Gelid

gelid (JELL-uhd), adjective

Extremely cold; icy.

The prickly rope scratched a red circle around her neck. Her eyes stung against the snow that swept upwards with the wind. The wooden platform on which she stood was gelid against her bare feet. Death would not come on a bright day.

She squeezed her eyes tight, pushing a warm tear drop down her bruised cheek. From somewhere across town she could hear trumpets playing alongside a tambourine with a voice that sung in a foreign language. The music was in celebration of something yet the tune was melancholy. She imagined men with linked arms dancing in circles and women swaying from side to side with babies hitched to their hips.

She pushed her thoughts towards the warm place near the fire where her father used to pull her from her feet and swing her in circles, dancing steps she never needed to know, smiling a smile she never thought she’d forget. His right hand engulfed her entire wrist while the other held her waste and pulled up her layered dress in the back. The tights on her little legs flung around the room like streamers for her birthday. Her polished black shoes were only worn on such occasions.

She laughed at her father’s deep blue eyes that smiled all the time, even when he was sad. Especially when he was sad. She remembered looking across his face, her tiny hands pushing up his cheeks forcing a smile that only pulled his upper lip into a frightening new mask. She felt his rough beard against her palms, then felt the rough rope against her wrists.

Tears streamed down her cheeks and froze to her chin before they could drip. She opened her eyes against the cruel wind that rustled her skirt and tussled her hair. One man stood in the courtyard in front of her. The man with the hood nodded to a far away tower and grasped the lever with both hands. She looked at her father one last time. His hands clasped across his mouth, his thin arms shaking in the cold. His blue eyes smiled at her as tears turned into icicles like bars running down his bearded face.

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