Please join us in congratulating the runner-up in Page Turner Magazine’s fourth flash fiction contest: Cold Nights, Warm Hearts! Abby Crofton wrote a tale of two lovers joyously reuniting for one night after a year of longing. It is with the greatest sense of romance that we present to you, “First Frost.”
The clearing came into view and she started running. Feet slid along the frosted ground but she hardly noticed, feeling light enough to fly. The rope tethering her to the donkey fell out of her outstretched hand, reaching toward the figure standing in the middle of the circle of trees.
After a year, she finally embraced her love again. They rocked in each other’s arms, cheeks made warm as they pressed together. Through layers of hides and wool, she felt a hardness where softness should be. She leaned back and put a hand to her love’s belly.
“Six?” she stuttered, more because of the unfamiliar language rather than any doubt about the number of babes who had sprung from her love.
A smile, big and bright, let her know she’d correctly remembered the word.
Something dark pulled in her own belly, empty year after year, but she brushed it aside like she’d brushed away so many wants throughout her life. There would only be happiness during the little time they shared.
A cart piled high with baskets of salted fish and pots of honey creaked under the weight it carried. A small, thin horse wandered between the trees. Later she would take them back with her to the village in exchange for the furs and smoked meats she’d been entrusted with. But first, they had to prepare for the coming night.
She dropped her arms from around her love and ran to the donkey. She had enough joy to run forever now that she was with her love once more. She returned with furs draped over her arms. Eyes softened, and she was graced with a kiss.
How she longed to continue the kiss, to feel their noses brush and their breaths mingle. But time passed and disappeared too fast.
Woven mats were retrieved from the sled and laid in a nook created by four ancient trees. The furs were piled on top. They knew from years past that the trees would shelter them from the wind. Would keep them safe from all the dangers of the world.
And so began the precious time they had together. Years ago, two girls were chosen by chance by each village, sent to trade for their people’s survival during the harshest of the seasons. As they grew older they found themselves praying to their different gods for the first frost of the year to come early.
With the sun falling behind the trees they pulled the furs closer to their bodies. For every kiss they shared they took bites of bread. For every caress, the berries dwindled. Mead was sipped from each other’s lips.
They whispered and giggled in the darkness. A language all their own. Hands roamed under layers of clothing until gasps of delight floated away in satisfaction like smoke from a fire they dared not light.
The winter starved the land, but it nourished their love.