Excerpt: Just Before the Dawn (Sicut Ante Lucem)

By Sophie Stephens

Page 4

.  .  .

A seemingly inconspicuous Friday night with the family, in my mind. There wasn’t much to do in my small town of Stronghurst, but with the holiday season coming around within the month and the newfound chill in the air–smelling of the anticipation of the first snow we were all both waiting for and hoping against–the city was coming alive with boutique shops and community decorations, and I was feeling excited with all of the holiday spirit in the air.

Holiday anticipation was coursing through me, with winter break being only a week away and the holidays not long after. My parents, sister, and I were beginning our Christmas traditions in preparation of the weeks to come. We had gone into the downtown shopping district to pick out some new Christmas decorations and get dinner at one of our favorite Italian restaurants, spending quality family time together.

We braved the weather to go downtown and walk around through the lit-up stores and bustling cafes. It was cold enough for me to be wearing a knit beanie and a sweater, but still bearable enough to walk down the streets without shivering uncontrollably. The perfect weather for a peppermint hot chocolate and knit socks. The holiday jolly brought most of the city out that night with their families to shop and get dinner, so all of the shops were packed.

We had just finished dinner and shopping–we had bought new stockings, candles, and ornaments for our tree this year at an antique-looking store–and were walking towards the center of town to see the big Christmas tree that was put up every year, our bags hitting at the back of our legs as we walked.

My phone started to ring, and I slipped it out of my back pocket to look at the caller ID. “Cooper.” I clicked the power button on the side of my phone and slid it back into my pocket. It wasn’t everyday that I could do this with my family, and if it was important Cooper would leave a message. I wasn’t too worried.

“Who was that?” my mom asked.

“Just Cooper. I’ll call him back later.”

We kept walking a little more when my phone rang again.

“Must be really important for two calls in a night,” my father had prodded at me.

I rolled my eyes at my father and pulled my phone out again. My brows furrowed a little. Cooper again. My parents kept walking, but I stayed a few steps back and answered the call.

“Hey! What’s up?”

It was not Cooper on the other line, but Mrs. Salsmith, Cooper’s mother.

“You should come right now,” she said.

“What’s wrong hunny?” Mom had asked. I must have made a certain face, one that seemed to worry my mom.

I hung up, and turned to them. “It’s Cooper. I have to go.”



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