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Third Time's the Charm

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A bandage. A fireplace. A vase. Thrice now Lorina has received aid from Taohua. It seems like a number at which point things change; a shift in the rhythm.

And here is Lorina knocking on Taohua’s door, as planned. Who’s plan?

The door opens, the maid enters. Taohua lights more candles and waits for Lorina to speak. She can’t, so she sits. Looks around, for her cue.

“Is the cat here?”

“No, not tonight.”

The cat was her excuse. No cat means she has to make up new lines.

“I – well, I hope he’s safe. Should I check if Lady Constance is in doors?”

“He has his claws.” Taohua smiles. “Did you come all this way for a cat?”

Blushing. Stumbling on this new stage. “I suppose – no, I did also want to thank you.”

“Yes?”

“For all your aid. I’m – very much in your debt.”

Taohua sits next to her. Too close. Past her mark.

“I don’t know how to repay you. What you want.”

“Did I ask for payment? I’ve told you before, I only do what I want.” Ever closer.

There is nothing left to read on her hands, so Lorina looks up. At Taohua.

“What do you want – now?”

She leans in. If this is a shadow play, their silhouettes are one.

“You know, Lorina.” A whisper that does not carry; it is only for her.

Lorina draws a breath, then laughs nervously. “Is this how you collect on my debt?”

Taohua is puzzled, then horrified. “No! No,”

But Lorina is already kissing her, reaching for the other woman’s hand, writing new lines on her skin.