Part Five

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Two days later she came over for dinner.

They sat across from his mother at the oval dining table, and ate in silence.

He aimed for a bean and missed. His utensil scraped his plate. "Sorry," he said, cringing.

"What do you kids do for fun, hmmm?" asked his mother.

"Go swimming," she blurted.

He nudged her under the table.

She changed the subject. "So, who's that?" She pointed the melon on her utensil at the framed drawing of a fellow on the wall. He wore a furrowed brow over resplendent battle armor.

"My husband," said his mother.

"Cool helmet. Was he a hunter?"

"More of a sentinel," his mother replied.

"Ohhh," she remarked. "Killed a bunch of monsters, did he?"

"That's right," said his mother.

"Well y'know," she said, taking a bite of sweet potato, "We oughta respect them monsters."

"You think so," his mother said flatly.

He nudged her again under the table. She kicked him in the ankle.

"Ow!"

"They have dignity," she asserted. "Courage, too. In some ways, they're our superiors."

His mother dropped her utensil.

He mumbled, "Ahhh-- hah--"

"Where's your husband now, out slaying monsters?" She swirled saffron in her mouth.

His mother replied, "In my heart, yes. In reality, no." She stood up. Her chair scrapped the floor. "He was eaten last year. I'll wrap your dessert. You can take it with you."

His mother hurried into the kitchen.

Not long after, he and she stood outside.

"I'm-- really sorry," she said.

He nodded. "She'll be okay."

She asked, "Did they love each other?" She pulled off a piece of pie and ate it with her fingers.

"Of course they did, what kinda question is that? Look, I didn't want to say this in front of my mom, but something wasn't natural about those finned beasts attacking us."

"They weren't attacking us. They were hungry."

"Yeah but--"

"Just forget it. We're fine."

"Are we? Earlier today I did some-- investigating-- about your sister."

"What?"

"Turns out, she's been seen on this side of the lake."

"Really?"

"Yeah, some kind of weirdo chant thing."

"Oh yeah?"

"The old man I talked to at market said they worship monsters, kinda ridiculous."

"Ridiculous. I have to go."

"Go? But we can find your sister!"

"She broke my heart more than any boy could. She can take care of herself."

"Don't you love her?" he asked.

"I can't be late for my meeting. Thanks for dessert." She smacked her lips.

"What meeting?" he asked.

"Rehearsal. Singing. Why the interrogation?"

He smiled. "I'm-- simply-- interested. I-- like you. I like getting to know you."

She frowned. "Know me? Know me? How can anyone know anyone? In a few months-- you might learn I like to pull wings off flies-- and I'll find out you tip turtles on their backs. Then what? Hmmm?"

"Turtles?" he interjected. "I'm not that strong."

"Everyone is just a puzzle without a box." She threw her hands up in the air. "Who knows what the picture really looks like!"

"And pieces are missing." He suggested.

"And pieces are--" She agreed before realizing it. "Missing. Ok, ok." She stepped closer. "So you're not completely square."

He laughed.

"Obey," she mumbled. "Obey."

She said, "Meet me at Make-out Point. Two midnights from now."

"Yes." He nodded.

She wiped her fingers across his mouth. "Goodbye," she said.

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