“Yeah! He thought I was a girl! Didn’t you hear it?” It’s hard to describe the look in their eyes, this sort of unhinged desperation. Almost as if my hearing this myself would make me go, ‘Oh my gods, AJ, you’re right, you’re the most tragically estrogen-laden person on the planet, clearly the only solution is to starve yourself and take chainsaw to your hip line, I can’t believe I’ve been so blind.’

“Oh, I’m sorry, AJ.” I said, muttering through an entirely hypothetical conversation as I hauled my things off the porch of a residence I no longer lived in. “I can’t afford to give you gas money to your job interview. As it turns out, the fucking UNSEELIE FAE KING was too busy cementing their ass indent in Arkady’s couch to drop off MY PROPERTY THEY TOOK to the middle of downtown so I had to pay for a BLOODY Saturday night Uber.”

Rowan couldn’t even handle having their German Shepard live with them, now they want an entire infant human? I was surprised by the immediate black rage I felt building from Story. “Oh, so you’re kicking one kid out and the replacement’s already been lined up. Let’s just reenact Dear Zachary in real time, shall we?”

That’s right. A fucking dating sim, literally Dream Daddy, had opened up Buchanan telling my new partner that I was an abuser, in a public comment section, on behalf of fucking Kirra. Yknow, the one who cracked my goddamned rib cage.
I should have thrown you into the Savannah River when I had the chance, I bitterly thought at Buchanan, for not the first time.

I both liked and disliked the way she talked. Her cadence was that of a gameshow host, with enviable precision of verbiage but an over-acted quality to it. She gave the vague impression that she was imitating a scene in a film. “After I was kicked out– me, who was the centre of every problem– how long did it take for the situation to collapse?”
I smiled. Or it might have been a grimace. “About a month and one week.”

“You know,” they said, addressing me, perhaps aware and not caring that Kirra had reappeared behind them. That’s what I’m saying, this fucker was immune to her. “I really do hope [UNIVERSITY REDACTED] likes her portfolio. Because history has taught us when someone like her that doesn’t get into art school, it never really ends well.”

The three of us, Rowan, Jane, and I were crossing paths in the dining room when Jane, out of seemingly nowhere, addressed Rowan with, “Hey, Rowan! [Arkady] and I were talking and discussing my dreams and we’re both pretty sure that I was part of the Seelie court, and that I was banished–”
I couldn’t hear the rest of Jane’s sentence, for the expression on Rowan’s face had its own goddamned volume.

He went on. “It’s manipulative. It’s all just manipulation. It’s like when Rowan told me that you basically planned to fuck off to Europe if I didn’t get back together with you. And what, just find a nice, historic city as an aesthetic backdrop to drink yourself to death in?”
“[Arkady,]” I said in a rough voice. “What the fuck did you think I was in the process of doing when I met you?”

“You don’t get to decide that! You don’t get to decide fuck-all, you controlling prick! In fact, I wouldn’t put it past you to even take over my own body without my permission!”

I laughed harshly. “I’m going to pretend you didn’t just say that.” Gods, it got so tempting to tell them. That I’ve been the thin barrier between them and ruin for nearly a decade. But then they coughed up an alarming glob of blood, and well, that was quite the effective conversation killer.