Squire’s Isle Created by Geonn Cannon

Finer Crafts

 

(a non-Squire’s Isle story)

Summary:

Two witches have found a unique place to call home, but the time has come for them to conjure a new life stronger than any magic can produce.

Esme didn’t know where they were leading her when she followed the strangers; that was how she always got to where she was going. “The world is a big place,” she once told someone curious about her methods. “Every place in it has thousands of smaller places. How can you possibly know in advance which one you’re supposed to end up in?” She was caught in the rain without an umbrella and heard the sound of young people laughing. The echoes bounced off the apartment buildings all around her, but she walked the winding streets until she found the source: a group of college kids, three boys and two girls, all of their voices raised by alcohol and good times.

She followed them away from the bar they had just left. The apartments stacked above them were dark, but the street was lit with security lights, headlights, and paper lanterns, making it seem as if they were moving through a world underwater. One of the girls began singing. One boy leaned over and stole a kiss from another one. The non-singing girl ran ahead of the group to the intersection and pointed. The group followed their scout’s suggestion, and Esme followed as well.

The pavement angled down between two buildings and made a hard left turn into a parking garage. A fleet of vehicles hunkered down quietly in the shadows, beasts of burden returned to the stable for the night. The group spread out in the new underground space, and one of the kissing boys fumbled in his pocket until he found a set of keys. One of the cars chirped when he pressed a button, and the group made their way toward it.

Esme continued forward to the opposite side of the building and exited onto a street she couldn’t remember ever seeing before. It was still raining, but she hardly noticed it as she turned right. There was a gated park with foliage pressing hard against the iron bars, a prison for nature that was aching to get out. She moved closer and held one hand up, brushing her fingers over the leaves. They baptized her with small waved of water they’d been holding in cupped leaves.

Another corner and she found herself facing an empty lot. A building had burned there once, the only evidence it had ever existed being the jagged knee-high brick wall next to the sidewalk. In the gutted and empty lot, a woman was standing. Black slacks and a white dress shirt under a red vest, she was performing sleight of hand magic for an audience of no one.

She held her right hand flat, passed the left over it, and produced a flare of light. She grabbed for the smoke as it dissipated and opened her hand to reveal a small flower. She snapped her fingers and the flower became a rope, twisting as it extended down to the cement. She flicked her wrist and the rope became a snake. It coiled around her arm and snapped at her head. She pinched its jaws shut and pulled. The snake became a multicolored ribbon, which she balled into her fist. She flashed her hand open to reveal it was empty save for a puff of smoke.

During the day and in a better location, she would have attracted a crowd to put money in her hat. When she finished her routine she focused on the spot where Esme was standing. A curl of blonde hair had fallen across her eye and she brushed it away with the back of her hand as she approached the spot where Esme had ended up standing.

“There you are,” she said, the first words Esme had ever heard Vera Mazur say. “What took you so long?”

Esme smiled. “You’re rather difficult to find, it seems.”

“Mm, yes.” Her hair fell again. Vera gave an exasperated sigh.

“Allow me.” Esme took out a hairpin and stepped closer. She reached up with both hands and pinned the stubborn wing of black hair into place above Vera’s ear. “There, that should keep him in line.”

Vera smiled. “Thank you.”

Esme nodded. “Would you like coffee? Or to get out of the rain?”

“Is it raining?” Vera asked, turning toward the sky as if the moisture simply hadn’t reached her yet.

“You’re soaked to the bone,” Esme pointed out.

“So it would seem. Coffee sounds sublime. I’m bound to be cold once my brain realizes how long I’ve been standing out in the rain. Shall we?”

Esme hooked her arm around Vera’s and led her away from the burnt building. It occurred to Esme to ask her new friend’s name, but it seemed trivial. Names could wait until another time.

 

#

 

Frost gathered on the bedroom window. Esme opened one eye, the other held closed by the pillowcase, and stared at the glass until her brain processed its meaning. Frost meant cold. She shrugged her shoulder and pulled the blanket higher on her shoulder. She could hear Vera in the next room of their tiny apartment, the clank and clatter of kitchenware informing Esme that soon warmth would be spreading due to her lover’s caffeine addiction. Esme remained where she was. She tucked her legs up against her chest and turned her face to the pillow.

She must have fallen back to sleep at some point or else she would have heard Vera return to the bedroom. The shift of the mattress told her that Vera was sitting beside her, their hips touching with the blanket between them. A warm hand rested on the bare skin between her shoulders and shook her as gently as possible.

“Time to join the world again, my sweet,” Vera whispered. “I’ve borne as much of it as I can without you by my side. Wake up, up, up.”

“It’s cold, Vera.”

“Yes. But our hearts are warm.” Vera stood and went to the closet. Esme forced herself upright and put her feet on the floor. She was wearing a Star Wars T-shirt and nothing else, a pajama decision that no doubt contributed to her current frozen status. The reflection of herself in the frosted window was hazy, but she could see that her hair was a cyclone of blonde wool sitting atop her head. She reached up and tried to smooth it down.

Ordinarily she would have called their apartment cozy, but it was too cold for that term to apply. But it was comfortably tiny; three rooms, with the living room and kitchen smashed together alongside the bedroom and bathroom. She and Vera sometimes got into each other’s way, but Esme didn’t mind having her toes stepped on or her space invaded when Vera was the one doing it.

Vera was wearing an old-fashioned nightgown, all lace and thin satin. As Esme watched, she pulled it over her head and traded it for jeans and a sweater. Vera was statuesque, every curve and line of her body looking designed and carved out in perfect dimensions. Her ass was small, her breasts were the perfect size for Esme’s hands, and the curved lines that connected those points were magnificent. Her hair was still damp from the shower and rested on her shoulders like spilled trails of dark black ink.

“Sometimes I think I accidentally conjured you,” Esme said one morning early in their relationship. “That I cast a spell without realizing it and if I stop concentrating, you’ll vanish.”

Vera had guided Esme’s hand to her breast so she could feel the heart beating. “I do feel as if I never truly lived until I met you, Esme Swanston. But I assure you, I’m real. Let me prove it to you…”

Esme smiled at the memory and finally got out of bed. She showered, their building’s pathetic hot water heater doing little to thaw her out. She dried off quickly and layered herself in two T-shirts under a cable knit sweater. She went into the kitchen and Vera poured her a cup of coffee. The kitchen was exposed brick on one side, drywall on the other, and the wall behind Vera was a large window that looked out over a tight and enclosed courtyard. Again, Esme felt comfortingly enclosed when someone else might suffer claustrophobia. It was her home, and she wouldn’t trade it for a sprawling mansion even if she had the option.

“Oatmeal?” Vera asked.

“I’m running late. I’ll stop for something on my way to work. I need to leave soon. I’m going to take the car since it’s so cold. Do you need me to drop you off somewhere?”

“No, I can find a way. Graham has a truck he can let me borrow.”

Esme felt a tingle at the subtle mention of the Big Change going on in their lives. It had been going so slowly for so long it felt strange to think they were on the threshold. “And you’ll be fine with picking everything up yourself?”

Vera nodded. “You have enough to do today, and tonight you’ll be exhausted. Let me take care of it. But I’ll be out until late. If you make dinner–”

“I’ll leave you leftovers.”

Vera handed Esme a travel cup of coffee and kissed her. “My sweet.”

Esme put on her battered leather jacket (first birthday present from Vera), wrapped her favorite blue scarf (a third anniversary present from Vera) around her neck, and headed out.

They’d been partners since that fateful evening when Esme’s wandering took her to Vera’s private performance. They found an all-night diner where they could dry out and ended up talking until the rain stopped. Esme escorted Vera home and, without a conversation, went upstairs with her. The first night together they only slept. Esme undressed and folded herself into the embrace of this woman, this stranger, and fell into a deep and dreamless sleep. In the morning, Vera asked to give her a bath. Esme agreed. As Vera washed her hair, Esme knew this was no typical romance, no ordinary love affair.

“That thing you were doing,” Esme said.

“Mm-hmm?”

Esme scooped up two handfuls of water. It shimmered over her palms for a moment before it became opaque, then hardened. She closed her hands and squeezed. She rolled her palms together and then held up a large pearl. She twisted it between her thumb and forefinger and, when she pinched it, the small gem dissolved back into bathwater and trickled down her arm to drip off her elbow.

“I knew.” Vera brushed the hair away from Esme’s neck. “I could feel it coming off you the same way you could feel it from me. But thank you for showing me.”

Esme had never been comfortable with the term “witch.” It had a certain derogatory, Halloween feel that turned her off. But Vera liked the title and, through her acceptance, Esme learned to accept it as well. Last Halloween she had even painted her face green and worn the pointy hat to hand out candy to the children of the building. It had been a wonderful experience, and one she was keen to revisit the next time the holiday rolled around.

She loved the little town they called home. It was something straight out of a fairy tale; small, family-owned restaurants and shops along Main Street, everything clustered around a town square with a stately clock tower, and people so friendly they would wave to Esme when they recognized her car. Adjusting to such an open environment was a shock to her system. The city had been accepting of her sexuality, but she’d kept her nature as a witch secret. When she and Vera decided to move in together, it was Vera who suggested moving to another town entirely.

Their new home was Bright, Massachusetts, a town she had almost vetoed just because of how quaint the name was. But Vera insisted she’d been there and knew it would be a perfect fit. They drove down for the weekend and Esme fell in love even before the sun went down and Vera revealed the last bit of trivia about their new potential home.

“They’ll accept us because they are us,” she said. They sat on a park bench that faced the main road and Vera began pointing people out.

The raven-haired beauty who worked at the diner was a werewolf; when the moon was full, she turned into a very tame but very large wolf.

The sheriff was a knight errant who kept a sword on the wall next to his service revolver, just in case any nearby windmills turned out to be giants.

Over there, the man buying a newspaper was an imp who could spin straw into gold. The good doctor holding the diner door open for a little old lady was truly a beast, but he was married to the beautiful and brilliant town librarian. Vera pointed out a woman with hair so long it was pinned up in three buns with enough left over to run down her back in a long braid. Two young women – one with hair as white as snow and the other a redhead – walked arm in arm with snocones despite the chill in the air.

“So you see?” Vera asked. “A couple of magical witches would be positively mundane in a town like this.”

Esme agreed, and every day she only regretted not making the move sooner.

She parked behind the post office and went inside, shivering as the door swung shut behind her. She turned on the lights and the heat, but the building was a complete icebox from being empty all night. Esme closed her eyes and held her hands out flat to the floor. She summoned the warmth, drawing it to her and letting it spread through the room. Just a little bit, just a few degrees until the heater could do its job. When she was younger she learned that it was unwise to use magic for something as mundane as comfort. Keeping an entire room’s temperature balanced drained her energy to dangerous levels.

Her aunt had found her slumped in her desk chair after she tried to use magic to do all her homework, manipulating three pencils and a calculator at once. Her aunt had put her in bed and brushed the sweat-limp hair away from her forehead. “Magic isn’t… well, magic,” her aunt said kindly. “You can’t just wiggle your nose and boop, everything is fixed. It takes effort and energy. Use too much of it and you’ll wind up empty.”

Magic was a muscle. It could be made stronger through exercise, but one should never ask more than it had to give. Esme took the lesson to heart.

She took off her scarf and jacket and went into the back room where the mailbags were waiting. She was the postmistress for Bright. She’d never expected to get the job and hadn’t gone looking for it, but there was a need after the long-serving postmaster retired. She volunteered to help out until a permanent replacement could be found and discovered how much she loved it. Sorting the mail was zen, it calmed her. So she politely requested the city stop looking for someone to take over and settled in to her sudden career.

Esme held out one hand, curled her fingers, and went to the sorting table as one of the mail bags floated into the air and drifted toward her. The top of the bag opened when it reached the table and she cut her left hand sideways through the air. The letters emerged from the bag in a controlled spill. She moved her right hand in a wide circle over the table. The letters came to rest in tidy stacks that lined themselves up like good soldiers.

The heat had already raised the temperature in the room enough that she felt comfortable pushing her sleeves up to the elbows as she got to work. It may have been a small town, and snail mail might be on the decline in the rest of the world, but in Bright, Mass, the postmistress always had her hands full.

 

#

 

The day was a day, full of work and interactions with her friends and acquaintances. Esme had lunch at the diner, where she was joined by a school teacher who was also a fairy. She delivered the mail to businesses on Main Street on foot, but for the neighborhoods she climbed into her little specially-made truck to make the rounds. It was painted bright yellow so it would stand out to other people on the road, a fact that made it hard for Esme not to pretend she was Pac-Man. Each mailbox on her route was a small white pellet, and she had to hit each one before the ghosts got her.

Not that there were ghosts in Bright.

Well, not unfriendly ones.

When she got home, she took a bath and put her Star Wars T-shirt back on. She opened the door off the kitchen and looked into their storage room. It was long and narrow, not cramped now that everything had been taken out of it. There was a window in line with the one from the kitchen, and Esme went over to see what the view was like. She’d looked dozens of times before but at different times during the day. She’d seen morning cardinals and afternoon sunbeams. Now it was after dark, and the pale yellow glow of a security light gave their neighboring building a beautiful halo. She smiled, remembered they would have to buy curtains, and went back into the living room.

She was still cold, but it wasn’t as bad as it had been that morning. She found some food in the fridge and ate it in front of the TV. She watched part of a Shark Tank and a game show she found on one of the higher channels before her eyelids began to droop. She had planned to stay awake all night, to be so full of anticipation that sleep was impossible. But her body had other ideas. She turned off the TV and texted Vera to say goodnight before taking herself into the bedroom.

She crawled under the blankets and stretched her hand out over the empty space next to her. She smiled against her pillow and let herself drift off.

 

#

 

They had been together for eight weeks, still living in the city and still hiding both their relationship and their true nature. A closet within a closet. They hadn’t even had sex at that point, and Esme was beginning to worry they were on a fast track to platonic friendship rather than the romantic love she’d been anticipating. But whatever they ended up being, she would be satisfied having Vera in her life. And if they did take the leap, she knew it would be worth the wait.

One of their dates ended on the outskirts where concrete gave way to grassy fields and empty lots. Vera walked away from the car into one of the fields and Esme followed her. When they reached a clearing, Vera turned. Her hands were in her pockets, the collar of her coat turned up. She looked like a wraith out there in the darkness, a disembodied pale face floating among the trees.

“Would you make love to someone you hadn’t kissed?”

Esme’s brow wrinkled. “Of course not.”

“You’ve been very patient, Esme. I’ve been as eager as you to take our relationship to its next level. But I didn’t want to rush anything.” She wet her lips. “I had to know I could trust you in everything. I had to know you as a person before I allowed myself to be vulnerable before you.”

“I understand. We can wait.”

“I’m done waiting.” She took her hands out of her pockets and held them out. They were slowly engulfed by a pale blue light. Ethereal and ephemeral tongues of flame curled around her fingers before dissipating. Esme took off her gloves and filled her palm with energy. Hers was white-orange, and she cupped it with both hands as she moved closer to Vera. The light from their captured energies danced off the trees until it looked as if the forest was on fire. Esme tried to catch her breath as she brought her hand closer to Vera’s.

“Are you sure?” Esme asked.

“Yes. I’ve felt it enough to know whatever happens next will be spectacular. Like I knew the first time I kissed you, it would curl my toes.”

Esme smiled and blushed. She linked her fingers with Vera’s and the energies flared. The flames spread out along their forearms before retracting back to globe around their hands. It swirled and throbbed with different colors. The energy built until both of them were being pushed back. Esme felt like she was standing in front of a water spout, a geyser like Old Faithful, the energy of it so massive that she could only fall back in awe. Through the shifting colors she could see Vera’s eyes were wide, her lips parted, and knew that even she was caught off-guard by how powerful their combined energies were.

The light wrapped around them both, the forces that had been pushing them apart now throwing them together as if they’d been magnetized. Esme’s skin tingled as she pressed her mouth against Vera’s, both of them moaning into the whirlwind as they clung to one another. The power dispersed without their concentration. It fell to the ground like a wave crashing to shore and Esme collapsed against Vera. Vera caught her and guided her down, lying with her in the dew-wet grass.

“Take me home,” Esme whispered, finger plucking at Vera’s clothes. “Please, now.”

“No,” Vera said. “I think we’ve waited long enough.”

Esme nodded and pushed the coat off Vera’s shoulders. Their clothes created a pallet, protecting their skin from the rocks and twigs underneath. Esme kicked away her shoes and pulled Vera down onto her. High above them she could see lights in the trees. She struggled to keep her eyes open to watch it. The power they had created blended with the moonlight to create a gossamer sheet that danced and tangled itself in the branches as it descended. Esme moved her feet apart and welcomed the press of Vera’s thigh against her sex. She breathed deep and smelled sweat, sex, dirt, crushed leaves, perfume, wood.

She pressed her face to the curve of Vera’s neck and breathed deeply. Energy was pulsing out of her hands so she stretched her arms out and pressed them against the ground so she wouldn’t accidentally release it into Vera’s body. The power thrummed and throbbed into the dirt. She was vaguely aware of dried leaves and pebbles rising up in the air all around them, but they were a secondary concern to her true focus.

Vera kissed down her body, her tongue sliding over the curves and pausing when she found a point of interest: breast and nipple, her stomach, her navel. Esme looked down and watched as Vera sank down. Her face was framed by Esme’s thighs and their eyes locked as Vera swept her tongue along her bottom lip, wetting it as she bowed her head. Two women had done this to her in the past, and one well-meaning man, but it had never felt anything like this. Vera’s tongue, the source of her powerful voice and director of her magic, brushed against Esme’s sensitive skin and seemed to light it on fire. Esme cried out, just one more animal voice in the forest, and put her hands on the back of Vera’s head.

Put your hand in my hair, Vera said without using her lips or tongue. Somehow Esme heard and understood. She wrapped the dark hair around her hand and held tight. She arched her back when Vera found her clitoris and she felt gravity’s hold on her relaxing. She couldn’t stop herself from floating off the ground, her entire upper body levitating above the pad of blouses and skirts and jackets. Vera wrapped her arms around Esme’s waist, overlapped her fingers on Esme’s stomach, and gently guided her back down so she wouldn’t float too far.

Her climax hit her far too quickly, but she didn’t fight it. She gave herself over to it and felt the sparks going off behind her eyes. She drifted back to the ground with the help of Vera’s steady hand on her stomach. Vera lifted up and kissed her stomach, then rested her cheek against the warm skin. Esme felt the weight of it with every inhale and exhale, and she cradled Vera’s head with both hands.

“I need a few minutes before I can return the favor.”

“Actually,” Vera said, “I was wondering if it could wait.”

Esme lifted her head. “But I want to…”

“I know, my sweet. I only meant doing things slowly.” Vera raked her fingernails up the inside of Esme’s thigh. “We’ll dress. We’ll go back to my apartment. We’ll undress. You can bathe. We’ll get into bed. And through it all, you will occasionally kiss or touch or caress me. You’ll keep me at the edge, trembling, eager for it. With any luck, I won’t come until sunrise.”

Esme’s grin spread wide. “I’ll give it my best shot.”

 

#

 

Esme woke to the sound of Vera sneaking into their bedroom. She remained still, her hand under the pillow as she watched Vera undress and pull on a pair of silk pajamas. Vera walked around to her side of the bed and pulled back the blankets before she whispered, “I know you’re awake.”

Esme smiled and rolled over to face her. “You can always tell.”

“A waking Esme is a shining light in the universe that cannot be dimmed.” Vera slid her hands around Esme’s waist. “Also, when don’t snore when you pretend to sleep.”

“I don’t snore at all.”

“Oh, dear heart.”

Esme put her face against Vera’s chest, warming the cool cloth with her body heat. She could feel herself already starting to drift back to sleep. “Is everything set?”

“Mm-hmm. We can finish in the morning, but everything is here.” She kissed Esme’s blonde hair. “Are you excited?”

“I’m excited,” Esme murmured. “Even though I’m falling asleep.”

Vera laughed and stroked her back.

“You made it until noon…”

“Hm?”

“The first time we made love,” Esme said. “You wanted to last until dawn. But I didn’t let you come until noon.”

Vera sighed at the memory. “Oh. Yes, I remember.”

Esme grinned and let sleep take her, hoping she would find herself back in that lovely dream.

 

#

 

They had both taken the next day off. They woke early anyway and spent the morning in the small room, killing time and trying not to think of what the afternoon would bring. At one point Vera noticed Esme’s hands were trembling as she tried to use magic to float a curtain rod into place. She reached out and covered Esme’s hand with hers. Esme smiled nervously and Vera nodded her reassurance. Esme put her arms around Vera and held her until she could control herself. They had lunch in the middle of the small room as they examined the day’s progress. What had once been a small area, a half-forgotten negative space where they put things they didn’t need but couldn’t bear to throw out had been transformed into something special… unique.

Vera reached out and took Esme’s hand. Esme brushed her thumb over Vera’s fingers and smiled at her. “Are you scared?”

“With anyone else, petrified,” Vera said.

Esme smiled and kissed her. “We should go. We don’t want to be late.”

Vera nodded. They took one last look into the room before they left.

They sang along to the radio in the car. Esme sang Kenny Rogers’ parts of “Islands in the Stream” while Vera took over for Dolly. Esme screwed up the lyrics because she was more interested in watching Vera: arms straight, fingers drumming the steering wheel, rocking her shoulders and moving her head as she sang along to the old country song.

The drive to the airport took them through four different radio stations and a full concert worth of poorly-sung karaoke. They finally arrived with ample time to spare and held hands as they made their way through the sprawling terminal. There hadn’t been any recent arrivals, and only a handful of people were waiting near the gates for a departure. Esme checked her phone for the information and led Vera to the right gate. The plane wasn’t even visible in the sky, so they took a seat and waited.

Eventually the plane arrived. Vera shot to her feet and Esme slowly stood up next to her. She put her hand on Vera’s shoulder and pressed against her, lips close to Vera’s ear.

“Breathe, love. Calm. Relax.” She stroked Vera’s arm from shoulder to elbow, then reached down and squeezed her hand.

“I can do this as long as you’re here.”

“Then just try getting rid of me.”

Vera said, “I do magic, not miracles.”

Esme pinched Vera’s right buttock, making her squeak as they moved to the gate. Eventually the doors were opened. Vera reached out and Esme’s hand found hers. Two men exited. A woman talking on her cell phone. Teenagers. A pair of twenty-somethings weaving through the slow older crowd to be the first ones to claim their luggage. And there, moving at a casual pace down the jetway, was an older woman in a blue blazer. She was holding the hand of a little black-haired boy with small, dark eyes and a nervous smile. Esme heard Vera’s breath catch in a quick, strangled hiccup.

The woman approached them. “Esme Swanston and Vera Mazur?”

Esme answered because she could tell Vera couldn’t. “That’s correct. That’s, that’s us.” She crouched down and smiled at the little boy. “Hi, Matthew. I’m Esme. We met a few months ago. Do you remember that? Do you remember that weekend when I came up to say hi?”

“Yeah.” He looked at her and slowly rotated his head to look up at Vera, like a curious bird. “Who is she?” he asked.

Esme said, “That’s Vera. She’s your mother. And so am I.”

His brow wrinkled and then smoothed out so quickly that Esme almost didn’t see it. “I don’t have a mother.”

Vera slowly knelt down, her knees on the tile and her hands on her thighs. “You didn’t before. But now you have two. If you’ll have us.”

Matthew looked up at the woman with him. She nodded slightly and he slid his hand out of hers and stepped forward. He went to Vera first and put his arms around her neck. She closed her eyes and put her hands on his back.

“We have a room all ready for you,” she whispered. “Esme and I spent all morning making sure it was just perfect. I can’t wait to show it to you.”

Esme moved closer and put a hand on their son’s back. Vera looked at her, refusing to break the hug, and they shared a smile that Matthew couldn’t see but she hoped he could sense.

“When can I see it?” Matthew asked.

“We can leave right now.” Esme looked at the social worker, who nodded confirmation. “Yeah. It might take a while, because it’s kind of a long drive. But we can spend the time getting to know each other. I’ll try to convince your Mom not to sing.”

Vera stood up. “He’s going to have to get used to it sooner or later. Besides, he might like my singing.” She looked down at him and winked. “But there’s no need to decide anything today.”

He smiled up at her and reached for her hand. She took it, while Esme offered her hand. He took it as well, and Esme squeezed reassuringly as she led him through the terminal. The social worker followed them so they could take care of the finer details before she headed back on a return flight to New York. Matthew moved slowly, cautiously at first, but by the time they arrived at baggage claim, Esme and Vera both had to hurry to keep from being dragged.

Esme smiled down at the top of the boy’s head. She’d never seen herself as a mother, but that morning she’d had a vision while sitting in what had become his bedroom. She’d seen herself and Vera with their child, a family in their home. Vera and Matthew reading while Esme fixed them all something to eat. It was an ordinary magic, a spell performed by millions of people every day, but something neither she nor Vera could do on their own.

As Matthew scanned the carousel for his bag, Vera went back to Esme. “Thank you.”

“I thought you were only doing this because I asked.”

“Maybe so,” Vera said. “Who can remember?”

Esme grinned and took Esme’s hand. They watched their son, the beautiful little boy who would now call them Mom or Mommy or… well, they could work out those details another time. The boy who was going to rely on them for guidance and support and love for the rest of his life. She put her head down on Vera’s shoulder, overwhelmed and eager for the task that lay ahead of them. Separately she and Vera could move the heavens and earth. They could rewrite the laws of science and man to fit their whims. But raising a child in this world was going to take all their strength combined.

Matthew retrieved a small bag from the belt and wheeled it back to where they were standing. There was a look of awed relief on his face, as if he’d expected them to have vanished.

“I got it,” he said.

“Do you want me to pull it so you can keep holding our hands?” Vera asked.

He nodded shyly and stepped between them again. They each took a hand, Vera took the handle of his bag, and the three of them walked from the airport to begin their new lives together.

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