The clock’s minute hand ticked near midnight when she stepped out the door and wandered down into the darkness. The street before her was bleak and howling, the moonlight and the crazed black sky spinning wildly into buttery clouds. Thick cold spilled like ink across the blue-drenched sidewalk, shadows staggering in and out of puddles as the wind snatched up lingering autumn leaves. She walked quietly, a gliding whisper in the night. The crunch of black boots on the sidewalk. The chittering of crickets. The whoosh of a lonely passing car. It was two in the morning when she arrived. She stopped suddenly before the house, as if a cord had been looped and tightened and jerked around her waist. Then, slowly, she turned and mounted the stairs, gloved hands brushing snow off the black rail as she climbed. White coat drawn tight around her, her clipped breath stuttered against the pure December air. She slipped the key into the lock, felt the familiar give of the stubborn door. Sighed at the rush of warmth, the silence. The echo of her footstep on the wood, then the creak and click of the screen behind her. To her right was the dim yellow dining room with the dark wooden panels, where they had shared so many burnt Christmas dinners – now the table and chairs lurked half-formed in warped and shuddering darkness. To her left was the sitting room with the soft blue-patched sofa, and the flickering lamp, and the threadbare couch where she had so often fallen asleep. Now, the couch, the lamp, were only half alive – stiff and dry and dusty in the midnight air. Though she had run a warm hand across it just moments before, white mist had already settled into the glass of the windowpane. There was a black-and-white photograph on the mantle, of a man and a woman with their three children. The boys had been bottled into soft, light shirts and capped with firm gray Brixtons – she could almost imagine the mother’s hands reaching down to smooth unruly collars, tilt the brims of the hats so that their shadows slanted sweetly across their foreheads. Backs erect, smiles tailored, hair combed just so – and yet, in the moment before the shutter fell, the youngest of the three had turned ever so slightly away from the camera. His eyes drifted from the lens, drawn to some point below or behind the horizon – a yellow butterfly, perhaps, or a dandelion seed. They had populated her childhood fantasies, these people, this snapshot of their lives. The king, the queen, the three princes.