The world sleeps under a white blanket, unaware of the emotions I feel as I stare at the empty playground. A small wind blows by, causing the swings to sway and creak. You’re not here either, and I can’t think of any more places you might be. As peaceful as the night is, the unforgiving chill of winter lingers. Where are you?
Looking around, a shadow under the streetlight catches my eye. Walking towards it, a sigh of relief leaves my mouth as I run over, only to freeze at the sight of you. You wear a blank expression as you look up at me, your eyes colder than the air around us. All the words I was ready to blurt out die in my throat. I’ve never seen you like this before.
You make no move to leave, but your eyes never leave mine. I can’t read them, but my heart seems to know what to do. Wordlessly, I sit down next to you, ignoring your empty gaze. Instead, I take in the falling snowflakes, sparkling in the light. It’s like the stars in the sky have transformed, finding their way to illuminate the darkness despite the clouds. Finding their way to come down and touch us instead of shining from afar. Out of curiosity I stick out my tongue, hoping against most odds to catch one.
You stifle a laugh at the sight of me, warmth returning to your eyes. I smile back sheepishly, knowing how silly I looked, being cross-eyed and all. Reaching out, I take your hand in mine before putting it back into my pocket, a move that even catches me by surprise. Still, the coldness of your hands is what shocks me more, followed by a slight ache in my heart. How long were you sitting here?
The snow in your hair has gathered into a thick coating, another indication that you’ve been here for a while. We lock eyes again, and a small smile dances across my lips as I take in all of you.
“What? Is there something on my face?” you ask, raising an eyebrow. My smile softens as I turn my whole body towards you.
“Yeah. Strength. Beauty. Bravery.” Three words. Three truths. The last of your defenses fall at my words and your eyes well with tears. “It’s okay. You’ve done well.” My arms hold you close as you fall apart, clutching onto me as sobs wrack your body. The sound of your cries breaks my heart and I desperately fight back tears of my own. Tightening my hold on you, I swear to myself that I’ll never leave you. Not for anything.
I don’t know how much time passes before your tears start to dry, the snow still falling from the sky. Cupping your face in my hands, I wipe away the snowflakes that kiss your cheeks before looking into your eyes. The heaviness of your soul has lightened, but the pain remains. Questions race through my mind, but I keep silent. You’ll tell me if you want to, and only when you’re ready. As much as I would fight the world to keep you safe, to avenge your hurt, I know it’s not my place. You are far more capable of fighting your own battles. What I can offer, though, is rest, love, and myself. And those are things I’ll never hold back from you.
Quietly I help you to your feet, my hand entwined in yours as a sign of comfort for you as well as a sign of reassurance for me. I found you, and I’m not letting you go. It’s only after I wrap you in blankets when you open your mouth, your voice hoarse but steady.
“I’m sorry you had to see me like this.” Tiredness is laced in your tone, but your words scream the opposite. Sitting down in front of you, I make sure your eyes are on mine before replying.
“Do not apologize for being human.” Something clicks in your mind at those words, so I continue, praying you’ll understand how much I mean my words. “In fact, thank you for trusting me enough to be vulnerable.” You’re tearing up again, but you quickly blink them away and smile. It’s a smile that catches me off guard, so gentle and filled with joy. It’s a smile I’ve seen before, a smile I’ve always loved, because it lights up the room.
“And thank you, for being,” your eyes dart back and forth as you try to come up with the right words. Your eyes light up before you pull me into a warm embrace, your head resting on my shoulder. “Thank you for being my home.” My heart swells with your words and I bury my head in your neck. Home. So this is what home is.