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In Winter

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It was Arabella’s first winter back in England, after Venice.  After everything before.  The cold took her by surprise, somehow, and the house suddenly seemed far too big. 

She didn’t know what she would do without Emma there.  Emma, her hair still with a shock of white running through it, her eyes still with great hollows beneath them.  Forever underfed and undersunned.  And yet she had a warmth to her now that could crack the ice around the whole house.  She smiled as she fixed a shawl around Arabella’s shoulders, as she pressed a teacup into her hands and found a patch of sunlight for her chaise, as she said, “You will get used to the weather again.”

“I suppose it’s you looking after me, now,” Arabella replied.

“Friends do that,” Emma said.  Arabella supposed friends did- but she also supposed there was something beyond friendliness, there in the tenderness of her eyes.  Something that Arabella felt echoed deep, deep inside of her.

Something that she wasn’t ready to make sense of in her own mind, let alone speak aloud.

Like she understood that, Emma’s smile was soft as she kissed Arabella’s forehead- and her lips were softer.  And warm.