She gazed out the window, her body swathed in the nostalgic layers of his field gear. Grasping her steaming mug of peppermint cocoa tightly, she marvelled, in dazed fascination, at the swirling trails of Applewood smoke emerging from dark brick chimneys. The plumes lingered languidly over rooftops, blanketing the town in a haze of grey. As she sat by the glass, glistening snowmen slid into gentle hues of strawberry and violet, before vanishing entirely into the darkness.
Sipping numbly at her now cold drink, her eyes traced patterns among the glittering silvers and golds that met the ebony sky in a tender marriage of darkness and light. Time fell in on itself as she dreamed of store-fronts perfumed by gingerbread and cinnamon, and wind-brushed walls embraced by snow-dusted ivy. She revelled in loving eyes and brilliant laughter beneath glowing gas lamps, and intimate walks through midnight streets. She dreamt deep into the night, longing for his honey-like timbre as he recited essays like poetry. Now his sweet whispers could only be found in the elegant script of his notebooks.
Nestled deep in the cradle of night, she did not stir till her mug ran dry. Sighing emptily, she carefully folded the abundance of army apparel around her, the cloud of warmth dissipating rapidly. Straightening, she rushed to the bathroom and washed her face; shocking cold chasing her past away. Glancing up, she glimpsed her once sky blue eyes staring back at her, stormy grey; her washed out hair wrangled into a chaotic mess at the base of her neck. She trudged down the stairs, gaze fixed on the ground below. She did not lift her eyes until the rhythmic pendulum of their grandfather clock swung into view, swaying to and fro in perpetual melancholy. She descended the last step when suddenly, from deep within its heart, it began to cry for the girl who would not.
Startled by the deep wringing, she inhaled deeply to calm her hummingbird heart to a butterfly beat, only for it to cease thrumming entirely at what she saw. Atop the foyer table was the sweetest experience that she wished ardently to forget, their last Christmas together. She sought out their figures, framed by magical snow angels, and plunged into the night’s embrace as she recalled her own glowing happiness as he captured her heart one last time, sealing his promise with a sterling band.
Outside, the trees shivered, bare boughs dripping icicle tears. Nobody stood in the waning light of the lamppost as she veered right, unlatching the black iron gate. Her footsteps forged a resolute path through the snow-dusted yard, leading respectfully from the entrance to the base of an ancient evergreen. Kneeling down, she appraised the black marble plaque before her. For a moment, she merely sat there, eyes flickering over the stone’s golden inscription, hands tightening to contain her sorrow. Leaning forward, she pressed a gentle kiss to the cold surface and taped up her splintered heart.
Written by Julie Shi