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from the wreckage of your silent reverie

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Katie tells you. Nothing but a blank email and an obituary attached.

Your roommate walks in as you’re stuffing your suitcase, you say "death in the family" at her questioning gaze.

You don't answer her furrowed brow of why you haven't cried.

You aren't quite sure.

You walk to the house, and even if your brain doesn't quite remember - your legs do.

You wrap your arms around your covered sleeves, glance up at the clouds protecting the sun.

She'll never feel this, you think. The sun. The cold. Any of it.

You wrap your jacket tighter around your stomach. You hasten your step.

Her mother answers the door. She looks at you with a sad smile and down-turned eyes.

"Panda," she whispers and wraps her arms around your waist, breathes deeply into your neck.

It's a surprise. You weren't even sure she knew your name.

She fixes you tea, dissolves spoonfuls of white crystals into it as she says "You're the only one she ever really loved, you know." You shake your head and remember how your name is synonymous with useless.

She tilts her head and reads something in the way you look down at the table. Effy was always good at that - deciphering you when no one else could. But she fixed you with a touch of cool fingertips to the underside of your wrist, a puff of smoke in your lungs, or a kiss to the middle of your stomach.

She can't do any of that now.

"It's true," Anthea says, turning away and focusing on the steam rising from the cup in front of her. "Those boys..."

You see a flash of dark hair and red blood on tan skin. Copper hair and freckles and a pale canvas slicked with sweat. You swallow. It doesn't help the lump in your throat.

"She kept them like she kept all her toys, playing with them until she got bored, tossing them aside until she conceived a plan to make 'em new again. She was never like that with you."

You don't look at her, focus on your cup. You put your lips on the porcelain, drink until your throat is scalded enough to distract you from the pain.