The clock struck midnight.
She remembered hearing stories about how midnight was a time for spell-breaking, a time for endings and revelations. The ticking from the small green clock on the wall indicated that another day had begun, another decade had started, and another had ended. It was a significant marking of time, and yet as she looked around, surrounded by her dreams reflected in collected maps and books and paintings, there was a significant lack of change. No magic spells were broken, and the world around her was relatively unchanged, as was the reality of her life still stark and painful and beautiful like a bare moon lighting up the dead world of winter.
If only it worked like that, she thought, taking another sip of her honey-sweetened tea.
But it didn’t work like that.
The pain, the nightmares, the darkness of the previous months, the previous years still followed her. She was haunted by its shadows, the memories of a monster, the constant pain of healing present in her chest with every breath and unforgotten even in sleep where nightmares had her waking feeling unrested but relieved at the sight of sunlight. The days weren’t easy, but they were easier than the night. As the light slipped away, it always became a little harder for her to breathe.
Though, she had to admit, she was feeling more solid.
In the days at the very beginning she felt like she was a wraith, barely a form. She felt like anything could break her then, like she was paper stitched together with the thinnest of thread. It was enough most days to breathe, make herself eat something and get out of bed.
And then the days turned to weeks. Weeks turned to months. And the monster that haunted her dreams faded like a photograph exposed to too much sunlight. There, but well, less.
With the passing of time, she did feel stronger, less paper and glass and more wooden, and what used to hurt vividly didn’t so much anymore. And the world, once so dull and gray was filled with the breathtaking colors that hope brought.
Someday, she thought, smiling faintly, her eyes tracing along the fleur-de-lis pattern on the rim of her teacup, someday I will feel as strong as iron.
She was of course. As strong as iron. Though she didn’t feel it.
That day hadn’t come yet.