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Their hands interlocked so hard their fingers turned white, but the tension was insincere. In the hotel room, waiting to get ready so that they could go and observe the election announcement live, they shared thinly-veiled hints that they couldn't care less about the result of the election - that obviously it'd be ideal if their chosen side won, but that if not they'd try again next time: another ideology, another constituency, another colour.
He only managed to poke his fingers a little through the bilnds before the crowd's collective voice roared back at him, so he had to take them out again before he even got a look. Bloody liberals. The streets outside were littered with jobless vermin. Come to think of it, that was probably why they were resisting so much to all this testing on the rats; they saw kindred spirits in their bright eyes and twitching tails. Well, Edgar saw similarities too - but he wondered how many of them would really volunteer to take the rats' places if the tests were stopped. They were probably hypocrites. Yes; the entire crowd swelled with the stench of hypocrisy. "Martha," he said, coming away from the blinds to sit back at his desk. "Bring me an espresso, would you? All the damned racket is giving me a headache."
It isn't much, really, but he wears it proudly on his lapel anyway. Back when it was hers, he's sure she barely noticed it; past the time when she was seven years old, in the split second when she was awarded it for excellent needlework, of course. These days he notices things on her behalf, like the crocuses coming in and the half-smiles on unbought teddy bears' faces, and the badge fastens these thoughts to him like a pin on a corkboard. She will always be with him.
She doesn't like to consult anybody else on her management decisions. The best choices are ones that remain free of influence from people who aren't in a position to understand; she, of course, is the only person whose perspective is all-reaching enough to merit having an opinion. She comes across arrogant - even foolish in some cases. The CEO tells her she needs to be more forthcoming. She sits in his office in stilettos nearly as long as his forearm and takes a battering for the department's losses, whether they're heavy or slight; she has given up trusting other people's judgements, as they've only made it worse. These days she carries the entire burden herself. On her face are the faintest little signs of cracks beginning to form. It's only a matter of time, she thinks, before it all gives way to the flood.
We live our lives side-by-side - me on my side, and him in the mirror. Sometimes I trail my fingers along the surface of the glass, and the centimetre's gap that prevents our skin from touching. I wonder what it would feel like, if I could push past the barrier. I wonder if his skin would feel warm, or if he's serpent-cold like the look in our eyes.
It's a small patch of land in the middle of the woods - barely noticeable as a specific place, unless you know what you're looking for. Cain does. He kneels in the same patch of worn grass as he always does, hands pressed palm-flat against the dry earth, and for a few seconds' time he feels connected to the kindred, mortal soul he lost here centuries ago.
People thought it was weird how they sat there just looking at each other and the grass beneath their palms for hours and hours, but they'd gotten used to being called weird years ago. The sun felt good on their high cheekbones and their shoulders, even when it was just on the edge of burning, and when they kissed, the same breeze ruffled their hair in exactly the same way. So what more could they ask?
When she puts in her grandmother's earrings for the first time and looks up at herself in the mirror, it's so empowering that she has to look away again in case she cries and smudges her mascara. It's been a long time coming, trying to look this way - but at long last, she finally resembles herself. And she is beautiful.
He kisses all three of them cleanly on the lips before he settles down to sleep on Alfie's shoulder. Not for the first time, he reflects on how lucky he is; not for the first time, he thinks of how many boys he knows that complain about being lonely, and feels so deliciously greedy.
Later, history will peg her as joyless. 'We are not amused' is her most famous line - but in actual fact, the queen doesn't say or write this. Her real most common quote is 'We were very amused', and she writes this in her diary with great frequency. If he knew about this future mistake, he would gather all the ink and paper in the world and paint a better picture of her; he would preserve the loving, smiling Victoria that he knew and loved in words and blazens from the ceiling to the floor, and hide adoring love poems in every drawer of every palace. Instead, he only knows to enjoy her as he sees her - and so popular conceptions of history remain settled and uncorrected in the dust.
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