I watched my mother sleep this morning. She seemed peaceful. I wonder if she was dreaming of Dad, in his vase, talking to her over dinner like I always imagined when I was a kid. Talking to her, not me.I wonder if she will miss me. I wonder if I pulled back the blanket if there would be a black mark on her leg, or her stomach, or her arm. It’s not beyond possibility.

Stephanie sat across from me at lunch. I took her to some diner without a name. It seemed like a safe place, neutral. She had big tired bags under her eyes but she was so happy, so bright. She was like a light bulb, just…turned on. Not like sexually, but like a switch had been flipped inside her. I looked at her for a long time. Like she was someone I didn’t know. Like she was someone new.

I didn’t tell her. I couldn’t. That I work for a woman who sort of implied you could be killed for what you’re doing but I’m not really sure that’s what she meant but I didn’t know how to ask and why did you keep me out? Why was it so important to keep me out? I just looked at her. She put her hands flat on the table. I put mine over them. She didn’t say anything either. The flensings on her neck were so dark and crazy, like hands choking her. I just wanted it to be over, whatever today was supposed to be, I wanted it to be over.

“Ok,” Steph said.

“Ok what?”

“Ok, come here.”

And she kissed me over the table. Not like before, but slowly and carefully and deliberately, so I’d know she meant it. When the kiss broke–and it broke, like a glass falling–she took me by the hand, out of the diner. I got in her car and she still wasn’t talking, but I know the way to her house pretty well, so I got it. I understood. Fuck Lizzy. Fuck all of them.

Stephanie tasted like a city on fire.

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