JOHN WAS lonely and miserable. He should have been excited and happy because his grandfather was taking him on a train journey and he'd never been on a train before, but he wasn't.
He was glad to get out of the house because his parents were shouting at each other again. But he felt worried too, because last week his Dad had hit his Mum and made her lip bleed. John had been terrified and had hidden behind the curtain, then felt full of remorse and guilt because he'd afraid to help his Mum.
Although he should have been enjoying his outing, his head was full of the screams and shouts and anger of his parents.
John licked at the ice cream his granddad had bought him. It was one of his favourites but he hardly tasted it.
After a while his grandad asked, "Enjoying yourself, young man?"
"Mm," shrugged John, but he kept his head turned away. He didn't want to talk, not even to Granddad.
He watched the countryside speeding past so fast that he could hardly keep up with it. He tried moving his eyes to keep pace with the movement of the fields and hills, but it made him feel funny. He kept his nose pressed to the window because that stopped Granddad talking to him, and allowed his thoughts to drift.
Then, through the train window, John noticed that it was beginning to snow. It was a whole year since he'd seen snow and it was very exciting. John watched mesmerised as snowflakes fluttered down from the sky at first slowly, then faster and faster. Sometimes he could see the beautiful crystalline structure of the flakes as they landed on the widow, and sometimes it snowed so hard that everything was just a white blur.
John watched and watched as the train sped through countryside which was rapidly turning white as the snow settled. He thought of the fun he'd have next day, making a snowman and playing snowballs with his friends and sliding on the village pond. And he thought how nice it was to be snug and warm in the train with his granddad whom he loved, and watch the changing scenery.
Everything looked so different in the snow. John turned to his granddad. "Grandpa, it all looks different. So clean and fresh, and the shapes are different too."
Granddad nodded. "Things aren't always as they seem John," he remarked. "The world out there is just ordinary, but in the snow it looks magical. And things aren't really whizzing past at a great rate, it's just that the train is speeding along."
John thought about that, then he asked hopefully, "When it's really awful at home and everybody's yelling at each other and I get scared, do you think it might not be as bad as it seems?"
Granddad put an arm round John's shoulders and hugged him. "Exactly! Your Mum and Dad both love you very much indeed, even when it doesn't seem like it."
"The snow has transformed the world," said John happily, "and I feel different too. I shall always remember this day, Grandpa. And I want to go on lots more trains! Will you take me?"
"Of course I will!" declared Granddad, "because I love you loads. We'll go together whenever we can."
And after that, somehow John knew that things would be all right.