This is a revised opening to a novel I wrote some time ago. What do you think?
The Snow Witch
The snow has eased off, and she looks up at the morning light. She’s sucking on a cigarette, her face a delta of narrow chin and wide set eyes, her skin white beneath her black hair and the dirty woollen hat she wears over it.
Well, she says to herself, looking at the shopping precinct buried in snow. Here I am. What now?
She won’t run in this weather. No, not when it’s this bad, she thinks, sniffing the air, as if she can smell more storm, an instinct she learned when she was a kid living on a mountain in a foreign country – her homeland. She hitched in to this English town last night and ran for shelter – the shop doorway offering the best she could find.
So, what will she do?
Stay long enough to buy food, get cash and, finally, a ticket. This is her plan, as far as it goes.
So, she begins.
She selects a pitch beside an empty shop, and with a gentle knock and click, unslings her case and opens it. A violin. The familiar weight and curve of the neck presses her palm as the city wakes around her: pale shopkeepers, fluorescent council men, early-morning shoppers, red-flushed kids excited by snowfall.
Daylight hardens. Now, she thinks. She rests her chin and launches magical sound from age-dark wood.
Fresh, bright, sad – a trill of sensual notes dipping and turning in the winter light. The melody: alien, rich in hidden history, conjuring foreign terrain, snowclad peaks, a stream, the fresh scent of mountain pines.
Two fat boys gawp from the far side of the precinct, their hearts lifting. A young man behind thick glasses stops to look, his mouth agape in the chill air. An elderly lady slides on the ice with a deftness that speaks the green delight she felt before the years embrittled her bones.
No flakes fall near the musician, as her case fills with coins. After a while, she scoops them and wolfs hot pastries and steaming coffee before resuming, playing on through the day. When she rests in the darkening afternoon, snow begins to fall around her, piling whiteness on whiteness, laying a carpet of crystal beneath her feet.
Before she hurries away, she glances once more over her shoulder. No-one is following her, she notes with relief.