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Gingerbread houses line the street, standing proud while an unseen hand dusts them with a fine coating of icing sugar.
I can hear you shovelling at the snow behind me, working on the top-right of the driveway while I clear the bottom half, diagonally from you. As I lean forward, using my weight to make a lever of the shovel, I feel something whoosh by my face. I look up in time to see a ball of snow explode against the light pole just beyond me.
I turn to look at you with my best mock-glare, only to see you still shovelling snow innocently. As I continue with the task at hand, you unleash a second missile, this time catching me square on the back. I turn once more, quicker than before, but again only see you still shovelling, though I catch you stifling a giggle.
When I feel the third snowball glance off my shoulder I turn and launch one of my own, making you squeal in fright and duck for cover, your shovel abandoned in a mound of fluffy white. As you run towards the thick trunk of our giant oak, seeking safety, my second ball of compacted ice catches you in the backside. The way you jump and bring up your hands to shield your rear-end makes me chuckle.
Now you've reached the relative safety of the oak tree, the game has changed; we each feint and dart from side to side on opposite sides of the oak's trunk, knowing instinctively the steps to a dance called Cat and Mouse. Finally I try a different tactic, coming at you from the left as though I intend to chase you all around the base of the tree, only to change directions and catch you as you run straight into my waiting arms.
You squeal once more, this time in delight, as I tighten my hold on you and pull you impossibly close. Not a breath of air can pass between us as we strain to move closer, impeded by our layers of warm clothing. The mood between us shifts as we stand nose to nose; playfulness is enveloped by rising ardour, and the panting of physical exertion is gradually replaced by the heavy breaths of growing need. Suddenly dry throats are relieved with rapid swallows; eyelids grow heavy; pulse-points beat wildly just beneath the skin, matching the rhythm of the heart.
We draw together painfully slowly, our eyes closing milliseconds before our lips meet. Each of us expels a heavy breath of air, only then realising that we'd held our breaths in those moments spent moving slowly forward. The numbing cold is dispelled by the warmth radiating through you and into me. Your lips are impossibly soft against mine and I tremble when I hear you quietly whimper.
Snow begins to fall once more, light flakes catching in our hair and eyelashes and settling on our shoulders; but we take no notice. There's no world outside this kiss. There exists for me only your lips on mine, your hands in my hair, your soft body in my arms.