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On Friday Gabby helps suppress a sweatshop strike and things get nasty: children with bricks, gas and close quarters. She breaks her baton on a six-year-old’s head. She stabs another with the haft.

Shaking in the shower, after, she whispers an Act of Contrition and turns the water off. She makes her hand rise. She touches the panel marked PENANCE.

Electricity wrings out her memory, and a long scream.

“Where’s my dinner, woman?” she growls, entering through the kitchen, kissing Tess on the cheek.

“Mmm,” says Tess, “and how was your day?”

Gabby snorts. It’s a very old joke.


It’s 5:59 when Ronnie decides to close. Tess and her brothers are still arguing over the display games, but their tired mother will be here soon, apologizing and promising to be on time tomorrow. It’s a gentle little fiction, and the gratitude in her face warms him. It’s been a heavy January.

He crutches out to the door and sees first that the frost has melted, second that the sun is just barely still up. Ronnie flips the sign and remembers the picture of Solstice in his almanac: every day, from here on out, it’ll be bright a little bit longer.