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I've got a pocketful of change

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Eurydice still doesn't like heading into winter like this: not enough put by, her gut sings to her, not enough blankets or coats to keep away the cold, not enough food to last till spring.

Quiet, she tells her gut sternly, as she counts the cans she has just put away down here on the basement shelves—as she climbs the steps and uncaps her pen, preparing to write. She may feel that way, but her head knows it isn't true: she has the proof, here in the last marks she's making on the checklist that hangs on the back of the basement door. She and Orpheus have been through more than one winter like this, and she knows they can survive this way, because they have before.

They've worked it out, by now, how to balance his faith in summer with her fear of winter, and they know how to make it through the year: a compromise. Together they've refined the list of supplies they will need to get through any winter—everything they will need, both to survive, and for Eurydice to feel safe and certain that they will. She likes it when finishing the list comes with a warm sense of accomplishment, but it doesn't always, and this year she still feels hollow at the bone, eaten away at by old fears. At moments like this, Eurydice sometimes feels the burden is heavier on her side. Do her fears for their survival really balance out with Orpheus's almost careless joie de vivre? She isn't sure.

But she's always loved Orpheus's light spirit, and she wouldn't want to so weight him down with her fears and worries that his heart no longer sang. In a way, she doesn't really care whether she and Orpheus are evenly matched in this. What's important, she's decided, isn't that they're perfectly equal in some tit-for-tat accounting, but that they know what they need to do to walk through their future years together.

And yes, there is still empty space in the basement where more cans could fit, empty spaces that catch and claw at the dark corners of her mind, but Eurydice thinks of Hades, piling up all his riches in his kingdom underground, and how none of it eased his mind against whatever fears gnawed his heart—and she turns off the light, closes the door, and leaves her own tiny underground kingdom behind her, meager and entirely satisfactory, as she turns to the warm cheerful light of the kitchen.

While she put away the last of their winter stores, Orpheus has been handling the fresh things they planned to cook this week—whistling, of course, as he whirls them out of the grocery bags and into their places. If it weren't whistling, it would be humming, or singing. Orpheus does very little silently, or without moving like he's dancing. Eurydice smiles to see him, to hear him. She takes their jukebox jar from where it lives on the kitchen table and intercepts Orpheus bringing an onion to the cutting board—it was going to be cooked in tonight's dinner, but now it's going into the fridge—trading him the onion for the jar.

"Got some quarters waiting to be turned into songs," she says to him with a smile. "Going to grant their wishes?" She shakes the jar invitingly, and the coins clink against the glass. The jukebox jar is another one of their agreements: where they put extra little money, not enough to make a difference for anything useful, and when it adds up, they can only use it for fun. (Of course it would be enough to make a difference; Eurydice can translate quarters into cans of beans as easily as songs. But—)

Orpheus's face lights up, and Eurydice loves it.

Their neighborhood diner has a jukebox, the jar's namesake—it's a dollar for seven plays. There's even a tiny dance floor over in the corner in front of it, just six by six squares alternating white and blue.

They share a single burger, cut in half, and a cherry vanilla milkshake with two straws. (Jukebox quarters don't stretch very far to cover burgers.) They eat the same order of fries by sneaking them away from each other's side of the plate. After some play-dueling with the straws, Orpheus surrenders the milkshake glass to Eurydice's side of the table and puts his own straw in the extra metal tumbler with the rest of the milkshake.

When Orpheus wanders over to the jukebox, Eurydice stays in the booth. She sips her milkshake, enjoying the cold as it follows the warmth of the food already filling her belly. She's surrounded by the bright warmth inside the diner, sheltered from the chilly dusk deepening into evening outside. She runs a finger down her chilled milkshake glass, trailing through condensation, then presses her hand against the window as she looks out—then looks at the window, the brightness of the interior and her own reflection painted over the darkness outside. Her damp fingertip feels the chill against the glass more than the rest of her hand. Her scarf is curled up on the booth right next to her, and she could put it on right now if she wanted to. If it weren't as warm in here as it is.

Deeper into the reflection, she sees Orpheus's back where he's standing in front of the jukebox.

Orpheus's back, and the memory of a time when it was her only beacon. She watched so closely and for so long as she followed him on their way back up to the light that she sometimes thinks she would know him more easily from behind than by his face. The memory of dark earth walls closes in on her.

The table has a metal edge, ridged, a pattern that strums against her thumbnail as she runs it back and forth over the edge. Her other fingers on that same hand find a chip in the surface as they trace over the tabletop. And her other hand is off the window now, buried deep in her scarf, and she can smell her own hair in a cloud around her. There was plenty made of metal in Hadestown, plenty that was warm, or even hot—but nothing soft, and nothing that smelled of anything living.

Orpheus turns; she sees his face in the window beneath his hat brim. She doesn't disappear.

She's still here, and she turns to face him in person instead of through glass, leaves the booth to join him on the tiny dance floor where they can only take two steps in any direction before having to turn.

Someday she'll go back down in the dirt again, to stay this time, and no one knows when. But not tonight. Not yet.

Orpheus folds her in his arms and she breathes in the rich deep warm life of him, face pressed against his neck as the jukebox whirls up its first song, and they dance together in the brightness of the night.