Bridge Of Snow Page 2

’’It is true, for gods as well as mortals, that it is impossible to love a bridge. The snow god came, walked the length of him, and wept. Her tears fell and froze. They scattered the sky, piercingly bright. They fell in patterns, in the images he had drawn for her. That is why we see constellations. The stars show his memories, which became hers. We still see them when we look up into the night at a black bridge covered with snow.’’

Arin was quiet. His expression was unreadable. She wondered why he had asked for this tale. His eyes seemed older than he was, but his hand younger as he reached to touch her satin sleeve. He played with the fabric, watching it dimple and shine. She realized that she had, after all, forgotten the ball and the waiting carriage.

It was time to leave. She kissed him.

’’Will Anireh marry the prince?’’ Arin asked.

She thought that now she understood his interest in the story. ’’I don\ know.’’

’’She\d go away and live with him.’’

’’Yes. Arin, the sibling gods can be cruel to each other. Is that why you asked for the story of snow and her brother-sister moon? Anireh teases you. She can be thoughtless. But she loves you. She held you so dearly when you were a baby. Sometimes she refused to give you back to me.’’

His troubled gaze fell. Softly, he said, ’’I don\ want her to go.’’

She smoothed his hair off his brow and said gentle things, the right things, and would have left then to attend the royal ball with an easier heart, but he reached for her wrist. He held it, his hand a soft bracelet.

’’Amma . . . the goatherd wasn\ bad, was he?’’

’’No.’’

’’But he was punished.’’

Lightly, she said, ’’Well, all boys must remember their prayers, mustn\ they?’’

’’What if I do, but offend a god another way?’’

’’Children cannot offend the gods.’’

His eyes were so wide she could see the silvery rims of them clear round. He said, ’’I was born in death\s year, but I wasn\ given to him. What if he\s offended?’’

She suddenly realized the full scope of his fascination with the tale. ’’No, Arin. The rules are clear. I had the right to name you whenever I liked.’’

’’What if I\m his no matter when you named me?’’

’’What if you are, and it means that he holds you in his hand and would let no one harm you?’’

For a moment, he was silent. He muttered, ’’I\m afraid to die.’’

’’You won\ .’’ She made her voice cheerful, brisk. Her son felt things too deeply, was tender to the core. It worried her. She shouldn\ have told that story. ’’Arin, don\ you want your secret?’’

He smiled a little. ’’Yes.’’

She had meant to tell him that the cook\s cat had had kittens. But something in his tentative smile caught at her heart, and she leaned to whisper in his ear. She said what no mother should say, yet it was the truth. Months later, when a Valorian dagger pressed into her throat, and there was a moment before the final push, she thought of it, and was glad she had spoken. ’’I love you best,’’ she said.

She rested her hand on his warm forehead and said the blessing for dreams. She kissed him one more time, and went away.


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