My feet step carefully along the icy sidewalk as I fight against the cold winter wind. I pat my pocket one more time to make sure that the small bottle of vanilla is still there, and it is. The wind playfully swirls around my head for the thousandth time, messing up my hair once again. I comply with the wind’s will and leave my hood down, knowing that it really doesn’t like hoods. My thoughts turn back to the New Year’s Eve party that I’m currently missing. I can’t believe how many people showed up- I don’t even know half of them. That was how we ended up running out of vanilla. The one bottle that was in the pantry should have been enough, had the normal amount of people shown up, but we had so many extra guests this year that we didn’t have enough to make just one bowl of ice cream per person. My mom had suggested just giving ice cream to the children, but my grandma was insistent on making sure every guest received a bowl, and being the good granddaughter I am I volunteered to go on the errand. It hadn’t been easy- it was late enough that most stores were closed, and the gas stations that were open on the holiday didn’t carry the ingredient. Finally, I found one store on the edge of town that did have it and convinced the manager to stay open for just five more minutes so I could get what I needed. Now I’m hurrying back so that I don’t miss the meteor shower that’s supposed to be visible tonight.
There are almost no people out in the residential part of town, so I’m surprised when I hear the voice of a young girl. I stop, and she asks me a question. “Do you need a match? I have matches for sale.”
I kneel down to face her, wiping the fog off of my glasses with the edge of my shirt. She can’t be any older than my sister, but her thin face and skin that is pale from the cold could be deceiving me. The wind plays with her tangled hair, and she shivers. That’s when I notice that her only piece of winter clothing is a jacket that has to be at least three sizes too small. “Why are you out here all alone?” I ask.
“Daddy said I had to,” she replies, gesturing to the book of matches in her hand. Then she realizes what she just said and looks at me with wide sapphire eyes that beg me not to tell.
“Do you have any other family?” She shakes her head. Inside, I’m furious, and I hope that my face isn’t giving it away. This girl didn’t do anything wrong, and I ask myself what my grandma would do even though I already know the answer. I give her my gloves to protect her hands from Jack Frost’s touch, then take one hand in my own. “Come with me,” I tell her. “I can give you a hot bath, clothes that fit, a meal to fill your belly, and a bed to sleep on.”
She grins as if I just promised her an entire toy store, and I start walking again, though much slower so she can keep up. She slips on a patch of ice before I can warn her that it’s there, and she falls. I’m scared that she’ll start crying and that the tears will freeze on her now blue-tinted face, so I scoop her up into my arms so we can get home faster. Her lack of weight isn’t surprising at this point and soon we’re greeted by the lights of my grandma’s house.
The rest of the night passes in a flash, and soon I’m putting the girl to bed when I realize that the meteor shower never came. My thought is interrupted when she makes a request. “Can you sing to me? My grandma used to do that before she passed away.” Then she starts singing the song to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. “Someday someone you will meet will give you kindness on the street. After I’ve traveled on a star, Alice, you’ll have kindness from afar…”