(I wrote this a couple of years back; it seems appropriate to share it here, now.)
"Tell me a story," I say, as we lie there in the dark.
He laughs, for even to my own ears I sound like a child, but also, because he recognizes that winter is the proper time for stories, stories that both explore and keep away the dark.
"Okay," he says.
"Once there was a girl named Aridela, with hair black as ink. Now Aridela loved the dark and the night; and her favorite thing in the whole world was to lie asleep and dream, of faraway places and wonderful lands, of magical beings and forests that spoke. But one night, something terrible happened, and it happened in the dark she loved so much: her mother was lost."
"Oh," I say, all fear and foreboding, "You don't think my mom is going to die soon, do you?"
"Shhh," he says, "Don't interrupt. Your mother's fine, she'll outlive us all, trust me, and God help us. And anyway I didn't say Aridela's mother died; I just said she was lost. Try to pay attention.
"So Aridela lost her mother, and it made her very sad, and a little angry, too. And she looked long and far in the dark for her mother, and could not find her. And she began to hate the dark, the dark she had used to love.
"Now, underneath all hate is a little seed of fear; and though Aridela didn't see it at first, that fear grew until she feared the dark and became terrified of it. And she became too afraid to even put one foot in front of the other, and she stopped altogether, and sat down in the dark in a little ball, too frightened to move. And, eventually, she became so afraid that she dared not even breathe, hardly, and she felt the walls press in on her, as if she were deep underground.
"She stayed this way for a long time, silent, still, and unable to see, for there was no light, no light at all where she was.
"But in time she became so still that everything around her also became still; and at last she saw before her feet a tiny little light. And she saw that it was coming from a little pool, which had become so still it was now like a mirror; and the little light was the reflection of a star, a star that shone through a hole in the roof. And Aridela stood up, and pulled herself out of that hole onto a hilltop into the good night air, surrounded by the beautiful dark. And to the east she could see the horizon, and the faint light of the coming dawn. The end."
"The end?" I say. I don't think I find his story very comforting. "What happened to her mother? Did Aridela ever find her?"
"No," he says, "she didn't. Aridela's mother found her."
Well, that's a little better. "Now hang on," I say, and I know he knows that Aridela is a title of the Goddess Ariadne, "With a name like Aridela I'd expect Dionysos to be in there somewhere."
"He was," he says. "He was the Star."