“Yeah, I decided that it may be time for you to go home when you suddenly seemed way too fascinated with the owner’s description of the air duct system,” Cotton told me. “He was telling us how he had to install some new vents and you were like ‘Wow! Are you kidding me?'”
“I don’t even remember anything about the air duct system,” I laughed. “No, I’ve just had a really stressful couple of weeks. See, after [April] and I broke up, I joined Tinder.”

Ash is a predator.
They go after systems and traumatized, mentally ill persons without a solid sense of self. They seek the under-aged or monster-like alters or “past-lives” for their own sexual gratification. They will synthesize a sense of belonging using religion and magic, and then turn the tides against you once you either learn to say ‘no’ or you start questioning too much.

“It’s an apology– kind of. Like the ones actors make when they realise there’s no way they’re not getting cancelled. You can read it now, if you want.”
I shook my head. “I can’t let her have the last word, Cotton. Otherwise, she’d win.” I’d meant that as a joke, but that was answered with another question about how much progress I’d made on finding a therapist.

Champagne would always taste like freedom, like the Tuesdays I spent without April. I opened my eyes and saw Kaspar beside my bed at Ethniu’s, pouring me a glass in a flute. It motioned for me to raise my glass, then it clinked it with his own. “I’ve heard tell that you’ve been liberated from monogamy at last! This calls for a celebration!”

Xanthe and I had quarreled about this, recently. Indignant and possibly more than a little self-pitying, they had snapped, “Oh, so I was basically your stunt double that had nerve endings. Wasn’t that the time Prosper ran me through with a fucking sword?”
I stared at them. “Yes. While I was handling [April] and you were primarily out to get drunk, vent to Cotton, and cheat on [April] with [Avery.]”
Xanthe squinted at me thoughtfully. “You know, comparatively, being stabbed was probably preferable.”

I loved the inworld. I didn’t fully understand it, nor did I interact with anyone as much as watched over them. All of them, Xanthe included, felt at once what I was and what I never could be. Such glorious personalities– a smattering of gods and monsters and both, and I loved them them all.