Just like a typical winter evening, the sun dipped down below the horizon earlier than expected. The streets were dark, only dimly illuminated by the lanterns that hung over the signs of taverns and inns. Most of the townsfolk were either finishing up work, or trudging through the snow-filled paths to get back home, but not June, the town's only homebody and fulltime author. He was sitting pressed up against the window of his living room, watching the rest of his world go past him. After a day of non-stop storyboarding, he wanted nothing more to just relax. He also happened to be waiting for someone.
For the past week and a half, every evening once the sun had set, at approximately 6:00 pm, a cloaked figure nestled itself into the corner of the gatepost to the neighbors' home across the road. The first night they appeared, June wasn't concerned with them, thinking they were simply passing through and couldn't find a place to stay the night. He simply shrugged it off and went about his business. The next few evenings, he became concerned when the cloaked person hadn't left the third evening in a row, so he went out to offered them his home, candle in hand.
It turned out the cloaked person was a young man who looked to be about June's age (roughly 24 years, but who's counting?). He had short, curly ginger hair and freckles on every inch of his face. He looked nervous as June approached, maybe even a bit fearful. Before June could say anything, the man blurted out, "I apologize, I'll move if I am disturbing you," and promptly stood up. Now that his face was fully illuminated by the flickering candlelight, June saw how disheveled he really was. Impossibly large dark circles stained the skin under his eyes, and his face was smeared with what seemed to be a combination of flour, pollen, and dirt.
"No," June said, "I was going to offer you a place to stay since it seems that you have no place to go."
The man chuckled and shook his head. "I am fine as I am. However, thank you for your kind offer."
June sighed. He wasn't good with talking with people, and situations like these didn't help that. He wasn't willing to stay and argue, so he handed the man the candle and wished him a goodnight.
The next morning, the candle was set on his windowsill, and the man was nowhere to be found. June found the whole experience to be quite interesting since he didn't normally go out of his way to talk to a person he didn't know. It didn't matter though, since it was winter and it was cold outside. He wouldn't let the man sleep out in the bitter cold night because it simply wasn't right.
Every evening from then on, June would go out and offer the man, who's name was Edward, his home. Of course, like the previous nights, Edward would blatantly refuse and insist that he was fine. Some evenings, Edward would somehow get June into conversation. That is how he learned that Edward was an artist. He worked at the bakery, designing cakes, and at the florists' shop, arranging bouquets. He had set out to somehow work in an environment that would put his talents to use, but there weren't any back home, so he wandered. Somehow he ended up in June's town. Both the baker and florist loved his works and hired him immediately. Despite being able to support himself, there wasn't anywhere to stay. For some reason unknown to June, Edward had gotten into arguments with both of the inn keepers in town and was refused service. So, that was the reason why Edward was camping in front of the neighbor's gate; however, he wouldn't explain why he refused to stay with June.
During one of the routine evening visits, June brought Edward a quilt to keep him warm. The pure look of simultaneous disbelief and fondness Edward gave June was a little too much for him, so he looked away for a moment. He instantly regretted the decision when Edward suddenly knocked into him, embracing him in a way he wasn't used to, and managed to topple them both down into the snow. Edward swiftly apologized and helped June up, but he was too dazed to even care. Nobody had even thought of hugging him since the day he left home. It wasn't a new experience, but it felt as if it was, and he didn't quite detest it. He assumed that meant progress with becoming comfortable with other people.
As he sat at his window, watching the slowly falling snow, he waited. There was a feeling unfamiliar to him that was sitting on the edge of his conscience. He knew well enough that the cause of the feeling was Edward. He had brought with himself a new range of emotions for June to enjoy. For example, when Edward had told him that he had never had tasted toffee before, June felt determined to introduce the flavorful treat to Edward. June had easily found the word to describe what he was feeling then. Being a writer often required an expansive vocabulary and the ability to find words for every situation, but June was finding that finding words was becoming difficult for him. The weird, standoffish feeling that he couldn't name was bothering him to no end. He could tell it wasn't negative, but it wasn't entirely positive either. Something in him brought up the word nagging. It was a sort of nagging feeling, though it wasn't hounding him. The word want came up next, and that clicked with him. Yearning? Longing? No, those were too strong for this emotion. Eager… that suited it perfectly.
He was eager to see Edward. Of course he was, he'd been meeting with him for about a whole fortnight. Now that he thought about it, the whole affair sounded something akin to a cheesy romance novella you'd see in every bookstore around the corner. Progress, he thought. It was simply progress to becoming socially competent.
What had simply been flurries a half hour earlier had turned into a howling mess of wild winds and a torrent of snow. June was worried that Edward wouldn't last through the night in the storm. How would he even make it to this side of town in the weather? June got up and paced, pondering whether or not he should go and find Edward. For a good fifteen minutes, he argued with himself before coming to the conclusion that he should go because that's what a good person would do. Amidst getting on his heavy duty winter coat, he noticed a slightly noticable dark patch where the neighbor's gate was. Edward was there.
June ran out the door, forcing his way through the knee-deep layer of snow on the road. When he reached Edward, he didn't pop up like he usually did. He just looked up and gave June a weak smile. That nagging feeling was coming back up.
"Edward I am not letting you stay out in this storm no matter what. I don't know what caused your aversion to my house, but you're going to have to push that aside until this blizzard lets up." June said, helping Edward to his feet. He didn't protest or refuse, he just grabbed his bag and held onto June's hand.
He led Edward back to his front door and pulled him inside. He immediately stripped him of his soaked coat and scarf, tossing them aside.
Edward shifted, looking a bit unnerved. "Will that not damage your floor?"
"I don't mind right now. Take off your shoes." June shrugged. Edward complied, leaving his boots next to the heap to wet fabric that was his coat. June took him upstairs to his only guest room that hadn't been in use for years. The bed was still made, drawers and windowsill free from dust, and the quilt that Edward had loved but refused to keep, folded on top of the duvet.
"June… you are too good to me." Edward whispered, taking a seat on the bed. He sat silently for a moment. He knit his brow, as if he was making a difficult decision.
He looked up at June. "Why?"
"Well, " June started, "A long time ago when I first started as a writer, I was in your situation. I was adamant about doing things for myself and being independent, too. When things got bad, I almost gave up. I almost stopped fighting, but a friend reached out. They helped me get back on my feet and gave me my spirit back. I saw myself in you, and I didn't want you to end up like me, so of course I was willing to help. Even if you rejected me every single time."
Edward hung his head again. Neither of them moved or said anything. It was a peaceful moment, and June was grateful for it. A sigh came from Edward, who then stood up and moved in to hug June. That time, it wasn't awkward or unfamiliar, and June returned it.
After that, June lit the candle he'd given to Edward that first evening, and wished his friend goodnight. The warm glow of the candlelight, the sweet embrace of a friend, and the low howling of a blizzard's winds eased June into a comfortable sleep that night.