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(a bit of flash fiction, born of re-reading Neil Gaiman’s Fragile Things)

She waits, as dawn begins to creep over the horizon. It is the day’s first promise, the first lie. She prefers the shadows for a reason. The day offers too many avenues for capture, too many witnesses with prying eyes and busy tongues. The world will swallow anyone without hesitation. She doesn’t hesitation. She merely watches you sleep, counting the marks on your skin – the ink that turned your body into a map. You are the country under her skin, but the routes are less easy to follow.

Everything ends. The knowledge makes her bones ache, as if each kiss is a shovel full of dirt. She knows that she is digging her own grave, and yet she does it anyway. There, in the odd moments where no one will notice, she offers you a choice: her body or the knife. A knife or her body. The knife is an illusion, but the implication is the glint of moonlight on broken glass: a revelation of opportunity. Of the things already ravaged before. Always, you cast the knife aside, but passion wounds in its own way.

She loves you, and she is waiting. She offers too much, wondering at what you might take. She dreams of all the wars you don’t know she’s waged. She is a warrior. She fights for fragile things: a glass heart, a four letter word, and an honest story. Her eyes betray none of this. To you, she looks as she always has.

In another lifetime, she would’ve written you a fairytale. She would’ve woken you from your deep sleep, forgetting tradition. Instead, she stands on the edge of everything, hands tied behind her back. There is no fear in her face. She knows exactly what she’s doing, as she steps between you and yourself. This could be the moment the world explodes. This could be the train tracks, the rabid wolves, the bright flash of a silent bomb. Still, she stands there, knowing that she cannot protect herself. Moreover, she does not even try. It is not about her. It is about you.

Some sacrifices are made of money. Others are made of time. Hers are made of her own strength. All things given up, waiting to be gathered. You don’t realize that she is broken. That she stands impossibly straight to avoid detection. Her smile is a victim. And that is another lie among many.

Her intensity cuts through reason like a razor. The rain falls, and she still waits, mud clinging to her footsteps. There’s always a trail, always a way to find her. You will discover this when you wake up to find her gone.

Tomorrow is only ever what you choose.

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