Winter was the only season we could be together.
It has been so for forty-seven years and counting. Every autumn, when the first scent of a chill crept in with the wind, I would leave the warmth of my small cabin, barely big enough for the both of us, and prepare for the coming snow. I would gather wood, stacked nearly to the peak of the sloped cabin roof. (The pile had grown shorter over the years, as the ax and I had both become rusty.) I would hunt. (I was quick with a rifle in my youth, now I relied primarily on fishing rods and small game traps while the rifle hunted cobwebs.) And I would paint. (That, I can still do.)
Perched on the top of the hill, the spot where we first met, I painted the landscape every Sunday. The majestic presence of the ancient mountains, watching over us like Gods. The valley with the houses, so tiny from up here that we imagined they were for the fairy people. The sheep dotting the hillside like fallen clouds. It didn’t matter that the landscape had barely changed in all these years – a few more houses here, a few less trees there – she loved to see my paintings. They showed her what she could never see: the wash of green grass in the summer, growing proud and tall in the blinding afternoon sun. The fields of heather rolling across the valley like a purple ocean in the spring. The fiery palette of autumnal trees against a clear azure sky. And so I painted, every week since that first winter.
I loved her, when we first met. We were closer in age then. Her milky skin and diamond eyes enchanted me. I was barely a child myself at nineteen. We stayed up all night in those early winters, thirsty for each others company. We traded stories and bashful glances. A sudden smile, the quick brush of fingers against fingers. The painful awareness of the first drip of a melting icicle upon the window pane. The snow drifts receding from the cabin door, taking her with them, away from me. We lived and we died in the span of every winter.
I love her, still. But it’s different now. Love is like that. Like the seasons, it blossoms, it thrives, it changes. Sometimes it dies. But not for us. I change, too. My skin is dry and lined, like the fallen leaves that crumble beneath my boots. My hair is grey like the sky when it weeps. My limbs creak like the aged oaks in the wind. I change, the seasons change. She does not.
And so it has been and so it shall always be. The seasons will come and go, and so will I. One winter, she will return and I will not. Maybe she will find someone new, maybe not. Maybe she will weep for me, those silent crystal tears. Maybe not. Winter may take but it also gives. So I stand on that hill where we met, the first snow settling on my sloping shoulders, and wait as I have always waited for my snow child.