Isabella never thought a person could be so cold. The cold is in the air, in the water, in her bones. She tries to be patient while Guy strikes the flint again and again, she tries to still her chattering jaw so he does not take it as a reproach that he is not working fast enough.
Her breath comes in small, steaming puffs and she wonders that the inside of her can be so warm while the outside is so cold. A spark finally catches on a bit of dried moss and she watches while Guy tends to the tiny flame, feeding it twigs and curls of bark until it is big enough to catch on a good-sized branch. It is all she can do not to leap forward and cup her hands around the small, hopeful bit of heat, but Guy is cold, too, she knows. He never says anything, but she notices the way he curls his fingers into his sleeves, the slight hesitation before he gives her his cloak.
Now the tension on his face softens and he beckons her close. Isabella can barely feel the heat at first, so cold are her hands, but soon she feels prickles of warmth begin to spread over her fingers. She squats close to the fire, arms outstretched, until her palms are tight and red with heat and then she places them on her cheeks, sighing into the warmth.
Guy doesn't stop to bask in the heat. He is very serious now--even more than he was at home, when he was proud of being grown and educated and taller than most other boys. Now he is quiet and focussed, saying nothing as he unties the bundle and balances bread and hard cheese on his knee and sets a flagon of ale on the frozen ground. The homely foodstuffs are an incongruous bit of normalcy in the strange, still wood darkening around them.
It has been two days since they last saw a sign of life, though the road continues broad and unbroken through the forest. France is impossibly big; in England it was not hard to find a convent or a friendly farmhouse to spend the night, but here the wild land is wide and their accents more often than not earn them closed, distrustful looks.
Guy breaks the bread and then labors at cutting through the cold cheese. He hands Isabella portions before pulling the cork out of the bottle with his teeth and taking a long drink.
They eat in silence. If she were older and more cynical, as she will be, Isabella might have called it companionable. Not because they take pleasure in each other's company--everything pleasurable has been worn away in the days of cold, fatigue, fear and unfathomable, ever-present sadness--but because they are sure that they are the only two in the world who can feel as they feel, who have been through what they have.
Guy pushes the bottle of ale in her direction and Isabella wraps a corner of her cloak around it before she takes it, to shield her hand from the freezing clay. The ale is cold, but they drink until they are warm. It will make their pace slower, but the journey easier.
Evening falls fast in the forest. The sky is a uniform grey that simply grows darker. The trees are the same here as at home--not home any more, England--but they seem alien. Everything seems strange, since the day their home became a pile of ash and their family became the two of them, clinging together. They while away an unmeasured span of time hoping that the sky will clear, reciting psalms and conjugating Latin verbs, forcing cold lips around solemn, ponderous sounds. They have no energy for fairy tales or fancy.
Eventually the clouds part, revealing stars, bright and hard, high in the sky. A faint glow in the east, mostly obscured by trees, tells them that the moon must be rising. Isabella hands the bottle, now empty, to Guy, who packs it back in the bundle. They stand stiffly and Isabella begins to stamp out the fire. She hates this part--when they put out the comforting flames and let the dark swallow them, when they leave behind a place that has, for a time, been theirs. But they must go on; they learned quickly that they were not provisioned well enough to sleep outdoors during these freezing winter nights, and so they will walk until they find a sheltered place or the sun begins to warm the world.
There is no leave they must take, no last tidying to be done. Guy looks at her, a silent question in his eyes, and she nods. This place is as cold as any other. She is ready to leave.