"I can't sleep with her next to me," I'd protested.
And, predictably, Elsa had looked wounded and said, "Love me, love my cat."
So I loved her cat. I mean, how could I not?
And a few days later:
"I can't sleep with the TV on," I said. "I'm sorry. I've tried."
"Okay, Julie," said Elsa reasonably. "That's fair."
And she turned the TV off, even though that got her to sleep quickets.
And a few days later:
"I can't sleep," I said. "It's just a thing. Go back to bed."
And she looked at me, and then she went...
I'm in luuu-uv with a ro-bot
An' I just can't stop
Got a feelin' he's a bad lot
But he gets me over the top
It was loud. It was *bad*. It was everywhere. It was augmented by neon lights in rainbow colors and, somehow, the voices and laughter bouncing off all the hard surfaces in here.
So, this, apparently, was a bar.
"Relax," Maya muttered at her side. "You look like a nun in need of Ex-Lax."
"This isn't what I had in mind," Elizabeth hissed back. "What the hell in the phrase 'a quiet night somewhere' made you...
So, at some point she had apparently managed to get married.
She stared at the occasional table and thought about that. She'd found a wonderful man, she'd collaborated with him, she'd fucked him, she'd had a wonderful time, they'd made a wonderful home together, and a wonderful baby together, and, really, what did it matter that she'd never finished her degree? She had a husband she loved and a son she loved and a life she always envied, until she shook herself a bit and remembered that it was hers.
There were thousands of other ways to do important work...
She should have been writing. Instead, she watched the time slide away from her.
5'44". 5'32". 5'11".
What was this? she asked—not herself, but God, the heavens, the hall monitor, anybody but herself. Was this paralysis?
No. This was a choice. And even though she closed her eyes, she still couldn't get away from that.
Why not write? There was the prompt on the page. She could do this. She was good at this. She always had been, always, always. Write on command. Paper comes back; mark at the top.
She didn't work hard for years and take...
"Vanquished, you say?"
He murmured it, holding up the worn little book in the dusty light, crooning to it. He held it gently, but peculiarly—*that* wasn't the way her mother had told her how to hold old books. He held it like a creature, like it was a little, wounded thing in a forest.
She darted back behind the end of the shelf as the strange man stiffened, and held her breath as he slowly turned his head to look down the aisle. His eyes were wrong. His clothing was wrong, too, she knew it was older than it should...