The doorway to Winter was heavy and grey, its lintel and frame rough hewn stone with square, sharp edges. A tree, barren and sad, lived upon that cold, dreary door, waiting for a spring that would never come.
Aulani had escaped across that threshold many times. The first time she fled the oppressive sweltering heat of the searing summer sun. The second time she fled the white hot wrath of her drunken father’s rage. The third time she fled her boyfriend’s burning lust.
But Aulani was not running from anything this time, instead she was running toward it, running not out of fear, but out of love.
She missed the crunch of snow underfoot, missed the crisp, clean whiteness of it all. She missed the peace, the calm, the quiet hush of falling snow. She wanted a home there, a real home, not like the one she’d always known.
There was life in Winter’s realm, even if everything looked like death. It was simply dormant, holding its life and heat close, for only by doing so could it live. The tree on the door knew this as did the door in the tree. They held their knowledge close and their huddled knowing kept them warm through winter without end.
Aulani knew all this, knew it in her bones, knew it with something that surpassed mere knowledge about a thing. She knew Winter, knew him well, and it was for this she had come.
Winter made his home in the frozen lands of perpetual night. His keep stood upon the highest peak that he might be nearer his brightly shining, but ever changing lover and wife. Their children lay strewn across the vast night sky of the rugged north, twinkling and shining an image of their parents’ love to all of Winter’s realm.
But they were distant children, never near, and Aulani knew Winter was lonely. He might be cold and he might be quiet, but his heart was soft and warm. He would welcome her as a daughter and call her his own. And she would live out her days free from the different kinds of burning in the land that birthed her.
She would find a different kind of warmth in Winter’s realm and it would warm her from within. No heat from without, no more fleeing. Just peace and silence, ever more and ever more.
The doorway to Winter closed behind her and the tree on the door shuddered before settling into stillness once more. Grey and cold, it looked out on the sunlit warmth of the Summerlands, baffled by Aulani’s decision. Its confusion, like its branches, would settle and still, even as it strove to drink light and heat into sad, stone branches, waiting for a spring that could never come.