I have been thinking about writing this story for a long time. "Snow Cake" starring Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman, and Carrie-Anne Moss is my favorite film of all time. I adore that movie. Alex Hughes is one of my very favorite of Alan's characters, and I have often wondered what he went on to do after he left the small Canadian town that the film is set in. If you haven't seen the film, by all means go and find it! It will help this story make a lot more sense to you if you see the movie first.
The soundtrack to the movie is really fantastic, and for that reason I've decided to use various song titles as the chapter names. Some of the titles will be songs from the movie soundtrack, but not all of them. Many of them will just be song titles that I thought somehow fit in with what the chapters are about. For instance, the title of the story itself, "Things I Wanna Have" is a phrase from a song by Stereophonics that Alex sings along with in the movie, whereas the title for chapter one, "Deep Sleep Motel" was not on the soundtrack. It is a song by the group "Nancy Boy" that I have always liked. I picked it simply because Alex is in a hotel. Not too deep. HA! Anyway, I hope at least a few people will find this story and like it because I have never seen any "Snow Cake" fics and I wanted to write one.
If you do read this, and have any sort of opinion on it whatsoever, I would really love to hear from you. This story means a lot to me because of how much the movie has meant to me.
Alex stepped through the door of the hotel room and felt along the wall for a light switch. When the light flicked on he surveyed his new temporary residence.
"Could be worse" he mumbled to himself, closing the door behind him and walking over to the bed to set down his luggage.
It had been three months since he had left Wawa, and his new friends there. After his meeting with Rebecca, he'd been left with no set destination, and nothing pulling him any longer in any particular direction. Learning more from her about the son he had never had the chance to know had been a bittersweet experience, and he still wasn't entirely sure if it had helped him make peace with his situation or not.
Upon his departure he had, for lack of any other ideas, headed eastward. Canada was a beautiful country, and he was in no hurry to return home to the UK. After all, what awaited him there? He had no family, other than his brother, who utterly despised him anyway. His time in prison had been an embarrassment to Ian the perfect, and they hadn't spoken at all since his sentencing. He wondered with a smirk if his brother even knew he had been released. He wasn't likely to care.
Alex had always enjoyed traveling, although he hadn't done nearly as much of it in his previous life as he had since setting off on the pilgrimage to reunite with the mother of his lost son. Thankfully, there had been no more tragedy to mar the journey since the accident that had claimed the life of young Vivienne Freeman. Honestly, he had already decided that one more episode of heartbreak like that and he was going to go find a cave to live in somewhere rather than tempt fate any further.
The last few months had been an endless string of highways, hotel rooms, rest stops and diners, punctuated occasionally by the odd tourist attraction when he felt the urge and found something intriguing in the maps and pamphlets he kept in the car. After a visit to the majestic Niagara Falls, Alex had decided on a whim to head south into the United States. His passport was good, why not use it?
Plopping down onto the bed with a sigh, Alex reached for the telephone on the night table. He hadn't spoken to anyone who actually knew him in eight days, and now seemed like a good time to ring Maggie.
"Hello?" came her voice, slightly muffled by the aged hotel phone.
Alex smiled at the sound of her. I'm going to miss her for a very long time he thought, feeling the familiar tightness in his throat that crept up on him whenever he thought about Maggie too much.
"Hello to you" he said in a teasing tone. "What are you doing?"
"Actually I was just talking about you. Marilyn and I were speculating on where you might be tonight."
Alex chuckled. Marilyn was Maggie's dog, formerly Vivienne's dog, who Alex had re-homed when it became clear that Vivienne's mother Linda was not coping well with caring for her.
"Really? Well, which one of you guessed a bit south of Buffalo?"
It was Maggie's turn to laugh now. "Buffalo? As in New York? You've escaped across the border?"
"Yes. I stopped at Niagara Falls this afternoon and decided why not dip into America for a while? There's someplace near here that's supposed to be some sort of cultural hotspot. I'm going to go looking for it tomorrow. They've got a nice looking lake, anyway, and the hotel isn't too bad."
There was an awkward pause, and Alex chewed the inside of his cheek nervously. He knew that Maggie was still doing him the favor of keeping a careful emotional distance. She knew that he would have liked to have a proper relationship with her, and that was not something that she was able to offer.
"That's the idea" he said finally. "Have you seen Linda at all?"
Maggie snickered. "It's Tuesday."
"Ah, yes, garbage day. How is she?"
"She's… Linda. She actually spoke to me today."
Alex was a bit surprised. "Really? That's progress."
"She scolded me for tracking a bit of dirt in on my shoes and asked me how many sexually transmitted diseases I've had."
Alex's jaw dropped and he groaned in horror. Leave it to Linda… "Sorry" he sighed.
"It's not your fault. I'm actually to the point where I find it amusing now, rather than offensive."
After his conversation with Maggie, Alex decided a shower was in order. The bathroom was clean, which made him happy. It was hit or miss usually, in his experience.
As he toweled off his hair and let himself sink back onto the bed it hit him just how tired he actually was this evening. His shoulders were aching and he thought to himself that it might be a good idea to stay put for a few days.
In the morning, after partaking of the hotel's breakfast offerings, Alex got back into the car to have a look around town in the daylight. The hotel receptionist had filled him in a bit about the local tourist spots, and he had been surprised to learn that this area, in spite of its rather podunk appearance, attracted many wealthy vacationers during the summer months. There were always plenty of boats on the lake, and there were all sorts of concerts, lectures, art shows, and seminars to be enjoyed by visitors and locals alike, although, Alex suspected that if the facial expressions on the receptionist were any indication, the locals were less enthused about it all than the tourists were. He supposed he couldn't blame them.
Along the main road he passed several businesses. There were restaurants, gift shops, garden stands, flower shops, art galleries, ice cream stands, antique stores, food markets, boat rentals, and bars. It was quite the happening little place, apparently.
Outside a small bookstore Alex saw a short, chubby woman in a flowing paisley gauze dress watering the vast array of flowers that adorned the shop's front porch. Noticing that she was being watched by the man in the slow moving vehicle, the woman grinned at him and waved.
"Ho there!" she called cheerfully. "Having a sale today! Fifty percent off your favorite author! Come on over!"
Intrigued, but also wishing that he had kept his eyes on the road, Alex reluctantly pulled into the small gravel parking lot next to the store.
When he got out of the car and made his way towards the porch he asked the woman "Which author is that?"
She grinned again. "Whichever one's your favorite, like I said."
"That's convenient" he replied, smirking. He looked up at the hand-painted sign on the front of the building and read aloud "Twisted Spines…"
The chubby woman laughed. "Yeah. My little joke. We're twisted and the books have spines. It works. You'll understand when you meet my girls. About the twisted part, I mean. Well, Megan, mostly, but… I'm rambling."
He smiled at her. "Do you mean your daughters?" he asked, trying to be polite in the face of her extreme friendliness.
She laughed again. "Oh, well, I suppose they may as well be most of the time, but no, I meant my employees. The ornery raven-haired beauty on the ladder is Miss Megan and the chestnut filly behind the counter is Vanessa. You go on in there and they'll help you find yourself a literary treasure. I'm Kathryn, and if they misbehave… well, if Megan misbehaves… then you just come on back out and fetch me because I'm the boss around here."
Alex chuckled, amused by Kathryn's apparent eccentricity. "Thank you" he said, still smirking. "I'll keep that in mind."
As he reached for the door he nearly bumped face first into a large set of fuchsia pink wind chimes. This promised to be an interesting establishment.
The small size of the shop was deceiving. Inside, Alex saw an impressively huge collection of books, lined up from floor to ceiling on shelves that lined every wall and formed aisles throughout the room. More wind chimes dangled from the ceiling at random intervals, and looking down, Alex realized the floor had been "tiled" with pennies.
"Interesting choice of flooring" he muttered.
"Took us ages to collect them all" came a voice from above his head. He looked up, puzzled, since the only ladder he could see was empty.
There was a young woman, probably in her mid to late twenties, perched precariously on the edge of one of the shelves with a feather duster in her hand.
The Amazing Spidergirl he thought, shaking his head.
"You must be Megan?" he asked
She slid along her shelf until she could step back onto her ladder and climbed down. "Must be" she retorted, walking over to the doorway that was positioned behind the checkout counter. "Ness! Silver fox with a British accent! Thought you'd like to know."
There was a loud thud and some swearing from behind the door, and Must Be Megan snickered. "Delivery day" she explained. "Her heart must have gone all aflutter causing her to fall victim to an avalanche. I prefer Latinos personally, whereas you Brits are my colleague's specialty, but, since she's busy, is there anything I can help you find?"
Alex vaguely began to wonder if this were actually a very peculiar whorehouse under the guise of a bookstore. "Specialty?" he asked, getting nervous.
The girl laughed. "I'm just messin' with ya. Kidding." Seeing that he still looked disturbed, she explained "Vanessa has a thing for guys with certain accents. Her favorite is British, but she's just as pleased by Scottish, Irish, Welsh, Australian, and… oh that other place…" Megan bit her lip and looked at the ceiling as she tried to remember.
"New Zealand" said the short brunette who emerged from behind the mysterious door. "And you're on my ish list. Wench."
Megan laughed again, and the newcomer offered her well-manicured hand over the counter to Alex, who shook it gently. He was relieved to see that the nails, though slightly long, were natural. Those plastic things gave him the creeps.
"My name is Vanessa, and I hope you'll forgive Megan. She forgot to take her medication today apparently. Can I help you locate a particular title this morning?"
Alex smirked and shrugged. "Not really, to be honest. I only stopped because I got waved in by your colorful employer. I suppose I could browse for a bit, if that's ok with the two of you."
Vanessa grinned, and nodded, blushing. "Sure! No problem. Let us know if you need anything."
When he turned to peruse the books he saw, out of the corner of his eye, that she grabbed Megan and yanked her into the room behind the door. She didn't bother to shut it so he heard their conversation, carried out in ridiculously loud whispers.
"You're such an ass!"
"Well duh! I had to tell you though. You'd have been pissed off if you missed him. We don't get very many English ones in here, and I know how you enjoy them!"
"Oh for fuck's sake shut up will you he's right out there and the door's open!"
"Aw who gives a shit? He probably thinks it's funny. A guy his age, nicely dressed, sexy accent… he's definitely married anyway. Or gay. Besides, he's old enough to be your grandpa."
"You are such a bitch…"
"We established that a long time ago didn't we? Chill your tits."
The one called Vanessa emerged again from the doorway, with a large, nervous, and obviously fake smile plastered across her face. The expression made her look slightly deranged, but she was still quite pretty. No small feat, Alex thought. He chuckled to himself.
"You've got all sorts of choices here" he said, feeling sorry for being a cause of her embarrassment.
She nodded. "Yep. We have most everything. Um… the really old stuff is over here under the glass. Anything over a hundred."
"Dollars?" he asked.
"Years" she clarified.
"Ah, I see. Any suggestions?"
The girl twisted her mouth in an odd way, and Alex knew she was chewing the inside of her cheek. It was a habit that he shared, so he could spot it immediately. "I just finished reading this weird old book" she said. "That I personally thought was pretty neat, albeit kind of macabre."
"What was that?" he asked, curious.
"It's called The Penitentes" she said, unlocking the glass case from behind the counter. "It was published in 1900 but this copy is from 1901. Kathryn found it at a yard sale, actually, but since it's on Amazon for eighty bucks, she's selling it for forty."
"What's it about?" Alex asked her, not really sure why he cared. Maybe it was because the title struck a chord with him. Hadn't he spent the last several years of his life feeling penitent?
"It's about this religious group in the southwest that would punish themselves to show their faith and every year re-enact the death of Jesus by nailing one of their young men up on a cross. There's a crazy priest, and a really slutty drama queen, some nutty old ladies, some soldiers, and some jealous suitors who are ready to fight to the death over the slut. It's nuts, but fascinating. I couldn't put it down. Besides, there's just something sacred about reading a hundred year old book."
Alex nodded. She had a point. It sounded like it could be interesting. Awfully pricey for him though, considering that his credit cards were getting closer and closer to maxed, and he had barely any actual money left to his name.
Having an idea and deciding to give it a shot, he asked her "What's the author's name?"
"Louis How" she told him, grinning.
"What would you say if I told you that he was my favorite author?" Alex asked her.
"I would say you're in luck, because we've had a slow week and Kathryn has a sale going on having to do with favorite authors."
Alex could tell by her face that she got the joke. He pulled out one of his sorely abused credit cards and set it on the counter. "What's your return policy in case I don't like it?" he asked her.
Megan was back up on her ladder, dusting again. "No returns on the antique books" she called down. "Unless of course you bring it back to Vanessa and happen to have a British accent. It's a little loophole…"
Vanessa turned red again and laughed. "Yeah, pretty much that" she admitted. "Don't tell Kath."
Alex shook his head, smirking at her again. He was flattered. Usually he only got such female favoritism from dumpy, desperate, and dim divorcees. Well… and Maggie, more recently, but she was different. With her there may be a compliment, but it was usually followed by a teasing jab, and there would be something expected in return.
"My lips are sealed" he said quietly, giving the girl a little smile. She was pretty, and the idea that she might find him attractive was a boost to his ego, but she was far too young. Besides that, being noticed simply because of the way you've been taught to talk your entire life really isn't much of anything to consider an accomplishment, and he knew it.
Stepping back out onto the porch, this time he did end up with a face full of painted pink metal as the awkwardly placed wind chimes attacked again. Glaring at them, Alex pulled off his glasses and checked them for scratches.
"A bit of an odd place to put your chimes" he commented to Kathryn, who was now sitting in a rocking chair on the porch, watching traffic.
"Oh, probably" she replied, grinning cheerfully.
What a strange woman.
Deciding that one local store was enough for today, and being still thoroughly sick of driving, Alex returned to the solitude of his hotel room. He stripped down to his underpants and sprawled out on the big bed for a nap, just because he could. The low hum of the air conditioning lulled him to sleep, and he dreamt of young women swinging back and forth between mile-high bookshelves on spider web threads.