* * *
Solemn and hushed under a full moon, the forest lay. Its dark trunks stood in perfect rows, stretching further than the eye could see. Yet in the very center, one tree was missing.
A girl stood in the gap, straight as the trees around her. Her feet were firmly planted in the sparse sprinkling of snow on the ground. The full moon pulled her shadow out behind her, painting it dark and straight as the forbidding trees. Her flaming hair flowed loose down her shoulders, barely lighter than her bright red cloak beneath. In all the cold, bleak woods she was the only thing alive.
The air crystallized around the girl with every breath she took, and her hands were blue beneath her cloak. Her cheeks stung with numbness and her pale eyes threatened to melt from the frigid wind, but she dared not move. He had promised.
The night progressed slowly and fleeting clouds shadowed the stars overhead. Snow drifted down, settling like fairy dust on her hair and cloak. The flakes clumped together thicker and heavier, but still she would not move. She could not. He had promised to come.
The full moon touched the earth at the horizon, sending its last rays of pale silver over the world. Already the eastern sky was lightening and the birds were beginning to awaken. Yet still she remained, upright and immovable. He had promised to come rescue her.
The sun arose in its splendor, warming the earth from its chill. Fresh and pure after its nighttime sleep, the earth awoke. People began to stir to life for another day.
Yet deep in the forest, a red maple stood frozen over in the midst of black columns. Its bright leaves still clung to its branches even through the weight of deathly snow. He had promised…