By Lady Jane Gray (firstname.lastname@example.org)
After all these years:
for the original mixaspoog, Missy H.
She was dreaming then she woke: like ice water had
woken her, she was trembling. She was also breathing too quickly, as though in
dreams she'd been hurrying up mountains. Gabrielle narrows her attention, to her
own space: no motion, no breath, no warmth no touch, had woken her.
woke like she always woke, cold, alone and with a preternatural awareness of her
surroundings. She slept alongside the other passengers on the ship, in a long,
narrow cabin in the ship’s hold, her at the foot, near the only port, with a
view to open sky. Six passengers: on her side, merchant and concubine, whisper
of silk on silk, gold on the woman’s ankle jingling, in rhythm with her heavy,
uncomfortable sleep. Across the cabin, a honeymoon couple, spooned together. The
dark smell of sex suffused the confined space, old sex mixed with musk, sweat,
and the dank cabin. She closed her eyes, burying herself in sound, until she
could tell the height of the waves, the direction of the wind and until she
stopped trembling. If she had been left with anything, this was it: a world of
sense and sound, a world in which her whole self could be lost.
Six people, five breaths: one missing, Sofia.
Moving, quickly and silently, she was up, out on deck, free from her
confinement, under cold southern constellations. Starboard, a knot of sailors
glanced over as she came on deck, then turned away. At the prow, Sofia, curled
up, was meditating in predawn dark.
The boat, fearful of open sea, traveled slow,
hugging itself close to land. Portside, the torches of a village; further out,
lanterns on the pre-dawn water suggested a fishing fleet. Relaxing slightly, she
leans over the side, closes her eyes, feeling the boat rock, hearing the
slapslapslap of offshore waves. Something had woken her; it wasn't the dream:
wandering in the north, in a Roman valley. It was snowing and in the snow there
were pieces, bloodied pieces of herself; she was fitting them back on. Right
next to the tree with black reaching fingers was a piece of her chest, but the
snow was too deep and she couldn't get to it.
The dream was back, evoked by the constellations,
drawing her east. It had been eighteen years: first in Egypt, then following the
Nile, south until she came to a mountain of water that seemed to fall from the
sky. Beyond that, she walked, traveled great dead plains until she came to the
end of the earth itself.
It ended in water, a vast ocean and she stood a
hundred feet above the waves, at the end of the world, watched the waves
crashing into black rocks below, reaching up for her, futiley.
She shouted into the consuming crash, shouted her anger that her world
ended, her journey had ended; screamed her defiance.
And here she was, returning to Nippon.
Sofia had come up, behind her.
“Yeah.” Talk wearied her. The crew were quick
learners, needing only two sudden, short lessons. Now they replied promptly and
politely when she addressed them; otherwise left her alone. But Sofia . . .
brought back memories, of her long dead family, of Lila. She had no heart to
hurt the girl; silence was simpler.
Sofia had boarded at Mombai, carrying a brocaded
cloth bag, wearing a black cloak, black hood hiding short-cropped brown hair,
blue-gray eyes. She’d woken one pre-dawn to find the girl meditating at the
prow. Near dawn, she emerged, began an elaborate ritual of breathing, stretching
and movement exercises. Gabrielle watched, reminded momentarily of her own yogic
training, how it ended, what it meant.
She avoided the deck when Sofia practiced her
arcana, but the small, confined boat offered no avoidance, and Sofia had
observed her, working out with the sais; one morning even with the chakram. She
was tossing low, calculating multiple reflections from the ships sides and mast,
when instead of a chakram in her hand there was Sofia, standing in front of her:
she’d caught the weapon.
She struck her; she hit the girl, reclaimed the
chakram, left. In her hammock, she squeezed her eyes shut, to will herself into
another world. But no path opened for her; she had no spiritual power, and she
was still present when Sofia knelt beside her, the next day. All she could say
was “Don’t ever touch it,” and Sofia said “It’s alright.” It
wasn’t right, but there was nothing in the justice of gods or of men, nothing
of life on the earth or on the dark sea, that could make it right.
Later that day, the girl sat on her hammock,
watching her, silent. She cleaned
the surface of the chakram, then, as Sofia sat watching, absorbed in her, she
found a small vial of blue Egyptian glass. It held a refined oil made from
pressed groundnuts, and, turning the vial, she poured body-warm liquid onto her
left palm, began working the oil onto the chakram.
It was a slow process, using fingertips to spread
dark amber liquid over the surface. When the surface was ready, yielding, she
applied pressure, working it deep, into the detailing, as though she were
massaging the spirit of the weapon. Finally, wrapping it in a piece of her
clothing, Gabrielle placed it next to her sword and was closing the travel bag
when Sofia touched an arm, and she stopped.
The girl knelt beside her, removed the sword,
unwrapping the layers of cloth that had kept it, protected it, eighteen years.
She ran her fingers along the grip, her hand too small for the weapon. Then she
looked into her eyes, nodded, and Gabrielle returned the sword to its shroud,
the weapons to their long sleep.
And so it happened, they began their workouts
together each morning, and after their individual disciplines were complete,
Gabrielle showed the girl simple self-defense skills. Sofia was quick; she had a
good eye and she knew her own body. At the beginning Sofia would slip, fall
against her and when she reached to steady the girl, Sofia’s touch burned her.
She should have ended it, right then, would have ended it, had she not struck
the girl. There was no redemption from anger and violence; obligations remained
as their trace.
“Did you hear me coming? Did I surprise you?”
Annoyed, she returned to the water. Sofia waited.
“Hit the side of the ship. Go on – there.”
Sofia kicked the planking, near the deckline, making a dull thud. “Now in the
middle.” A louder thump.
“That’s what I do, isn’t it? When I try and
sneak up behind, I’m louder.”
Still Sofia waited. “The heel on your left boot
is new; your walk is uneven.”
The fishing boats, lanterns floating over the water
like spirits, had drawn nearer; she could make out black nets, piled high.
And Sofia was next to her, leaning over the side, close, touching.
She’d been sweating from her exercises; Gabrielle felt it as a light cool.
“I’ll be like that too.” The girl looked
sideways at her, wanting reassurance. “I’ll hear what you hear.”
“In another thirty years.” Sofia nodded, as
though pledging yes, of course: that’s exactly what they’d be doing in
thirty years and Gabrielle realized the girl had misunderstood her again. She
told her what was necessary, invited nothing, but nothing worked to push her
The fishing boats weren’t drawing away, into
their wake. Raising possibilities . . . she stepped back from the railing, bent
a knee to stretch her calves. No sense in pulling a muscle.
“Are we starting now? Is it time now?”
“Sofia: didn’t your parents or brothers or
anyone teach you to tell time?”
“I don’t have any of those people.”
“Sofia.” Switching to her other leg,
interrupted what she wanted to say. “I don’t have a family either. I
mean,” adding quickly, realizing she’d slipped, left an opening “sometimes
you’re just alone. Look. In the sky; can you find the water carrier?”
“Yes. We have spoons like that, in my city. They
even carve the handles. I’ll show you, someday.” Sofia pointed at the
dipper, then added, “We’re alike. No past.”
“When you’re in your forties and there’s
nothing left in the world for you, then you’ll be like me. Hold your index
finger up between the handle of the dipper and the horizon. No, not like that:
stretch your arm out.”
Sofia complied, waited.
“It’ll be time when the handle touches the
horizon. You’ve got about a finger left to wait.”
“I came early, so we could talk.”
“In about a quarter finger those boats are going
to be here. They may board us, and if that happens, I want you out of my way.”
“You’re going to fight them. That’s why
you’re stretching now.” Sofia bent her own leg, started a stretch but she
grabbed the girl’s arm, turned her roughly, forced her to look in her eyes.
“Don’t even think about it. When I tell you, get back to the prow. There’s
a canvas there; pull it over yourself and stay there.”
The girl lowered her eyes, then looked back up,
with expressionless defiance. Well. “You’ll do as I say. Or no more
“You can’t say that to me. I’m not your
Shame burned her, like Sofia’s touch across her
face. She had never turned that face from reality; now, at the end of her life,
she’d face the girl, do what was needed
“It’s light enough you can almost see the men
in the boats. I bet, under what looks like the nets, there’s more. And if you
can see them, they can see you. Me, my hair is white, my skin brown and
wrinkled; nobody cares about me. But you’d bring hard gold, at any market
along the coast. That’s why I don’t want them even knowing you’re here.”
Sofia was nodding. “Please.” Which she hadn’t needed, and never meant, to
With the girl out of her way, she noticed the
fishing boats were now close enough that a boarding couldn’t be avoided. Her
own ship’s crew seemed unconcerned, which, if she’d thought about it at all,
if Sofia hadn’t distracted her, she’d have realized made sense. This was why
they sailed so close to shore, easy prey and the crew or their families would
get their cut.
Not much point in waking the captain, but she
wondered about the other passengers. She’d let so many lives slip through her
fingers: what were four more? There didn’t even have to be a fight, as long as
Sofia didn’t emerge.
Alright, then. She could take out the crew now,
simplifying the structure of the fight. But they might not fight, and would be
more in the way of the raiders than in hers. Make it nice for Sofia; no blood.
Passing near the prow, to the cabin belowdecks,
“Sofia! I said under the canvas. NOW!”
Which worked, this time anyway.
The passengers were still asleep, and she had no
time for waking them. A brass lantern swung over the cabin; gonging it with her
knife, she had the attention of all four.
“We’re going to be boarded. You can hide your
valuables, but the raiders may want the women; don’t resist or they’ll hurt
you. I intend to stop them; if you come on deck you’ll interfere.” Before
leaving, she slammed the new husband back into his hammock; she was rough and
his head hit wood. “You’re too young to die. Don’t get in my way.”
Watching casually from the stern, as the raiders
climbed on deck, she admired their calm, orderly manner: they were like simple
bureaucrats. But they didn’t have that well-fed secure bureaucratic look; she
saw too many ragged clothes; too many ribs. Hired help, for someone who
wouldn’t risk his own life. Sad.
Four parties, two on the port side, two at
starboard. Pity the ship was rigged Greek-style, with only one mast and a large
square sail; she could have used better rigging as base for moving side to side,
taking them out one by one before they even guessed who was next.
Well, a good artist used the materials she had at
hand. Letting loose an “ay yi-yi-yi-yi’ she flipped forward, striking the
boom of the mainsail with such force that it swung round, hitting raiders on
opposite sides in the face or back, tossing them like soggy driftwood, back into
Two groups down; she walked forward, smiling
cheerily and striking at the boarders randomly as she passed. The first got
wrist braces, crushing his windpipe; turning from that, another a kick to the
groin that sent him stumbling overboard. Hard to believe she got paid for this.
Two were blocking her path to the prow; she feinted left, turned right and from
their backside, knocked each unconscious with the sais before wheeling about and
. . .
She saw Sofia. Exposed, wrist held. She watched the
young woman as though possessed; she was fighting, resisting. Strong, but she
didn’t have the skills. “No!”
She screamed and a shirtless raider turned to the
sound, took her knife in his chest. Sofia nodded, ducked to hide
belowdecks, and Gabrielle, released, felt pain along her biceps: she’d
taken a knifewound. Stunned, disoriented for a moment, she turned and gutted the
assailant with her sais.
Time slowed; she watched him stumble back, his
wound spurting dark life. She watched the faces of the men, saw a simple raid,
easy money, transformed into a battle for their lives; saw desperation. Now it
Before they had time to react, she flipped into the
midst of the forward group, took out two with neck wounds she hoped weren’t
fatal. They were starting to react, and with luck would mob her. She could help:
the stern was clear and she stepped slowly back, leading them; she’d make her
stand at the mast.
Six raiders with knives, ringing her in a slow
semi-circle: five, as she knocked a weapon from the air. The knifeless assailant
walked forward a little slower, a little afraid. It was her opening, to flank
them. Some misdirection now . . .
She heard a thunk, saw him collapse with a chakram
buried in his back.
Bloody Ares! She rolled forward, low, grabbing the
chakram, pulling with all her might as she rolled. It wasn’t fast enough. A
knife, glancing off her ankle, stopped her and, now she was down,
the raiders had charged. Bloody,
bloody . . . she loosed the chakram with a heavy spin; it angled against the
deck, lifted itself then split, the
pieces flying off at right angles, reflecting against the ship. Catching the
early sun like a spirit released, glittering, the chakram fragments cut
hamstrings along a line then re-united, bounced off the mast and returned to
All down. The crew watched, impassive. Sofia was at
her side, helping her stand, taking half her weight. “You don’t listen very
good, do you?”
she was drained, her energy flowing out with the blood. And, in the time it took
to eliminate the pirates, Sofia had grown a decade. The girl had cleared the
decks of the dead, ordered the captain to let them off at the next port along,
then turned full attention to her. She
came to her, in the late afternoon; stripping off her punjabi, she lay the green
silk along the deck, making a small
off your clothes and lie down.”
don’t need your help.”
knelt next to where she sat, placed her palm against her cheek. She flinched but
Sofia pressed harder, silent, until she had to look in her eyes. Eyes cold
blue-gray, with no past.
you’re starting to make me mad. You don’t want that, do you?”
flinched again, but Sofia’s eyes narrowed, and she nodded: no.
hurt, trying to pull the shirt over her head, the pants down; Sofia had to do
it. She said nothing about the tattoo, said nothing as she began massaging oil
into her skin. She was jumpy under Sofia’s touch, relaxed when she felt the
full equatorial sun beat on her back. Then Sofia turned her, began massaging her
are you doing?”
want you to understand I’m not a child.”
looked up at Sofia, her skin a light brown, not old burnt brown like her own,
but with the evenness, the smooth curve of youth.
not a child. But I am an old woman and I don’t want my body touched.”
not who you say, Gabrielle.”
body; it isn’t what you said. Your muscle-tone is almost perfect; your skin is
tight.” She leaned over, to whisper in her ear: “Pirate treasure.”
she felt wasn’t the sun. . . . it
was anger. She knew she wasn’t saying what needed to be said: that Sofia had
killed a man, and was now flirting with her, as though the blood excited her.
There was too much about Sofia she didn’t know.
she promised honesty, for Sofia’s sake. She herself had bloodied the ship, and
she did it because she wanted to protect Sofia.
she needed to protect her innocence.
she couldn’t admit what she was really doing.
‘warrior and bard’ with Sofia’s life.
in that massage oil?”
sorry: I borrowed it from Sumita because I didn’t have my own. But you pulled
some muscles and you need the heat. Tomorrow ashore I’ll get herbs and we’ll
do this right.”
I won’t need this.”
don’t know?” Sofia sounded surprised. “No, of course you don’t.
Gabrielle has seen and felt everything; wants to know nothing more.”
avoided massaging her chest, was changing the bandage along her arm. The oil
must have been analgesic, too, because the arm felt numb.
is infected already.” Sofia’s voice made her look up; concern was lining her
face. The young woman spat into her hands, rubbed the knife wound.
“Tomorrow, you’ll need this again. We’re getting a room ashore, and
you’re going to rest.”
feel tired. Is it the oil?”
You feel tired because you don’t sleep. You feel tired because you just
drained your energy and you have no reserves. You also fail to eat, you think
and scheme all the time and you never relax.” Now Sofia was chewing something,
shredding it. She seemed to measure the taste, stopped chewing. “And you will sleep now, because you will swallow this.”
She leaned down, pressed lips against hers, and Gabrielle took from her, what
she’d prepared. She chewed it, tasted, swallowed.
letting her muscles relax, she watched Sofia’s face, looking back at hers. She
knew the major herbal traditions, she thought. This was different and confusing:
she tasted vanilla and cardamon, cinnamon, along with the bitter medicine. She
watched Sofia for a long time; as the sun fell, she let a wisp of hair be
brushed from her face. Gabrielle smiled up at her.
have a sweet kiss.”
Sofia was smiling at her. “Well, that’s a new Gabrielle. Now I know the
drugs are working.”
were a herbalist, right?”
talkative, my Gabrielle.” She brushed a palm along her cheek.
me, for fever?”
course. And you were what, an Amazon warrior?”
the distance, Sofia seemed shocked.
more drugs. Spices good.”
was a drug dream, because she searched the snow-bound valley with two crosses,
but the tree was gone. She searched, climbing to the top of the mountain,
desperate with fear, and Xena was there. With her last strength, she threw
herself at Xena’s knees.
were you? You said you’d be with me.”
had to go back. Leave things undone and they make you go back.”
What didn’t you do?”
Xena knelt beside her, held her head and kissed her. The shock knocked the
breath out of her and she gasped. But she clung to Xena and to the kiss, growing
warmer. Xena pushed her back, laid her down and tore off their clothes; she felt
warm flesh against hers, looked up: Xena was young again, like when they first
met. Her skin was glowing with life and joy and . . . she felt it, she was going to come. It was too soon,
Xena always wanted it to last. But the anxiety only made her come deeper and she
woke, hand on her crotch, shuddering.
sky was clouded over; she was on deck and Sofia was holding her from the back.
“Good. Let go of it all, Gabrielle.”
woke again, warm, feeling Sofia’s breath against her neck. Breasts pressed
against her back. Her arm was a sharp hurt when she moved it.
morning breath was sweet. Herbalist: she’d been drugged, wound up flirting
with a woman a third her age. The truly shameful part was, she remembered the
feel of her kiss. On a scale of one to Xena, this was a kiss to say, “love is
innocent as a flower.”
breaths rose, fell together; they
shared body heat.
Xena. There was more to the dream; she didn’t remember it all. But Xena was
back; it was why she’d returned to the East.
stirred, dragged a hand down along her side, over her hip. Curse of Hades, she
was still half-dressed. She stood quickly, then half fell, to her knees.
Sofia watched as she dressed.
that ankle, Gabrielle. It’s going to need two or three days. And don’t worry
about the men; I told them you were
feeling out of practice with the sais. If they got too close . . . whammo.”
didn’t want to be feeling this; she didn’t want to say it: Sofia was nice to
wake up to. Her smile, red lips and white teeth, was young and perfect. Young,
left her, and she washed quickly, cleaned her teeth. She was sitting up when the
woman returned, with a pot and cups.
you like it.”
you kidding? Tea is the best part of the mystic East.” She didn’t say, Xena
had taught her to drink tea. Returning from Ch’in; it was something to share,
in the silences, a way they found, amongst the losses, to be together.
smelled Sofia’s brew, sipped it. The fragrance then taste of fruit filled her
mouth then faded, to a light tartness that left her mouth yearning. “A fruit.
a sour fruit, just a little.”
You’re supposed to contemplate, enjoy it. Not analyze it. Remember we talked
yesterday about relaxing?”
looked at Sofia; the woman was teasing her again. Although it was clear there
were things they were not going to discuss, there could be things . . . they
just mad I guessed. You are a herbalist, aren’t you?”
And you are Gabrielle of Poteidaia, aren’t you?”
it began. “I’m Gabrielle of nowhere.”
a myth. I mean, they told us stories so we thought you were a myth.”
tell all the young girls, if they aren’t good and don’t listen to their
parents, or if they don’t want to marry who their parents say. Then everyone
tells you, ‘You’re going to grow up like Gabrielle of Poteidaia.’ I never
wanted to marry so I got the stories about how you died horribly. They said you
threw yourself off a mountain because you could never marry. Or you loved a
woman and the Romans condemned you both to death for perversion. They crucified
you together; it was so romantic. Everyone wanted to be like you.”
do. Queen Gabrielle . . . my Queen . . . I’ve searched for you. I knew you
were really alive; I knew you wouldn’t kill yourself.”
of course, Sofia wasn’t a cruel woman. It
was just herself, remembering what had been.
you aren’t an Amazon. And.” She had to hold up a warning hand “if I have
anything to say about it, you won’t be one. That makes me not your queen. Call
I want to tell you a real story: no myth. I want you to listen very carefully,
because you need to understand something.”
sat up straight, attentive; tucked her legs in, lotus position. “Yes. They
said you were a bard.”
no bard; there’s just a story that needs to be told. It’s about a young
woman, and you’re right; she didn’t respect her parents, and she didn’t
want to marry her village fiance. Mind you” she paused, to look at Sofia,
“there was nothing wrong with him.
destiny plays tricks with a woman; one day a warrior rode into town.”
warrior? I knew it!” Sofia thought it was exciting. She had just taken two
giant steps backwards, as though hearing the story had made her a child again.
Sofia was . . . of two worlds. She’d have to remember.
much better: it was a Warrior Princess. She was tall, with long black hair and
eyes blue as the sky and she was as beautiful as the setting sun; she rode a
white horse just like in every good story. And then our young village girl, who
knew nothing of the world, was given a choice. She could follow her princess,
see the world, learn everything there was to know. She could become a great
warrior herself; she would fight for justice and her name would be told in
laughed. “Almost like you.” But then her brows closed in; Sofia was a
perfect audience. Why had she ever stopped doing this?
“But . . . you said there was a choice. Was there another half?”
very good question. Our heroine was too innocent to ask that.
In fact, she never wondered about it, not until . . . well, for twenty
years. You see” and she leaned over, looked into Sofia’s eyes, “she could
have all that. Or, she could have love.”
was puzzled, quiet: she hadn’t understood. “What choice did the heroine
wrong one. Come on.” Gabrielle tried to rise, stopped. The pain was worse than
she remembered. “We’ll be in port soon. Help me pack.”
captain let them off at the mouth of the Chaophraya River. She carried her bags,
wore chakram and sais, as she politely requested fare refunds for the both of
them. By the time they’d found a small home, on a khlong off the river, her
wound had re-opened, staining her shirt. She sat back, on the veranda, in a real
chair, with thick cushions, let Sofia call a servant. Two fares made them
locally wealthy, but it was an illusion: she’d need fare again.
servant brought hot water, and Sofia cleansed both her wounds. Stepping easily
into her profession, she was an adult again, and, deceived, Gabrielle let
herself fall into her hands. It was like dawn for her body; she felt things
she’d forgotten, her muscles relaxed as though a cramp had let loose its hold.
She lay naked in the shade; the ocean breeze flowing like a lover, over her
rested; let’s go get some food.”
I want to get those herbs for you, then I want to go to the market.”
isn’t really my thing, Sofia. I’ll watch. I mean, I’ll watch, after we
tried to stand, quickly sat down. Hmmm . . .
would you get my bag? Thanks.” She rummaged, found one of her old, old
outfits. Back from when she still showed her abdomen. “I want you to put this
on. Also . . . here.” The old silver wrist braces.
looked . . . she looked surprised, then amused, then appreciative, at the
clothing. “You must have been quite an item,” an offhand remark, she threw
back as she went inside, to change.
several comments, some sarcastic, others along the lines of “You got anything
a little smaller?” Sofia returned. Silver against her dark skin, jewelry on
her long muscles made a striking effect. She was as beautiful as . . . she
didn’t know. She’d forgotten how, the words to say, how beautiful a woman
was. It had been hard enough to stand; this was going to be harder. She handed
Sofia the chakram.
I . . . I know I acted like a child yesterday. I’m sorry for what I did. And
I’m sorry I touched this.”
You didn’t do anything wrong, it was my fault. And, I don’t want to talk
about it. But: today, I want you to look like a warrior. You wear it on your
waist . . . with this clip, like so.”
memory hit her, and she almost sat again. “It’s going to swing when you
walk; everyone has her own rhythm. But if you try to match the chakram’s
rhythm, you’ll naturally move strong and confident.”
handed the weapon to Sofia, who took it, two handed, then paused. She frowned,
like she’d just felt a cramp. Then she breathed deep, bowed, and touched the
surface of the chakram to her forehead.
she cried out, dropped the chakram, looked at her hands, like looking for burns,
then, desolate, looked at her. She pointed, with horror on her face, pointed and
whisper-shouted: “Who . . . owns . . . that . . . weapon.”
Right. Might not be you. Hmmm . . . “ as she linked the chakram to her own
belt. She wasn’t healed, and it was risky, but she took Xena’s sword too,
strapped it along her back. So she was the warrior after all.
wandered along canals, watching boats with flowers, fruits, scented woods, float
past. The city made her think “garden” and “paradise” but then, Xena had
been with her last time, just before Nippon. She’d been so thoughtful, gentle,
it made her suspicious at first. But she’d relaxed into it; she told Xena it
was their second honeymoon and Xena even didn’t make a face. In the mornings,
at night, Xena’s sex was fierce.
seemed disoriented; she just led her. She wanted it to be special, a memory like
a gift, something Sofia could keep. Funny . . . she didn’t even know where
Sofia was heading. Come to think, Sofia didn’t really know where she was
traveling, either. Well, not like Sofia needed to know her every plan.
found the food market, several canals over from their house;
found a longtail skiff with prepared noodles, rice, pressed bean curd and
vegetables. Pointing to what she wanted, overpaying in silver, she built a meal
just for Sofia. She hadn’t cooked for anyone in eighteen years, and this was
all proxy, like someone was between them, but she’d make a meal to remember
for after she left.
sat together, at the edge of a temple, outside a garden. White and lavender
flowers hung above them, perfuming the ginger-hot stew. Sofia had finally
relaxed; she plucked a light-purple blossom, placed it in her cleavage. Her
smile was shyly happy, Gabrielle realized she’d never had a lover, someone to
give her a flower, to tell her she was beautiful.
smiled thinking about it, and Sofia smiled at her, and she did the wrong thing.
flower is beautiful against your skin. You should wear flowers always.”
Xena said once, she was the only woman she’d ever known who could get
in trouble just eating lunch. Hades, but the Warrior Princess could call ‘em.
set her rice down, moved close, touched hips. “I want to do something to thank
you for today.” And when she
didn’t reply, “I think you need a present, Gabrielle. I think I know what,
look! Lychees!” And there was, too; a man shaking the ants from a broken
branch of fruit. Stiff, she walked over, got a handful in exchange for just a
What is it with me, Gabrielle? Am I saying the wrong things?” She shook her
body, throwing off the romantic mood. “Why?”
She popped the fruit out of the rough covering, into Sofia’s hand. “Not bad,
huh? You’re just like this fruit,
you know. There’s an outside skin, the herbalist and the yogini and the woman
who can take charge of a whole ship’s crew. Inside that, is something subtle,
and wonderful. You know . . . queens paid gold, their dowry, to have this fruit
brought fresh to them? True story.”
the fruit is only hiding a seed, isn’t it? Hope you didn’t bite in; usually
it’s too hard anyway.”
bit a lip. She wasn’t getting it and it was embarrassing her.
park made an incongruous background. Women in silks, wild eastern colors:
ringing purples, bright pinks; children playing games she didn’t know, food
she couldn’t even prepare for herself. Temples to strange gods she could never
worship. And she’d chosen this alien, forbidding paradise, to examine a
killed a man, yesterday, on the ship. I’ve seen people, the first time they
kill; some don’t even know what they did. They forget where they are, they
bump into things. In shock ”
not you. You got stronger, not weaker. Like you took the energy from the fight,
from the blood. You worry me, Sofia: who or what is it inside you, that you can
be like that?”
all it is? That’s the only thing worrying you?” Sofia nodded to herself.
Gabrielle was beginning to realize, she had a whole language of nods. Like
someone who talked to herself, a lot.
was fourteen when I killed someone. He raped me.”
killed him, because he was trying to rape you?”
He raped me and my relatives said I had to marry him. Then he raped me again and
I killed him. I crushed his neck, if you want to know. He made lots of strange
sounds. It was just death-talk.”
. . . ?”
took the money my family saved and I left. I went to Egypt looking for you. It
took four years. And no, I’m not sorry, about the man, or about the money.”
Sofia looked at her, defiant. “Also I’m not sorry about anyone
yesterday, so don’t even think about asking.”
can you be like that? Not care?”
what you do, Gabrielle. I told you: we’re just the same.”
not your judge Sofia, and I wasn’t trying to be one. I wanted to know . . .
who you really are. I wanted to get to know you.”
the ‘no past’ thing is over? It doesn’t matter. I wouldn’t have told
anyone besides you. And I still need to go to the market. Can you get up?”
could, with an arm around her waist. Great warrior, she was. Sofia led her, past
the food displays.” “Isn’t it pretty? Those dried shrimp are so orange.
But they’re a different orange than that pile of mangoes. Or that basket of
saffron. I love markets.” Suddenly a different woman.
I said, not my thing. I’m gonna lean against this wall, stand guard. OK?”
Sofia turned, walked away, then looked back and smiled. Gabrielle thought
she’d be teaching her self-defence, but here she was, working flirt-lessons.
Making up for an adolescence destroyed, but what trick of fate made it, choose
hated being a role-model.
taxed her slightly less than usual; Sofia was transparently happy. Simple
pleasures of youth. And maybe just simple pleasures, because she liked watching
Sofia happy. It gave her an idea; while Sofia was trying on jewelry that
didn’t really compliment her skin, she snuck out, bought perfume, before she
was even missed. She was getting careless: the time she should have spent
planning fights, fatal blows and fast escapes, she was thinking what Sofia would
say, do; how she would smell.
was serious: if she couldn’t act like a warrior, she was no good to anyone.
Straightening, she looked for something to lean against, found a thick teak
beam, supporting the awning over a line of market stalls. The deep brown wood
was weathered, had begun to split in places; in others had been worn shiny. She
felt she was like the old beam, although Sofia said her body was beautiful. The
woman was undermining everything she knew about herself. No wonder she was
she ran through her inventory, outside in. Blisters on her feet; she’d been
favouring the wounded leg, and it affected her walk. Her shoulders hurt; also
thrown out of balance. Reflexes good . . . well, reflexes slowed in her wounded
arm. She was alert, the drugs had no side effect other than the flirtatiousness
and sexual release. She’d warn Sofia about it again. Energy: she wasn’t
tired; the first good night’s sleep she’d had in . . . she’d had. That
made her stomach queasy and her breath tight; the emotion it meant was . . .
anxiety. Thinking: because she
couldn’t wait for night, to sleep and to resume dreaming.
stomach was just fine. She’d enjoyed the meal and though she wasn’t hungry,
was looking forward to another. The emotion was contentment and in fact her
overall feeling was happiness. She didn’t need to think; she’d seen Xena,
would see her again tonight, soon be with her forever.
Are you alright?”
Good. Just watching the market; I didn’t see you come up.”
dropped her basket. “I did! I did! Admit it, I snuck up on you!” She was
bouncing up and down; Gabrielle picked up her basket with her good arm, put the
bad one at her waist.
you got me. Hmm, you deserve a reward. There’s a little snack they serve here
. . . “
how’d you know that? You’ve never been here, right?”
came to me. I thought, ‘if I were a yummy snack that Gabrielle wanted, what
would I be? I’d be . . . a squishy greasy fried banana.’
Was I right?”
stopped at a stand, held up three fingers, paid.
he call these ‘gooey’? He sure got that right. Mnnnn” Sofia bit in. “I
left out the part, ‘I’m covered in sticky honey.’ ”
sat at the edge of a turtle pond, while Sofia finished all three of the deserts.
She put on a big greedy smile, reminding her so much of Xena, and Gabrielle
shook her head. “Uh-uh. It’s your sticky face; you clean it. Here.”
Offering her the bag, which had leaves she could use. “You notice the turtles?
I like that big old one.”
were sunning themselves, the largest half-submerged, with a pile of younger ones
on its back. The babies weren’t much bigger than a coin, striped in reds and
yellows. “You know, Gabrielle? This illustrates a theory I have. See, you’re
like that turtle on the bottom. It helps the other ones, the young ones, get to
the sun. They see things they’d never experience, without her. That’s why
women need heroes and role models. What? You’re giving me that face. What did
called me old.”
did not. Don’t be ridiculous.”
And they call me vain.”
calls you vain.”
will if I keep dressing like this.” She looked down at her semi-naked body,
jeweled in silver.
not giving you more compliments, Sofia. You called me old.”
took the long way back home, told herself it
was the pleasure of walking, after weeks of sailing. She quick-plaited a second
basket from fibrous leaves growing along the canal banks, to Sofia’s delight.
It allowed her to help carry packages, gave her a sense of having something to
do, but by the time they were home, she was tired.
put away. Rest for a little bit. Then I want you to strip. When was the last
time you were examined by a healer?”
won’t say. Be there in a little.”
decided to simply strip, lay naked on the bedroom mat, eyes closed, waiting. All
afternoon she’d though of nothing but Xena. In Egypt she’d seen a dry
riverbed hit with a sudden rain; seen a wall of water rip through it, tearing
down tents, animals and foolishly placed mud huts. Xena was flooding her mind;
everything evoked her lover.
we’re ready. Turn over.” Sofia had brought a brown cloth . . .
a brown silk robe, and placed it, covering her body. She was immediately
less uneasy, as the healer folded down the top half.
What are you doing? You leave those alone! Sofia!!”
checking your breasts for lumps. Hush, Gabrielle.”
what they all say. Ouch! That was too hard.”
Is this normal?”
Since I came east.”
You’ve had children?”
recommend cutting back on the tea; it’s probably causing those lumps. Your
breasts won’t feel as sore. By the way, if you started sleeping full nights,
you wouldn’t need the tea. When was your last cycle?” Sofia flipped the robe up, then flipped the bottom part.
don’t remember. What are you doing?”
you. Are you regular?”
used to be twenty nine days. I switched to twenty one about seventeen, eighteen
years ago. The last few years it’s been pretty uneven.”
A battle trauma could do that.”
old are you?”
hot flashes? Mood swings?”
going to get you some herbs; they
should help you regulate. You’ll feel better, too. Now raise your legs.”
Even my, my husband didn’t see all this.”
Gabrielle. Tell me about your husband. Is he with your child?”
both dead. He wasn’t the father.”
OK, you can lower your legs. I’m sorry about your family. Turn over.”
don’t need a massage.”
told you, I don’t like being touched.”
fine; if you don’t want me to touch you, I won’t. But if you are any kind of
warrior, you know already know why you need this. In fact, I think you can even
tell me where to massage.”
you. Now, Gabrielle: as your healer, I think you need a massage. Would you
please turn over?”
yielded, as Sofia shifted the robe to cover her lower back and began slow work
on her shoulders. She knew that her body, her muscles would be compliant and
knew Sofia’s hands would know.
. . . am I right? If I went to a healer, I could never afford you?”
have the oddest way of trying to be nice. Yes. I learned from the court
physician to my father, the king. I lied a little this afternoon. When I fled
Byzantium I only took my dowry. A little. I couldn’t even carry it all.”
When I was seven, I had the world’s biggest crush on the healer. I followed
her around everywhere. She taught me to read: books, and bodies.”
learned fast. Ow.”
that yesterday, when you rolled and reached for the chakram; I saw it happening.
You know, apprentices start young. But Ruya – she was my teacher – she said
it was like I was born with the soul of a healer. Ruya was always saying things
she was the great love of your life?”
met you once, you know. She told the other stories about you, the ones parents
never told. About how you saved her village. But she told it different every
time, and I thought she made you up.”
was running fingertips down her spine.
Some women, as they age, develop spine deformities. You’re fine.”
called me old again.” She felt a sharp sting along her left buttock.
for being vain. By the way, you’re still very firm. I think you were the great
love of Ruya’s life.”
don’t even remember . . . “
know what it’s like, to love so hard? Have you ever wanted to be someone else,
just for her, your love? Can you even understand why Ruya felt what she did, for
I do know. I think, all the best things we do, we do for love. But sometimes
it’s for love we can’t have.”
right Gabrielle. Don’t go anywhere; I’ll be back.”
returned, to rub a cream along the knife wounds. Outside, it was cooling; in the
wound, it stung badly.
should hurt.” Nothing. “I
thought so. Gabrielle, even warriors can feel pain. Pain is a body’s way to
communicate. It can be telling you that you’re healing; it can be telling you
that you need to change. Even a warrior can’t afford to ignore it.” She wiped her hands, turned away.
through now; you can change. You’re basically in good physical shape. Normally
I’d ask if you have unusual joint pains, but in your line of work, that would
be ‘all the time.’ I’d tell a woman your age to stay active; again not a
concern. I am concerned about your diet; part of the problem with your cycle
might be malnutrition. We’ll work on that.”
turned back, just as she was pulling up a pair of harem pants. She was a healer,
so much a healer for her, that she stopped, looked up to her.
ahead. Now, aside from the medicines, Gabrielle, you need to have more sex.”
don’t think you can shock me. More than you already did.” She sat in the
serious. Your muscles are much more relaxed than yesterday; I think it was the
orgasm last night. Either you get all the good dreams and the rest of us the
stinky ones, or you haven’t had sex in a while.”
is good for your whole body. And for your psyche. You’re still very
attractive, Gabrielle; I think you could have most women you set your mind to.
You should think about getting a regular partner.”
just happen. It isn’t something that interests me.”
she hurt you that much?”
Nobody hurt me.”
Warrior Princess. It doesn’t take a healer to see what happened to you.”
really tired; I want to meditate now, please.”
Sofia acquiesced, but as she was leaving, tried to caress her cheek.
Didn’t pay to mess with a warrior: she had the hand in an instant, squeezing
it hard. She held it just too long, released Sofia.
the time she’d finished pranayama, she smelled incense; heard the breeze
brushing against trees, trees; she was released into the mantra.
She waited at the bottom of a deep lake; everything, the world of human
pain, was all surface and distant from her. Her passions quieted, became the
rustle of the trees.
Xena swam next to her. It ended as fast as that.
so, she might not make Nirvana, this time ‘round. Funny, she was still
attached to something. Now, what could that be?
heard Sofia, and the servant, in the kitchen. She’d been wrong: Sofia wasn’t
several different people; she was just one. Like a crystal, shattered into
shards, by violence, and terror.
board ship, she’d met a young girl, who needed a role model, an adult to talk
with. Part of her had grown up,
split off; she needed to be held; like anyone you’d meet, she needed love and
touch and someone caring about her. But
before she could find any of that, she fractured again.
piece that grew up became a brilliant healer, from one of the oldest traditions
ever. It stung her, how good Sofia was. But
then that was the same piece who knew everything about a woman’s body, except
there was a warrior. Even warriors needed to feel, she said; more true of her
than anyone, because that part was still trapped, by the horror shattering it.
sat so long, she’d missed the sunset. She reached out with her senses,
smelling fresh rice, hearing dissonant and exotic music from across the water.
She wished she could have met Sofia whole.
she didn’t: she met Xena, who was enough for her life, and every lifetime
after. The Sofia she wished to meet was just a fantasy; Xena was real.
of bare feet, graceful step on straw matting on wood; smell of sandalwood
clinging to a body; brush of silk like a flower along her arm: Sofia knelt
behind her, whispered: “Gabrielle.”
out!” Recovering, her eyes still
closed, “Nice way to come out of meditation, though.”
we’ll do it every night. Do you want to change for dinner? It’s almost
Thanks; you know I don’t have anything as nice as your clothing.”
you wish, Gabrielle.”
one to the list: now she could get in trouble, just meditating. She thought
about Sofia again, while she changed. The woman was a puzzle, intrigued her; she
needed to explain her. The young woman acted like she was exploring all the
different ways she could act, to win another woman’s heart. Well . . . linen
slacks; loose, with a tie-belt, and a linen blouse cut to show cleavage, but
which almost covered her navel. It’d be lightweight, and when they ate
they’d be sitting on the floor so it might be safe enough. The perfume in one
pocket, she left the bedroom, found Sofia on the veranda, watching the moon.
came up behind Sofia, silent. Jasmine scent on the wind; it couldn’t have been
more romantic. She stopped short of touching her, cleared her throat. When Sofia
turned, she steepled her hands, bowed her head over them: “Sawadee ka.”
you; I like that. What does it mean?
it sounds better than it is; it only means ‘hello.’ “
think I’ll just pretend it means something deep and spiritual. Like you
walking a labyrinth: you got lost immediately but it didn’t matter, because
the monster was gonna get you in the end, anyway. She lowered her voice, “I
bought you a present.” Her voice came out rough.
looked like she’d slapped her. “No!”
wrong? Did I do something wrong? I didn’t mean it.”
bought you a present. I wanted to surprise you. But you got there
first.” She really looked like she’d cry.
alright; I was just nervous. Mine can wait, until after dinner.”
because mine can’t. Close your eyes.” Sofia
pressed something round into her hands. “Open. Do you like it?”
gold necklace. Three gold beads, strung on a leather necklace.
. . . this must have cost a”
think it’ll look better on your skin than the silver.”
”I don’t have a silver necklace.” She thought. “You know I did, but I had to trade it. I was at the source of the Nile and”
lead such a romantic life. I think I just meant, gold is better, on your
skin-type, than silver.”
I can’t take this. It must have cost. . . a fortune.”
story. A young princess, from an exotic kingdom, went in search of the rarest
and most subtle fruit in all of Asia. After years of searching, she found it.
The dowry her father had left her was almost gone. But she traded all that she
had, for one taste of that fruit.”
is all the money you have, isn’t it?”
don’t need it. We have the house. We could live here and I could be a healer.
We’d have lots to live on and you wouldn’t have to fight anymore.”
sound of exotic and dissonant music came from across the water. She held out the
ends of the leather cord, bowed her head as Sofia bound the cord to her.
this . . . it really is a gift from a princess. I will wear it as long as I
was subdued at dinner; she herself in a state of suppressed excitement, waiting
for the evening to end, waiting to dream. They sat down to a platter made of
green leaves, arranged as the petals of a flower, with small bits of spices and
herbs on each leaf. In the center was a sauce. She wasn’t sure how to eat it,
but Sofia, self-assured, took a small amount from each pile, wrapped it in a
lettuce leaf, then rolled it all into a package which she dipped in the sauce.
“Digestive aid. It’ll be good for you.” Sofia offered it, but made her eat
it from her hand.
package was fiery with spices, hitting her level after level. She tasted
cilantro, raw ginger and onions, garlic, nuts and a sweet sauce, the sourness of
a lime, but there were many spices in the complex mix that she just didn’t
was incredible; thank you. I wish I could be here long enough to learn
everything in that.”
let me have your bowl.” Sofia ladled a stew over the rice, returned the bowl.
has fish in it. I don’t eat fish.”
sorry. There’s nothing else for you.”
you make me another . . . digestive aid? Please?”
are you leaving?”
the wounds are healed.”
want to come with you. Where is it?”
can’t go where I’m going. I have . . . an assignation. It’s on the top of
a mountain, in Nippon.”
going to meet her. I know it; don’t even answer. Here’s your food.”
not going to meet her, I’m going to join her. In death, Sofia. Like your myth;
I’m living peoples’ myths.”
graceful and proud princess, stood quietly, left the room.
helped the servant clean up, mimed that she should take the dinner for her own
family, then went to the bedroom. She was curled on her mat, in a corner, face
away from her, sobbing quietly. There was nothing she could do to help, she
knew. Perhaps just leave, quietly, in the morning, before Sofia woke.
lay back on her own mat, closed her eyes, listening to the fall of Sofia’s
tears. Sleep took her, twisting sensations; she moved in and out of dreams. She
woke briefly when Sofia stopped crying.
snow had started to melt. She spotted the black, lightning-blasted tree
immediately; headed directly to it, through wet ground, muck. All that remained
of the deep snowdrifts was a mound of dirty slush at its base, and she could see
flesh. It was a foot, which didn’t make sense; it was supposed to be her
heart; Xena was supposed to give back her heart.
She pulled and gradually the body of a young girl emerged. She was naked,
badly bruised, cold as ice. A final pull and she saw the head had been half-cut
away; the stump black with caked blood and as she freed it from the ice the head
flopped to one side. It was her own face, and she screamed and screamed and
nothing happened, but dead frozen eyes staring at her.
woke and knew she’d been screaming; Sofia was holding her and she started to
cry. She was being rocked, Sofia was chanting, “bad dream; a bad dream.”
seemed forever, but she stopped crying, and Sofia stood up.
She did return, with leaves and a jar; Gabrielle watched as she sprinkled
white powder on a leaf, rolled it up. The leaf and drug were bitter and she
gagged; she started coughing and then vomited up dinner.
quietly cleaned it up; offered her water to cleanse her mouth. The leaf and
powder were mixed with mangoes this time; Sofia made her eat two, before taking
her, pulling her against her body, holding her tightly until she lost
held her, while she cried.
I can’t live any more. I have to be with you.”
not here, Gabrielle.”
lay against her, their cheeks touching, Xena stroking her hair, as she had
always done. It was like coming home, to her home where her family had all died.
like dreaming, when you talk and no-one can hear you. Like you’re underneath
ice, and you wander the world lost, hoping someone will recognize who you are
and let you out.”
me about it.”
I won’t forgive you for what you did. Never.”
you’re going to take your revenge on Sofia. Is that it? You’re going to hurt
her, to get back at me? Gabrielle, Gabrielle. My love.”
know I wasted so much time. But every mistake I made, you want to repeat with
isn’t fair, Xena.”
to any of us. Will you try? For me?”
do you want?”
sword is too big for her hand. Also, I think that’s the wrong chakram; you
need to start her out on something simpler. I got mine when I was in India.”
I’m training Sofia. Butt out.”
and you think you can do a better job than I can?”
So what’s the plan?”
don’t need to know the plan. You’ll find out when it happens.”
stood, with Xena looking up at her. “It’s almost dawn, Gabrielle. Tomorrow
Come here.” Xena came, and she stood against Xena’s body, allowed herself to
be immersed in the sensation of being held.
woke with the first touch of dawn, Sofia lying asleep next to her, their room
half between light and dark. She got her bags out onto the veranda without
waking her but didn’t have the strength to leave. Yoga and meditation came to
no use, for she had lost her focus. Folded into the lotus, she sat against the
wall, eyes on Sofia. The haze over the river turned blush-pink as the sun rose
slept with her hand in a fist; she was clutching a black leather cord. While she
dreamed of Xena, Sofia had taken the necklace. She must have held it and cried:
she could still see the tear-tracks.
studied Sofia’s face: oval, the delicate perfect face of a princess, her face
almost everything Xena’s wasn’t. She didn’t know how it could be, that
everything about Xena, her smell, the timbre of her voice laughing, her touch,
had vanished into shadows, but she was still in love with her, so that when she
thought of it tears rose to heat her face.
now she was to be with Sofia, this alien face, her stranger’s body? Xena had
told her to try, but what did that even mean?
abandoned her futile meditation, went to the veranda, to greet the dawn. The
linen was stained from her sickness, needed cleaning up. Looking through her
bags for a change of clothing, she settled on an old yellow-and orange skirt and
halter top she’d worn in India, but when she stretched it, the silk tore,
rotted with the years.
whole bag was a collection of junk; she’d been carting around pieces of her
past for eighteen years now: her old clothes, Xena’s; jewelry, Xena’s sword
that even Sofia couldn’t use. A lie of a funerary urn, of no human use to her
and never had been; a dead past.
found a fountain by the side of the house; green mossy gray stone elephants
offering clear water from their trunks She stripped, rinsed out the blouse, then
splashed the cold water over her face and body.
her bandages needed changing. Of course, Sofia would do it. It was as senseless
as love for a woman eighteen years dead, but her body had woken with the
anticipation of Sofia’s massage.
inside, sneaking one of Sofia’s blouses: she was still asleep, as beautiful as
the sunrise. She stood by the open door, watched as the sun illumined the young
servant was in the kitchen, already making rice. It had been eighteen years, and
she’d never spoken the pan-Asian pidgen as well as Xena, but . . .
to the woman, she placed a hand on her chest. “Wau Gabrielle.”
bowed in return, “Sukothai.” Oh
right: the ‘wau’ was Chinese. But the woman was pointing to the lightening
sky. Dawn, yes.
heated oil in a skillet, sautéed the leftover ginger and garlic; when it was
fragrant, she added slices of tomato, to add the red of fire. Sukothai brought a
bowl of peeled shrimp . . . oh, why
not. She cooked them until the flesh pinked up, then added five beaten eggs,
stirring the mixture until the eggs set creamy. Sukothai provided a serving
tray, and she arranged bowls of rice and eggs.
Oh. Fruit, too: she was hungry; she chopped a banana, a mango and chunks
of coconut. There: even Sofia would approve.
quite. She’d seen a blue orchid, outside the front window. Opening the front
door woke Sofia, but she plucked the flower, set it on the tray.
Exotic orchids on Sofia’s skin would feel at home.
eyes were puffy from the tears.
looked at her, blank. “What are you doing here?”
talk in your sleep. I repeat: why are you still here?”
almost laughed. She couldn’t keep secrets from Xena, either.
not funny, Gabrielle. I thought I’d never see you again.”
in plan. Look, Sofia. I made us breakfast. Can we just eat?” She sat, across
from her, watched her taste the eggs. Tasting like she was afraid.
real breakfast. Fresh prawns, fruit and all. This isn’t you; you’re up to
something and I want to know what.”
should have answered, but couldn’t; what she could do was look at her, at her
face. She knew she was meeting Sofia for the first time: healer, and warrior,
and young woman.
I was just thinking. Eat up; we have a lot to do.”
We’re going to India.”
said Nippon.” Sofia looked at her. Puzzled, for some reason.
of plans. We’re going to Northern India.”
are, are we? I like it here. And if there are plans, I expect to hear them.”
don’t . . . you.” It had never
occurred to her. “Yes. Of course. I’m sorry, Sofia. Sometimes you have to
worry. That won’t be a problem.” She spooned up more egg. “And the
knelt, in front of Sofia. “No more mountains. We can stay here awhile, if you
want. Return, too. I want my necklace back first.”
think you deserve it?”
can try. I did make a promise.”
expect more than just trying.”
make us breakfasts.”
You are a good cook, I’ll give you that. But: I am a princess. You think I
bought you a present. I forgot to give it to you last night. How’s that?”
don’t know. It had better be good.”
Producing a small blue-glass vial, “Perfume.”
Good try. Not too bad.” She wiped her mouth, then put a spot of perfume on her
wrist, waited a moment, sniffed.
And amber and . . . a different kind of musk. Also, uh . . . vanilla? There’s
something else too, isn’t there?”
need my secrets. Do you like it?” Because,
her face was serious and she was moving her lips, about to say something, then,
changing her mind, something else. Hades, she was starting to cry.
better keep it, Gabrielle. This is the type . . . you give this, you’d give
this to a lover.”
know. I bought it for you.”
was blinking, fast, then she lifted her head, shocked.
turn now: I’m a queen, remember.”
we’re together, like this? In the mornings? I want a kiss.”
that your line? What you told her? Your Warrior Princess?”
I never told her. But,”
no time, like now.”
tilted, eyes closed, she waited for Sofia’s kiss. To flood her senses, to tear
though her body and uproot her life.