The summer heat hung heavy in the air, laden with the scent of honeysuckle and water. In midday even the gulls (normally screaming about the wharf, fighting over every scrap of food) were dull and silent. The insects buzzed out of nothing more than pure, obstinate will to do so—but the noise was half-hearted at and easy to ignore.
Standing in the shadows beneath the veranda roof, a cold glass of tea pressed against her temple, Lady Une found that it was surprisingly easy to let her mind drift like flotsam upon the waves. A year ago she never would have been standing here.
A freezing bead of condensation slowly ran its course down her temple, across her cheekbone and into the corner of her mouth. She tasted it and sighed.
“No,” Une replied after a moment. She turned to view the woman sitting at the table behind her. As she watched, Sally uncapped the SPF 40 that her fair skin required. With a small drop squeezed into her palm, Sally began to spread it onto her bare arms. “I just feel as if I ought to be at the office is all.”
“Well you’re not going back,” Sally replied and worked the cream over her shoulders and bikini-clad breasts, “Doctor’s orders.”
“So you’ve said,” Une replied with a wry smile. “Repeatedly.”
Turning about to lean against the porch railing, Une took a sip of her tea and then continued, “I could get a second opinion, you know.”
“You could,” Sally agreed with a nod, “But why would you? You already have a beautiful, dedicated, incredibly smart—“
“—unabashedly biased physician right here.”
The grin Sally flattered her with forced a smile from Une’s lips. She chuckled faintly and shook her head, “I think you’ve been spending too much time with Duo. Your ego is almost as big as his is.”
“Amazing how his reverse psychology works, isn’t it?” Sally hummed, “He tells me how much of a brutish butcher I am and my ego inflates through the roof—magic touch!”
Une reached forward to set her drink on the table and fell into the empty chair beside her. Sighing loudly, she reached up to pull her sunglasses back over her eyes and let the world fall into a rosy dusk. Sally lifted one long leg, foot resting against the side of the table, and began to cover her thigh in sunscreen.
“He wanted you to come here, Une, “ Sally said eventually.
“I was wondering when the elephant was going to be addressed,” Une replied.
From the corner of her eyes she saw sally stop and those blue eyes focused once more upon her. “I know you miss him.”
“In a way,” She whispered, “It’s as if he never left. I know that isn’t the truth, and yet…”
Opening her eyes, Une found herself face to face with the other woman. Though surprised that she hadn’t heard Sally move, she tried not to show it. Sally’s arms leaned against Une’s legs as the woman knelt before her, concern written upon her handsome face.
“Yet every time I believe I’ve dealt with it, the world seeks a way to remind me.”
“Maybe,” Sally countered with worried hesitation, “You’re not meant to forget, just to accept. We all lost someone in the war. It’s never easy.”
“No,” Une agreed with a sad smile. “It isn’t. Trieze’s death meant something, not merely to himself but to many others as well. He died as he lived: with honor, grace and dignity.”
Sally nodded and smiled a sad smile, “But it’s hard to accept, even so. Lovers are never forgotten.”
“Let me get your back,” Une replied and sat up straight. The blonde woman paused only a moment before she twisted about and exposed her back to the other woman. She dropped into a cross-legged position before Une’s lounge chair and pulled her hair over her shoulder as Une found the sun block.
“Why do you think we were lovers?” Une asked as she squeezed a dollop into her palm.
If Sally were surprised by this question she hid it very well. “The way you spoke about him, the lengths you went to for him… you acted as if you were… close. He left you this house, his money…”
Une nodded, but only to herself. She let her hands smooth over Sally’s back, barely conscience of the world around her. Lost in the hypnotic motion of hand upon skin, she barely heard her own reply. “We were lovers, I suppose.
“I was his mental mistress, if never his physical one, and he… he was my mentor. He let me see the world as he did, and for that I held him dear.”
Hands pausing upon Sally’s shoulders, Une turned as she heard a distant voice call to her. In the hazy summer light a young Trieze stood upon the wharf, gazing at the water. He turned as she looked and smiled at her.
“It was a beautiful dream.”