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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

Two trunks from school, full of socks and Greek tragedy. Proserpina owns very little. Train to the station, carriage to the dock. Tension at the gate, checking tickets; Madeleine Havisham is, after all, a wanted woman.

But no. Above the ramp, clouds are gathering. Proserpina catches an upside-down headline under someone’s arm: EXCLUSIVE! ABDUCTION, ABUSE AT ST SEBASTIAN SANITARIUM. Iala told her father after all.

The great ship casts off with a bellow. Proserpina stands at the rail, watching her mother dwindle. People begin to murmur and gasp around her as, from the darkening May sky, snow begins to fall.

Proserpina

The Lees’ rooms are small and bright. Madeleine Havisham is not large, but she barely fits on Elijah’s mother’s little mattress, curled up with a hand at her mouth.

“Thank you for this,” says Proserpina.

Elijah says nothing.

“She can’t stay here,” says Proserpina. “They’d just–I’ve talked Mr. Buchanan into taking her on as my tutor. On the steamer with us. I think she’ll accept.”

“Don’t you,” says Elijah, and his voice shakes. “Don’t you need a porter? Me fetch carry very good, Miss Lady. Only two dollar–”

“Elijah,” she whispers, and tries to kiss him. His lips are cold.

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.

Radiane

Radiane is breathless and pale outside the headmaster’s door when they emerge.

“Ah, Miss Theodorakis,” he says. “Did you need something?”

She hands him a note.

“Withdrawn?” says the headmaster. “Hold on here, Mrs. Macnair.”

“What?” says Proserpina’s mother.

“It’s notarized,” says Radiane, her eyes never leaving Proserpina’s face. You have betrayed me, they say. I can’t do this alone. I took everything you gave me and it isn’t enough and I’ll kill you, don’t go–

Proserpina’s eyes are silent.

“Your daughter,” says the headmaster, “is being removed from this school.”

“By whom!”

“My husband,” says Proserpina, quietly and at last.

Proserpina

“I want to be clear that I take full responsibility for my daughter’s behavior.” The widow Macnair is quiet but firm.

“Not at all. I’m sure it was all the Havisham woman’s doing; she had an unnatural influence on the girls when she taught here.” The headmaster is just hoping she won’t ask too many questions about that. “We’ll inform the police, have her rounded up and taken back where she belongs—this Chinese accomplice you mentioned as well.”

“Thank you for being so understanding. Proserpina? Aren’t you going to apologize and thank the headmaster?”

Proserpina’s tongue is stiff and cold.

Proserpina

“Mrs. Macnair!” says the hotelier smoothly. “Do you require assistance?”

“I want to know what my daughter is doing here with these–people.”

“Mother!” says Proserpina.

“I thought I’d ride the train out early and take you shopping for summer clothes,” says Mrs. Macnair. “Now I find you not only out of school, but in disreputable company!”

“This is important!” says Proserpina. “My teacher–”

Her mother’s grip on her shoulder is sudden and tight. “That’s enough, young lady.”

“Proserpina?” says Elijah.

Proserpina has frozen, face white, just a fourteen-year-old girl remembering: this is the woman who broke my arm.

Proserpina

“She smells like the shade of death,” says the hotelier. He jerks his head at Elijah. “We won’t have them here either. Try the flophouse at Oaks.”

“This woman is ill,” Proserpina says again. “If you’ll give her a meal, a bath and a room you’ll be compensated tomorrow.”

“You should get back, dear,” mumbles Miss Havisham, barely standing. “It’s time for class.”

“Didn’t think we even had any opium dens here,” the hotelier sniffs. “Much less with trollops.”

“I will ask once more.” Her fist tightens, and–

“Proserpina,” says her mother, in the doorway. “What on earth are you doing?”

Proserpina

“You’re a deus ex machina,” Miss Havisham whispers.

“We are not yet,” says Proserpina tightly, “out of the machine.”

They can’t get out the way they came in. Emily-Jane’s already had to break an orderly’s nose; more must be coming soon–

And then, suddenly, Elijah is standing in a delivery door. “Come on,” he says. The world outside is surprisingly sunlit.

“I’m taking her into town,” says Proserpina. “Elijah?”

He nods.

“I have to get back to school,” says Radiane. “Georgette, Euphrania, you can help me cover–”

“I’m going to tell my father,” says Iala, pale and sick and furious.

Proserpina

#9430, from the orderly’s sloppy logbook. Proserpina tiptoes to slide open the viewing slot, and inside, Madeleine Havisham twitches back in reflexive fear.

“Ma’am,” she whispers, “it’s us.”

Miss Havisham says nothing–this isn’t her first hallucination, in here–but leans closer.

From down the corridor, Emily-Jane gives a pigeon’s whistle: at school, it would mean a teacher approaching. Radiane’s throat is pounding. “Can we circle back?” she hisses.

The door is double-bolted and bound with steel. Proserpina looks at it, thinking of filmstrips, of her father, of six boards placed in a stack.

She draws back her fist.

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