May. 8th, 2017 10:29 am
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“When we’re across the wall,” Hilda started, voice soft, “do you think you’ll look for them?”

Albert covered his arm by instinct, scarlet starbursts peeking out from between his fingers. “I don’t know,” he said. He rubbed his thumb across one of the two names scrawled amidst the placeholder marks, the elegant sweep of Francoise curled around his wrist. “I hadn’t thought about it.”

Albert had better things to think about than his soulmates. Jet and Francoise, whoever they were, weren’t anything more than names in red, and the six stars covering the rest of his arm were less than that. Characters in novels had more substance.

They certainly weren’t as important as the woman standing at the stove, her shoulders slightly hunched and her unmarked arms bare. It was two steps from the table to her, and he curled his arms around her waist and tucked her head under his chin.

“Maybe we’ll look for them,” he said into her hair, “but none of them will ever replace you.”

Hilda twisted a little, her smile warm when she looked up. “It’d be nice to meet them.”

“Yeah. It would.”

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“I love you.”

Hilda’s voice broke through the light doze Albert had faded into. He could tell, from the faint slur in her words and the looseness of her arms around his chest, that she was on the verge of sleep herself. In the morning, she probably wouldn’t remember saying anything.

“If it doesn’t work… if we have to stay here for a while longer, I wouldn’t mind as long as I’m with you.”

“Hilda…” Except her breathing had evened out, warm and slow against the back of his neck. He carefully took her hand. “We’ll make it out. We will. And we’ll be together.”

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“I still think of him when I look at the stars.”

Hilda finished pouring the tea, breathing in the fragrant steam. “I know.” She placed the cups on a small tray along with a small plate of cookies. “You probably always will.”

“Do you mind?”

“I could never mind you still loving him.” She set the tray on the coffee table and crossed to where Francoise was looking out the window at the clear winter night. Hilda wrapped her arms tight around Francoise’s waist and snuggled her chin down onto the younger woman’s shoulder. “Joe will always be a part of you, just as Albert will always be a part of me. I never expect that to change.”

It was close to what Hilda had said that night on the beach, holding Francoise as she fell apart. Her wailing sobs were something Hilda’d never had time for, between her kidnapping and conversion and just trying to survive in the future world she’d found herself in, but the grief… she knew the grief.

Francoise wouldn’t have to be alone with it.

And now, years later, she kissed Francoise’s cheek and made a promise to the men who’d gone ahead that together, they would be fine.

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September 2017

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