It had been snowing, so June and Tyler bundled up, layer after layer, then wrapped up together in a blanket.
They pitched their tent on the edge of a beach nobody went to. Once, it had been busy, overpopulated, but there wasn’t anyone living in the city areas nearest anymore, and so it was empty in the summer and totally abandoned now, the shortest day of the year, the longest night. They weren’t going to get driven off. They weren’t even going to get noticed, even with the fire they’d lit.
That suited them. This vigil was a private thing, between the three of them. They set the tent as the sun began to fall beneath the edge of the lake, brushing the snow out of the way so that they were staked out on sand – just as cold, but less wet – then lit their fire and wrapped up to watch.
“Do you remember…” Junie started, once or twice.
“Mmng,” Tyler would answer, and she’d fall quiet. But she knew he remembered. The scenes were acid-etched behind her eyes; how could they be any less behind his? Besides, what else were they sitting out here for, but a memory?
The moon rose, clear in a cloudless sky, and their fire burnt down slowly, to embers, while Tyler grunted his avoidance to any conversation and Junie, without the buffer of words to help, fell into those memories. The sparks brought back visceral images of the last fire, the one that got a capital F, like it was the avatar of flame. The waves lapping against the sand reminded her of footsteps, slowly dragging out into the ice-cold water. A year. Two years. Three years. And every winter solstice, they would come out here.
The night reached its nadir, and they stared, silent, out at the water, waiting for the footfalls. Waiting for Cay to walk back to them.
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