November

Each year, as gray November fades in frost, two children dance on a lake's cracked ice. The fissures spread beneath their feet, frozen water's skein. The cold cannot touch them; it penetrates no deeper than their grief. They are warmed by the small comfort that, for them, things cannot get any worse.

They, who have lost so much, dare Fate to take its full.

The leaves crinkle beneath their feet. They slide through the fog, two ships sinking. Unnamed goes their mourning, but not unremembered. Here, at the site of the end, they pay their penitent respects.

She loved this time of year, their Mother. When mists descend upon their cabin. They skated with her then and not alone. The thrill a distraction from their empty stomachs, their empty days. Their lives were meager, but carefree.

Their father they didn't know well enough to say what he loved. He was but a menace distant in the mist, until one year he whirled with the fog back into their home. A haunting dervish. They knew then only what they saw. Only that he contained no temperance. No kindness, nor mercy. What he desired he took: Mother. Again and again was she his plunder.

Grey November came. Where in happier times she took them to skate the edge of death. She fled his clutches. He gave chase.

They danced towards the lake.

Across its cracking surface she ran, daring Father to tempt Fate. He remained on its edge, raging. The children too watched from the shore. She slowed and turned to them, her beloveds. In her smile sat a sad goodbye. The ice ruptured, yawning into a maw. Their lake, their autumnal refuge, consumed her whole.

Father left them, orphans, on the shore. He left, as wroth and loathsome a mystery as they had ever known. Like life itself, they supposed.

And so they live alone in the cabin their Mother built, each year traveling to the lake where her memory perseveres. They dance as she did, only this time they dance alone. The sole distractions they possess are each other's company. Each year the ritual brings less solace, and more silence, more sadness.

There they dream of family; they dream of their meager paradise lost years ago. They dream Mother watches them from below, frozen, wearing her sad smile. There they dream that the autumn ice isn't strong enough for their hearts, oh so heavy. They dream that down, down, they crash.

...into the deadly, icy blue.