Every year it happens. She knows it’s going to. It has to. Clockwork, the universe, and with it, this. It’s still a shock.

The long drab winter, not even the beauty of icy diamond snow. Just grey. Rain. Cold. Brown dead grass, spindly tree limbs forking the lowering clouds that promise magic and deliver emptiness.

And then she stands, not in the curve of the calendar’s oval as it wraps around Janus’ two-face, but along the waxing stretch, the reach for Sol, the lover from whom she seeks refuge before she shrivels and desiccates within his passion. She longs for him, even as she refuses to relinquish the ice-fingers of the heaven-tempter Cael.

“Stay with me,” he whispers, “here in the beauty of Inritus, where dwell the Astris. Stay with me.”

His grip tightens as she looks away, to where He waits, the One who owns her. “I cannot,” she repeats for the uncounted billionth time.

“You cannot quit me,” he laughs, opening the hand reduced now to hoar-frost, and lets her go.

Her face set toward the One, she nods. “I know,” she whispers.

And on the surface, an iris blooms.

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