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Rowan

“This crosses you,” says Rowan. “This covers you. This is beneath you, before and behind you. Hope. House. Here is your Crown. Here is your Self.”

The card is full of terror, trumpets and storm. “Gabriel,” says Holly. She touches the waxy face of Judgment and it is in that moment the most beautiful thing that anyone has made, that anyone will make.

“Yes,” says Rowan softly. “You’re the angel.”

Holly’s still caught in a stare; Rowan gathers up the rest of the tarot without looking at them. They’re both stoned anyway, and nothing good comes of reading those you love.

Holly

Holly lives, altogether, with five and a half sets of foster parents. The Kreuks count as half because they split her assistance check and lie to the caseworker, and for eight glorious months she is Rowan’s daughter.

Rowan can’t adopt Holly because she’s poor, with a history of suicidal depression and (not coincidentally) breast cancer. Holly doesn’t learn this until she goes looking. She gets extra-nice for a while, and Rowan figures it out, and they fight.

I’m not going to tell you they never get a chance to make up. They do. They make up in plenty of time.

Holly

Holly and Roger graduate, along with twenty-two other students who weren’t at the dance. There’s news. People are vomiting money at her so she says yes to some school which, she understands, is on high ground, with trees.

She and Roger don’t speak again. She buries his corsage under the tree with her fifth-grade time capsule and plants yellow flowers on top. She sells things and packs light. She gets on a plane. At her first party she meets a girl with Rowan’s eyes: her name is Rose.

In her pockets, in her dreams, in secret, the desert waits.

Holly

“Please, sit down,” croons Madam Zaganza, Personal Readings.

Holly stands. Her hand’s still bandaged. “My friend Rowan,” she says, “she did this.”

“Good! Then you know to shuffle–”

“I caused the drought,” Holly blurts. “I killed all those people.”

“Oh, honey,” says Zaganza. She pulls off the turban and becomes a tired man in lipstick. “Sit down. You know how many people have told me that?”

“I’m different,” Holly whispers. “I was–Rose and Roger–and the rain doesn’t fall–”

“It falls on the just and the unjust.” Zaganza smiles sadly. “You don’t change the weather, honey. The weather changes you.”

Holly

Holly drove his truck in heels, but now she’s barefoot, red dust on her hose and the hem of her dress.

“So many things in the way,” she says, absently. “I can’t. Roger, there’s something I’m supposed to–” She stops and tangles her hair through her fingers, undoing someone’s careful hour.

“Rowan would know,” she mumbles.

Roger pitches a rock out and away. Holly looks back, startled, then grabs her own rock. They throw again, and keep throwing, wild, off-balance, a stone rain on the desert. Finally they stumble and fall, gasping, and she rolls over and kisses his mouth.

Holly

Each of the layered bronze discs has a circle cut out of its lower quadrant, and as they rotate past each other–once every hour–they create an eclipse in miniature. Beneath the bronze, Rowan’s watch is black, hinting at orange. The band is red faux crocodile.

Holly can’t take her eyes off it. There’s something obscene about the fact that it is still ticking.

She picked wildflowers from the park, after hopping the fence, but now she wishes she hadn’t. They look stupid next to the big proper bouquets: roses, chrysanthema and stargazer lilies. They’re all white. Holly’s are yellow.

Rowan

“Oh,” says a breathless Holly, smoothing the skirt. Rowan grins, but when Holly turns back from the mirrors her face is older than her fourteen years.

“You give me the nicest dreams,” she says heavily. “But I can’t afford it.”

“Ms. Rowan’s Fund For Underdressed Young Ladies–” Rowan begins.

“No!” Holly scowls. “You are not allowed to–”

“I am.”

“I won’t wear it!”

The dress has turned a creature of elbows and knees into somebody who’d ride a pumpkin carriage. Rowan doesn’t know which is more beautiful, but she knows why Holly’s afraid. She doesn’t know what to say.

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