I pumped several balls of snow toward the hunched figures, dark in winter clothes, missing every one of them by miles.
The boys ducked in and out of the white dusted trees and called out, “You throw like a girl!” Their laughter bounced off of the snow-laden boughs as they crept closer.
I huffed a laugh, my breath blooming. I was a girl. Taking another step forward, I emerged from my fort of ice and branches. I threw another snowball so hard my arm popped.
I glanced behind me, my friend smiling at me with too-white teeth. We met eyes–my heart lurching–and when it seemed like I was staring, I grinned at her. She probably wasn’t used to playing with the boys. Living in San Diego all those years, she probably hadn’t seen snow in a while either.
A snowball hit the side of my face, sharp and burning it was so cold. I shook the ice from my hair. They let out a whoop, and with renewed vigor, I launched more snowballs in their direction.
The three boys scampered behind one tree, huddled together. I knew that they were planning something. They were always planning something, and I usually lost. The trick with playing with the boys was to go in without anything to lose. They can’t take what you don’t have.
My smile died on my lips, and I peeked behind me again.
My friend was shaping smooth balls of snow with her bare hands. She extended a perfect, white sphere, and my glove touched her hand. My cheeks burned.
The boys moved from the tree, dashing between the shadows.
I hefted the snowball she offered, suddenly aware how big the boys were, how much stronger. I shivered. Could they see my mistake?
I had brought something to lose.
Brock, Beth. (2015). Unlikely hero. Alembic, volume 10 (1), 3.