Shadows and Snow

Snow falls lightly on my face, and I throw my head back, drowning in swirling white, lost in the black of the sky. I gasp, my throat constricting against the cold, damp air, the snow melting on my exposed neck and chest. It's cold, so cold. Trees cast their black shadows faintly across the half-thawed ground, swallowed by a moonless night. The flakes gathering on my lashes run down my cheeks in burning lines of cold fire, and they are oddly salty. Winter settles in my hair, chilling my scalp, winter rushing through my veins. Everything is black and white and frozen. I trace the slow, hypnotic path of the heavy drifts until they slide past my vision, and I am lost. Oddly, I let myself think of you.

Shadow and fire. The snow is melting faster, and my cheeks are coated with a curtain of ice. Snow is soothing, and I feel myself letting down the barriers I had raised so painstakingly. Your words echo around me, silent in the silence. Cold steals through me, sending shivers of relief through my warmth-starved body. The cold thrills me, and I soak it in, claiming it. It is mine, to preserve and drown in. You cannot take the cold from me, and your fire is far away. The feel of the snow landing on my forehead, my lips, and hands stirs a finger of flame to life, and it licks at the ice I am so carefully carving to match my heart. Wind brushes my hair, and your hands are on me, gentle, calming, autumn. Hovering between summer and winter. I sigh, and the wind steals you away. Snow on my lips, taste of winter in my mouth. Winter, not you. I am alone, night all around, my heart freezing. I slip my feet from my boots, and sink into the snow. It bites, it warms, and I'm running with the snow on my hair on my face on my skin and I'm silent, gliding through the drifts. You smile, one side of your lips quirked in a gesture so familiar I cry out, but my words are lost. Drowned in silence and snow. Your hand in mine, fingers interlacing, interlocked, and you pull me towards you, gently, surely, shadows playing across your face, across your hair, so dark and wild in this night. I'm losing you, our hands slip, your fingers trace mine and linger ever so sweetly, our eyes meeting as you vanish into snow.

Now I'm holding you, breathing you in, the tears mingling with the snow falling on your dark brow. I shudder, and you vanish again, leaving me alone and locked in ice. The North floods through me, and I straighten, my hair falling around me, ice against my back. My boots are gone. My coat is gone. I stand naked in the snow, willing winter to bear me away. My heart is almost frozen, the inner flame secreted in a lake of ice. Want and silent need rise like a sob in my throat, and desire smolders behind your eyes. You're before me, and I'm breaking and melting and flying and I can taste my tears on the wind. Your mouth is on mine, and you steal winter from my lips, pouring bittersweet summer twilight into me, and the ice quells. Stars explode across the sky, and the moon takes fire in a rain of silver. I am falling into you, and you are taking me in, something ancient and aching and fierce rising in us both to merge and die and rise from the ashes. Ashes fall around us, and then there is no us, only me, and the ashes taste of stone and mountains and the iron bite of ice.

I scream then, and the pain is raw and black and flung with a force and longing that are as sharp and cruel as the season. You do not come again, but your words linger, for all that you promised they would fade. I reach out, and grasp the air, willing it to warm and tighten invisible fingers round mine. It's a hopeless gesture, and I hold out both arms, watching the snow burn into my skin. I begin to shiver. The heat of your presence is fading, and the cold lays siege to my heart. Stumbling, I turn back, drifting through the dark shapes of trees, pale and lost and alone. My feet lead me to the edge of the woods. My woods. Our woods, and I turn back, all feeling lost, and remember my boots and lump of clothes, lost under a heavy shroud of white. Silence falls upon my ears like rain, gentle, peaceful, neither ending nor beginning. I am neither ending nor beginning. I am a girl outside a wood, whose heart is wandering amongst the deer paths, flitting beneath the shadows of shadows, flirting with the memory of sunlight. I cut loose my heart then, and set it free. Ice descends upon me. Ice settles in me. I am ice. A voice whispers in the snow. It is a promise, but my ears are numb, and I have no heart with which to listen. Ice contemplates the word, and freezes it, rendering it meaningless and locked in winter. The wind that brought the whisper strokes my cheek, and ice trembles at the touch. The word, sweet and haunting and shadowed, entwines itself in my hair. I let it rest there, a memory within the winter thicket. It speaks softly, seductively.

"Summer."