Just the three of us. You, me, and the log fire. The clock showed twenty past eleven. I had one lamp alight which was resting on the floor by the window. The light threw a rainbow shaft of whites and greys up the folds of the curtains.
There was a glow, and two circles of light on the ceiling, one quite bright set within the other very pale sheen. The rest of the house was in darkness. A flickering glow from the fireplace bounced around the room like a dancing ghost. I had banked up the fire, and a couple of logs burned brightly, giving out a comforting heat. I was playing one of Skriabin's nocturnes on the piano. My fingers moved lazily over the keys, and then stopped. There was an almost complete silence. I bent forward to listen, and could hear the erratic purring of the flames in the fireplace, but nothing else.
I started playing again, and played right through to the very soft ending. I heard the front door being quietly opened. I deliberately went back to the top of the page, and played slightly louder, to cover any untoward noises in the hallway.
I didn't look up, but I could see Caroline standing in the doorway. She moved towards me and stopped as I played on to the bottom of the page.
"That's really lovely. What is it?"
"A nocturne. I thought it would be appropriate."
I smiled, and began playing a Chopin nocturne. "No, Skriabin."
"I liked it."
"This is Chopin. Sit on the floor by the fire. There's a couple of cushions there for you."
She crossed over to the fire, and spread out her skirt as she sat down. "This is nice. I love sitting by a log fire."
"I want to play music for you, while I watch you silhouetted against the firelight."
She sat slowly rocking on the cushions, occasionally fiddling with the logs, and throwing small sticks on the fire, watching them flair up, and twist, then die.
I finished the piece. My hands were resting on the keys. I looked at the girl sitting on the floor. There is something special about this moment, I thought.
She turned towards me. "Don't stop."
"I want to remember a Caroline sitting on a cushion with the firelight flickering across her face." I was facing her, my hands on my knees. I bent forward. "My mind has taken a photograph of you sitting against the firelight, with the lamp in the corner, and the shadows dancing around the room. I have locked you into that place by the fireside. You will always be sitting there. Forever, Caroline."
She stared into the fire.
"Thank you for being an outrageous little tart. Thank you for escaping…" I paused. "Yes, for escaping from a different world, and coming down to me in the middle of the night to share your world. You have made tonight special. I'll remember this night for all of my life."
"Play something else."
I turned back to the keyboard. "This is Liszt, from his journeys around Europe. I love this piece. I shall write a poem to go with it. I'll dedicate that poem to Caroline, and whenever I read it in public I'll see you sitting there by the fire."
I started playing very softly, reaching out over the notes, and letting the piece echo in its own strange way the shadows jumping around the room, and the small explosions of light as the gasses escaped from cracks in the burning wood, flaring like the tail of a comet, with a sharp hiss.
When I'd finished I sat watching her watching the flames. She turned. "Come and sit by me."
I came and sat down slightly behind her to one side, put my arms around her waist, with my chin on her shoulder, and peered through her bundle of hair into the fire. We sat together in utter silence as the wood burned, as the flames appeared, disappeared, and flickered back into life, then darted around, like brightly coloured butterflies.
"Do you know something?" she said.
There was a silence. I rubbed my nose against the lobe of her ear.
"The fire is a clock ticking, but we can always put the clock back by throwing on another log, and it will go back to being the same fire. So long as we keep adding logs, it will never go out, and we will live forever. Isn't that wonderful? As long as we sit here feeding logs onto the fire we will never ever grow any older."
I gave her a little squeeze.
"We must add logs very slowly to make them last for ever, and the flames will keep us snug and warm, and they will light our way through so many corridors of eternity."
There was a long pause.
"And we will sit here, you with your arms around me, and we will be like the logs, together in the fire, on top of each other, with the warm tongues of the flames kissing us, and licking our bodies, and we will be renewed as each log rests upon the one below, and accepts the flames around it, holding together, fusing together, and being forever live and warm."
I nuzzled into her hair, and gave a curl a little kiss, tossing it to and fro with my tongue.
"I want your hands to hover all over my skin like curls of flame to keep me warm, and I want to feel that flare of flame as it enters me, and shoots that power right into my soul."
She was still rocking very slightly back and forth. "Hold me forever, my favourite baby boy." She bent her head down and kissed the back of my hand where it rested on her breast.
The fire burned. The flames curled and spat. The shadows moved about like furtive waiters scurrying between tables. And time refused to move a single inch as we sat holding eternity in our hands.
I carefully placed another log on the fire.
"Play some more music."
I went over and played a piece I'd been practising. It was a light fluffy work by Moskowsky. I loved the way the sound bounced around, but I got in a bit of a mess, and broke into another piece of Chopin which I knew I could play properly.
I looked over at the girl on the cushions. She had lain down, and was cuddled into herself like a foetus, with the firelight flickering over her, and making changing shadows across her face where the light was interrupted by strands of her mop of hair.
I had an idea. I stopped playing, and crouched down next to the little girl huddled in amongst the cushions. "I'll be back in a minute. I'm going to get a couple more logs for the fire, and I'll bring my bedding downstairs. We can sleep right here by the fire."
She raised her head. "Give me a kiss."
Our lips met, felt each other, then tensed around a quiet midnight kiss, and she withdraw, and lay back almost sinking under the cushions.
I went out for the logs, and then dragged bedding down the stairs, and arranged our magic bed right in front of the fire. I stripped off, and lay down, cuddling a sleepy head between my legs.
"You don't have to do anything tonight. I just want to lie here and dream." There was a long drawn-out moment when we both stared into the fire, and listened to the purring flames.
The firelight flickered, the flames made erratic little purring sounds, as we stared beyond the curls of light into another world. The silence, the stuttering darkness, and the sound of her breathing was something I could only think of as sublime. This was another of those magic moments which seemed to be coming thick and fast in my life; defining moments that were recorded into the mind's snapshot album, where they would smile and grow for ever.
I leaned back, her hair falling all around my face in the way I adored, and fell asleep.