"You've become quiet, my cockatoo."
Anna pulled Selig from his chair, brushed her lips against the heat of his neck, her hands wrapped underneath his flannel shirt, shielding him. But more she protected the life they had today. The fire in his eyes warmed the room and burned into Anna. She had gotten used to the fire whisperers, the blood in them different, and for a moment, when their attention was on you, the way her own blood simmered in response.
A bucket clattered in the yard. Selig retreated, pushed a curl behind his ear. He banked his passions, so easily changeable like an inferno. "Bessie needs milking."
Anna remembered a time not so long ago when Selig made the goat wait. She grabbed Selig's plate of eggs and slid it into the sink, angry at herself. She wanted to live for today. She wanted to retain what she and Selig had, but instead she seemed to slip into trying to live yesterday. The forest fire can't burn the same land over and over. There must be rest between and a chance for fuel to regrow.
Every morning when Selig left her, she opened the wooden box with the letter from Selig's brother. She knew the words written on the parchment. War in the poinsettia fields. Frost giants. They needed Selig. She needed him too. She wasn't naïve, she understood that once Selig left her, there would be no tomorrows to live. Soldiers did not return from the war. It wasn't fair to leave her with ashes.
Her thumbs rubbed the well-worn paper. Selig was right. She had become quiet. She'd had this secret. Not a healthy fire like what burned within Selig, but a lie to engulf her life. She could not keep yesterday. She unfolded the paper and waited.
"Are you sick?"
She would look sick to him. Lethargic. Not having completed any of the chores since he'd left, her forehead pressed against her hands.
His eyes fell to the piece of paper and she handed it to him. It smoldered in his hands. "How long?"
"I must go."
That night, they lived for today. She hoped the fire he kindled in her loins might take.