The air in Maris’s bedroom is dark and golden, the colour of molasses and almonds and the soft skin of a child’s eyelids. Dust motes hang glowing in the ribs of light from the cracks in the blinds.
Maris raises her hand as if reaching for something, and the honey-light bends around her and stripes her skin in coffee-and-cream. She rotates her wrist and the stripes move with it, and the dust in the air dances. She has taken the ribbons out of her hair and they are scattered on the floor beside the bed.
The covers are bunched at her waist, and Birdy’s arms are around her neck, his head resting on her cool bare chest. His eyes are closed but he is awake, listening to her heartbeat and the sound of her breath, like the ocean crashing inside of her ribcage.
Maris lets her hand fall and settle just above his shoulderblades, where her fingers trace from memory the tattoo there of the cycles of the moon, from new to full to new again. He sighs at her touch, and tells her he loves her, and his voice is thick with longing. And then he says,
“Winter is coming.”
Her breath hitches in her throat, and when she speaks it sounds like birds drowning.
“Don’t go,” she whispers.
“It’s not for me to say,” he tells her. “The wolf decides.”
Her heart clenches. She lets her hand move to her belly, just above the sheets, where the flat white skin is the colour of milk. She can feel the wolf in him even now, when he is still himself on the outside; she can feel it pushing up into her hand when she touches him.
“It’s only three months,” he says, but the catch in her throat will not go away.
It did not take long for Maris to believe in magic. She had always known it, from the moment she looked into his eyes and saw something animal there, something deeply alive but raw and primal.
The first time she saw the wolf, when the winter solstice came and the town was alive with lights and the smell of cinnamon, when he took her to the woods and let the skin fall from him and the wolf burst through and make wounds in the crust of snow under their feet, she only held him, and kissed him where the fur of his neck was thick and soft. And the wolf’s heart said only Maris Maris Maris Maris Maris that winter, until the spring came and Birdy awoke and his skin grew close around him again, and his lips made the word
And he says it now, and it makes her ache inside.