Twig stood silent in the silver light of the full moon, listening to the rustle of mice or maybe voles in the dried grasses and brown leaves around her. No snow yet, but with the crystal clarity of the December night sky slowly being consumed by the advancing clouds, it was likely by morning.
Dipping into the deep shadows of the trees, she walked quickly back to the cabin. The stack of wood on the porch should be enough to last through the storm.
In the smaller of the two bedrooms, Kayla lay asleep, snoring softly. Twig closed the door to the room and brought in more wood from the porch for the fire.
It was nearly midnight, and Charlie had yet to show up. Just like him, to promise and not deliver.
Twig decided to wait up in case he texted that he was lost. From the cabinet near the kitchen, she took out twine, cloth ribbon and glue. She’d make a köknar, for the season, even if just for their short stay. Her grandmother had taught her how when she was nine, and Twig had made one every year since then. One day she would show Kayla how to make her own.
She set her supplies on the coffee table and sat cross-legged on the rag rug to begin her work. The bough of balsam fir she’d cut in the afternoon wasn’t exactly the right shape, but Grandma Pati said any shape would work if you looked at it from the right perspective. That was true for many things in life, Twig knew. Like her own situation.
Likewise, the story of the köknar could be appreciated from different angles, depending on the weaver of the tale. It was a talisman of good luck. Or it represented winter, with the needles and twine standing in for ice and the thread of family and friendship. Or the red cloth ribbon spoke of the new buds of spring, still months away. The version Twig preferred was that the köknar whispered an alluring call to the sun, inviting it to stay aloft a few minutes longer each day.
By the time she heard Charlie’s SUV outside, she had finished the form. When she opened the cabin door to welcome him, the clearing was covered in fresh snow, the flakes still falling thickly. She hung her creation on the nail she’d driven in last year, their first year in that place, free finally from a past that was better forgotten.
Charlie slipped a strap over his shoulder and grabbed the handle of another suitcase. The falling snow turned his head white and speckled his beard.
“You’re here,” she said. Her shoulders relaxed. The weekend would be good after all.
“The interstate’s a mess,” he said, reaching the porch and setting down his bags. “No cell service. I was afraid I’d have to pull off and spend the night and then come the rest of the way tomorrow. Kayla’s asleep?”
She nodded. His embrace pulled her tight and she felt him shiver slightly. “You’re cold. Get inside. I’ve kept the fire up, knowing you’d show up soon.”
He paused at the doorway, staring at the köknar. “You made one.” His voice held wonder, and Twig felt her eyes smart. He’d watched her fashion one last winter, asking questions, holding a knot in place while she glued.
“I did. Just this evening.”
Charlie picked up his bags and smiled at her. “Then we’re safe.”
As she shut the door after him, Twig briefly touched the woven bough. “Do your best,” she whispered.
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