When he finally finished the house, frost glittered in the morning on the crown of each row. The girl seemed untouched by the turn in weather, but he brought her a blanket and a warm shawl anyway. He left these things on the steps of the little earthen house as a sign to her that the house was now complete. He had fulfilled his promise to her. He was secretly quite pleased with himself, and he felt it was a fine house for the girl.
While he had been building the house, another plan had taken shape in his mind, but he did not share this plan with the girl. This plan, he held to himself. He came to the field the next morning with food for the girl, and she was standing at the threshold of the house, waiting. She invited him inside, and offered him a place on the blanket to eat with her. He was delighted by her simple offer and took his place next to her. They ate in silence, but he did not care. He was happy. When they finished eating, she rose quickly, bowed her head to him and left the house.
He was surprised by how swiftly she moved; he had been enjoying the time together and did not want it to end. He wanted the chance to talk to her. But she was gone before he could stop her. He stood in the doorway and watched her walk away – to where, he still did not know.
And then anger seeped into his body and took hold of his mind. He had expected the house to hold her in place, near him. He had patiently built this structure, confident in the knowledge that it would bring her to him. And yet, she was leaving the house. She was leaving him. He had thought that he knew how to make her stay but now he was not sure. Doubt filtered into his joints and a tense energy filled his limbs. He wanted to run after her but wondered if he would just be chasing her shadow. Instead he sat down on the blanket to wait for her to return to the house. His house. He wanted to smell her and touch her and make her real.
As he waited, the uncertainty gnawed at him and fear crept into the corners around him. Surely she would return. He wanted her to return. She would come back. She must come back. He had not imagined her existence. His heart raced at the sounds the wind carried and at the shadows the light brought – surely it was her, he thought. But it never was. When she returned, he would make her understand this one thing: he built this house for her and she was his now. And she would not leave again.
He waited well into the dark of night.