When We Do Wrong Chapter 3: Really Cool People

I watched as the rain fell upon the moor, washing down across the heath. Tears of angels, perhaps, weeping for the woman being lowered into her grave. I stood a long way from the mourners, near-hidden by the mist and the rain pouring down around us. Bare from the waist up, my arms crossed, my eyes on the men. Loch MacClain stood at my back, the shore barely containing the lake as the wind whipped the water to stiff peaks, spray filling the air, the sky and the water together seeming to blend. I stared down at the mourners.

He stood among them. The Laird of the Manor. The Lady MacClain’s father. Her murderer. And there he stood among them, as though he was mourning her.

I changed. My mane was lakefoam, my shoulders broad and strong, and my chest rose and fall as I galloped down the hill. My skull raged with the pressure of my rage and disbelief.

Lady MacClain had been one of the most beautiful, vivacious women I had ever met. Brilliant hair the color of a raven’s feathers, shining in the sunlight. Skin like milk, a mind like a steel trap, a tongue of pure silver, and wit and whimsy to win any faerie’s heart. She had been the great love of my life. We had lain together, joyous, soft, silent, and she had returned to tell the Laird MacClain that she intended to marry me. I had sent a bride-price with her of gold, silver, silks, and herbs, and above all, a fine gossamer bridle, made by the finest smiths of the Spring Court.

And this man had strangled her to death, and they all stood there softly voicing words of consolation to him, as he stood in black.

The storm swept apart around me like two great wings of a carrion bird, and I stood before them, bare-chested, broad-shouldered, my eyes smoldering with fury. The screams began with the women, spread to the children, and then to the men, as they fled. All save Laird MacClain. My eyes remained on his, pinning him where he stood with the force of my will, of my rage.

“The Lady MacClain is dead, Laird MacClain. Why is that?”

Suddenly, his expression was wroth. He took a step towards me, showing a level of focus and control I never would have expected from the old murderous bastard. “Why is she dead- You monster. You filthy, disgusting monster. You have the gall to come to me, on the day of my daughter’s funeral, having ripped her from my hands, destroyed her mind, corrupted her?! You have the unmitigated arrogance to show yourself to me, now?!”

“Corrupted her?” I asked, bemused.

“She claimed she wanted to marry one of the Sidhe! She came to the keep, bearing your fairy trash!” He reached behind him, and took out the bridle. I narrowed my eyes. “She professed love undying for one of you beasts! When I told her of her engagement to the Earl of Darnley, she claimed it would have to be broken! No matter how I beat her, no matter how long I locked her away, her fervor for you only grew! You corrupted my daughter, beast! You cost me an entrance to the nobility, a future of plenty for my daughter! You broke her, and nothing I could do would fix her!”

He threw the bridle at me, and it bounced harmlessly off of my chest. I stared silently as he ranted, flecks of spit on his chin. The way he spoke of her, as a possession. Of course, I knew that humans could be that way. But of one’s own child? To sooner destroy her than see her in a place that you yourself did not choose for her?

I had ridden these lands for as long as women had been dissatisfied with their romantic propositions. For as long as the banal and dull concerns of title and propriety and money had outweighed the heart, the soul, in importance. As long as men had neglected the need for carnality, for passion, for desire, and thought that mere material necessity could replace those things, I had been there. It was inevitable that I would fall in love, although I had never known when, or where. I would love, and the two of us would be together until she died, at which point I would pass into the afterlife to seek her out. Such was my fate.

But now the woman I loved had been ripped away by her father, because he believed I had taken away her choice. Because he would sooner believe that I would ravish her, pollute her, than that she might genuinely desire what I had offered. That she might possibly know better than him.

I leered. “Yes, MacClain. I forced myself upon her. Oh, how she screamed. How she begged. How she cried for her father to save her. And when I was done, oh, how I twisted her mind. How I destroyed her. Did she avoid iron when she entered? Perhaps careful of nails, of the old iron window frames? Of course she would. A single pinprick from a nail, a touch of iron, and my glamour would flee her mind. How unfortunate that you did not strangle her with an iron chain instead of those bare hands of yours.”

Eternity. I had eternity before me, knowing that my one true love had been murdered by her own father. I had not even known her long enough to learn her scent, to be able to seek her out in the afterlife, to find her again. I did not know where she was. I would never be able to find her. An eternity alone.

I couldn’t kill this man painfully enough to make it right. Any torment I could give him would be small in comparison to that. But a single lie could work its way into the heart. I could see the disbelief in his eyes, the doubt- Had he seen her touch iron? Had he thought of that? Surely he must have. But what if he hadn’t? His mind had been so fraught, no doubt. The doubt would worm into his mind, poison him. He would forever wonder if he had murdered his own daughter, his property, his ticket into prosperity, when he could have preserved her.

I turned, and picked up the bridle. With a brush of my fingers, it lit aflame. I tossed it over my shoulder at the coffin. The flame caught quickly despite the mist, brilliantly shining as it filled the air with the sound of crackling wood. My lover’s soul ascended on a pillar of smoke to parts unknown, and I bid my soul goodbye alongside her. “A shame. She would have been enjoyable to toy with. But I guess you broke the toy.”

The man’s howl of agony filled the moor as I took on equine form again, dashing into the night, my mane dancing in the wind as I raced across the moors. I had taken my vengeance, and the worst part about it was that it was the kind of vengeance that would work best if I never saw the man again, simply allowing it to poison his heart with the knowledge of what I had done. No amusement to be had there.

What was a man to do when his life was over? I knew that the best thing, the sweetest moment, the greatest joy that I would ever feel was behind me.

Like so many men before me with absolutely nothing left to lose, I decided to go to America.

“That was… Wow.” The young woman lay back across the bed, her eyes heavy, lidded. She let out a slow sigh of relief, which melted slowly into a hungry sound of desire. She shifted, resting a hand on my thigh, and placed a soft kiss on my throat. “You’re like a wild animal.”

“Oh, I’m sorry.”

“No! Silly.” She laughed softly, trailing her fingers through her dark hair, smiling softly. “I mean you were good. Wonderful. I didn’t know that it could feel that good.” She leaned forward, and rested her head against my shoulder, tracing her fingers along my chest, her eyes unfocused, her breathing growing regular.

“You should probably return home soon. Your wedding is tomorrow, it wouldn’t do to be late.”

“Mmmmph.” She rolled away from me, a coquettish gesture. I could read everything she felt in her movements. Centuries of seduction were good for learning people’s patterns. She wanted to appear annoyed by the suggestion, so I would reaffirm my feelings for her, so she could feel more confident about breaking away from me.

“I would much rather you stayed,” I growled, my voice low, husky. I trailed my fingers through her hair, and shifted, pressing lightly against her. All of the seductive moves. She looked over her shoulder at me, and I saw attachment there.

“I don’t love him,” she murmured.

“I know,” I whispered.

“I love you.”

“I know.”

“Can’t I be with you?”

“No.” I shook my head softly, standing up. “We have had an enjoyable time together, but all good things come to an end. It is time for you to move on with your life. I am a fairy.” I smiled. “Such relationships never end well.” I pulled on my pants.

“Wait, please- I’m sorry I said it, but- Can’t we… just for a little bit longer-“

I leaned forward, resting a fingertip on her lips. “When we know the end has come, it is best to bring things to an end.” I took a deep breath, blew it out, and the magic washed over her. “There.”

She frowned. “What… did you just do?”

“Enchanted you. A glamor. A curse, of kinds. For your safety. You are darling to me, and I could not stand your being harmed. If you should choose to speak of this, to speak of our coupling, you will speak of it as a forced encounter. Rape, loveless and unpleasant. No one who hears your words will be able to doubt that what happened to you was a crime, one for which you bear no responsibility.” I stretched. “My gift to you, your chastity mended in the way I can, while leaving you the sweet memories.”

“What?” she asked, her voice soft and shocked, her eyes wide. “But- I-“

“You can choose to never speak of it. Or you can choose to speak of it as a thing that was painful. But your husband can never know that you enjoyed it. That is the nature of human men, I have found, over long years. They are violent, possessive, determined to destroy that which they are not allowed to control entirely. That rage must be mollified.”

“I could be with you,” she said, softly, without conviction. I laughed softly.

“It never works out.” I leaned forward, and planted a soft kiss on her lips, taking my jacket from the wall. “Goodbye. I hope that the memory of this remains with you, sweet and serene, in all the years to come. I hope it is the source of strength that I can never be.”

I placed the brown bowler hat upon my head and walked out into the streets of New York City. I took a deep breath of the air, coughing as the smog poured down the streets. Ash fell like a gentle rain from the factories as I hopped onto the streetcar, leaving behind another woman who was more and less for knowing me.

The women came for all manner of reasons. Even with the dark rumors that swirled around me, few ever accused me, for obvious reasons. I did not force my attentions, despite what was said. I did not take. I saw what was offered, and I nurtured. But it was not fair. I knew that it was simply a way to fill time, a way to forget about all that had happened to me, about all that I had done.

“Is this how you’re going to spend the rest of your life?”

I turned, and my heart stopped.

There are levels of awareness of the world. Humans, most humans, live on a level where they barely even realize the world is happening. They see things happen, but they don’t truly understand them. They are unaware of what happens to them.

I am one of the Faerie nobility, and as such, I like to think that I have a certain degree of awareness about the true nature of the world.

Imagine that you were a normal human. Absent of any but the broadest mythological knowledge, living your daily life in as prosaic, as banal, as meaningless a way as possible.

Imagine that you turned around, and found Thor standing before you, his red hair streaming in the wind, his hammer in hand, holding out a stein of mead, smiling as though it were perfectly natural for the God of Thunder to greet you in the street.

The Horsemen were a myth. And one of them stood before me, her arms crossed, her head tilted. My legs buckled, and I fell to my knees.

“Oh, good. I do so appreciate when someone knows what I can do to them.” War stepped forward, and sighed softly, studying me. I shook under the weight of her gaze. “Heartbroken. You wished to find your love, didn’t you? To enter the afterlife, and seek after her.”

“I… confess, I did. But I cannot. Even if I could pass into the afterlife, seek her out, there’s no way for me to find her.” I looked up at her. “It’s said that you make bargains. Bargains that inevitably leave the one who made them… wounded, for having done so.”

“Yes. Power always comes at a price. So often, that price is having power. Having a choice.” She smiled, her green eyes twinkling. “Do you desire power?”

“I’ve never turned down a kiss from a beautiful lady.”

She laughed softly, and leaned forward. The kiss was rough, violent, and I was fairly certain that she bit me. When the kiss finally broke, she stood with one hand upon her hip, an eyebrow raised, her expression amused. “The knowledge of the paths between worlds. The way into underworlds. The secret knowledge of each of them. Quite a gift.”

“Quite a gift. I suppose-“

“But, unfortunately, your darling- She died without a soul. She did not have many connections, and her father snapping her windpipe… Well, her soul was already thin from the time she had spent with you. She went where all those without souls go.” She laughed softly. “Oblivion.”

I stared at her. “What on earth would even possess you to tell me that? Is there a point to it? I thought you and your kind were about… genocide. Grand destructive impulses. This is schoolyard cruelty.” I sighed, and closed my eyes. I could feel those dying around me, like the smoke of my beloved rising on the wind.

“Because perhaps I’m lying. Perhaps there’s a place even I don’t know of.” She laughed softly. “It doesn’t matter. Sometimes, it can help a great deal just to make someone spin their wheels.” She turned, and disappeared, her laughter dancing in the air, wild and cruel.

I stepped out of the water, gasping, clawing my way back onto land, breathing hard. The searing blackness of Yomi remained in my head, washing through my mind. Finding the way through the path was exhausting, and dangerous. The lands of the dead were not inviting places. I took out the small waterproof notepad I had carried with me, and while my clothes dried on a convenient tree branch, I scribbled down the notes. More parts of the map. The grand map. As I had explored, I had begun to notice a pattern to the paths between underworlds. There was, to be sure, a certain poetic elegance to the way they connected. An elegance that suggested things. And I had noticed a void.

It would take much more work to find the way, though. And there had been another problem. I could travel the paths. But I couldn’t bring anyone with me.

If I ever found my love, it would be a one-way trip.

But I had made peace with that quite a long time ago.

I strode into the town, stopping at the bar. The food and water of the dead could not sustain me, nor could their company. I still had to return to be among humanity from time to time, to find a woman to seduce, to eat, drink, and spend a little time away from my obsession. The maddening maintenance of a life.

“Hey, handsome,” murmured a low voice with a curious Irish accent. “I hear you’re quite the fuck. Want a roll in the hay?”

“You might regret it,” I murmured, turning to face the woman. I nearly fell out of my chair.

The Dullahan, and War, both in one lifetime. I stared up at her as she rested a chain on one hip, a grin on her face.

“Oh, I don’t know. I hear you’re all bark, no bite.” She crouched down, that horrorshow face close to mine. I had to admit, though, she had a certain charm. When you live as long as I had, you could learn to appreciate almost anything. “Why do you keep pursuing that woman?”

I swallowed. “I-“

“I know the story of the MacClain family. The tragedy. Real good work there, drove the father to suicide, he cursed the entire family line, they’ve been undergoing miserable fates ever since. All because of one lost love.” She sighed. “May all the lords preserve me from romantics. I also understand you got a visit from a certain red-head. I did too, once, you know.”

“What do you want from me, you harpy?” I asked, eyes narrowed.

“Three things. One, I want you on my crew. You know paths that would be handy.”

“I’m the only one who can travel on them,” I said, frowning.

“That’s something for me to worry about.” She winked. “Second, I want that map you’ve been making. I’ve heard about your little ‘expeditions’ from a few friends on the other side.”

“How-“ I sighed. “Undead. Of course.”

“And third, I want to ride you.”

I looked her up and down, my eyes flickering to her hair. “You’re not really my type.”

I sat on the pool diving board, leaning back on it.

There’s something strangely beautiful about a hotel. They’re a place of temporary solitude. Travelling through this country, they’re a sanctuary from the cold and the dark. Since the Roman Empire built its roads, there have been inns. Places of sanctuary and community. Everyone feels as though they belong while they are there, and no one truly does. I rested my arm down, trailing my fingers through the water.

The girl stepped out of the hotel room, her hands deep in the pocket of the biking leathers. She was still wearing her motorcycle helmet. I watched as she tilted her head back. She let out a sharp curse as her head teetered and then fell, bouncing off the ground. Her body crouched down quickly, picking up the head and fastening it back into place.

“Good evening, Jhinjhar,” I said.

She spun, and faced me, her fists up in a fighting stance. She had the awkward movements of someone self-taught, but she had the speed of a dervish. I smiled, standing up straight, dressed only in a pair of long leather pants, my hair hanging in ringlets down around my shoulders. I studied her. Not all so different from the way she’d looked when I had first met her, a scant few days ago.

“MacClain,” she growled. She took a step towards me, and I raised my hands placatingly.

“I’m not here to fight. Just to talk.” I sat down on the diving board, dipping one of my bare feet into the water. “And we can talk from here, if it makes you feel safer.”

“I heard about the things you get up to.”

“Yes. Awful things. Terrible things. I’m a monster.” I waved a hand. “But I’m not what’s important to this. You are. Tell me, what do you know about the afterlife?”

“It’s fake,” she said, her eyes narrowed. “Nothing there. When we die, it’s nothing but oblivion.”

“Not true. Not true in the least. There are afterlives. I have been to them. I have visited them, and seen those who dwell within. The souls of mankind linger forever. I have seen a soul accept reincarnation, the cleansing of their memories and the return to the world.”

“Sounds like oblivion to me, if you forget everything.”

“Not so, not so.” I smiled. “The world is full of such infinite variety of beauty. From the prosaic,” I waved my hand down towards the pool, where tiny waves whipped by the soft wind formed and reflected the light of the motel in dazzling peaks and patterns, “all the way to the transcendental.” I raised my eyes, and took in the beauty of the milky way, the great spray of stars across the sky. The first signs of light were visible in the east, dawn just an hour away. “We live in a world of infinite beauty and variety. The problem is, we are limited. We are small, mindless creatures who are forever cursed to take that beauty, and to compare it to that which we have seen before. We judge beauty by what surrounds it, and as age, infirmity, and pain grow on us like a shell, we stop seeing the beauty. We stop appreciating it. We think that we have seen it all, that we know how every story will end. We start taking it for granted. And then death comes, and scourges away the shell. But we remain. And we can appreciate that beauty again.”

“So why do you hurt people?”

“Hmmm. I wonder…” I studied her eyes. “Would you like to know a secret?”

“What makes you think I would ever trust you.”

I was quiet for a moment. “I swear to you, that what I say from now until the moment I die will be the truth. The whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” I could feel the hook in my soul as the oath took place. A deep and terrible oath. But I would not be lingering under it for long. “I once loved a human woman. As deeply as anyone could. I was prepared to be with her, forever. To pursue her into the underworld, and to enter the circle of reincarnation with her. To sacrifice two thousand years of life, memory, and knowledge, in order that I might ride by her side forever.”

“You sound like a fucking romance novel protagonist,” she growled. “One of the trashy ones.”

“I am a romance novel protagonist,” I said, chuckling, a smile on my face. “The faerie are always a story, a character, an archetype. That is mine. To be the untamable, the seductive, the dark and mysterious that attracts even as it frightens. I can feel the effect it has on you, though it is… lessened.” I tilted my head. “You are driven. I know the feeling.”

“So why aren’t you dead?”

“Because she died without a soul. With her connections to the world severed, by her father, and by me. I have always regretted it.” I took a deep breath. “There is such a thing as a soul. And there is such a thing as losing your soul. You are on the path to that.”

“So?” she asked, though her face had turned a shade or two paler.

“She was given a gift. A gift to smell the soulless. A gift to master the soulless. To kill a person is difficult, to kill them with magic more so. You must desire them dead more than they, and everyone around them, wishes they were alive. She is vicious, but She is not that murderous. She targets the soulless, both as her underlings, and her victims.” I smiled. “Life must be worth living to defeat her.” I stood up slowly, and stepped lightly off the diving board, landing on the ground.

“Stay away,” she said, though she didn’t move, her shoulders shaking.

“You know, I didn’t harm a single woman. That is what I am. An empty threat. The threat of violence, which never manifests.” I smiled, stepping closer. “Like a horse. Terrible, powerful, but ultimately, controlled. Any pain is… fleeting.” I chuckled softly, and rested a hand on her chin, lifting it slightly. Her breath caught as she felt her head grow slightly unstable on her shoulders, a reminder of her vulnerability. “A jhinjhar. I never thought I would see one. A spirit of justice. Those who are slain in defense of the innocent, and who refuse to die… You must have a truly fantastic desire to survive. But when you have vengeance, what will keep you alive? You can survive on vengeance, but you cannot live on it.” I let my eyes become lidded, my breathing becoming slower, deeper. She mirrored the movements.

“I thought I wasn’t your type.”

“You’re not. But he needs to believe that I am about to violate you.” I took out a small book, and placed it in her hand. “My paths.”

“What?”

I read once that a bad man loves power over another. They will put off killing. They will savor the sense of control, delight in the feeling of knowing that they can choose. They will chew every last drop of flavor out of the experience. A good man will kill without a word, without a thought, because what matters to them is protecting someone. I was going to die because Harris thought I was going to hurt the girl. That, at the least, was a positive change in the world.

Detective Harris was not Scottish. His ancestors had been hard-working Germanic stonemasons, and they had never even visited the shores of Scotland, let alone been related to the nobility of Loch MacClain. There was no irony, no poetic drama to this death. That seemed somehow right. The iron bullet entered my skull from the side with a blow like a hammer, and I vanished into the darkness.

And Heather was not waiting for me there.

The rage swelled up inside of me.

Detective Harris breathed hard, looking around. “Shit. We need to go, everyone’s going to have heard that gunshot.” He stepped closer to Fatima. “Are you okay? Did he touch you? Are you feeling alright?”

“He’s…” She shook her head. “He was- He wanted you to shoot him.” She stared down at his body, clutching a small book to her chest. “What the fuck is wrong with these people? He wanted you to kill him. He was provoking you.”

Detective Harris looked down at the body, and winced. There was a smile on the corpse’s face, the curly dark ringlets slick with blood. For a man who’d been shot in the head, MacClain still looked immaculate. “I’m sorry. I thought he was going to hurt you. Shit.”

“I…” Fatima shook her head. “I don’t know what he was doing.” She looked up. “Let’s get the hell out of here.”

The two of them climbed aboard the motorcycle, and drove through the pre-dawn. He could feel her shaking slightly, and squeezed her gently. They drove for a while, and as dawn rose, she pulled slowly into a diner’s parking lot. The two of them walked in, and sat.

“I’m sorry,” he said, softly. “I shouldn’t-“

“You know. For all that he said that he’d never hurt a woman… He sat there and watched as She murdered my brother. He sat there and watched when I was killed.” Fatima sat in the booth across from him, her helmet resting on the chair next to her. “He just sat there and watched. He didn’t do it himself, but he let it happen. He didn’t even try to stop her. He just gave me this.” She placed the book on the table between them. “And then he let himself get shot. The fucking coward.” She shook her head. “He wasn’t a good person. He might have thought he was just doing what was right, but he was just a coward. He just wanted to die, too. He made you do it.” She crossed her arms tightly.

“Still…” He sighed. He didn’t know what else to say.

“You know what the worst part about this is? This whole… fucked up situation, me being this freak?” She waved her hand at her neck. “Have you ever had a really bad night’s sleep, and you wake up, and your neck is just tied into knots? And if you lean in the wrong way, your whole body freezes up with pain?”

“Yeah, once or twice.”

“It’s like that. Every time my head tilts the wrong way, it falls off. Every time I move just a little too fast, or shift, I feel it wobbling in place, and I know it’s about to fall off. It’s going to be like that forever. I’m never going to get better. I’m never going to be normal again.” She crossed her arms tightly. “I have to be careful all the time, because it might fall off, and terrify people. It’s like I’ve been crippled. The whole reason I left the hotel was so that I could go look at the stars. I tilted my head, and… Plop.”

“Plop,” Harris said. The two of them were quiet for a moment, and then he chuckled.

“It’s not funny!”

“It’s a little funny,” he said, softly, smiling. She flushed, and looked away, her stance stiff. Then a small smile appeared on her lips.

“A little funny. But it also really sucks.”

He nodded softly. “It does suck.” Harris rested his hand on his pocket, over his wallet, as the food arrived. They ate their meal quietly. After a while, he looked up at her. “We’re about a day away from Sequoia National Forest. When we reach that, we’ll… finish things.”

“MacClain told me a few things,” she said, softly. Harris’ heart froze. “Like about souls. She can smell people without souls. She can kill them. She wanted my brother dead more than I wanted him alive. More than he wanted to be alive.” She crossed her arms tightly. “I don’t think you should come along, Harris. I think I should go on alone.”

He nodded quietly. “Not a chance in hell.”

“Who do you have in your life, Harris? What do you have to live for?”

He set down a twenty on the table, and stood up. “You.” He smiled. “Come on.” He held out a hand, and helped her out of the booth. The two of them walked into the parking lot. He checked in either direction, but at this time of day, the place was mostly deserted. He lifted his hands, and paused. “May I?”

She coughed. “Uh. You know, my parents used to get these Bollywood romance movies for me and my brother to watch, to teach us a bit about India. I thought they were kind of dorky, but they’d have these… Like, scenes in them. Like the whole ‘indirect kiss’ thing. You know? A man kisses an apple, and passes it to a woman, and she kisses it too. Stuff that’s… not really dirty, but the way people treat it, it comes across as really dirty. You know?”

“Is that a yes, or a no?”

“Just don’t refer to this as me giving you head, okay?”

Harris stared at her. “You’re making this weird.”

“Oh, yeah, you’re pulling my head off, and I’m the one who’s making it weird.” She took a deep breath. “Go for it.”

He rested his fingers gently on her cheeks, and lifted her head. Her body stumbled slightly as he lifted it, before moving to cradle her head in his arms, holding her securely. He shifted her eyes up towards the sky. “Does it hurt?”

“No. Just- Feels weird. Not in a bad way, but… Definitely weird.”

He nodded, holding her head softly. His arms cradled her, keeping her safe. Her body fidgeted a bit, before moving to his side, clinging to him.

“I miss my brother,” she said softly, tears filling her eyes. “I should have been able to save him. I should have been able to protect him. If I’d cared more, if I’d loved him more-“

“That’s not your fault,” he said, softly. “It’s a brother’s job to protect you.”

“Sexist bastard,” she said, but she was smiling as she said it.

“It was his job when he took you out on the road. It was his job to be strong. I’m sorry he couldn’t. But it was his fault that this happened.” He softly ran his fingers through her hair, looking up at the sky. “The world’s a hard place. A brother’s supposed to protect their little sister from the things that make it hard, as long as they can.” He took a deep breath through flared nostrils. “It won’t happen again.”

She was quiet, but she clung gently to his side as the tears ran down her cheeks. “Is it wrong that I hate him a little bit for leaving me? For letting me just be… alone? That I hate my parents for dying? They didn’t choose that.”

He didn’t have an answer for her. He just stroked her hair until the tears came to an end. It was something. “I’m not leaving you to take She on alone. We’re doing this together. She’s taken too much from us. She’s not taking anything more.” He squeezed her head gently with one arm, his other arm going around her shoulders, holding Fatima gently.

And I realized to my shock that I had something that I had to live for.

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