Bartholomew placed the paintbrush down and picked up his cup of whiskey. Outside the light bled across the damp landscape. He could hear Beth in the kitchen, moving pots and pans, the kitten mewing between the debris on the floor.
It was half past four and he wondered why she was getting supper ready so early, then remembered that there was no electricity and that they would need to eat and cook and bed before sundown. There would be snow that evening, he hoped, and Bart and Beth would watch it fall from beneath blankets. A skylight slanted above them: each flake an individual for just a nanosecond then melting to slush, joining forces with each and every other ice star out there.
They ate lamb chops and fried spinach. After supper, they sat on the damp couch, fragmented in the broken flicker of the candle flame. She murmured into his shoulder, then for some reason, began to cry. He comforted her and after a while – when it was polite and when he could take it no more – patted her on the shoulder and stood to go to bed. The little cat jumped onto the carpet, then took its claws and racked them through the arm of the suede couch. Beth swore violently and the cat yelped when hit.
He woke up in the morning and stamped his feet to get the blood to the blue tips of his toes. The linoleum oozed with cold sweat, an internal sea of dew that beaded as the morning temperature rose.
There, in the middle of the kitchen, between a box of newspaper-wrapped dishes, was the kitten. Its legs froze out and its mouth stopped in frozen mew.
He leant over very slowly to prod it, as if the kitten would bite him if he moved too fast. Prod, prod. The mouth stayed open in bleat: a pink hole ringed in tiny shark teeth.