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once beneath the lights

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The edges of their love are sharp, so sharp.

The icicles of winter's last frost cut his skin until he bleeds, bright red against ebony branches. The thorns of summer's sky-white roses pierce her hands, and her blood runs scarlet-dark into the petals, almost like syrup.

They cannot touch each other without pain. This they have learned from years of experience. Yet every year they still wish for that contact, still fight to make it last.

 

He watches her bathe in the ice-cold streams before they freeze, never able to come too close. Her hair is as white as the snow on the banks, her skin almost pale enough to match, bar the roses that bloom in her cheeks - the only roses she can touch. She almost glows in the dusk light, so pale against the oncoming darkness, her silvery crown balanced atop her head in perfect symmetry.

Her lips are as tempting as the first fruits of the spring, but always forbidden. He knows to kiss her would melt her heart, and he cannot do it.

She never sees him looking. He must always stay thirty steps away, even in his sleep.

 

She watches him drowse in the warmth of the forest, head pillowed by his hand laid on green moss, his back against the trunk of a mighty fallen oak. His crown tilts over one ear. His skin is nut-brown and tanned by the sun, his red lips ever-so-slightly parted. She wants to breathe the same air that passes through them. She sits on her hands like a child; it is difficult, to bear this longing in inaction.

The sky is lightening into pink shot with gold, and the light glimmers in strands of his hair. She wants to kiss that hair, to run it through her fingers like silk, but it would turn to ashes and ice in her hands.

He never knows she's there. She cannot move nearer than she is, frozen by her dream.

 

Hours pass as they keep their distance; days turn into weeks turn into months and the years fly by before they can be counted.

Everywhere they touch they bleed and break, but they cannot stay apart for long. They do not regret the damage they do to each other; regret is for the months and mounting years they must ever spend apart.

Yet still they dance, circling around and around in their terrible, beautiful twilight waltz, and the sky seems to bleed with them, from time to time.

Only here can they touch, in the no man's land and no woman's of autumn and spring, dusk and dawn, the in-between hours and liminal spaces that belong to both of them and neither.

Days, weeks and months at a time pass in their strange duet, hands touching, never apart. The days fall one by one and tear them down together, shadows in the breaking day at dawn and shadows in the failing light at dusk.

In his dreams her kisses do not burn. In her dreams his touch does not tear her fragile skin. In his dreams her love does not condemn him, and in hers, his prison has no bars.

She dreams of warmth and sunlight and his arms; he dreams of ice and skies as white as her hair.

When they dream together, they dream of a life where turning the wheel every year does not leave them faded and alone. They dream they do not have the responsibilities of all the world on their shoulders, every day of every month of every year, for every other life that depends on their doomed romance.

When they dream together, they dream they are only human.

When they awaken, separate and disparate, they know that their dreams can never be.

They have their duties; and to fulfil them they will die again and again, circling each other, turning the year to year to year to year. Kill each other with just their nature, no matter what they dream.

Their love is their curse; neither can be broken.