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Valentine's day, 1967

Danny should leave before the snow starts. Should not scuttle toward her cabin, pick a corner she can't see from any window. Should not crouch there, sit and straddle it, shold not slide in close enough to touch the walls, then closer, nor stretch out his arms, embrace the two sides of the house, nor lay his cheek against its smooth, cold stones.
       Should not imagine her a foot away, sleeping where he used to sleep.
       There's a chink in the mortar, level with his face, where he can hear her breathe. He wishes he could suck it in, her breath so close like that, presses his ear hard against the crumbling mortar. Hey, whore, Dead Lady, you want a lullaby? I'll sing you one inside my mind. Here goes. Hushabye, don't you cry, go to sleep my little baby. Bees and butterflies are picking out your eyes; oh, you poor, poor little baby.
       Those are all the words he can recall of what his Memaw used to sing. He loops them round and round inside his head, while his fingers and his thighs grow numb gripping the stones and a barred owl hoots from somewhere way back in the pines. He hears the wind and his own breathing and the Dead Lady's, stays there a long time.

The owl is gone. As long as there was an owl, there likely were no larger animals around to frighten it. Katherine scrunches farther down inside her sleeping bag, maneuvers it so deep into a corner that her head nearly touches the cabin's cold stone wall. Perhaps sheltered in this manner she can sleep. And she must sleep; if she can't she will surely die even sooner than she fears. She tries to relax, lies very still. Yet in this stillness she becomes aware of a new sound. Hears it unmistakably, almost feels it. A faint, rhythmic rustling, as of something breathing very near.
       An echo of her own breath bounced back to her off the wall. That's all it is, that's what it has to be. She can prove it, hold her breath and make the phantom breathing stop.
       Only it doesn't stop. Something that isn't her keeps breathing right beside her, separated only by a wall.
       She lies frozen, listens to the sighing of her pulsing blood, afraid to move even her eyes. Tries to align her breathing perfectly to this faint second breath that is the least whistle of air passing through a chink between two stones.
       In. Out. In. Out. Soothing. Terrifying. She places her palm against the cold, rough wall. Feels on her skin a spot of moist, illusive warmth, a vibration so slight it must be her imagination.
       Jerks her hand away, cries out.
       "Please, God, please! Oh, please don't let me die!"
       The breath that is not her breath stops.
       And then begins again. Longer, slower, deeper.
       Inside this new breath, her breath—exhausted, hopeless—finds a resting place. And, finally, she sleeps.