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It is near midnight on a cold, still Winter's evening. Stars shine brightly and wisps of clouds swirl in the night sky, mirroring the twinkling lights and smoking chimneys of a village nestled in a valley below. On the rooftop of one of the buildings a woman sits, wrapped in a warm tartan blanket. She holds a mug of steaming tea between her cupped hands as she stares up at the sky, counting the stars.

The streets below the woman's rooftop perch are quiet and still, blanketed in snow and softly lit by flickering street-lamps. It is an odd village, this. It seems to sleep in the summer and come alive in the winter. But considering its name is "Crone's Corner", maybe that pattern isn't so odd after all. The woman smiles softly to herself. "Seems funny to find myself back here," she thinks. "Perhaps it is time for the village to wake again, at least for a time. That fits the pattern too."

She hears a crash from inside the house, and a head pops out of the dormer window of her attic studio. A sheepish grin flashes below merry eyes, and Arliss says, "I knocked over your easel, but all is well. There wasn't anything on it." He frowns and gives her a look. "Hey! Why wasn't there anything on it?" He climbs out onto the rooftop, and Westie reaches for his hand, helping him up to sit beside her. She rests her head on his shoulder, smiling.

"Guess my muse fell into a sleeping pattern, too," she says. Arliss looks quizzically at her and she shrugs, responding with, "I dunno why the easel is empty. But maybe it won't be for long. I've been think about patterns tonight. Beautiful patterns, like the constellations above us, or the friendships we weave into our lives. But also about habits we fall into, and mistakes we repeat, over and over again. Not all patterns are good ones, even ones that are familiar and much loved. Some are destructive. Some just put us to sleep in the middle of our lives. But patterns can change." She smiles up at the stars, dancing in their own endless patterns of light above her. "Even those that seem fixed forever, like those star-stories above us."

She looks up at his face. "This, I must believe. And perhaps, in that believing, I'll find my muse again. Perhaps she's been there all along, just waiting for me to remember how to see."

Arliss wraps his arm around Westie's shoulders and at that moment a star slides through the sky above them, a silent flash of liquid light. He kisses her hair and murmurs, "Perhaps you are right."
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