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Cold Comfort Love

"Self-love, my liege, is not so vile a sin, as self-neglecting. ― William Shakespeare, King Henry V"

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With no breeze, the glassy lake reflected winter back on itself. Though, in that chilling mirror, the bare trees were even better defined, seemingly less shrouded in mist. That was so very different from the previous time Selene had hiked to the isolated tarn. 

Back then, a spring breeze rustling through the budding trees had whitecaps lapping against the shore. Warmed by navigating the overgrown path up to the tarn, they’d loosened their duffle coats. However, upon arriving at the mossy shoreline, both had tightly wrapped themselves in their woollens, before, holding hands and luxuriating in the spring-burst prettiness of the mountain flora.

They’d surprised Selene: dropping to one knee on a mossy mound, they’d shyly proffered a barely-affordable sparkling diamond ring. She’d accepted; no reason not to, after all, she’d come to appreciate their company so much more than anyone else she’d dated.   

The deal had been sealed by thoughtfulness; at hand on the lake’s edge was a single flower which they plucked and presented to Selene. That day was the bloom’s moment of yellow and white perfection: petals delicately shaped and brightly coloured, the scent intoxicating. It all had spoken to Selene of the covenant of spring; regrowth and rebirth that foreshadowed nature’s bounty and promised good times ahead.

As they’d turned to leave the mossy mound, Selene glanced down into the lake’s shallows. Her heart leapt into her mouth, she was sure she’d caught sight of a face in the water. Not just any face, rather she’d glimpsed a truly gorgeous countenance. But, almost immediately, the wind had again picked up, and the vision dissipated in ripples. So she’d said nothing, and together, still holding hands, they’d retraced their steps back to the car. Selene bubbled with excitement at the prospect of waving the good news on her finger under the noses of her parents and friends. 

In the way of girls whose looks have always been validated, Selene had, over time, become accustomed to the spotlight of being the centre of attention. But, as spring had turned into summer, there had been a delightfully noticeable uptick in the usual ubiquitous attentiveness. Selene had embraced a new role, being the star of pina colada, thong bikini, celebratory lobster barbeques, and had adored the alcohol-infused good cheer that was always capped by multiple toasts to the guest of honour’s forthcoming spring nuptials. 

“Oh,” as she’d confided to all who had thought their seat at the nuptials depended on listening, “This will be no run-of-the-mill event. I’m producing a wedding worthy of a Hollywood celebrity.” 

Guests, dress, makeup, venue, and food; all had been a cavalcade of adulation-worthy decisions deserving of a feature article in a bridal magazine. “Take notes; here’s how one goes about producing the dream-come-true wedding,” was the byline she’d imagined.  

That sultry summer joie-de-vivre was, she’d concluded, her birthright. Yet, as summer had turned into fall, and the trees had begun shedding their colourful leaves, the attention of friends and family had turned to Halloween and Christmas. After all, Selene’s planning was done and dusted and the actual wedding was so next year.

In those quieter autumnal moments, her mind had kept returning to the face she’d seen in the lake. She couldn’t let go of the thought she might well have seen physical perfection, though there hadn’t been time to be sure. And, as fall had turned to winter, she kept asking herself whether her life’s jigsaw would be complete if she ignored the possibility that this might be the most beautiful person she would ever meet.  

So on a clear early winter’s day, Selene resolved to once again hike up to the lake, on this occasion there’d be no need for a fiancé. The cold was all-pervading, but, fortunately, as she set off, the zephyr abated which reduced the wind chill factor. 

On arrival at the tarn, she admired how clear the glassy lake was in reflecting winter back on itself. Then she took off her beanie and knelt on the snow-covered mound next to the water’s edge; the exact spot where not only had the marriage proposal occurred the previous spring but also where the pretty flower had grown and where she’d glimpsed that truly gorgeous face in the tarn. 

Leaning forward, she stared into the inky glassy water. At first, the nothingness disappointed her. But, looking closer, her heart pounded as another glimpse of the same exquisitely beautiful woman from last spring looked back at her. Selene drank in the details of this vision of perfection, the identical stylish blond hair, the identical aquamarine eyes, the identical sculptured eyelashes and the identically made-up cheekbones and lips.

A smile lit up the woman’s face; no doubt she also recognized their shared taste for quality, their need for the best. Selene was overjoyed, nothing else mattered; she surprised herself by, for the first time in her life, finding heart-warming contentment and joy in simply staring into another’s eyes.

Yet, way too early for Selene, the winter’s light began to fade and the beautiful face in the water started to dim. The word soulmate suddenly entered her mind and Selene became desperate to let the other woman know exactly how she felt about her. 

She lowered her lips to the water’s surface. The woman’s lips moved closer. When their mouths touched the surface of the water, the numbing chill was momentarily overwhelmed by Selena’s soul-warming realisation: this, and this alone, was likely her only chance at requited love. 

Later in the evening’s darkness, a violent storm lashed the mountain tarn. Over a metre of snow was dumped on the land and the lake iced over. 

Frozen white and hibernating undisturbed is how the place will remain for three months, waiting and waiting until the sun has built the strength needed to rebirth the land. Then, next spring, on that lakeside mossy mound, surrounded by budding trees and foraging animals, one perfectly formed, narcissus-like flower, will begin, once again, to sway invitingly in the breeze.  

Written by CuriousAnnie
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