Chapter 10: Lessons

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Adult Romance  |  House: Booksiesilk Classic Group

Reads: 43

Mari sought Sadi out. She found her at the boathouse, whittling a piece of wood with the blade of a rust-flecked pocket knife. She was sitting with her feet hanging over the dock’s edge, the stains of past rains and rising river currents forming a swirling patchwork of streaks and swirls on the dock’s wood. “Sadi,” Mari began, frantic with the notion that she didn’t have the right words to say, that she couldn’t make sense of things, that perhaps—just perhaps—she was misreading the entire thing. But she’d have to risk it. Hanging here, on the edge of late evening, between sunset and moonrise, Mari would take a gamble.

Her throat clicked—like bone-dice when the real gamblers roll—and the wind rustled the leaves of the sycamore—like the playing cards that the poker-folk wield when they bet fortunes—and the thin line between night and noon hung suspended overhead. She wrung her hands together, ground her palms against one another, then sat down beside Sadi, soft as she could, with all the gentility she could muster. Sadi did not move, did not sway, did not rock. She was as much of a fixture to that dock as any rock or river stain. Mari panicked a little, unable to read those dark eyes.

War has made us all a legion of the Wounded. Has tempered some, broken others, and just plain old driven some folks crazy…

Mari wanted to tell Sadi about shooting the men from the bushes. Mari wanted to tell Sadi about crouching down while the mayflies landed on her forehead. Knees beginning to ache, rifle growing heavy, arms all a-trembling as she waited. As she watched. As silhouettes full of the wickedness of the war-hungry danced across the late-noon sky, high on the little rise where her house used to be. But somehow, the shock of it all was diminished when she considered the thousands that Sadi had killed.

Mari reached out and rested a hand on Sadi’s back. She left it there for a moment, feeling Sadi breathe, feeling the warmth of her body through the thin—almost sheer—fabric draped around her shoulders and fastened about her waist. Mari could sense frightened energy—one that wanted to flee from the touch of another—radiating like a fever from her.

“The wars have taken everyone we’ve loved and left us with ourselves, Sadi. Nameless wars—at least a hundred of them. Becoming so common that folks stopped counting and naming them. The War of Primes. The War of Gesalt. The War at Tannhauser Gate…But I’m telling you Sadi. You’re still here and I’m still here. And don’t let what’s happened before take that away…”

And Sadi wept.

She wept hotly, she wept shudderingly, she wept so that it seemed the river quavered with the force of it. She wept and Mari held her. She wept and confessed her sinner’s secrets into the fabric of Mari’s blouse. She rested her head on Mari’s right breast and murmured hecatombs to her family’s gods. She confided in Mari the thousand candle flames that had been living souls which she had snuffed out with a single shot from the very rifle she had been cleaning before.

A party boat passed in the middle of the river channel, and the folks on the bow were hurrahing and guffawing and hurling mirth to and fro as they danced on the stern and made love in the dark shadows just at the bow. Mari watched it as she wept with Sadi. The cool of the evening encircled them both, and soon the sobs turned to songs that they sang from their childhoods—from the times when they hadn’t known widespread death. From the times before they knew each other.

“I want to hold hands with you and sing the old songs and tell each other stories, Mari,” Sadi said at last.

“So we’ll be girls together, then,” Mari replied. Then they stood up, clasping one another’s hands, facing each other as the lights from the boats in the river flicked on one by one.

“I love you,” They whispered softly. And shuffled their feet as they walked back up the dock to where the river house was.


She was pushed as she lay sleeping. She felt the pressure of hands on the small of her back, considered it to be just part of a dream—something left over from an unremembered nightmare, perhaps. Then, Mari was shaken awake by Sadi who knelt on the mattress and looked dire as ever. Not worried, though—but there was a kind of strength to her in that moment as she woke Mari that did not betray her gentility as a lover.

“Get up, my love. There’s another war coming and you’re going to learn to shoot…”


The rifle was nothing like the one Mari had used before. It was hefty—which was good, Sadi claimed, because it absorbed recoil. Also, it trained the muscles to be strong and steadfast, when holding or carrying it. And when you ran out of bullets…well…it made a hell of an improvised mattock.

“There…you see the sights…” Mari nodded, accepting instruction as they stood outside the river house. It was sunny, the sun was still low, having yet to reach its zenith, and already it was warm. But there was a certain calmness about the day, an emptiness to the roads and the river channel that was uncanny. Mari paid it little heed, though. As Sadi had said…

There was a war coming…

A war of the chemical kind. Armed legions who were marching through towns and spraying toxins as they went.

“I don’t want to leave,” Mari had told Sadi, “But I will if I have to…I will leave with you…”

Sadi, though, was full of reassurances and assuaged those concerns with little coaxing. “They tell me there are places where the countryside has yet to see the first shot fired in anger, Mari. They tell me that there’s a place called Avalon where the folks farm as they see fit. They tell me that there’s mountains which rise up around that place and keep it safe from the fires of war…”

It sounded more like mythos to Mari than anything, but it soothed her as she stood on the back porch of the river house, watching as Sadi explained the rifle.

“Now look here…” Sadi began, “I will tell you as I have been told…the finest rifle in the world can only hit what it’s aimed at. There is no amount of craftsmanship, no amount of fine honing, no amount of gunsmithing, which can produce a rifle that will hit its mark 100 percent of the time with every marksman who carries it…”

She slid the bolt out and held it up. It looked polished, finely honed, machined then slid into place only to be filed by hand so that the grooves and the mechanisms fit with impossible tolerances.

“This rifle is ambidextrous. That means it can be fired from the right or the left shoulder. I’m left handed. You’re right handed. That can only mean one thing…”

A grin broke out across Sadi’s face and her strict rote melted away to something softer—if but only for a moment. There was a lapse in that stern elocutor she had become.

“It means we complete one another…”

Mari allowed a sly smile to touch her own lips, but wanting to be a model student, she cleared her throat, straightened her back, and put on an air of diligence and determinedness.

“What makes you think a war is coming, love?” Mari asked, and tried to intone it in such a way as to make it sound playful. To take away some of the sting of the notion that the world was about to fall apart all over again.

“It never stops, babe. It never stops. And it won’t.”

The shadows of the waning day only deepened the apparent sorrow in Sadi’s face.

Submitted: January 14, 2023

© Copyright 2023 Aurora M. Soleado. All rights reserved.


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