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Sucrer les fraises

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Cosima soon woke up that night, drenched in cold sweat. She had been twisting and turning in her sleep, so when she jolted up, she immediately sprinkled her pillow with beads of sweat. A pang of anger, guilt, and pain hit her chest wide and deep. She coped with this by making a sharp gasp, although her jerk reaction was to scream.

Shay rose beside her, concern washed across her face, and she gently cupped Cosima’s chin. “Baby, what’s wrong? What’s wrong?” she murmured, and Cosima felt the corners of her eyes get wet. Shay kissed the temple of her forehead, but her gentle kisses couldn’t make the thundering pain go away.

“I’m fine. I’m fine.” Cosima assured her, in a tone that was not reassuring at all.

“Is it about earlier this evening? You opened up to me, Cosima. I can’t forgive the actions what she did, but aside from that... Everything you told me last night, it doesn’t bother me. I don’t care. It’s odd and not what I expected at all, but honestly, it could be worse.” Shay admitted. “You’re not apart of an international drug cartel, for example. ‘Gay meth lab scientist’ was way higher on the list of possibilities.” Shay joked, making the smallest of smiles. Shay was wary and reluctant, after Delphine had visited her. She still was, in a way.

Yet she threw away her reserves the moment she made that call, not more than an hour later. Half out of curiosity, and half out of hope. Hope that their relationship still had a chance(No matter how slight), and curiosity at what Cosima had been hiding from her.

Being in the military, Shay knew there were secrets out there kept in the dark for the greater good. For the greater good, she kept details of her missions on tight lips from her family(Both classified and not), and she loved her country enough to trust that they were doing the world right.

Cosima kissed Shay’s brow, and then made a deep sigh. She felt out her own chest, for the pain never subdued, and she looked away from the blonde girl. In the dim lights, she reminded Cosima of Delphine, and it made the ache worse.

Actually, she always preferred fucking Shay with the lights on for this reason. She didn’t want to subconsciously call her the wrong name. After the ambiguous goodbye Delphine gave her outside of Alison’s shop, something unsettling fostered at the bottom of her stomach. Even when Shay accepted her back with open yet cautious arms, Cosima couldn’t shake it off.

Now, it had ruptured.

“It’s nothing, babe. Just a bad feeling.”


 

Delphine clutched her abdomen, for the gunshot was deep, and she felt silence consume her. It swallowed her whole, and she never imagined dying like this. She now imagined a voice-over that would narrate her life, like in the animal documentaries she used to watch religiously in high school.

A reef has washed through the throat of a great whale, after enclosing on its prey. A reef that was insignificant and unnecessary in the short term of capturing, but absolutely vital later on. For the reef makes sure the whale’s food could be trapped in its teeth, and this is how the great white survives.

She didn’t even get to look her killer in the eyes. He didn’t give her that decency. No tact at all.

If Delphine cared more for her own life, she wouldn’t have visited Shay. She could have spilled her heart to Cosima, and she could have pleaded with her, “Please, run away with me. If you’re by my side, we can do this. We don’t have to look back.” Delphine wasn’t selfish. If Cosima taught her anything, it was to be less selfish. Even to the point that she didn’t spend her last months by Cosima’s side.

She wouldn’t have wasted time on things that were once frivolous to her schedule, like dinner parties or saving broken relationships. Yet, she did visit the woman who held Cosima’s affections. She encouraged it, for what else could she do? She didn’t dare disrupt the relative peace Cosima and her sisters rarely received.

Ultimately, she just wanted Cosima to be happy. She was the love of her life, and she’d be damned to not do everything in her power to make sure she was happy. Especially if she was kicking the bucket, so to speak.

So when Delphine died, she wasn’t afraid of dying alone. She was afraid of the silence. Her killer didn’t speak, so she filled her mind with her. Of their awkward first kiss. Of their first time making love. Of their first fight. The last blurry memory she had was of Cosima and her giggling themselves shitless, after smoking in the DYAD lab. The giggles ran in her mind like a track that she forced her mind to repeat, and she smiled at this. She smiled until she could no longer open her eyes.

 


A hazy vision.

Sweet murmurs.

Someone singing in Ukrainian.

The girl with braids stood there above Delphine, at the end of Delphine’s life. Just like the girl had explained to her once in a forgotten memory, but the roles were reversed.

Delphine was dying.

The girl was not speaking, and somehow, not speaking was worse.

She leaned forward, and she kissed her eyelids, and then she walked in the opposite direction.

The girl with braids followed the light, and the farther she went, the more Delphine felt sick.

There were giggles suddenly that repeated itself in the air. Then, coughs.

Then, the subtle smell of latex and chemicals.

A TV was playing a French Canadian soap opera in the background, and even Delphine couldn’t comprehend the words Québécois people were yelling.

Suddenly, it cut out. All of the noise, for a moment.

Then:

Static.

Static.

Static.

Delphine woke up in a bright, white room, and she was dressed in a hospital gown. Her hair was longer than her once highlighted bob cut, and her wrist tattoos were removed. Like a bad dream, a thought struck her: where was she? What happened to her apartment in Paris, and the cat she fed in grad school? Why wasn’t she there? How many years had passed, and why did she feel lighter than air?

A hand gave her a paper cup filled with green liquid, and she winced at the vertigo she got when she rose too quickly from her bed. The hand still guided the cup to her lips, and she gulped it down before she could think.

A voice whispered: “Welcome to Neolutions.”

 


Seven years.

Seven years is what they told her.

“You took my memories away, because I knew too much?” Delphine questioned, her grasp of English rusty from its lack of use. She hadn’t spoke English in years! Not since secondary school. The woman in the business suit and lab coat didn’t give a damn, but she kindly repeated her statements when Delphine struggled.

At Delphine’s question, the woman only shook her head slightly. “Not because you knew too much, but because you would have. You had the potential to be a real threat, not too soon in the future. You didn’t accept the first offer we gave you, so we’re renegotiating your second chance.” The woman raised her hand to tap Delphine’s head, near her brain, and Delphine jerked away from the unwelcome touch immediately. “Your brain is a valuable asset, Dr. Cormier. We shouldn’t waste it.”

“What makes you think I won’t run off the moment you let me go? That I won’t call the police, and report everything you’ve done to me?” Delphine asked, incredulously. She clutched her pillow, subconsciously creating space from the woman and her.

“Because you aren’t the same person you were, seven years ago. If you leave us, you’re leaving a part of yourself behind. We’ll destroy all traces of data memory that we have stored of you, and we’ll disappear. We’re virtually unstoppable.” The woman explained simply. “We’re everywhere. We see all. We control all. Even the government.”

“Then what? I follow your orders for seven years, and you give back what was once mine?” She demanded. She went from the pillow to clutching the ends of her hair. It was entirely blonde, and the signature purple highlights she wore since her undergrad internship were missing. She never allowed it to get this long, in the past. And here it was, beyond her shoulders.

“Not precisely. We give you only what we decide to give you. If you prove yourself, you’ll go higher in the ranks. The higher you go, the more you’ll be able to remember.” The woman answered, trying to hide a smile at the way Delphine was playing with her hair.

“Seven years isn’t too long. At the end, what makes you think I will stay?” Delphine argued, jerking her hand down when she noticed her stare.

“Because by then, you’ll know why we do this. What makes us do the things we do. So perhaps in the end, you’ll see why it’s worth it.” The woman amended. The more her eyes adjusted to the light, the more Delphine examined her captor: cloud-white hair, petite structure, and a lab coat to match the strands from her head. Her name tag wrote out Duncan, in messy scrawl.

“How can I even trust that you can restore my memories?” Delphine accused, her brows raised.

“Like this.” The woman made a motion with her fingers, and the hospital door slammed open. Two guards entered the room, with one carrying a black metallic box. The other had a plier, and he cranked the box open. Air pressure dispensed itself from its locked state, and a cloud of fog filled the area around them.

A smaller case was opened, and the guard with the plier handed it to Delphine. Delphine opened the case, and inside was an orange capsule. “Swallow it. Your doubts will be answered immediately.” The woman, Dr. Duncan, explained.

Delphine obeyed.

 


Red and black everywhere.

A never ending case of warmth.

Tight walls are constricting her body together, and it’s like she’s being squeezed through another dimension.

A woman is screaming.

Other women surround the center of this screaming woman, and they’re calming her down in the language of Delphine’s native tongue. Her homeland’s French is a cool wave of tonal murmurs, unlike dialects from other countries. She feels herself be teared apart from this breathing wall, and the screams turn into painful grunts. Then, yells. Then screams once more.

“Votre bébé est presque là.” The young woman gently assured her.

The warmth leaves Delphine, and suddenly, she is thrust into the world. She isn’t crying, but a form of her is. She sees her mother on the hospital bed, with her father and older brother beside her. The baby is wrapped in a towel, and a nurse cuts a cord from the baby’s stomach. She is handed immediately to her mother, and like a prayer, her name is whispered on her lips.

“Delphine. Delphine.” Her mother cries.

Delphine watches her family crowd over her, newly born, and coo. This sight isn’t an ordinary one, in any form that Delphine could consciously remember. Only in old photographs. Five months after her birth, Delphine’s mother was killed in a traffic accident. So Delphine approaches her family, and even though she is invisible to them, she examines everything that she ever wanted to see. She finally sees her mother in the flesh, and she is more beautiful than any dull photograph could ever replicate.

Then suddenly a vacuum captures her senses, and she’s sucked out of her mindscape. Dr. Duncan is watching her from her hospital bed, and Delphine’s arms are shaking. The pillow has been thrown halfway across the room, and her ears are ringing.

A few minutes pass in silence, and for the first time in her life, she welcomed it. For any sound was danger itself, especially after being shown the beginning of her existence itself. Her mother’s voice was finally hers to remember, and if she stayed, she could have it all.

“So, Dr. Cormier? Do you accept our offer?” Dr. Duncan requests.

“Yes, I do.”