The chill of September hovers over the stream, reminding me that we'll all soon be hibernating under a blanket of fresh snow. My task won't wait any longer.

"Don't stay up too late. Seed Fest is bright and early tomorrow."

"I know, Mom." I don't hesitate to hug her these days. Seed Fest honors all the Calls to God this season, and I can't express how grateful I am that Mom won't be on that list.

"What a legacy Cord's grandmother left; all that research for generations to come is enough to keep Mr. Schneider busy for a lifetime."

"And the new shelter named after Lemon will help so many refugee kids," I add, fighting back tears that still creep up when I think of the brightness of my friend. It's still hard to believe the last serum from the Rings of Memory couldn't save her, but as Cord reminded me it wasn't meant for her, unlike the ingredients we gathered that were just for Mom and then Mr. S.

Mom yawns, "I have a quick meeting and then it's off to bed for me too." Will she always be this tired from now on, or is it just Time speeding up to our winter hibernation?

A buzzing interrupts my thoughts. Burnish bows to Mom. "Ma Lady."

"Call me Quin," Mom says.

"Er—Quin, thank you for helping Papa gain citizenship. It makes us so happy to think he will be living with me by snowfall."

"As he should, Burnish," Mom says. "We just have to sign the papers tonight and he's finally in." They walk arm and arm into the house.

I play out the conversation in my head, the one I'll have with Burnish after their meeting. I know he'll warn me it's never been done before. He'll say it's getting too late and he can't be delivering Promise Kisses after dark, but all his excuses won't change my mind. I know who I want and it won't wait another season.


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