The queen caught her eldest with her arms laden with slippers.
“Why so many shoes?”
“Ours are worn out.”
“Again? How?” Yet how many shoes had she worn out, at her daughter’s age?
“Don’t tell Father?”
Torch-lit stairs; silver leaves glittering on the lake’s surface; sweet princes smiling.
“Hello, Finch! It’s Jay!”
“Why are you here, Jay?”
“Can’t an old friend drop by? I just wanted to see your nest!”
“Last time – and the time before that – you stole all my food.”
“Yes, but you forgive me, right?”
“You’re forgiven – but you may not come near my nest again.”
Forgiveness doesn’t require reconciliation.
When I most need light, it’s a night sky that comforts me. Look up: see that matrix of stars, the spaces between? Empty or burning, there’s purpose – and therefore possibility. One more candle of hope kindles whenever I look up.
I close the albums. The variations of your smiling face, posing frozen, become painful afterimages. Blinded, I shelve the books by feel.
You recur unpredictably. Sometimes I wish you were a ghost. A haunt can be exorcised; memories can’t.
They almost saw me during the reception. We were dancing. I smiled wrong; I couldn’t remember the right smile, so I displayed a fake, scrounged from clouded memories of expressions. I’m empty where emotions were, so I impersonate. Sometimes I even wish they would notice.
They’d spattered crimson on the piano, but she was playing, indifferent, when he returned with their lily.
She unfurled a minor chord. “It’s relaxing.”
He knelt, avoiding the blood, and wrapped the dead fingers around the lily’s stem.
They were gone before the chord died away.
“Can you see anything?”
The streets are scorched. The buildings we once inhabited are gray shells. The ashes fall lightly on me. I pretend it’s snow.
“There’s nothing to see.”
They knew they were losing, and they couldn’t tolerate us returning to our homes. First they stole our resources, then our people, now our futures.
Our son lifts a case from the rubble: Grandmama’s seed stash, overlooked in its humble box. Inside, the colorful packets aren’t even singed.
“Isn’t that something.”