Glory wakes, swims parallel to the surface until the fabric breaks and light soaks through.
A full-length mirror hangs suspended over her naked body and reveals a bleeding wound along her lower belly. Quiet at her side, Rose sits in a white smock stained with blood.
“I don’t know if I can finish, Glory. I…”
“I’m not hearing that, Rose, please continue,” Glory replies softly, almost whispering like skin across paper.
Rose threads a curved needle with silver wire. She places it in a jar of alcohol on the floor next to the table Glory lies upon. Glory closes her eyes and listens to the lips of the cut whisper hollow liquid. She presses palms to the cool metal beneath her and knows Rose will not stop.
“We’re nearly extinct you know,” says Rose, not expecting a reply. Glory is silent. “Do you regret our decision?” Rose asks, adding quickly, “Please, listen…”
“No. Let me think awhile my love, you’ve done well. Don’t let me sleep.”
“Of course,” Rose says finally.
Glory opens her eyes and watches Rose in the mirror. She is pulling a large bucket of blood from beneath the table. Thick clots rise to break the surface and Glory feels them phantom cold within her belly. There are no other sounds around them but the clink of metal.
Rose catches Glory’s gaze in the mirror, “I didn’t really want you to see, but if
you’d like, I could show you.” She is still, face upturned, lovely, and waiting.
“No. I’m afraid to see something familiar, a name maybe. The cold… its starting. I think I’m dreaming.” Glory feels a gasping flutter of her bird heart in panic, “I’m not ready yet!”
“It’s too late.” Rose offers, comforting Glory with gentle pressure against her ribs to calm her. After a moment, long-dead wings die down and she is calm again.
“I know. I’m alright.” Breath, mirage water in her lungs.
Rose leaves the room, bucket in hand and a slight limp as she keeps it steady. Glory lets the fog and ice collect behind her eyes, remembers the scent of blue and white hyacinth ringed around her crown in some forgotten homeland. She envisions ravens perched on wooden limbs. When Rose returns, she is followed by two shadows. Glory recognizes one as her own and begins to laugh at its betrayal. Rose smiles in her direction. In the mirror, she watches Rose take needle and thread in small shuffling movements of prep— suddenly Rose’s face is above hers. They kiss.
Rose begins the cross and pull across Glory’s belly just enough to slow but not contain.
“Will I know when time is close?” Glory asks. Rose stops and brings a plain white box from under the table and places it on Glory’s chest. She opens it and withdraws three stones from the beach, arranging them above Glory’s heart. She then reveals a handful of blue and white petals, drips them over the stones and breathes deep of earth and bloom. Once again, she picks up needle and thread and continues stitching.
“Soon, darling, and you’ll be ready.”
Glory’s eyes close; slashed red silk blowing past October skies. The slick surface of the stones reminds her of the walls of the mouth, the taste of water and sand on the tongue in almost remembered memory. Without opening her eyes, silk pursed between secret lips, she runs a finger over the first silver stitches.
“I’d rather die with you.” she muses.
“There’s no time. I’m going to have to go without you,” Rose responds sadly.
They are quiet together, spaces growing louder in Glory’s ears. Rose stops stitching half-way through and simply watches her cherished mate’s face.
“I can’t open my eyes.” Glory whispers, thirst a song in her throat, “The flowers, will you bring them with you?”
“They shall cover my eyes and lips. Without them, how would I find you?” Rose teases as she aligns little white pills along Glory’s arm.
Glory smiles and falls back and back into stone-cool dark. She feels the scalpel pluck each stitch open, and the static pool, then spill, though as from a great distance. She catches a silk thread wisping by and waits for Rose to wake beside her.