“Mama,” Viktor whispers, tugging at her soft skirt. “Why is that man kissing her hand?” He points at the television, an old movie with a prince and a girl that has ash on her face and glittering shoes on her feet.
His mother pulls him closer. As she tucks the blanket around him, she says, with eyes soft and bright in memory: “It’s what you do when someone is precious to you.”
“I thought that’s what kisses on the mouth are for.”
“That’s different.” His mother runs a hand through his hair until he’s all warm and the snow outside fades. “You only do that when you really mean something, when you want to be with them forever. When they’re worth more to you than all the gold that there is in the world.”
Twenty-four years later, a bouquet of white daffodils rests on a gravestone. In its centre, defying a thin layer of snow just so, lays a red camellia. It takes four days until the gardener removes the flower, and finds the card.
Mama, it says, I understand now. You don’t have to worry about me. He didn’t kiss my hand back, but he put the only gold I ever wanted on my finger, so that’s fine with me.