They go to a strawberry field in the middle of a heat wave. Pretend that red stains to their elbows are blood oaths and strip down to their underwear to swim in the lake.

He buys her a golden locket to hang around her neck. She twines her fingers around it more often than not, meets his eye across a room and smiles like it’s their little secret.

He cuts a lock of her hair and ties a ribbon around it, keeps it locked in his bedside drawer along with love letters she sends him and signed with a lipstick kiss – bruise purple and ember red and rose petal pink.

But the hands on his pocket watch are ticking down the days and the ‘Hello darlings’ are beginning to fade with time. Crisp autumn winds are rustling the leaves on trees and scattering chimney smoke into the sky.

The apples in the orchard are browning, world beginning to taste like dust in his mouth as he hedges and prevaricates and waits, waits, waits.

He proposes to her on a boat dock at the tail end of summer.

Sun strokes rippling across the water and illuminating the outline of her face, the white of her dress, her, her, her.

Theres a begonia tucked into the top of her parasol. A hummingbirds fast heartbeat that he could hear from miles away; and if he’s the tornado he’s willing to change.

Because she’s the sun and he’s the axis.

Orbiting. Rotating. Revolving.

Because he’s planted flowers between the gaps of her ribs and anchored his roots to hers. Because they’re made of hellfire together in the peacefulness of the country where time never quite manages to move. They’re caught in amber, in salt. They met eyes with Medusa and nothing’s ever changed. Only. Only –

Everything’s changed.

She’s the slow burn of magic in his fingertips. Hesitancy toying on the tip of his tongue when he looks to his father and the pain in his eyes. Evil doesn’t seem like a game anymore, not when the tarot cards predicted lovers, yes, but also death.

And he thinks love like he thinks damnation. Wholly. An ache in his chest like a new tattoo and a catatonic twist in his genes that he can’t quite shake.

He proposes to her on a boat dock at the tail end of summer.

Waits three breaths, exactly.

When she says yes, the leaves begin to fall.