The twins have names.
Their mother named the white haired one Mary, and the black haired one Grace. She had left the Catholic church when she left her parent’s house but she felt like the Virgin Mary had stuck close to her protectively even after her departure from structured worship. In naming her twin daughters Mary and Grace, she was trying to thank the Virgin for holding her hand.
When it was too cold to go outside, when the temperature dipped to twenty below zero and the moose wandered in from the forest to chew the wilted, frozen remains of their mother’s garden, the girls usually found their way into the small loft area above the kitchen in the cabin. Their mother made them layer up with tights and fuzzy pink ballet leg warmers and her own cast-off sweaters. She watched their small, woolen encased legs disappear up the log ladder before returning to a book and a coffee at the kitchen table.
The snow always came down thickly, padding the ground softly and without sound, and as she curled her long fingers around a heavy coffee mug she worried about her husband’s drive home from work; he was an accountant who held a small office in Fairbanks. His fingers were cold all day as he punched hourly wages into spreadsheets, removing federal tax, and sorting out the small estates of men who worked on the North Slope oil fields. She had insisted on putting a small space heater near his desk, though he fretted and sighed over the cost and the fire risk. Some nights, if his journey home was especially long and arduous, she would wrap an afghan around his broad shoulders and pull his slender body close to her curvy one, whispering in his ear just wait until the girls fall asleep. Just wait. When she ran her hands under his flannel shirt the smooth skin on his back would feel like a block of ice, and she would close her eyes and push herself closer into him.