Outer Flower, 37

Suga, who had begun the tenderest of ministrations, ceased at once.

“You are certain of this?”

“Of course.”

“But that would mean. . .”

“Yes. The Axis walks the earth. Most likely one of the present acolytes.”

Suga tried to control an overwhelming sense of betrayal. The news was disturbing, momentous, but more unsettling was the fact that she hadn’t told him from the first. How long had the knowledge of their long sought nemesis lain in a corridor of her mind? The fact that she’d told him now, at this particular moment, only added insult to injury. By drawing back from pleasure, Rizla had shown the greater control. She’d subtly proven that the release she found in their intimacy was greater than anything he felt. She didn’t need him; she could do this for herself.

Rizla was studying him; he could feel it. Yet, she’d made no attempt to read his mind.

“What are you thinking?” It was an apology of sorts that she asked. Suga knew she could peel back his mind like an onion skin.

“I think destiny rides a wild horse. We must pursue it.”

“My Suga speaks wise words again. Do not forget the green bottle.” she reminded.

Green Bottle with precious contents

“Do not trouble yourself,” said the fat man. “Suga will not fail.”

“No, he will not,” She took a finger and lightly, sensuously, drew it across his throat. Then she brought her legs together at the ankles and swung off his lap in a wide arc.

“I must go.”

“Of all Elymas’s follies, I find this the most hard to forgive.”

Rizla laughed again and said, “The green bottle. Elymas has been careless. We must erase.”

She walked behind a pall of yellow silk. He could hear her mumbling, followed by a series of sharp cries. He looked at his now useless hands. The room began to change, growing bigger as it filled with smoke. The distortion was necessary but the smoke was one of Rizla’s personal peculiarities. Thought he’d seen every inch of her body, Rizla was vain about her changes — secretive, too— she never liked anyone knowing in which form she would arrive.

The smoke billowed and turned blue. He shut his eyes. He knew she was incapable of loving. Tomorrow she might throw him to the wild beasts, turn his mind to jelly, disperse his remaining body parts to the four winds and never think of him again.

He opened his eyes to find the room empty, the smoke thinning.

Rizla was gone.

And Suga confessed for the hundredth time, the thousandth, that despite what she was, he would never become accustomed to her leaving him.

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