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lying always hurts the most when it's half-true

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They're sprawled about a hotel room in Minneapolis, the lot of them.

Cathy is writing something--erotica, Anne supposes, else Cathy'd let the rest of them read it--at the small desk in the corner. Anna is curled up on one of the beds, clicking through Tinder with Catherine at her side, Catherine thumbing the rosary that Anne had given her after they'd made up in her austere Catherine way. Jane is braiding Katherine's hair on the other bed, her slender fingers swift as birds; and Anne is half-listening to Jane and Kat's conversation, half-staring at the Mississippi, which is still as a grey snake outside the window.

"Tell me how it happened again?" Kat implores, the tone of her voice tugging Anne's attention away from the window. "Please, Janie, you know I love the story."

Jane laughs in a good-natured sort of way. Kat has asked this question of everyone--Catherine, Cathy, Anne--but she likes Jane's answer best, and so she keeps asking Jane to tell the story of the moment that it’d happened, the moment that she’d seen her soulmate for the first time and seen, also, her world shiver into colour because of it.

Kat wants very badly to find her soulmate; so badly, in fact, that sometimes Anne wants to shake her cousin. Anne thinks that Kat ought to be more like Anna, who couldn’t care less about finding her soulmate, who says that there is no one that’ll get her, ever, the way she gets herself. Anne often thinks that she ought to be more like Anna herself.

"Well," Jane says, weaving strands of Kat's hair together. "I used to think that I could see hints of red in roses when Henry was near. Traces of white in calla lilies and daisies and peonies. You know." She smiles at Anne over Kat’s crown, and Anne looks away, embarrassed to have been caught until she realises that Catherine and Cathy and Anna are listening to Jane, too, Catherine biting at the inside of her mouth and Cathy smiling in a wistful sort of way, Thomas on her mind again. "I thought I saw all sorts of colours in all sorts of flowers, but then I had Eddie--oh, then I had Eddie, Kitty, and it came like a wave, the rush of colour."

Anne wonders, sometimes, if this is why it seems to have hit Jane harder than the rest of them--harder than even her and Kat--dying: if it is because Jane’d gotten to see the world at its best for a matter of hours before it’d all been snatched away from her again.

Anne wonders, also, if this is proof that she’s not as good a person as Jane--or even Catherine, who has been able to see in colour for as long as Anne has known her, because of Mary; "Children change everything," she’d said to Kat, all brash and Catherine-like, rolling her eyes at Anne in an exaggerated manner, when Kat had asked--because Anne herself had seen in colour well before Lizzie’s birth.

She’d not grasped it then and she does not grasp it now, not really, but she’d been in a grey French court one minute, and then she’d gotten on a grey French ship the next, and then she’d walked into the English court and seen the barge-shaped English king with his glittering entourage, and then, suddenly, she’d been able to see everything: the colour of her dress, the hall, the lights, the tapestries, the red of Henry’s wife’s mouth, which had been bent into a startled shape, as though the queen had been stung by invisible hornets at the sight of the French gowns. She’d had to stifle a shout herself: the onslaught of colour that she’d experienced had felt less like Jane’s wave than it had a tsunami, and one that’d almost drowned her at that. Henry, of course, had not so much as flinched; he’d just leered at her, leered at all the women that’d come with her, as though Catherine did not exist, as though she were a Greek statue and not a Spanish princess or the English queen.

Isn’t that funny? Anne thinks, turning toward the window again. Henry’d been a monster of a man, and her heart--or Him up there, or the universe--had still chosen him for Anne’s soulmate. Either Anne is a monster, too, or someone somewhere has a very low opinion of her.

"Oh, Janie," Kat sighs, somewhere behind Anne. "That sounds wonderful. To love like that--and to be loved like that." Anne rolls her eyes at her own reflection in the window. She should be careful, she thinks. She spends so much time with Catherine, making fun of Jane and Kat, that she is picking up her mannerisms.

"Did Henry--did he ever, you know?"

It is the sweetness--sweetness, still, after everything--in Kat’s voice that pulls Anne away from the window this time.

Kat has tucked her fists under her thighs and she is looking at Catherine and Cathy, who’d known Henry longest and last, with a naked earnestness that makes Anne want to tug her cousin’s hands out from under her legs and hold them in her own. Mothering others does not come to her as naturally as it does Jane, but Anne thinks, sometimes, that she could have been good at it, if only Henry’d given her the chance.

"No," Catherine says, looking at Anne so intently that Anne feels as though Catherine is trying to set her alight with her eyes. "He’d not been capable of it--not when I’d known him anyway." Catherine says this last bit apologetically, nodding her head Jane’s way. Anne supposes that Catherine was trying to be--supportive, before; not combative, not condescending. She suppresses a snort, remembering the time that Catherine’d tried--resolutely--to compliment Jane’s new bowl-cut, the way that she’d made Jane wail. Still, Catherine’d done better than Anne herself, who’d not been able to keep a straight face--and who’d clutched at Catherine’s side as she’d howled with laughter.

"No," Cathy echoes, shaking her head. "Not when I’d known him, either." She lifts an eyebrow at Kat. "But it doesn’t happen for everyone, Kat; you know that."

Kat seems to shrink into herself. "What if it doesn’t happen for me, Cathy?" she says, her voice a whisper.

She looks so sad--and so small--that Anne cannot help speaking over Cathy, the words pouring out of her like water from a fountain: "It’ll happen when it’s meant to happen, Kat. Détends-toi jusque-là." She runs a hand through her dark hair. "Besides, soulmates are sort of overrated; I mean, look at who I was saddled with."

There is a trice of silence and then there is a torrent of noise and movement, as Catherine slides off Anna’s bed and makes for the door, rosary wound around her fingers, muttering something about sound-check and an email from the Ordway.

"Wait, what," Anne says, crinkling her nose in Catherine’s direction. "Where is she going?" she asks the others, when the door closes behind Catherine. She keeps her eyes focused on the door, though, even as she speaks, and she misses the worried look that Kat throws Jane because of it.

"She still doesn’t know?" Kat asks, ignoring Anne.

"She still doesn’t know," Anna and Cathy chorus, shaking their heads, sighing.