i am eight, and i am crying. there is snow everywhere. it is tangled in my hair and melted on my boots. it dots my cheeks like freckles.
my tears taste like beach water. the air smells of salt and cold and the hair that is plastered to my face underneath my nose.
"jay," i say. my voice sounds very small. "jay, why did we have to leave?"
he's sitting, stiff, in the snow. it is stuck to his knees, and his lips are purple. "because johnathan got a new job. he got a new job, anna, and it's not that far away, okay?"
i turn, sharp as the wind that cuts at my face. "we have enough money," i tell him, desperate.
"marley says we don't." his voice is soothing, but his words are ice. "marley says—"
"i don't care what marlene says!"
he flinches away. "anna."
i've scared him. i hate that i've scared him. he doesn't like when i'm like this; he doesn't like when he can't calm me with his voice in my ear or his arms around my waist. or his words. his beautiful, wonderful explanations. saying things like they are.
"it's okay." i backtrack. i don't want to scare jay. i don't ever want to scare jay. "we'll always be together."
his eyes look a little lighter, now. "yes," he says. "yes, we will always be together."
"just us," i say.
"just us," he says.
"we are going to change the world," i tell him. "when we grow up a little."
he smiles at the snow. "maybe even sooner," he says.
i am proud to have made him happy again. only i can do that, and it is good to know that only i can do that. he still looks cold. "let's go inside," i say.
"yes," he says. "okay."
i lead him inside by the hand. his is cold. mine is cold. we will hold big mugs of hot chocolate, later, that we will make ourselves. we will make a fort out of blankets. i will protect him forever and ever. and it is good to know i can do that.