You leave Aaron on the dance floor to get a glass of water; you drink it maybe a little too fast, and when you set the glass down, she is there beside you.
She catches your wrist in her hand, keeps you from spinning back to the floor, to Aaron and safety. You can see him from here, his hair twisting in his wake, a shining thread in the dark. So close, so far, because he doesn't see you, and he doesn't see her, and her grip is firm. She is insistent. She will be acknowledged. "It's been a while," she says. "Have you thought about it?"
"Let me go."
Her laugh is rich; all the men in her radius eye her appreciatively, and many of the women. She is
beautiful. She glows gold like Aaron glows silver. "But you've been looking. I can see it all over you."
"You don't know anything about me, not now."
"He's given you a backbone." Her smile is flirtatious, but the ferocity in her eyes doesn't match it. "Poor thing. That's only more to break, to get back where you want to be."
"I don't need you."
"See, I like that phrasing. That's interesting, Ash. You don't deny that you're still trying to find a way back. You don't deny that you want it."
You are silent.
She realizes. "Oh. Oh my goodness. Ash
. You still can't lie, can you? You still haven't learned how? All these years."
"Do you know how not
"What are you implying?"
been thinking about it. What I've realized is that I have no proof that you can send anyone back. It can't be done, can it? What's your game?"
This time, the smile does reach her eyes; she seems disconcertingly proud of you. She pulls a folded slip of paper from her purse and slides it across the bar to you. "My references. Not that you'll be able to contact them. They've all gone back, back to their safe havens. Ask around, Ash. I can do the same for you."
You crumple the paper in your fist, and she slides off her barstool. "Call me," she tosses over her shoulder, mock-flirtatious, and she gets appreciative looks all the way out. You are left standing, silent and forgotten.
You uncrumple the paper. There are five names.Michael.
All names you remember from the hospital. A place to start."Heartbroken Mermaid's Blade"
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