It was colder than she ever remembered in a place known to her only for memories of the cold. June navigated Chicago as an archipelago of warm harbors. The city bus heaters blew so hot that her hands burned as she thawed them folding over to the floor vents. The library at Wildermuth faced the lake and the 2 block walk from the bus stop to it’s insulated stacks was for many years the hardest winter passage she attempted. When the stubborn winter grip relented sometime near Easter June would make that walk as though she had never been. Even now, so many years later she hunched naturally year-round from a habit of bracing and wincing against the cold. She knew every crack in the sidewalk, but could not reliably describe anything above knee level.
Once safe in the library June would scour the shelves for anything new. The Devil’s Children, The Day the Tripods Came, The Edge of the World, these adolescent visions of worlds darker and colder than her own warmed her on the inside as the library’s gas radiator wheezed heat from the basement like a snoring dragon.
As she slipped out of Duane’s apartment she felt a twinge of panic as the door latch locked behind her, wondering if she should have stayed and waited for Duane’s return, wondering if she wanted that. The gasping cold nudged her feet down the sidewalk as she once again navigated by the meridians of cracks from the curb to the blue-stone caps of buildings uncharted. The library was not as close now, and she no longer had a bus pass, but she wasn’t a little girl anymore and the cold could go to hell.