All autumn my little sister had been begging me to take her ice skating. Winter arrived early and stayed late this far north but still we had to wait for the lake to freeze over deeply enough to be safe.
‘Can we go out to check today, Alex?’ she asked me as we ate porridge before the roaring kitchen fire.
‘It won’t have frozen enough yet, Beka,’ I replied, ‘it only snowed a little last night.’
‘Still I want to see!’ Beka cried.
I rolled my eyes and finished my porridge.
‘Take her out Alex,’ mother said from the huge table, ‘today, we are getting the sweet puddings ready for the Winter Feast day. You two will only get under our feet.’
Both grandmothers, cook and maid agreed.
‘I want to help father hunting,’ I spoke.
‘He left all ready. Now, be a good son and look after your little sister.’
Grumpily, I got ready and the maid helped Beka with her fluffy elk boats, long red coat, gloves, scarf and matching red hat. We meet by the kitchen door, all ready to go out in the freezing morning.
‘You won’t need your ice skates, Beka,’ I said.
Beka pulled a face and shifted the white leather ice skates on her left shoulder, ‘it’s just in case.’
I shook my head, decided not to argue with her and opened the door. An icy wind blasted in and the fire began to gutter. Quickly, we went out and saw a thick frost and light dusting of snow on the ground. The sky above was a steel blue colour and the sun was a weak yellow in the sky.
We walked to the end of the garden, through the gate and around the edge of the woods. Gun shots echoed and a few birds flew up from the trees.
‘It’s father,’ Beka spoke.
I nodded and we walked on to the lake. Ice cold, clear water lapped at a frozen mud shore. A few ducks were swimming in the distant and the little wooden rowing boat was rocking against it’s wooden walk way.
‘See,’ I pointed out.
Beka sighed and looked downcast, ‘it’s no where near frozen!’
‘In a few more weeks it might be. Let’s go out in the boat instead. It might be the last time we can.’
She nodded, we climbed into the boat and I rowed us around the lake.