Warmth

She gave a knowing smile as I studied her. “You’re . . . not what I expected,” I finally admitted.

“People seldom are.” I wasn’t sure that applied in her case, but wasn’t brave enough to say so. “And what was it that surprised you?”

I knew how ridiculous it would sound, but I had no other way to say it. “Your warmth.”

Her laugh was somehow both mirthful and merciless. “Perhaps you don’t know who you’re talking to after all.”

I shrugged. “Christmas lights, coming inside from the cold, the way snow sparkles; all of that is you.”

She grew melancholy, though her smile remained. “I have little to offer that anyone would want,” she said. “But in the cold and the quiet and the long dark, the smallest scrap of color is a treasure, a fountain of life. I may offer my children only the hope of light, but perhaps that is more valuable than light in abundance.”

“Your . . . children?”

She nodded. “All those who have received my gifts are my children, whether loss and loneliness, fear and freezing, or darkness and despair.”

“Isn’t that just . . . everyone?”

Winter’s eyes were sad, dark, and lonely. Still, she smiled. “Yes,” she answered, “everyone.”

* * *

Story by Gregory M. Fox

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