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the Silhouette in the doorway – echoes

Ysabel, a silhouette in the doorway, and behind her the hall, stellated by those strands of little yellow lights. “Jo?” she says. “Are you awake?”

From the mounded white comforter, blued in the darkness, a sigh resolves itself into a word: “Yes.”

“I wish you had come,” says Ysabel, stepping down as she kicks off her shoes, clump-thump. “The piano, in this one song,” and she twirls about, white coat slipping from her shoulders, flump to the floor. Careless drips of golden glitter spangle her bared arms, her thigh, down about her knees. “It was magnificent,” she says, sitting at the foot of the futon.

“There’s the, Samani? In the morning? Knighting of knights? Luys is gonna be here in, stupid early,” grabbing her phone from the clutter on the table by the futon, ghostly flash of her face in the light of the screen. “Three hours,” she says, putting it back.

“You might’ve brought him with you. Made a night of it.”

“Some of us need our sleep, your majesty?”

“Sleep, your grace, is highly overrated.” Ysabel undoes a knot at the back of her neck, and peels the lacey overlay of her brief dress from the glossy chemise beneath. “As well you know,” she says, dropping the overlay to the floor. “Do you still mean to propose your friend for office?”

“Ah, he said no, and took off, but,” and Jo rolls over, under the comforter. “I got Sweetloaf out looking for him, just in case.”


Darkness shifts as Jo sits up a little, “Yes,” she says, “Sweetloaf,” and then, falling back, a shadow on the pillows, “the hell do you care, you’re not even going.”

“I do care,” says Ysabel, leaning back against the wall, closing her eyes.

After a minute or two, another sigh from under that comforter, “Christ, if you’re staying, get under the damn covers. Make me nervous, just sitting there like, what are you, Ysabel?” Jo sits up again, switches on the anglepoise lamp on the table by the futon. There at the foot of it Ysabel’s squirming out of her chemise. “I’m not sleeping in this,” she says, dropping it on the comforter. “Besides,” a brow cocked at Jo’s bare shoulder, her breast, “when in Rome.”

“And of course, you went commando,” says Jo, as Ysabel crawls up the futon. “And you reek, of cigarettes, of booze, of, of pussy – ”


“You do!”

Ysabel leans close, to nuzzle Jo’s cheek, “Intoxicating, isn’t it,” she murmurs. Stroking that red hair spread out in the lamplight. “Don’t,” says Jo, gone suddenly still.

Ysabel lets go, sits up, “Jo,” she says, “I would never,” and “I know,” says Jo. “I know.” Looking up to Ysabel, those short black curls touched here and there with white. “What,” says Jo. “Ysabel. What is it.”

“I,” says Ysabel, looking away.

“Is it Chrissie? Did you leave her in your room again, or – ”

“I sent her home,” says Ysabel, “but, I, I,” the dim glow of the hallway out there, past the half-closed door. “Does it hurt?” she says, turning back to Jo.

“Does, what – hurt?”

“Your,” and Ysabel waves a hand, vaguely, over Jo, “condition. Does it hurt?”

Jo says, “That’s what this is about?”

“Well, I, I worry, I do.” Her hand laid gently over Jo’s heart. “I do care.”

“So you can’t bear to let me sleep.”

“You owe us, Southeast.” Stern words belied by a gentle smile. “You told your Mason, before you told your Queen.”

“Well, I, yeah,” says Jo, “he is my, ah, my, my – ”

“Your lover.”

“ – I was gonna, more like say, lieutenant?” The sour twist of her mouth. “What’s that Mafia word. Consigglesomething. Consorleoni?”

Ysabel, pressing softly with her hand, says again, “Does it hurt?”

“Sometimes?” says Jo, looking down at Ysabel’s fingers. “Mostly, it’s just, like, a chill. But I can forget it’s even ow, okay, yes, you do that,” laugh and tussle, rustle of bedclothes, a shimmer of falling gold knocked loose from Ysabel’s skin, “that’s not it, you can stop! Now!” the last words spiking, slap and shove and tumble, and Ysabel gasps, “What,” says Jo, hands lifting away as Ysabel sits back, “I saw it,” she says, “I think.”


“A glimmer.”

“Like soap.”

“A rainbow.”

“But you look at it.”

“There’s nothing.”

“Sometimes,” says Jo, reaching out, “it’s easier to see,” switching off the lamp, “in the dark.”

“I don’t,” says Ysabel, black hair lost in the shadows, her hand a shadow on the pale, blue-tinged ground of Jo’s chest. “It’s gone,” she says.

“Quicksmoke,” says Jo, her hand covering Ysabel’s.

“The whirlwind, in a bottle.”

“Christ,” says Jo. “Don’t remind me.”

“The fire enfolded, from before the world was the world.”

“Echoes,” says Jo. “Your father called them – ”

“I have no father.”

“Okay, uh, John, John said – ”

“The King Before.”

“The King,” says Jo, “Before. Yes. Called them echoes.” Her hand, clasping Ysabel’s. Fingers twining. “I am,” she says, “so fucking sorry.”

“What on earth for,” says Ysabel, with wonderment.

“That he went after you,” says Jo. “The magician. I – you, you shouldn’t’ve had to – if I’d told you, but,” as Ysabel stretching out lays herself down, her head on Jo’s shoulder, “I should’ve told you. I should’ve. Before he – but I didn’t – ”


“ – I had no idea he was even still here – ”

“Jo, it’s only logic, that he’d come to look for it first in me,” and “I know,” says Jo, “but if I’d, I,” her arm coming up about Ysabel, “I’m so sorry,” and Ysabel’s saying, “he hurt no one, he barely even spoke: mostly bluster. It’s all right. It’s all right. I was more concerned,” a little laugh, “with what my mothers meant to do.” Her hand, squeezing Jo’s. “I am all right,” she says. “But you should know. He’ll come for you, next.”

“Yeah,” says Jo, looking away. The shadowed walls, the windows streaked with streetlight.

“All this time,” says Ysabel, “you’ve carried it,” her thumb, lightly stroking, there between Jo’s breasts. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

And Jo says, “I was scared.”

“Oh,” says Ysabel, pushing up, “oh, Gallowglas,” leaning over, a hand to that red hair, black in the blackness. “How could you ever be frightened of me.”

“Not of,” says Jo. Looking up, past Ysabel’s shadow. “For.” The dim ceiling above. “You were,” she says, “gone.”

“I fell,” says Ysabel.

“It, this, stuff. This smoke. It eats things, out of the world. People.”

“I fell, into myself.”

“You were gone.”

“I fell, but you came for me.”

“Before that,” says Jo. “Before that. Before your, the King, before he found me, you were – nobody, they all, didn’t know you. Luys. Marfisa. The, Mooncalfe, and, and Leo, nobody – ”


“Sweetloaf! Nobody, no one,” pulling her hand free, sitting up, away from Ysabel, “you were gone.”

“Jo,” says Ysabel.

“This, stuff,” says Jo, and her wavering hand closes in a fist, presses knuckles sharply to her sternum. “Lenses, he said. And mirrors. Breath. That’s what holds it, he said. But it also,” that fist, twisting, and she winces, “makes a shell, for itself? From what it takes. It makes a shell, and plants itself,” her eyes, her face crumpling, shoulders hunching, knuckles digging and she groans, “it’s sleeping, here, in my heart, and I don’t know what will happen when it wakes,” shuddering, “up,” and a hiss of breath, but Ysabel’s grabbed her arm, pulled that fist away, pulled Jo close her arms about her, “But I’m here,” she’s saying, “I’m here, Jo, I’m here,” kissing her, her forehead, a hiccuped sob. “I’m here,” she whispers. “Jo. Know this.” One hand slipped between them, laid against Jo’s breast. “I am,” says Ysabel, “so much bigger than that.”

Jo pulls her close, arms tight about her, crushing Ysabel’s hand between them, “It’s just,” she says, eyes squeezed shut, “I, I love you,” a breath, in Ysabel’s ear.

And Ysabel’s arms about Jo, and her mouth turns to find Jo’s mouth, and a kiss, and another kiss, another, and just the barest motion of her lips against Jo’s lips: “Thank you.”

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Rude Love,” written by f(x), copyright holder unknown.

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