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Proserpina

“It was a grift to begin with, on you and your ma,” says Buchanan, spitting seeds off the stern.

“I know,” says Proserpina.

“But you turned it right about on me.”

Proserpina waits.

“I don’t think you respect me; I know you don’t trust me. That’s good. Don’t start. But you’re what I need, gel. I think you and I can do things that my son’s too gentle to learn.”

Proserpina keeps her eyes on the wake, leading back to the world she knew.

“Let me teach you,” says Ganymede Buchanan, “to be dangerous,” and holds out a strange red fruit.

Proserpina

“I won’t permit this,” says Proserpina’s mother, who is scared and worried and upset and has nothing else to say.

“You can’t prevent it,” says Proserpina. They’re waiting at a train station: almost a year ago (only a year ago?) she arrived here for fall term. She remembers her steeled jaw, her buried fear.

“You’re my daughter–”

“You wanted me to take up with the Buchanans, to secure our future. Well, I have.”

“I wanted you to be safe!”

“None of us is safe,” says Proserpina, as Dacelo walks in with hope on his face, and his father follows with hunger.

Proserpina

“I’m here about your father’s business matters and I won’t be coy, little miss,” says Buchanan, over his game hen. “You see, he left certain shares to you, but as you’re a child–”

“Aren’t you my trustee, Mother?” says Proserpina.

Her mother blinks. “Er, yes,” she says.

“Except women don’t vote on Board matters,” says Buchanan. “It simply isn’t done–yet. Now, I can try to bring them around, but I need your agreement to serve as proxy, see?”

“Perfectly.”

“That’s your pop’s spirit!” winks Buchanan.

“Could you pass the salt?” asks Proserpina sweetly. “I could do with just a grain.”

Proserpina

Half of her suitor is a boy, ash-haired and soft-fingered, only a few years older than she is. Proserpina sees that he won’t enjoy this meeting and wonders why.

The other half is his father, whose hand, when Proserpina shakes it, feels hungry. But his eyes are warm.

“Proserpina,” says her mother, “this is Mister Buchanan! He’s an old friend of your father’s, a business associate from New South Wales.”

“That makes you very brave, Mister Buchanan,” says Proserpina.

“Odd choice of phrasing, gel,” says Buchanan, but he smiles. “This is my son Dacelo.”

“Oh,” says Proserpina, “that’s why.”

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