Confessional

There is no time to stay at the church, no time to stop and kneel in a narrow confessional and speak her sins; everything is coming together so quickly now. Father Doyle is dead, Cardinal Simon is missing, Bacon is always two steps ahead and the road is growing thinner every day. In her chest, her heart beats now, now, now and she begs no, just a little longer, let me stay with him until this is finished.

She doesn’t dream, but sometimes in her sleep she hears them laughing.

What she doesn’t tell him, as they run through London’s narrow streets, is that I was so afraid when my father died, so certain I’d be ripped apart like he was, and then you came and I was afraid I would be raped and now I’m afraid again but Yuri, Yuri, I’m not sorry for what I’ve done.

Around his neck the talisman glows green, and she can almost see a face staring back at her from it.

Her father, once upon a time, warned her the Devil had three faces, thus to parody the three Aspects of the Lord and told her to beware false promises. But the demon that set her soul its price had four masks, and she wonders if that is because her father was wrong, or if she’ll fall into a gentle darkness that won’t spit some parody of her back out for its own amusements.

Momentarily in the orphanage Yuri reaches back and takes her hand. It surprises her because he is warm and strong and the idea that he was ever weak enough to consider death seems ridiculous. She squeezes his fingers and swallows back against saying I want you to miss me, but not desperately, I don’t want you to hang onto me and let me fester, I want to go quietly into that good night but I don’t want to be forgotten, not by you.

“Are you all right?” he asks, low.

She smiles and he smiles back automatically; sometimes she wonders how she could have ever been frightened of him, because he’s clumsy but he’s genuine, and she finds herself drawn to that more than the flatteries of the young gentlemen that had tipped their hats to her years before.

What she doesn’t say is that My heart has started skipping beats and I’m growing tired and I’m afraid I won’t be able to stay by your side.

What she does say is that “I’m fine,” and she squeezes his fingers again before letting go.

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