On a crystalline world not far from here an angel wept. Perched atop a small hill as tears flowed freely into her palms, sobs wrenched from her heart in great gasps that steamed in the crisp autumn air.

I watched my little girl from the window of our stable, she was the youngest of our children and the light of my older years. Now she seemed so far from my reach. I knew this would be a hard time for all of us, and dashed away the tears that fell from my own eyes and blurred the world into a quartz-like muddle.

At dinner we were strangely superficial. Topics bore no relevance to the pain lying in the next room. We avoided mention of the blossoming blood that would not go away no matter how many bandages were applied. We tried not to think of life once the nurses had finished their job, once there was no more reason for them to be here. The boys talked of their day at work, Angelica barely touched her food. And for once no-one complained.

I was with her at the end. I closed her eyes.

The world was becoming colder. Winter came closer and the house was quiet. My little angel, withdrawn from the day, refused to go to school. And I hadn’t the heart to make her. Mathew and Peter spoke to me about it once or twice, as I recall, but I didn’t really pay attention. After that, they took her each day, and I sat, waiting for her to come home safe, never quite believing that she wasn’t also gone for always, and never quite believing her mother wouldn’t bring her home anymore.

My whole being was empty, or perhaps filled with the waters of the Styx, dark and dreary and full of sorrow. Every day was an effort to rise and food, food no longer had any taste. I ate out of rote, but nothing more. Mathew, the eldest, eventually went back to his wife, I’m not sure when. And the house became quieter.

Angelica took to spending much of her time wandering on the hills, by the lake.

One stormy evening dusk fell and she hadn’t returned. This was the first moment I felt anything other than empty sorrow. Peter and I spent half the night searching for her, on the hills, through the forest. We combed the caves nearby, we swept the fields, now bereft of corn, and found no sign of her. As the moon rode high, the storm cleared and the stars turned in the sky, I circled the lake, and there, curled beneath a willow tree wrapped in her coat, my angel slept safely.

I carried her home.

The winter was hard for me. But it was harder on my little ones. I tried to fight for them, to stay, but the cold and damp had gotten into my lungs, my blood, and eventually the water and the winter claimed me.

And out on the frosty, crystalline hill, an angel wept.