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a Screaming –

A screaming cuts the silence of the car, right through the engine’s rumble, the hum of tires, the tocking turn signal. She’s kicking digging her feet into the backs of the seat ahead fighting to free her arms from the men on either side the car lurches, a grind, a thunk and to her right Leo winces, sparing a glace at the front seat, “Don’t do that,” he says. Streetlight flickering, flashes lighting his camel-colored coat, lost again in the gloom.

“Out of practice,” says Luys, up behind the wheel.

“Jo,” says Marfisa, leaning over the back of the front seat.

“Take me back,” says Jo, her quickly heaving breath.

“Jo,” says Marfisa again, reaching back and down for her hand, her knee, and “Look,” says Leo, and “Take me back,” says Jo, “right the hell now,” and Orlando’s hand snaps up to backhand her, she growls, kicks again, wrenching her arm from Orlando’s grasp, Leo’s holding grimly on, buffeted by blows as the car wobbles, wavers, Orlando’s hand coming up a fist and Marfisa lunging to grab at it, “Don’t!” cries Luys, gripping the wheel, ducking a flap of her sheepskin coat, and Jo’s screaming again. “Why,” bellows Leo, and the car is quiet, again. Engine-rumble, tire-hiss. Jo’s panting breath, too quick. Orlando’s hands, in his lap. “Why,” says Leo, “must we,” looking at her, past her, to Orlando, “what in blazes,” he says, and then, “what happened.”

“I was not told what happened;” says Orlando, and Jo’s saying, a burr in her breath, “You, you know,” as Orlando says, “merely where to find her.”

“And why were you asking where to find her,” says Leo, as Jo’s saying, “You know, she, she was,” and Orlando snorts. “Again, this,” he says.

“Let her speak,” says Leo.

“Ysabel,” says Jo, and then again, finding her voice, “Ysabel. The – Queen. Princess.” Faltering. “The Bride,” she says.

Loudly, getting louder, Leo says, “There is no” and Marfisa says “Leo” and he breaks off, glaring, “Sit,” he says. “Buckle your seatbelt. Jo,” he says. “Gallowglas. There is no – ”

“No,” says Jo, shaking her head.

“ – no Bride,” says Leo.

“No,” says Jo.

“Our curse, all this time. We knew this day was coming, but – ”

“No,” she’s saying, “no, no, no,” her face screwing up around the word, and Marfisa’s leaning over the back of the front seat again, reaching once more for a knee, a hand, “Please,” she’s saying, “Jo. For the love I bear you, if nothing else. Please.”

Jo looks up to fix on Marfisa, her wildly white-blond hair, “The love,” she manages to say, “you bear,” before the words are strangled in a sob and she kicks again, and Leo’s grabbing for her, Orlando falling on her, snarling, Luys yelping, and “Mooncalfe!” cries Marfisa. “Harm her and we will come to blows!”

“I await,” says Orlando, struggling, “your pleasure.” Jo screams again, elbows his gut, clips Leo’s chin, the car wheeling right, left, lurching leaning forward lifting and settling on its haunches Marfisa banging against the dash Jo piling into the seats before her Orlando grabbing at her pale coat and Leo his face in his hands. Luys shuts off the engine, and silence swallows the car, the rustle of cloth, the squeak of leather and jingle of metal, the ragged edges of breath.

“We’re here?” says Luys.

Leo leans forward, a hand on Jo’s shoulder, her forehead against the back of the seat. “Jo,” he says, gently. “Jo. Can you.” Leaning close, stroking her wine-red hair. “You need,” she says, her face hidden. She sniffs. “You need to take me back.”

“Can you get out of the car,” he says. “Come inside. Please.”

“I can’t,” she says. “I can’t lose.”


“I can’t lose her,” she says. “Please. Take me back.”

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