“What? Not again, please, I’ll pay you back!” The window slammed shut in Chloe’s face as she was forced to walk back up along the snow-ridden path. Freezing slush filled her boots through the holes that could not be darned shut and tears welled up in her eyes like a tap that was so frozen it could not turn. That was how she felt now. So cold her joints creaked as she pulled herself along to the next gas supplier, the final man on her list. She wanted to punch something so badly that she found herself grabbing air to let out her anger at the world in whole, at all the people that made her life a misery. Chloe’s hand moved up to knock at the window, but before she could, an elderly man with scraggly grey hair and a cigarette in his hand opened the hatch. “Sir, we just need one more canister of gas, we’ll make it last.” She wasn’t going to let it go this time. She had to get it now. Her eyes flashed like an angry lioness’, but the man seemed to not notice. “Sorry kid, no can do. I know you can’t pay us, and this is a business I am tryin’ to run.” His hand reached out to shut the hatch, but Chloe’s arm shot up to block it, stronger than ever before. “Uncle Mark, believe me, some day I will give you your money back, all forty five dollars, just trust me. Mom and I will not survive this winter; you know what the weatherman said, snowstorms galore. Please…” The tears were back and it took every fiber of her being to stop them from flowing down her frozen cheeks. “Chloe, you’re a good kid, but you’re not even thirteen yet, you’re barely five foot four and I just can’t see you with forty five dollars any time soon. I know your Mom’s ill, but I can’t help you. I need to provide for my family too.” With that the door closed, and all prospects of living to see Christmas closed their doors with it.
* * * * * * * *
“Mom, I’m home!” she yelled up the stairs, partly to signify to her mother that she was there, partly to wake her if she had fallen asleep. “Chloe, did you get gas?” she asked weakly. “No Mom, couldn’t pay, but that doesn’t matter, we’ll be able to find wood.” Chloe’s voice had reduced to a soft whisper, her dark eyes glinting in the cold light, her cheeks rosy but pale from the harsh wind outside. It had been more than a year since her mother had fallen ill and her father had left. Chloe had been only eleven then, and the weight of the family was thrust onto her shoulders, having to spend every ounce of her spare time trying to earn money for her mother’s medicine, food and heat. She pushed herself harder than ever at school, so as to be able to earn more for her mother, to prove her dad wrong, to show him he was not needed for them to thrive. Her every waking hour had been devoted to studying and working. She had even sold most of her knee length, dark hair to get enough money for her and her mother. After all of that, it hardly seemed fair that her life had come to he point when it seemed all hope was lost. But then, the doorbell rang.