and calm down." He removed his hand from her mouth. "You've got to breathe. Calm down." The whole time the big man held her small body in his arms trying to soothe her.
"God damn! Ken. This is a seventeen pointer. Can you believe that!" Madison heard him exclaim, followed by the terrible sound of air being pulled through liquid, like when someone drinking out of a straw hits the bottom of the glass. And without knowing how she knew it, Madison was certain that was the last sound the deer ever made.
"Shit, Ray. You nearly shoot a kid and the only thing you are worried about is how many points it is."
"What? She's fine. Nothing a little water and soap won't take off. And what was she doing up here all by herself anyway?"
Madison put on her overcoat, hat, rubber boots, and gloves and left her office. The snow was coming down in big, wet flakes that stuck to her eyelashes and melted on her cheeks. Here and there a few people were moving about in ones or twos as they trickled out of the office building around her, making their way home.
"Where you from sweetheart? Where's your home?" Ken asked. Madison pointed to where the smoke from her house was rising into the air. Ken followed her finger and then with a nod said, "Ok. I’m going to take you home. Try not to look at the deer as we go by. Now, close your eyes." Madison did and felt something wet there and tried not to think about it.
On the street in front of her office Madison made a left, even though the subway and the way home was to the right. She leaned into the wind and the blowing snow until she made her way to the park. The trees there had lost their leaves and the wind whipped through the park. It had already obliterated a shallow angel a young girl had made, which made Madison just a little sad. Madison pressed on through the storm towards the center of the park, where she eventually found a statue. She had no idea what it was for, but there was a man astride a horse that had both of its front paws off the ground. The horse was not a deer, she knew, but something in the wild look of the eyes of the statue captured what Madison was feeling. And she let out a sigh of frustration that escaped out of her nose in one long column of vapor.
As Ken walked through the trees, he could hear a man calling out "Madison! Maaadisooon! Where are you?” It was not the voice of someone who was worried just yet, but Ken could tell that the man had been out in the cold, calling for at least a few minutes and was on his way to worry. Madison shivered in his arms, and looked up at him. Ken tried to smile, but instead said, "I think you're going to give your dad there the fright of life. But I promise, I'll do everything I can to see you don't get into trouble." He put the girl down, and as soon as he did, she ran away from him, leaving bloody footprints in the snow.
Madison walked up to the monument,stopped like child who was just caught with their hand in the cookie jar. She looked around, and even though the snow was not sparkling, there was something in the way it was moving on the air. It was free, and seemed to move not as individual flakes, but as a thing that lived and breathed. In the shifting swirl of the flakes, she fancied she saw a buck for a moment, and then she fell backwards and began to sweep her legs and arms along the ground.
Madison's father stamped his foot onto the ground, trying to warm his toes. His pipe was warm in his hands, but it had gone out while he called for his daughter. The sun was starting to sink and in a half hour it would be dark. He knew something was off, but she had always come out of the woods just fine, so he was sure she would come back. Suddenly a figure broke through the tree line. It was Madison, but something was wrong. She was covered in blood. He dropped his pipe and ran. As soon as he reached his daughter, he scooped her up and began checking her for wounds. Ken watched all of this from inside the forest, and then, with his hand raised, he walked slowly out of the trees to try and explain what happened.
Madison quit moving her limbs and for a moment just lay in the cold snow, watching as the sky blew more flakes all over. She knew her angel would not survive the night, but for some reason, that did not matter. It was her angel, and it was untouched. As carefully as she could, she sat up and pushed herself onto her feet with her hands. Eventually she stepped out of her angel, leaving only three extra marks to show where she had risen. Those would fill in with snow, and if she was lucky, that might happen before the rest of the angel was filled in. She started walking towards the metro, but as she did, she took one last look at her angel. Not knowing why, and without really thinking about it, she glanced up at the rider. A small smile touched her lips, when she saw he had a beard that looked like the one Uncle Ken always wore.