In Glass


She was a creature made in glass

A camouflage transparency

Pierced by light and colour, she

Could be seen in all her trembling

The pulse in her lips standing out and

Anodyne innocence recurring

By turns she hid and by turns she gave

A laughter of sunshine on snow

Dull unto fading, lest one forget

The incongruity of her glow

Every embrace the first, the last

With frets for nerves pulled thin

Exquisite as a crystal shattered

Swayed like a bough in spring

Distances


The only reason she has him, is because she doesn’t.

This man, sitting next to her, who cannot remember to put the bathmat back up on the side of the tub. She sits next to him only because he is so laissez-faire that he let it happen – and then she became a part of his routine. A part, not a prime mover.

Like his cards. Like the music to which he bobs his head. She is the movement of clothes, some his, some hers, into the washing machine. It happens.

She is the added pressure of a pair of feet on his thighs while he reads his newsfeeds. He could be doing the same thing minus that pair of feet; that’s how she knows he would be the same without her.

She wouldn’t be the same without him. Without him, she would no longer be watching these differences, or measuring distances.

Lacquer Fish


You’re the only friend that I lost in such a horrible way.

You said that you would speak to me again. As the time approached I saw the stone in a shop; smooth and black, dozens of layers of lacquer, and shining with two iridescent red and orange goldfish. It was from Vietnam. I bought it for you, for when we’d speak once more.

You didn’t speak to me, so months later I bulled my way in. Then it didn’t seem right to give a present.

I always knew that you had the softer heart, that you cared deeply about me, when most of the time he didn’t give two straws for me. He never seemed to care as much about people as you. Meanwhile you and I talked and fought and cried on the phone together. And I knew all along. I knew we all might have been happier if only I had fallen in love with you instead, and I have never forgiven myself for that.

We once amused, frustrated, and relied upon one another, but those days are growing longer and longer ago. I gave you the stone with the lacquer fish some five years after I first acquired it, and for a different reason than first intended.

I gave it to you before you went away, because, although not much farther apart than before, I knew you would be more gone than ever. You’re moving on so that memory seems stranger and stranger. The stone may no longer be here to catch my eye, but that hasn’t prevented me from thinking of you and your two fish.

I hope you’ve kept them.

 

Marielle Beauchene


Marielle couldn’t help but give another small, inward sigh of relief that she and Aneirin were still together. She had been dreading this morning. Next to her, Aneirin was smiling at their new teammates and teacher as if this were perfectly natural, but she kept her fingers close to where his white tabard trailed in the grass, shining bright.
 –
She remembered him out in a rainstorm when they were both six years old, laughing when the lightning came, and though she’d wanted to go inside he made her see a part of his delight. In the backyard on his tenth birthday, when both of their extended families had gathered. That year the apple trees had been overflowing. She remembered the pyramid of presents stacked back in the cool, dim living room, while outside aunts and uncles and cousins crowded around him, a mass of heads and noise, but through them all she was still able to see a corner of Aneirin’s smile, a ray of his light, and that was enough.
 –
She remembered him two months ago when his wink, and a ripple of the sunlight around her, gave her the win in her last sparring test of Rank 1.  She did not remember the expression of the girl she had been matched against. And there was a twinge of guilt.
 –
“But what does it matter, Marielle?” he’d asked later, smiling and shaking his head. “You’re better than her anyway.”
 –
And Marielle had subsided, even though she didn’t believe him. Not always. But to believe in anyone, or anything, the way she believed in Aneirin, was incomprehensible to Marielle.
 –
As their families always said, they were sun and moon to one another.

 

Fan Rhee


Fan wondered if she was the only one made uncomfortable by the stillness that had fallen over their newly-formed squad. Sitting under a few stunted trees on the edge of a dusty ring, Umi faced the pond in the next field over and closed her eyes as if in meditation; Hildr was out of sight, seated on the other side of Umi’s chosen tree; and Marielle, who had been embarrassed in front of the whole Rank 2 class, was listless, her hair falling down in front of her face and her food largely untouched.

Excepting Umi, they were all dusty and sweaty. Their instructor, Shamira, had left them alone for lunch, and now that Fan was done eating she wished that she could fade away, as her older brother was so adept at doing. Hwan had ignored her in the classroom that morning, like she was nobody at all – to the point that she wondered if he would still smile at her when he got home.

He would, wouldn’t he? Unconsciously, she raised a hand to her ear, gently tugging at the lobe in a manner that she could feel, but hardly hear. In Fan’s case, it was good that Shamira spoke so loudly and moved her lips with such emphasis; this way, she could understand the instructions.

Aware that she would not notice the small noises that could bother others, Fan tried not to fidget as she waited for Shamira, facing a world that was as quiet as if padded by cotton.

Hildr Ostergaard


When Hildr’s older cousin had earned his Rank 3 badge, he’d patted her on the head and told her that either one day she would discover her true calling in battle, or she’d find herself at the bottom of the heap and go back to the farm.

In retrospect, she supposed that he was being condescending. But Hildr was not prone to resentment. And now that she was sitting next to Umi Kiritaeke, who used four-syllable words that Hildr had never heard before, who scooped up a pond merely by shifting the weight of her dainty body, and who drank cold tea with her eyes half-shut as she rested in the shade, her cousin’s motivations couldn’t have mattered less.

Moulded like a doll, and yet unconscious of her appearance. Denied the constitution of a warrior, and yet awe-inspiring.

Step One was to figure out how to talk to Umi Kiritaeke.

Step Two was to become strong enough to stand at her back, always.