My little horse must think it queer,
To stop without a farmhouse near,
Between the woods and frozen lake,
The darkest evening of the year.
(from "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," by Robert Frost)
The lake between the Downs and Tamrannoch had frozen over. Though we could see water flowing beneath the surface, Uncle Roland tested the ice and found it strong enough to bear his weight.
"How have you been, Rhianon?" Roland Luminos asked. It was an innocuous-sounding question, and said in an even tone, but I knew what he meant.
"Kathy has been talking again, hasn't she?" He made no reply. I continued, "I am trying to keep the beast at bay, but it has been difficult. Yesterday was the celebration at South End, and I tried to go - I even made it so far as the town, up to the Ferris wheel, but I could go no further. Even having Kathy along to provide moral support was not enough for me to brave the crowds." My agoraphobia came and went. Yesterday it was back in full force. "I simply had to leave."
"It appeared to be a good crowd," said Kathy. I took a trip on the wheel and could see everyone from there: the Vicerene, and Mr. Despres and Mr. Miles, the Nachts, the Jaegermeister,..."
"Exactly my point," I said.
"I know, I know. I'll give you points for trying."
We put up the steampunk Christmas tree outside, on the deck, but it was too cold to stay there to admire it.
Moving inside, we sat around the fire, Roland, Kathy, and me, sipping hot beverages as the wind whipped through the gables. Perhaps not yet the shortest day of the year, but the day was certainly not long, and the fading light cast long shadows outside. "It's a long way back home from here," I observed.
Kathy looked at me sharply. "Home? This is home now. We may not have family here besides you and me - and now you, Roland, of course - but this is it. This is all we have."
I smiled. "You are correct, of course. Certain times of the year make me think of what we left behind. I know that we didn't really leave anything important behind."
Roland lifted his glass. "To my two young friends." I sipped and sat back in my chair. I could give in to melancholy, or I could fight it. I chose to fight. It may be the darkest evening of the year outside, but not here.