Realisation is a strange thing at times. Sometimes it comes like lightning, crashing down, flattening you to the ground. Violently pounding, filling your consciousness to the brim with a truth that has seemingly come from nowhere. Too much to take in at once, as the subtleties of sudden understanding are lost, waiting patiently to be absorbed once the thrill of discovery has subdued.
Sometimes, it soaks in slowly. Quietly dripping, each ripple has time to reach the outsides of your being, tickling the hidden corners of your belief. Eroding the stone that has stood strong for years, the crumbling pieces breaking off so slowly, that you don't notice the changing shape. Smoothing jagged edges so gently, so carefully. Finding the pattern hidden underneath this rough facade.
This realisation fits no pattern, standing in the cold night air. As though carried by the breeze, tangled in the chill of winter, it soaked through his warm clothes and skin...and was just there. Twenty seven years of belief, and trust, fell as he looked at the old apricot tree standing in the yard. At the closing of autumn, the grass covered in leaves, he finally saw the leaves remaining. And he realised..
This decay may begin in the autumn months, but death comes in the winter.
And he shivers.
Looking around at her, he knows that this simple statement of fact has nothing to do with the numbness of her hands. Bright pink on a frosty morning, as blood tries in vain to warm the frozen exterior. He can see her words, as the fog of her breath drifts, distorted by invisible currents. Hanging low, it lingers for an eternity.
Taking her hands in his, he blows warm breath into the cocoon he has created, knowing that this action - this closeness - is more important than any meagre warmth his body can provide. He feels the dampness on her hands, as his breath condenses on her skin...a clammy warmth, that will soon turn cold.
His cheeks are stinging in the cold, freezing air seeping through the cracks between his clothing, tracing lines of ice across his skin. "Let's go inside. It's warm in there"
"No. I want to stay out here."
She stands, silent, the sun shining brightly, reflecting off the pure white frost surrounding them both. Words are useless, an unwanted intrusion on this silent morning. There is the sound of traffic, drifting across the air...the sound bends around them. There is nothing else. So he follows her gaze, fixed on the apricot tree. Showing the scars of years of amateur pruning, twisted and warped. As with a minimum of fuss, the last remaining leaf breaks free. Gently, it falls...then its descent is over, resting on the ground. He turns again, instinct taking over as he reaches, to wipe the tears from her cheeks.
"Stop. Please... I need these tears...I need their warmth. This back shiver, this can come to me in the warmest room. I can be sweating, so hot, and a chill runs down my spine. Please...don't go. Stay with me, because the earth is about to thaw.
"Sometimes the death needs to be complete, before life can return. We stand now at a place where there is nothing left to fall, and life will return.
"Let's wait for the sun."