Winter by the Wayside

by Itai Rosenbaum

For the first time in her long, long life, she was cold. She remembered when she would be able to, in her youth, walk around in a thin, white, satin dress and not feel the chilly pangs of frost on her skin. Her platinum locks billowing in the wind, her fingers tracing shapes through the soft morning snow. Now, wrapped in blankets and sweaters, she was cold.

She was sitting at the foot of a lone, naked tree. The snow had melted, the grass already a lush, vibrant green. The tree, however, seemed to stubbornly cling to the cold, refusing to grow its foliage. It seemed to like its solitary browness, shunning the yellows and pinks of leaves and flowers. She liked it, too.

He didn’t.

He was smiling the smile of a man who brought a gun to a boxing match. It was cocksure and it was conceited. It was also, she hated to admit, gorgeous. His brilliant teeth, pure as fresh lilies, shone in the middle of a bronzed face, contrasting against the dark sunglasses resting over his eyes. In the lenses she could see her reflection, how had she withered so? She was beautiful, once. Now she was old. Old and weak. While he, he had time to gather strength. It seemed, now, that minutes after she had woken, he would return, pushing her away once more. She had no time to seep in. Hers was a slow strength, she needed weeks, no, months for it to build, to sink, until she had hold of everything. It seemed that under this new regime, his regime, she had barely days, and so she was weak.

He stepped forward. She slid back, away from him, pushing herself against the tree. Its tough bark pressing against her dry, cracked skin.

“It’s no use,” he said. His speech was warm, but falsely so. She knew the pretended affection was masking a searing hatred. Her blood froze as he took another step in her direction. “Yield. There is no choice. The others surrendered, stepping into my bright realm, why should you alone linger in the darkness?” His voice was dry, he sounded parched.

She felt her sobs, frozen on their journey between her throat and eyes. “And then what? Nature under your heel? Your banners blazing in the sun?” She tried to maintain a cold demeanor, but she felt herself melting under his hidden gaze. “What of us? We do not live in your domain, we cannot. It will be you and you alone, sitting upon your russet throne, with none to oppose you. No one to corral your wild reign, spreading like wildfire from here till all is sundered. You will bring drought and plague, with none to wash away the sins of heated passion committed in your name.”

“Cold words,” he laughed, “but you know well enough I shan’t be burned by them. What I do, I do not of my own accord. It is not my will, but theirs.” He held his hands out, motioning outwards. “Aim your barbs and jabs at them, as they have brought about your end.” He smiled again, and took the final step towards her. Bending down he held her gently, and they kissed.

As Summer walked away, the snow had all melted, giving way to fresh grass, tulips peeking through its blades. The tree burst into bloom, an explosion of color. Winter was gone, as were the rest, and he was left. He stepped away, his footfalls sizzling, searing. The grass beneath his steps drying, cracking into a yellow tinge of stasis. Winter was gone, as were the rest, and he was left. Just he. Eternal Summer.

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Filed under Issue 2, Short Story

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