He bends over me as I lie on the bed, gasping for breath: a dark-haired youth, thin and intense, but even through my panic I feel his shy charm, like one of the rarer gazelles. His hands on my throat are healer’s hands, long-fingered, gentle, fiercely precise. My breathing eases; the detached compassion of his gaze relaxes into a smile, but his face is drawn.
When we stand before the village for our handfasting it is only a year after our meeting, but there are white threads in his dark hair. He looks at me fondly, the pain of others already lining his eyes. He is difficult to love, but I have loved him from the first. I’m not sure he reciprocates, not in the way I feel: it isn’t in him. I don’t expect it.
Two winters later there is the fever in the village. He goes from house to house, his hands cooling and stilling the hectic blood of the sufferers. When it’s all over and most are saved, there are silver wings over his ears. He looks distinguished.
I am still a young woman when our daughter is born. As he holds her, his face alight, his hair has lost most of its dark. When the mayor’s son was dreadfully trampled by a horse he put him patiently back together, but he staggered from the room silver-haired and spent.
Now our daughter lies in the darkened room, five years old, fading fast. My love will go in to her, a white-haired old man. I will wait outside. She will come out to me, cured, and we will go on together, mother and child, without him.
All gifts have their price. He is happy to pay, but I find it hard.