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“He wanted a daughter suited to a good marriage. But I wanted to travel: Europe, India, even Egypt.” “Isn’t Egypt an old country in the Bible?” Selone said. “Egypt still exists. It's on the other side of the sea from India.” Her newly-formed smile waned. “I could- n’t go so I wrote about those who could. But when Father discovered my novels, there was no stopping the tempest. I had to leave.” She smiled again, weakly. Viola reached for her fan. "He was always a strict, overbear- ing man. And my will too strong for his tastes. I left the day he struck me." Each looked to the other. Words passed away. ~*~ Days slid into weeks. Selone reached down. "Come." The beast dwarfed her several times over. Giant muscles rippled. Viola stepped back. Father always had considered riding unladylike. But Selone clasped her hand and pulled her up. The few civilized people in Gun- tler's Peak would have considered her mad. Next time, she would withhold her complaints of insomnia. With a gentle kick, Selone urged the mare forward. Early melting exposed the mountain trails. They continued at full- speed. "In summer, the highland lakes reflect the full sky. It’s beautiful!" Selone called over the wind. “It’s not summer!” Viola wrapped her arms around Selone's waist. Dusk’s chill clawed at her nose and eyes. The horse's every move bruised her seat. How did I get myself into this? “We’re seeing something better.” Of course Selone, a seasoned rider, would be oblivious! They wound their way deeper into the mountains. Viola squeezed her eyes shut and prayed for the pain in her ears to sub- side. At last, Selone tugged on the rains. Viola crashed into Selone as the horse halted. The ground groaned un- der the horse’s hooves. Viola opened her eyes. Ice plains spread around them. She buried her face in Selone’s back. “What are you doing?!” Selone never answered. A full moon lit the lake valley. Stars beheld themselves in the lake’s ice. A per- fect mirror of heaven served as this mountain’s crown. If only Viola could paint and preserve this scene forever. ~*~ "I've been in one place too long.” The firelight struck Selone’s hair, bringing out a fierce, raven-black shine. “I've never fit in the white world—this town is no exception.” She reached for her tin cup. Viola poured her freshly-brewed coffee. Ascending steam burned her finger, which she promptly cooled in her mouth. “I’ve never known the people I came from,” Selone continued. “Somewhere across the border, they live.” Her gaze turned to the North Star. Viola’s cracker crumbled in her fist. “You'll never make it. Even I know Canada is frozen over.” Selone stood. She devoted her gaze to the star a few moments longer. “I’m going home. And I think you should, too.” ~*~ Viola plucked the last of her silver from her travelling suit’s seam. The what-ifs of tomorrow gnawed at her, claiming her every thought. She threw aside the outfit, and instead settled at her desk. But the page, once her close friend, betrayed her. No words came to chase away the blank emptiness. She removed the fresh page and turned to what she had previously written. Viola squinted at her scrawl. Aurora's name littered the page. Honestly, what was she writing? Did it matter? She slammed her pen down. It rolled off her pages and over the desk’s edge. “What is my pen? Another escape.” “Maybe you should take a break,” Selone said. “I’m not a fighter. Not like you. You gave up the life you knew to live another day. Now you run after what you want—a real place to belong. I, I just fled with nothing in mind. ” She fed a page to the candles. Flames devoured the paper; heat touched her skin. Then water poured down from above, soaking her and the desk. Selone held Viola's washing pitcher. "Are you losing your mind?" “I think I finally know. I don’t want to hide in manufactured adventures. I don’t want to wonder aimless- ly, my only friends those I create. I'll take hold of my life—like you do yours. I want to stop hiding in the un-real.” Selone merely shook her head, her eyes wider than a frightened deer's. 21
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