I am looking for green buds. The wind still bites and soil temperatures haven’t risen yet, but I want leaves. I ache for leaves. The trees have been bare for so long. It feels like spring will never come. I’ll never be released from this icy prison.

Every autumn, I shut myself away. I promise to visit friends and see a bit of life but I never do. I need the warmth of her presence. I need to bask in her reflected glory. I am Seph’s warm season fling, her bit on the side.

She puts me aside at the end of summer and goes back to her husband. I work so that I can fool around in the warm half of the year. I lock myself away and she knows I will be here for her when the thaw comes.

This year is different. This winter has endured for longer than anyone remembers and still she does not come.

When I feel a breath of warmth on the wind, the ice around my heart starts to loosen. I know spring is coming. I clean the house, wash clothes, air bedding. I open windows and let the fresh breeze blow away the cobwebs of winter.

I dress differently; a never worn shirt and smart trousers, and promise myself a haircut. Venturing into town, I flinch at the For Sale signs on so many of the shops we used to visit together. I find other shops to buy provisions for the feast we’ll share when she arrives.

Back in my garden, daffodils dance in the breeze. Birds busy themselves building nests in the hedges. I keep my hedges high; I am no beauty to sleep undisturbed for a hundred years, but I like my privacy.

A loud ringing pulls me back into the house. No one ever phones me. No one. Seph certainly wouldn’t. She doesn’t even send email. But the noise continues unabated, demanding an answer. Tentatively, I pick up the entry phone.

“Attis? This is Attis I’m speaking to?” An unfamiliar voice, clipped, male.

“Yes, that’s me. Who are you?”

“I’m Nick. Seph’s husband. Look, there’s no easy way to break this to you.”

“Who? What?” Dread crushes my heart, stops me thinking. “How can you be speaking to me?”

“Attis,” Nick is gentler now, “Listen to me. Seph won’t be coming to you this year. She died, Attis. She died!”

I try to think what this means. I can’t make sense of Nick’s words. A cloud covers the sun for a moment and the spring light drains away. I glance at the suddenly darkened room. Its winter drab matches my heart. I look at the entry phone in my hand. Why am I holding it?

A voice, Nick’s voice, calls me.

“Attis, are you still there? Attis?”

“Yes, I’m here,” I choke out. “I didn’t know. Didn’t know you knew about us. What do you want me to do?”

Now that the news has been imparted, Nick is brasher, impatient even. I think this cold individual might be the real Nick, the reason why Seph spent time with me.

“Do? I want you to come to the gate and take your daughter, nappies, baby shoes and all, so that I can get on with my life.”

“Daughter?” I say uncomprehending.

“Yep. Daughter. I suggest you call her Persephone. I’d say she’s every inch her mother reborn.”