by Penny Stirling
For a flock of saffron rocs harvested: paid, fed, proffered just one bed. She beneath and I atop the sheets; correction more tiring than recent feats. Immunity to desire-poisons brings a brisk cull of spring sirens. Drink success with friends whispering who force "privacy" on us, winking. She overwhelms with axe in hand; I wield were-bells and spell-sand. Partners in life and adventure — not lovers, nor colleagues, "just friends" or sisters. The witch who yearly orders troll eyes first thought us makeshift allies in tandem until finding man or god. Nine seasons on, still calls us odd. Guide a mageling through his winter trial. Smiling, he insists we are "in denial". Then a grin: if not "taken", aren't we "free"? Flirting spurned, he rebukes our humanity. After reaping elves I stew their bones, brewing salves for her skin-turned-stone. While she heals I rarely leave her side, ignoring chat that she's kin or bride. In the home we will only build once our questing hunger is filled we'll shed lies, armour and conjecture and just be us, growing old together.
Penny Stirling lives in Western Australia. Despite listening to lawyers most days she hasn't lost her fascination with language and stories. Her favourite fruit is a plate of seedless grapes on a Christmas Day too hot for cooking. She's never tried zucchini before and now she'd find it too weird.
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