Each spring

There’s a single magenta star rising above the water. Pieces of it skit and scatter on the wavelets. She shatters them with the powerful stroke of her oars. She rows through blackness, guided by the cacophony.

On the island the colony squabble, unconcerned. Safety in numbers. Their nests are so jammed together that when the downy chicks arrive they’ll form a carpet on the slopes.

Approaching the shoreline the gentle dip and swish of her rowing is consumed by the bickering of birds.

She runs the boat up onto the pebble beach. He greets her. It is a full year and more since they last met. She runs her hand down his sweat-glossed chest, defined by the merest reflection of the distant pink glow. The dim star lights his teeth as he smiles.

They say nothing. He hands her what she will need—the club, the sacks, the cord. By sunrise they will have returned to their separate villages, their boats heavy with the product of their labours. They will not meet again until the first still, moonless night after the next winter solstice.