Out of the Cold

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Chapter 3

"I'm sorry."

She lifts her head up and looks at him blankly, her fingers idly playing with the stirrer in her now-cold second cup of hot chocolate. "For what?"

"I suppose I didn't realize…or perhaps I didn't want to realize…I never meant for you to have to go through that again." The guy looks at her in concern. She shrugs her shoulders, and fixes her storm-grey eyes on the drink in front of her. "I'm sorry."

"Don't—please don't apologize," she forces a smile to her face, a smile that is entirely too sad for his liking. "I…I probably needed to talk about it."

His eyes flicker back and forth between hers. He watches as she struggles to compose herself. He watches as tears well in her beautiful silver eyes and as she looks out the large café window to hide them from him. He watches as she pushes back her thick and wild red hair from her face with a trembling hand, the other moving to rest on the table. Hesitantly, he reaches to cover her hand with his, squeezing it gently when she makes no protest.

She looks back at him, and this time, her smile is genuine, though tentative. "It's kind of weird, don't you think? That I've just spent all this time telling you practically my life story, and I don't even know your name."

"Not that weird. It happens in the stories all the time," he points out.

"Not in mine," she replies, shaking her head resolutely.

"Well in that case, Elinor," he leans forward a bit, "the name's Ben."

Her smile grows just a little more. "So tell me, Ben. What is it you do?"

The corners of his mouth twitch as he looks at her. "I build bridges, Elinor."

She nods slowly, turning her silver gaze to the outside the café window. "Did you build that bridge?"

"I didn't, but my grandfather did. He built it a very long time ago."

"Is that so?"

"It is. In fact…"

And as they talk, the snow stops falling. The winds fade from their fierce howls to gentle whispers. The sky loses some of its grey and turns a little blue at the edges. The dark, chrome-colored clouds start to lighten. And the sun that had been so pale, so lifeless, so hopeless, slowly comes back to life, and sets over the high stone bridge in a fiery haze of bright, red, light.

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