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Imposters

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He is not Martin.

The man before me is a stranger, his stance cold and unfamiliar beneath a harvest sun. Artigat has embraced her prodigal heir, but I am not deceived by superficial knowledge and a manufactured smile. My past is not here; it is folded in the shadows of reminiscence. This man does not remember me. He takes whispers and rumours and twists them into a replica of Bertrande's perception. He is an able actor, a spinning doll. And he betrays himself through his impassivity.

Martin felt as this man conspires.

I once fascinated him, the fervour of my passion enticing him just as Bertrande's gentle virginity devoured and tempered his spirit. At first, it was a game to me. I would smirk around his kisses as he struggled with his conscience, pulling him ever closer in body and in soul. When I touched him, he would shiver, dark hair sliding slippery against my shoulders. On his lips, my name became a confession

He would sink heavily into my embrace, moaning into my neck as he muttered condemnations of the sins we were committing. In voice, he cringed from my touch, even as his fingers clawed at the fabric of my shirt, legs tangling with mine in a knot of desire. I would smile at the contradiction of his actions, ever warming to the dichotomy of his nature. His lips were soft.

The man in front of me stares with disdainful eyes, unknowing and unimpressed. His mouth is tight, unremarkable, far too pale for the role he is playing. There is a severity in his stance that Martin could never have achieved, not even through the asperity of war. His scent is murky. Wrong.

He loves her; I do not doubt it. He watches Bertrande as though every word guides the beating of his heart. He is passionate where Martin was chaste, his hands slipping a possessive path along the curve of her hip. If she were mine, I would slide lips against the whiteness of her skin and remember a time when Martin shrank inside my arms.

When he holds her, she smiles, curling contented fingers over the swell of her unborn child. She is happy. It burns within her eyes, shaping her lips with calm acceptance.

And she knows, just as I do, that he is not Martin.

22nd September 2002