VI Locust Grove

VI LOCUST GROVE

Why don’t you live at Lake St Clair?”

They were sitting in the glasshouse, watching the sky fade to purple. Chloe knew truth fell from her lips, “Because I was afraid. I am afraid. I’m close to them, but am not one of them. They’re bound together beyond love.”

You’re not bound?”

They are themselves,” Chloe sighed, unable to explain the isolation created in being the only friend not intimate within the relationship, simply a natural consequence of them belonging exactly where they are. The three languished exquisitely around each other and were only to each other, loved beyond measure, as any gifted trilogy should.

Are you not?” Luna noticed the sorrow dancing behind Chloe’s eyes.

Because I…am myself, yes, but I’m not part of that…romantic relationship,” truth is this knife slicing between them, “after they became three, there was this this pervasive sense of life teetering on perfection. They transformed into beauty they’d been unsure they could ever feel. This intense love broke through, allowing serenity into their lives. From our disenfranchised lives and broken families, they build connections born of choice. I am, naturally, on the very edge of inclusion. I never knew how to negotiate this…feeling. Those three are as improbable as us. Yet. Still. There they are. Here we are and I am, flawed, finding myself having difficulty negotiating what everything means.”

I understand,” Luna desired Chloe, desired all that fell between their displaced souls, filling the breaches with each other, “we are both flawed. Yet. Here we are. Preferring to be with each other.”

I want to show you my twenty-four hours…’ Chloe said.

Yes?” Luna smiled, standing from the grass, “Did you factor in sleep?”

Much better than you.”

Luna smirked as she lent down and pulled Chloe up, “Really?”

Linking arms to walk down to the apartment, “We’ll need to be in the car at four.”

Seriously? That’s insane.”

It’s my twenty-four hours. You’re frequently awake that early.”

No, I’m still awake that early.”

You only allowed me three hours sleep!”

Luna laughed, “Okay, Okay, but I’ve made up for it since…”

I suppose you have,” Chloe snickered, “however, I feel we should at least attempt to get some sleep.”

The car service is waiting at the door of Ellysion. Always the same black sleek luxury, the interchangeable chauffeur opening the door seamlessly for the pair to enter. Spring caused an early morning chill and the few steps from door to door allowed a lisp of condensation upon their breath, with the buildings insulated against the damp sky from reaching the ground, street lights producing a murky grey. Luna snuggled into Chloe, wrapping her hands underneath her light coat, not even attempting to resist the urge to fall asleep.

Do you care where we’re going?” Chloe wrapping her arms around Luna in response, mumbling into her hair.

Not at all. I trust you,” Luna burrowed further in, feeling the smile leaping across Chloe’s face and settling throughout her body.

Chloe felt the weight of Luna, with its barely there warmth and is infinitely comforted as she looked out at the constantly adjusting scenery, waiting for the ghostly grey to fall beneath the yellow glow. Luna kept close for the hour trip, drifting within the sound Chloe’s heartbeat made. Chloe kissed Luna gently to pull her from her daze.

Hmmm,” Luna moaned, tracing Chloe’s arm until her hand is firmly grasped, held within Chloe’s own as her tongue traced along her bottom lip, pulling them further together, leaning into softness as the car curved left, tugging at the gravel before pulling into an open space. Colourful balloons swollen in the sky are tied against rattan baskets. Chloe pushed Luna from the car and walked them over to a clip board wielding organiser.

Imani, Chloe, two.”

Thanks, Six, the swirled multicolour,” he pointed to one a third of the way across the dark field.

Thanks,” Chloe slipped their hands together and as they walked, the hissing sound of propane gas burners firing shushed into the quiet. Several were already burned in the sky.

Ballooning?” Luna was looking at the giant bright bulbs sitting above them as they passed.

Yes,” Chloe’s eyes suddenly widened, “you’re not afraid of heights?”

No,” Luna snorted as they came to their balloon, “rainbow?”

Hey, I just booked it. It didn’t come with an option of balloon material design.”

Hello,” the operator jumped against the ground in front of them, “I’ll be your driver today, Allura.”

Hi. Chloe, this is Luna.”

You both ready to go? All the checks are done.”

Yes,” Luna nodded as she clambered into the basket, steadying Chloe as she followed, settling in before being untethered from the earth and tilting skyward. Allura watched the entire time, observing and adjusting the burn while negotiating the rise.

How spectacular,” Luna smiled, speaking against Chloe’s ear.

Really,” Chloe relaxed, “you like?”

Yes, I would never have thought of it,” Luna smiled as she moved against the edge of the basket and looked over the valley, “how long are we up here?”

Chloe moved against her, wrapping her arm into Luna’s, “About an hour. The car will pick us up where we land.”

How can the earth look so large and so small at the same time?” whispered Luna, “its magnificent and terrifying.”

Yes,” her fingers tightening around Luna’s arm, resting their bodies in full contact with one another.

Allura had that spectacular ability to be unobtrusive even in this tight space. Luna anchored herself to Chloe as she drank in the view, spiralled her turmoil into the peace this offered. Noise was a vacuum, only broken by propane. They landed in a field after an hour, the basket stuttering against the ground. Luna clambered out, turning to help Chloe, who stumbled and knocked them both over onto the ground. Luna giggled, until she was breathless.

Chloe, you’re a delight.”

A success, yes?”

Absolutely utterly amazing.”

Chloe pushed herself off of Luna and helped her up, pulling her into a hug, “thank you for joining me.”

This is very special. You brought me to share in this. Why?”

The first time was at the village fete near where our school was. All of these locals knew Arlo, knew her family, judged her and were nasty, unforgiving of her opportunity. It was ugly to watch. Caro took us up in the balloons, to escape. Told us stories of wizards and tornadoes and magic shoes. Made sure Arlo knew we loved her and not the horrible things they said, changing the mundane into the beautiful.”

Life is large and insignificant. We are larger and stronger than what seeks to destroy us. They’re insignificant. We’re the power, stronger than the insignificant.”

Exactly. How do you always know what I mean?”

Because I’m me and you’re you and we’re us,” Luna smiled in the morning light.

Chloe kissed her, impulsively joyful, “Come,” pulling her too the car, inside, warming them up.

Luna stretched out over Chloe, “What’s up next?”

I’ll never tell,” their lips caressed each others, gently loving each other within the gaps.

Both quiet as the car silently moved through the valley, a short while later turning into another gravel road. Luna left the car and looked up at the rustic wooden sign mounted over the steps leading to the veranda. Callister. Chloe came and stood next to her before leading her up the stairs to a table overlooking the valley.

Callister?”

Yes.”

No menu’s?”

Oh. I took a lesson from you and prepared our champagne breakfast order already. Its traditional after ballooning.”

Okay…” Luna laughed, delighted, “So. Why here?”

Callister and I were at medical school together. Turns out she hated medicine.”

A bed and breakfast is quite a radical change.”

Yes. Well. Its kinda perfect. Its close to the city, yet far enough away for an overnight or weekend trip. But this café is why I come.”

Not the bed?”

No,” Chloe snorted, “her wife is brilliant, amazing and would kick my ass.”

Her wife?”

Yes. Cameron Zoe,” a smirk graced Chloe’s lips.

That television show, magazine empire Cameron Zoe, the garden architecture one?”

Yes, that’s her.”

Yes, totally agree she is amazing and could kick your ass.”

Thanks. You read The Garden Goddess?”

No. Abraxas and Jamere love her.”

Okay. Maybe we’ll set up dinner.”

Sure.”

Their breakfast arrived and eating in the slice of sunshine illuminating their table, both methodically worked anti-clockwise around their plates. This gave them great pleasure, sharing a predication for how they ate. Luna felt tranquil as they finished and walked back to the car, slipping satiated inside.

Its still early,” Luna said, fully awake and now confined to a car, sliding over to Chloe and kissing her.

Yes it is” Chloe smiled at the energy, kissing back, “and we’re already onto our next activity.”

Mmmm,” Luna mumbled against Chloe’s lips, “how much time do we have?”

I don’t think so,” Chloe murmured back, “We may irrevocably shock our driver…”

They were lost in each other until the car shuttled around and stopped again, shit down and the driver opened Luna’s door.

Luna. Go on,” Chloe pushed her towards the door and out into the early crystal pallor. Hills edged larger and knitted together, creating a valley. The city unstrung behind them.

An apple orchard?” Luna looked to the other cars in the lot, people slowly bubbling through an arch with Honey Queen Apple Orchard swirled in metal.

Of course. The first spring haul.”

Tell me why?”

Coming here is a yearly tradition, attending the first spring pick of the season and for me is, the perfect compilation of space and solitude. It is gratifying, the smell of the apples first scenting the orchard, then the car and, at last, my apartment. The smell always reminds me of life and renewal. Locust Grove was once a village now since gathered by the ever expanding city and in spite of containing the notorious Avalon Asylum, the grove always retained its own enigmatic charm. This was what I want to share with you.”

Passing through another archway into a cottage, picking up baskets and continuing out to the orchard, Chloe linked her arm through Luna’s as other couples fanned out and lead her to her favourite part of the orchard, a corner where the trees clustered together in a wild fashion.

Why is coming here a yearly tradition?” Luna asked.

During my residency at MARH, I was working all the time and so very tired. I felt loose, frayed at the edges, never knowing if I was awake or asleep. One day, delirious, I rented a car and just drove. I was dreamlike, drifting in a haze,” Chloe reached up and picked off the lowest branches, “I woke up in my apartment three days later to the overwhelming scent of apples. My memory was disjointed, but I felt human again. So, every year I come back. It reminds me of how hard I worked, and also how I shouldn’t work until I fall apart.”

Luna climbed up a ladder they came too and into the tree, scaling out onto one of the borough’s, stretching for the roundness at the top before her voice drifted down to Chloe, “This place gives you yourself.”

Yes,” Chloe whispered catching the apple Luna dropped down, and positioned herself for more, grateful Luna understood the deeper reason beyond the explanation given.

As the light crested into morning Chloe and Luna gradually filled their baskets while slowly walking back to the cottage shop next to the parking lot. Keeping the wicker baskets and picking up a mixed case of Locust Grove Brewery Cider, they relaxed back into the car as it slipped over the gravel drive and out to the road. A Thermos of coffee was waiting on the seat for them.

Coffee?”

Of course.”

Perfect,” Luna leaned in for a kiss.

Yes, you are,” Chloe followed Luna as she withdrew, seeking another kiss.

Where we going?”

Not saying.”

Why not?” Luna pouted.

You’ve ideas you want to follow up on. You don’t care where we’re going, just how much time we have.”

Yes,” Luna’s kiss burned her up, yet Chloe was happy to languish within these kisses as the car sleeked through traffic, winding the hour around busy mid-morning traffic, too pull up to Asceline. Chloe and Luna bounded out of the car and into the book store, as old as the city.

Walking in the heavy wooden oak doors propped open by a stack of old encyclopaedias, inside were three split levels, half-elevated from each other, stairs often hidden by stacks of books with mismatched jumbles of chairs hidden throughout the store. Luna looked around at the overstuffed shelves, pathways swaying between stacks piled where the shelves had no more room. Luna breathed deeply of the smell of fresh new books and the musty warmth of second hand love traded for more, she let go of Chloe and walked up to the second tier, over to the music section and knelt to begin sifting through sheet music.

Chloe followed her, “You’ve been here before.”

Not really a Briar kind of person.” Luna hadn’t even looked up, focused on the box in front of her, smiling at Chloe’s statement, “but yes.”

Slightly judgemental?” Chloe laughed soft, noticing the evasive non-answer. Briar District, next to Clovia Hills, had sprouted from the same wealth pervading both areas. Briar is full of bespoke shops, cafe’s and by-laws forbidding chain stores, with wide, tree lined immaculate streets and patrolled by private security.

Luna looked up at Chloe, beautifully statuesque, “You hadn’t been to the places I took you. Harper’s is a place you would’ve gone, located such as it is in Ianthe?”

Point taken.”

Okay, but why here?”

When we were all at university, Arlo worked here. This became our hangout, I guess. We all practically lived here. Caro learned how to make coffee here on this clunky old machine. Quin started her passion for architecture here.”

A home when you had none?”

Yes,” Chloe still astounded at the understanding between them.

I’m going to look,” Chloe waved her hand and walked off, at once wanting to know what Luna wasn’t telling.

Luna turned back to the pile, separating what she wanted from the rest. Asceline was quiet, except for the shuffling of customers and the soft sch-sch sound of books rubbing against each other. The time ticked by, twisting with the sunlight twinkling throughout the window.

You done?” Chloe found Luna curled in one of the stuffed sofa’s by the window, reading with a neat stack of books next to her.

Yes. No. Mostly.” Luna laughed and shrugged, “It’s a book store.”

Asceline means of the moon.”

Really?” Luna stood, picking up the stack.

Variations on a theme I am rapidly coming to enjoy,” Chloe replied as they walked to the counter, paid and took their purchases out to the sunshine.

Medical texts? Old ones?” Luna questioned

Yes, I collect them, they remind me of a time when we started to learn and develop and grow,” she shrugged, “Asceline stocks them.”

Awesome. Its beautiful to know where one comes from.”

The car sat waiting and Luna handed her bag over to the chauffeur, but Chloe stopped her from getting in, “We walk from here.”

Okay,” Luna liked her arm through Chloe’s as they walked up the street, “we’re staying in Briar?”

Absolutely. Lunch.”

Chloe led them around the corner and up a few blocks and inside Karaleigh’s, sitting in a booth overlooking the artificially constructed park and pond, encompassed on all sides to exclude the outside. The meal already organised by Chloe, in her meticulous planning of this day for Luna. Wine poured by silent the wait staff, melting into the background. Luna wound words around Chloe, delicately creating worlds aloud as food appeared and became part of their delight.

Why here? I thought you haven’t been here?” Luna asked.

True. I haven’t, however I wanted to start our own place,” Chloe shrug smiled, all of the sudden shy, “I wanted some place that’s ours, I guess.”

And you picked here?”

Exactly, because I picked somewhere that I would pick…” Chloe searched around for words to makes sense, “I wanted a new memory for us, but also I wanted one that is ours. I picked it, yes, I know we are connected to our pasts, and this place seemed connected to Jamere and Abraxas for you, which I thought would be good…”

Luna is swept up into the brutal beauty of Chloe’s gift, “Thank you.”

Our time is up. We’ve another event,” Chloe stood and offered her hand. Luna took it, to follow Chloe to the car. The trip was short as it pulled up to the Ellysion.

Here?” Luna said.

Yes. We need to change,” Chloe exited and led Luna up to the penthouse, clothes already laid out for them. The afternoon set in, daylight angled from the side of the sky.

Chloe. This is a dress. These shoes match.”

Yes, it is. Yes, they do. Now put it and them on.”

But…”

Luna. My day. Put the clothes on.”

Luna looked at the dress and noticed the designer label. She sighed and changed. Luna took the hand Chloe again offered as she lead them back down and out to the car. The car journey is quick and took them to the cities ballet company, housed in the distinct Ysabelle Theatre, designed and constructed over a hundred years previously after the last one burnt to cinder in a riot. Walking into the lobby, they were handed a glass of champagne.

Thank you,” Luna took the glass offered by the stem, unsure whether the dress or the company was making her feel uncomfortable, “the ballet?”

Yes. This is a co-sponsored charity benefit.”

Really? For what Charity?”

Humanities and Arts City Youth Program.”

Excellent,” Luna scanned the crowd until her eyes met Gretchen, also with a glass of champagne in one hand and in mid-conversation when she spotted Luna.

Excuse me,” muttered Gretchen as she left her date and walked over to her former foster daughter.

Luna.”

Gretchen,” Luna, unsurprised, yet unsettled, she is here, levelled her voice flat.

I did not…” Gretchen struggled to pull herself back in “…think I would see you here. If I remember, you said ballet is pretentious?”

Well, um…” Luna had not seen her since she left her care at eighteen, refusing to be taken here under Gretchen’s care and therefore never seen the ballet live, “Chloe?”

Chloe turned from the conversation she was having to find Luna and Gretchen staring at each other, tense with a mixture of pain and unspoken history, Luna saying “I believe that you two know each other. Gretchen, Chloe. Chloe, Gretchen.”

Turning to each other, Chloe smiling as she said, “Gretchen, how are you?”

Fine, thank you. You?” Luna tensed as the damages from her past spiked in her mind, twisting against the core of herself.

Well.” Chloe felt the tenseness radiating from Luna, exchanged the champagne glass from one hand to the other and slipped her arm protectively around Luna, who leaned flush against her body, shifted her own arm across her body and laced her fingers into Chloe’s hand upon her hip. She was used to people scrutinising her, watching her, judging her. Chloe’s arm didn’t move, slipped further around her and in spite of her fluctuation, in spite of herself, she felt Chloe’s warmth, releasing against her arm, the tightness is stitched into her soul.

You two know each other?” Gretchen, observing the intimate movement between the two intensely, feeling the quiet, solid love, the type that required serious hard quarantine and felt acutely at a serious tactical advantage.

Yes. She is my date,” Luna’s voice was clipped.

Congratulations. Excuse me,” Gretchen, a surprised look shuffled quickly over her face before she nodded her head and returned to her date.

What was that about?” Chloe asked Luna with a bewildered look on her face.

I’ll tell you later,” Luna is shaking ever so slightly, “don’t worry about it.”

Luna…” Chloe leaned in, pulling Luna’s body tighter, whispering in her ear, “Are you okay?”

Chloe, really. This is your day,” Luna still looking perturbed, but made a visible effort to smile, “I’m good.”

Chloe continue to whisper into her ear, “Okay. Please don’t look so worried,” and before she realised the words tumbled out her mouth, “I love you.”

Luna’s breath hitches in her chest, shuddering through her body, mixing with the unsettled vibrating air around her, “Why?”

Because.”

Why?” Insistent, eyes on fire.

I love you because of so many reasons…” her voice is tight at the challenging, yet soft, “…your actions and compassion…” she leans in for a kiss, “…let me love you…”

Luna felt the words from Chloe’s mouth wash over her. Although she heard these words from Kai, Galla, Jamere and Abraxas before, this was different, made her feel naked, exposed, terrified and warm. Luna wasn’t ready, not with Gretchen staring hostility in their direction. Chloe’s arm remained wrapped around her as emotion jostled her until she gathered herself back in, her chest constrict under all of this weight.

Chloe felt the trembling stop along her arm as Luna relaxed enough in her arms to smile. Focusing on Chloe’s touch as she looked around Ysabelle theatre. She could not allow Gretchen to throw this day off balance.

The ballet is evocative and reminded her of the delicate balance within life, both physical and emotional. The balance between Chloe and herself. The balance lost between herself and Gretchen. Walking out to the street, Chloe, remembering the same look from the opera waited for Luna to come back to her. In the last of the afternoon, sleek black cars were lined two deep outside of the theatre.

Chloe drew Luna away from the babbling crowd, resting flush against each other, as the traffic swelled and was slow, but finally they passed through the worst and exited onto a street unfamiliar to Luna. Luna settled enough into herself to have relaxed and is able to relinquish herself into Chloe.

Chloe?”

Chloe leaned in as soon as she spoke, pulled her close to kiss her. Even after all this long day for Chloe, Luna smelled like fire and home. Pulling back, she whispered against their lips, “we’re going to Clovia Fields for the charity dinner.”

Clovia Fields?” Luna sat up as the car stopped against the curb.

A private event for the organisers of the charity ballet,” Chloe sighed, leading her out of the car and into the building, continuing into the ballroom, whispering against Luna’s ear conspiratorially, “come on, before we’re noticed.”

Luna let Chloe lead her away, around the edge of the ballroom, and though a service door, past busy kitchens and up service stairs to the building roof. Chloe led her around the industrial clutter and various structures to the sunset side and stopped. The sun was blurred into the ground, giving this city an opaque orange burgundy light. Chloe tilted her head until she saw Luna’s face, her lips slightly parted and full of colour in the light.

It looks so…undecided from here,” Luna said.

Yes, I guess.”

Not like this morning, when it was open and hard.”

The giving and the dying of the light is such a powerful perspective,” Chloe murmured.

Is that what this is? Here?”

Yes,” the sunset noise is dirty, contrasted against the breezy peace of the roof, “we saw dawn together. I wanted us to see it fade as well.”

Luna de-tangled their hands and stood against Chloe, shifting her arm around her waist, “You mean the sweetest things.”

Thank You.”

There is nothing like this light. Yesterday, it would have been different. Tomorrow, it could be more orange or less purple or something. Thank you for sharing this one with me. This only one with me.”

Chloe twisted her around, kissing her ferociously, emotionally tumultuously after a day like today, she whispered against Luna’s lips, “I mean the sweetest things?”

Yes,” Luna kissed quickly, “absolutely, and I hope you can negotiate your way out in this darkness.”

I’m sure I’ve the light to do so…” Chloe kissed her again, breathing in Luna’s scent, “…getting hungry?”

Eh. Thirsty.”

Okay. Come.” Chloe led them back down the way they come.

You know all the sneaky ways.”

Chloe snorted “Only in places I want to. Not, you know, hidden art installations in abandoned buildings.”

Yes, but the food here is better.”

The audience, and ever so slowly, performers entered the space, filling it with voices and conversation. Chloe, a member of Clovia Fields and on the board of both the City Ballet and the Humanities and Arts City Youth Program, is elated to show off Luna. Dinner is noisy and exciting, full of company, food and dancing. The names of everyone Chloe introduced her blurred across Luna’s brain, making her feel fuzzy. Her dress and gloves tightened around her like the wealthy members of the club.

Luna…” Chloe nudged her, “…would you like to dance?”

Please…”

Chloe lead her out to the dance floor and into an effortless waltz. Six songs later, Luna withdrew from Chloe’s arms and indicated she needed water. Following, Chloe asked, “How did you learn how to waltz?”

Abraxas insisted,” Luna ordered them both drinks, and handed Chloe’s to her.

Why?”

No idea. She just took us all. We were all living apart. Archer already with Ivie in the basement, Galla went to an independent community school, Kai and I were in specialist school, I think it became something we could all do together.”

Bet she loved it when Kai became a stripper.”

Don’t think she cared, as long as we look good at the Smash Punch Gala. Kai and I learnt some sort of dancing when we were kids.”

Chloe, placing her empty glass back on the table, took Luna back to the dance floor. Night had fully formed when they wandered out, glowing with the majority of the evening on the dance floor. The car waiting for them as Chloe whispered into Luna’s ear, inhaling her delectable scent, “There is one more thing to do.”

Okay,” Luna was tired, yet she did not want to give up this day as she allowed Chloe to seat her into the car again. After the deafening noise at the dinner, both remained quiet throughout the twenty minute journey, finally pulling up to the cities Natural History Museum’s service entrance. Chloe and Luna walked up to the door, guarded by a suited, gloved attendant.

Nyx two-five-six,” Chloe said as the door squeaked open.

Natural History Museum?” Luna smiled at Chloe choosing this, “Nyx?”

Another secret club. We get access to many things,” Chloe laughed.

Secret club?” Luna looked wearily at Chloe as they moved inside.

No, No…just access…” Chloe said, hearing the edge in Luna’s voice, “One of those wealthy privilege things…”

Luna elbowed Chloe at the jest, “scandalously privileged. So, reasons for here?”

Simple love, really. A compliment to Asceline, I guess. When I wanted solitude and a sense of gravitas to where I belong. That all things are not lost.”

Life will remain even when you do not?”

Stop reading my mind so precisely,” Chloe smiled, struggling with how delightful they are together.

It is another place Luna had not been or explored, however with Chloe as her tour guide, she was led through the shaded, subtle lighting baroque maze of a building. Luna enraptured in seeing a history that is not her own, trinkets of cultures as dead to this one as to hers. Instead of giving her a sense of loss, it gave her a sense of comfort that everything dies, but what we leave behind can flourish. In spite of the interest in looking at everything, fatigue rapidly settling over both of them. Night crept around midnight when at last they headed out.

This was perfect, Chloe.”

But we’re ready to go?”

Yes.”

Then there is one last surprise.”

Chloe…” but her hand was taken to be swiftly led back into the car, silent in traffic. Luna nestled into Chloe, exhausted by a full day, manufactured light blending through the glass. Their town-car pulled under a curved annex and the door opened. Luna stepped out to the doors of the Ectoria Hotel and as she felt Chloe step out her behind her, she turned with a raised eyebrow and smirk.

I still have until six,” Chloe shrugged with a suggestive wink.

You better lead the way, then.”

Chloe organised for her assistant to check them in and take their bags to the room, only requiring her to pick up their key. Luna gently moved her fingers to caress Chloe’s wrist in the elevator, gently rotating her body, opening a space only to close it again, falling into this quietness that became a yell. There elegant room melted around them as clothing fell to the floor.

Luna moved against a flexed body, brushing her lips over hard nipples pushing against Chloe’s laced bra, the movement deliberately taunting and wound her hands around Chloe’s back, tugging the hooks holding them away. Unclasping while pushing her against the chair, Luna pressed herself onto Chloe’s lap, flinging the bra against the wall, running her nails over the curve of her stomach until she reached the crest of her hips, the sharp decent caused Chloe’s sharp intake of breath as Luna tasted rain in the sunshine, feeling the infinite strung between them.

Sitting in the early morning light, pale filtering refracted by the wall to floor windows, lighting Luna’s pink and purple hair spiked in a thousand different directions, floppy and reflective of bed. Room service coffee was steaming up from their cups, “What’s with Gretchen?”

Luna looked startled before she frowned and laced her fingers around her cup, shivering against its warmth. Chloe waited patient. Silence drifted until Luna raised her eyes to meet Chloe’s, “We’ve a complicated history.”

That much is obvious.”

I told you when Kai and I were placed in foster care…” Luna stopped, her face in a look Chloe could not read, “…I was placed with Gretchen. She wanted to adopt me. I said no.”

She stopped and made no indication she would continue. Chloe left off pursuing further information, sensing this was deep pain she would eventually be told. She willed herself to work harder at making her feel this way, including extending there progress over the last twenty four hours. Chloe led them to the shower before checking out. Luna returned to her own apartment to change and head to work.

Luna stood in her kitchen fumbling against the crumbs left by Kai and Gerome. The apartment felt different, abstract, along with the changes rapidly evolving within her. It is rare when she came back here, in-between work, Smash Punch and Chloe. She is feeling exposed, like she could move on, could release her demons, that living and being alive are vastly different things.

Luna, hoping to see Jamere for advice about Gretchen, walked into Ash’s and over to her seat at the end of the counter. It is just after three in the morning. Jamere walked in shortly after, dumping her bag and pouring them coffee.

Luna,” Jamere noticed Luna twitching,“spill.”

Gretchen was at the ballet,” Luna said, sipping at her thick coffee. Gretchen is the biggest confusion and regret, her first lesson in compassion and consequences, current behaviour learned from old behaviour, how history creates the present. She wanted to fix a situation she still found difficult to understand.

Oh. Well. We did miss her at the opera. And what did you tell Chloe?” It as astonishing to watch the differing way the madness of love has shaped Luna, fractures her to rearrange what remains in far better order.

That we have history. She didn’t pressure, but she kind of want to know.”

How was she?” Jamere still remembered the woman’s desperate pain, the unsure obliviousness of Luna. Jamere is blessed, having Abraxas and Archer. But in truth, they also have Luna and Galla, always had. When, at eighteen, Luna moved from Gretchen’s to the terrible, tiny place in Zvyah, Abraxas wanted to buy her an apartment, or at the very least bring her back to their own. Jamere, with her logic and beautiful voice, brought her back from the ledge, understanding how they needed to find a way to mend their own cracks and why they needed to prove themselves. Jamere made it clear their home is always open for the daughters Abraxas and her collected.

Still upset. Hurt. Angry. Confused.”

It’s been three years. So you think it’s time you gave her closure?”

Luna tensed, “Closure?”

Baby girl. You have seen enough to know. When you know better, you should do better. Release her. You may not have wanted what she offered, but that’s no longer an excuse.”

I know that,” Luna shrugged, smiling ruefully, “I guess we feel unfinished.”

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