In the midst of winter, I found that there was, within me, an invincible summer.
It was a long winter for me. Daddy passing away chilled me right through to my heart and turned it into a block of ice.
Not knowing how to deal with the death of my only surviving parent, whom I adored, I turned into an ice queen and pushed away the people who loved me the most, my family.
I only allowed myself to cry when children (or any other human being for that matter) were not around. On a couple of occasions, Mr Chateauneuf witnessed my indiscretion of displaying emotions, I got embarrassed and apologised. The more he tried to help, the further I withdrew. Frosty demeanour became a part of my disposition.
January turned into February, and between Mr Chateauneuf being busy and my malfunctioning, we somehow still remembered that we had a week of half term coming up, childfree - both our boys were away for the whole week.
Not the ones to waste a week, we promptly booked a trip to Prague. It was the break we both needed and it couldn't come soon enough.
Before we knew it, Prague was upon us and we were speeding on the way to Stansted Airport in the early hours. A short flight and a cab ride later we were sitting in a bar in Prague, the tension of the previous weeks slowly leaving our bodies.
The next couple of days were nothing short of amazing. We wandered the streets of an old town that hadn’t changed much in the past few hundred years; ate local food; drank Czech wine; admired the architecture and on the second night we found ourselves in a cathedral listening to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.
On the day three, we woke up to a grey morning, it was snowing. But as pretty as it was outside, neither of us wanted to be out. Tired from two days of non-stop exploring, we decided to stay at the hotel and make the full use of spa facilities and the executive lounge.
A few hours later, bored of Facebook, Twitter and reading, I found myself staring out of the window, watching the snow lovingly covering the square with the white blanket. As I was watching the magic of nature unfold in front of me, I had a flashback to another winter, in a different lifetime.
I was sitting in my room back in Ukraine, looking out of a window and watching our dog trying to catch snowflakes. Mum was busy in the kitchen, filling the house with the delicious aroma of freshly baked goodies, one of my brothers was watching TV, the other playing computer games, daddy snoozing on the sofa - a perfect winter day, an idyllic family.
My daydream faded and I was back in Prague. Suddenly I needed to get out. I couldn't explain it, some invisible power was pushing me outside.
I looked over at Mr Chateauneuf, who was reading a newspaper, a glass of red in front of him - it made me smile - the man was just too comfortable and no power in this world would shift him from that chair. I kissed him and said I wanted to pop over to the shopping centre across the road - cabin fever.
Once outside, I inhaled the cold air and strolled across the square, snow flurries tickling my face. Something in that feeling was familiar and nostalgic. I knew my grief was surfacing but I couldn't allow it.
Determined to get distracted by retail therapy, I started marching toward the shopping centre, when I heard a laughter. It was a child’s laughter.
I stopped and slowly turned around. It was a little girl, who couldn't have been more than three years old, doing snow angles in the middle of the square with her father. The resemblance between them was striking, the bond obvious.
She was squealing with laughter and in-between each giggle, she was saying something to her daddy. He was looking at her with so much adoration. She was his little princess and he was her hero.
I knew that feeling, I was that girl once upon a time. My daddy used to take me sledging, we had lots of snowball fights. One particularly snowy year, he even built me a fortress out of snow in our back garden. I felt like a real princess.
The tears were flowing now, blurring my vision and wrecking my mascara. I lifted my face up in an attempt to calm down, and with the next snow flurry, I felt a touch, a kiss. It was fleeting, a wishful thinking but I wanted to believe that it was daddy, kissing me in the snow.
I took a deep breath and looked at the happy duo again, this time I smiled. Right in the middle of Prague, in a snow flurry I found my summer.
As I approached the mall and stopped to shake the snow off my coat, I turned around to take one last look at the father and daughter. Something made look up at the hotel where we staying. And there, in the window of the executive lounge on the third floor, stood Mr Chateauneuf.