“Hey, it’s nice up here,” said Zinnia as Lilah and Annelise rejoined the others. “Boss lady is going to say we need to get back to work.”
“Boss lady has something to show you folks,” said Lilah. “Has our guest been adapting to the local customs?”
“Sure,” said Rob, “if by local customs you mean getting meals off a trolley and having a peaceful smoke on the rooftop in the fog.”
“I’m curious what you think we should do with you, Andre,” said Lilah. “I’m not sure we’re done with you as of now, but when we are—send you home? Or what?”
Andre smiled apologetically and said, “I don’t know where home even is.”
“Well, we can figure that out later. Come on, folks, I need your input on something.”
So they all adjourned and reconvened in the office. They spelled away the table and rearranged the chairs: Lilah, Annelise and Andre took wooden dining table chairs, Zinnia and Rob shared the ottoman and George snagged the comfy chair, leaving the other wooden chair for the absence of Marius. Annelise got another bottle of red wine and she and Andre poured glasses. The note was passed around.
“For those of you who are not fully caught up,” said Lilah, “I’ve been remembering a lot more of what was happening to me before I came here, and this note is helping remind me of things I had managed to leave forgotten. This little missive was penned by my ex-lover, whose name is Elio, Elio Estrazy. We did not part on amicable terms: in fact, he tried to kill me and I darn near killed him instead.”
“Lilah,” asked Annelise, “whose side was he on when he left you the first time?”
“Well, he always had scuzzy friends. But this was some Council he’d gotten connected with. They were going to champion the rights of wizards on various worlds, that was the big program, so they were against the Elves, they were against local authorities, and yeah, by the way, they were against anyone else championing the rights of wizards, because they were going to fight for freedom only in the sense of maximum freedom of motion for themselves. He didn’t have a name for it, he just called them ‘some contacts of mine’ or ‘my current associates.’ I knew some of those people. They were the sort I’d been fighting in Padva ever since I was just out of the Institute and hired by the Constabulary, and I was living with that soon-to-be graduate Elio Estrazy. Arri Shanto. Argo Horlan. When I bumped into him with them when we were still together, I thought, I know these guys, except I didn’t, they were like what those guys I used to put in wizard jail would have been like if they had ever managed to make anything of themselves.”
“You broke up with him,” said George, “when exactly, and when was your final conflict?”
“We started to be serious when I was 19 and he was 18. We moved in together when I was 20, and I had Leonard when I was 23. I was already a cop, I had been a Wizard Constable for two whole years when I became a mom. I have to tell you, this is all coming back, not in any arrangement or anything, I just see all these images, all these really memorable faces. He was always, always involved with people I didn’t like, and after the baby, he kept doing things that just made me want to be done with him. Weird people cooed at my baby, I had to watch this guy I wouldn’t trust to feed my cat toss Leonard in the air and catch him, women—well, there were women, and they were all of a type, and it wasn’t my type, even if they weren’t doing anything with him behind my back. And more and more stuff.”
“He committed adultery?” said Annelise.
“Well, of course he did, he couldn’t possibly not have committed adultery. Frankly, that by itself would have killed our relationship at some point, but it was the other stuff that got to me first.”
“And you had some type of final confrontation,” George persisted.
“Our arguments started to involve spells after a while. And I usually got the better of him. When I was 28, we finally really had it out, I said no way, you are out of here, and he threw a hold spell at me, and I wax fig’d him on the riposte, and one second after Elio turned into a nice wax statue, someone somewhere magicked him out of there. I remember seeing it just sort of snap out. Gone.” She shook her head. “I had a moment, I had a whole year or two, starting that moment, when I thought I had been done the biggest favor and he wouldn’t be back.”
“But that wasn’t when you blew his wand,” said Annelise.
“No, that was later,” said Lilah. “I must have been, I’m sure I was no longer working on Padva, I would have been, oh, 35? I know I was back on Padva for a wedding, of all things. I don’t even remember who, or what the weather was, but I remember him following me home and ambushing me in my new house, yeah, he was making the offer one last time, he’d gone in without me, with his new friends like Arri and Argo, and they had done really well, but he would still be willing to bring me into the group. He ambushed me to offer me a place on the Council.”
“And you said no,” said Rob.
“I said go to hell. He thought I wouldn’t be over him. I was so over him. I was over him the second his stupid wax statue disappeared. So, yeah, I literally said, ‘Go to hell, Elio, you asshole, I am done with you.’ He said, ‘Really?’ and I said, ‘Really.’ And then he threw a death at me, yeah, I’m sure it was a hard death, and I said kno eur, so he could have a taste of his own medicine. I put my wand into it, and still I barely resisted his hard death spell—get this, he says he loves me and yet he throws hard death.”
“But you resisted,” said Andre, suddenly animated. “And he didn’t, against his own hard death.”
“No, he barely resisted. My wand was cracked by his spell, and when I thrust it at him to reverse the spell on him, it basically burst into powder. But there was this bolt and it connected with that white wand of his, and that thing basically blew up, I got showered by flying sawdust. He jumped out and I haven’t seen him since.”
“And you’re sure,” said Zinnia, holding the note, “that this is him.”
“Oh yeah. This is him.”