The rider comes on through the gathering dark, leaning into the cold, horse and rider both blowing steam, hoof-fall on hard ground setting a complex beat that wakes and lulls and wakes again.
There is wind in the trees, blacker than anything, and singing, but no moon.
She is waiting, safe from the wind, four walls gone silver grey, a table, a cookstove, the light that breaches the window glass. She lifts her face toward bootfall on porchwood. He is returned to her.
He brings in with him the smell of the wind and of distance travelled. She lights the lamp and lets it rest between them. He stamps the cold from his feet. She spoons out supper. He bends his face to the steam of it.
Later, under her mother’s quilt, his knees tucked into the bend of hers, and all the time apart, before them and behind them, pressing down on this singular perfect presence, she thinks she hears him breathe her name in his sleep, and in her sleep, she answers.