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The Wishing Map
Chapter Twenty: Tea for One
Previously: Gina managed (by posing as the mysterious Rhema) to halt the civil war launched by her brother Zack.
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Gina was standing on a four and a half foot high boulder in the shadow of a ring of saplings, her oversized black cloak hanging almost half her height again below her feet; this was what gave the impression she was ten feet tall. Under the heavy hood she’d draped her face with Aunt Aloysia’s scarf, hence the heathen goddess multiplicity of mouths and eyes. She pushed her hood back and pulled the crystal scarf from her face, then sat down on the lichen-covered boulder and slid to the ground. “Zack, we have to go!”
He didn’t move. He didn’t even seem to hear her. She scanned the woods around the clearing and then hurried out to the middle of the field. Zack was staring at the blood-stained bluebells where Tuber’s head had lain. “We have to go! If anyone sees us, they’ll—”
“It’s all my fault.”
“We can talk about that later, spoo. Right now we have to go!” She reached under his armpits and tugged. To her surprise, he rose without resistance, but then he just stood there, like a sleepwalker in front of a closed door. He didn’t seem to care whether he went or stayed, lived or died. Gina had never seen him like this before. She turned him toward the place where she’d stashed her haversack, and pushed. He moved like the living dead.
They’d been traveling for about twenty minutes—twenty minutes of deathly silence—when Gina said, “So after you left, we figured out you must have gone with the naims. But how come? I mean, did they kidnap you?”
“It didn’t look like it. Heck, it looked like you were their new king!”
“Maerith brought me. Oh, Zack, she’s so kind, and she’s lived such a sad life. Her whole family turned against her when she married Shelcor. They even tried to kill her! And her little brother died protecting her. I kept thinking, what if it had been you who’d… Anyway, poor thing, that beautiful skin of hers was all dry and flakey, and so when we got to the naim place—”
“Right.” Gina turned and looked at her brother. He walked as if it were penance, as if his plan was to walk until he collapsed. Or died. “So I insisted Maerith go back. The road to Kellansend is easy to follow…” —she looked up at the darkling sky— “…only it’s not going to be day much longer.”
They walked in silence until Gina could bear no more. She ran ahead about twenty feet and turned to face her brother as he plodded toward her. “Thank you, big sister, for saving my frickin’ life? Hello? Talk!”
Zack stopped. He stared at her torso, as if it took too much energy to raise his head. “I turned into Fierce Fischer.”
“I told them that for somebody to win, somebody has to lose.”
“So? That makes sense.”
“Not to them, Gina! I destroyed everything. Everything! People got hurt…really bad. Tuber is dead because of me. I murdered him.”
“What? No you didn’t! You…”
Zack began to sob.
“Oh, God, Zacky…”
There was nothing Gina could say to help him, so she pulled him into her arms and simply held him. They stood in the middle of the path as the narrow strip of light in the canopy far above began to glow…
…a deep coral orange.
Thoughts: Is there anyone harder to forgive than yourself?
To read The Wishing Map 96, click here!