Every Friday I post a short story for free. It stays up for 1 week and then comes down when I put the next one up. So please enjoy this story while it lasts.
When death stole one life, she searched for another.
Exie used her magic to travel from world to world in search of another place, and another woman, to call home. Grief kept her at Benella’s side for entirely too long, long enough that she left with anger and recriminations at her back. Benella had seemed like the answer to Exie’s prayers but she’d been wrong.
Years spent wandering the paths to infinity hadn’t led Exie to another woman who could replace her lost love. After five years of running, Exie wondered whether she’d ever find someone who could make her settle down.
Then a mistake while walking the paths dropped Exie into a life or death situation with the Goddess of All. Exie’s faith had died along with her lost love Tivian, or so she’d thought. She might have forsaken the Goddess when she ran away from home but it appeared that the Goddess hadn’t abandoned Exie.
Collapsed in a strange world unlike any she’d ever found before, Exie was at the mercy of a woman who could be Tivian’s twin. She might take pity on Exie but it appeared that her husband, world-twin to Exie’s own brother, had no such intentions.
Was this world the last she would ever see or would it prove to be the starting point for a path that led to Exie’s true home?
Another Path to Infinity
“I’m sorry,” Benella said as she dropped Exie’s hands, the smell of distilling rose petals heavy in the air. “I can’t accept.”
Benella’s kitchen was filled with roses from her garden, the heads coolly and methodically cut off at the peak of blossom so that Benella could distill rose water from their petals. Steam drifted around them, dripping down Exie’s drooping curls and forming tiny pearls of water on Benella’s cheeks. The steam only made Benella’s dark hair shine as she looked at the worn floor. Her dark eyes picked out the boards that Exie had replaced for her before raising her eyes to Exie’s again.
Her expression was anything but apologetic. Her eyes were cold despite the regretful smile twisting her lips into an approximation of emotion. Exie swallowed down a surge of acid rage. Months. She had spent months with Benella, helping her fix her house, weeding the garden, laughing at all Benella’s weak jokes about needing a real man in the house but oh well, Exie was close enough.
Close enough to do the hard labor. Close enough to fix what had gone wrong through neglect and lack of money. Close enough to fill Benella’s bed most nights. Not close enough to love, to cherish, or to keep. She’d failed again.
“I know you were expecting something more,” Benella said as she rubbed her hands distastefully over her stained and spotted apron. Once it had been beautifully embroidered, apparently a gift of Benella’s grandmother. Now it showed its years. “You have helped me enormously. I might not have been able to survive the winter without you staying here. The leaks in the roof alone would have destroyed half the food in the pantry.”
“It would have,” Exie agreed, not bothering to hide the harshness of her tone. “Not to mention last week.”
Benella winced at the reminder of Exie’s battle with the local bully boys in her defense. She looked away, the set of her jaw and shoulders defiant. Bruises still dotted Exie’s chest, back and stomach. Her knuckles were scraped and split. Exie had only just gotten sight back in her right eye. It had been ugly with broken blood vessels and bruising when Exie glanced into the water bucket this morning.
“They would have raped you,” Exie said. The words came out casual, as if it was a comment on the weather.
“They wouldn’t have,” Benella replied. Her shudder made the words into a lie.
“I’m just to leave?” Exie asked, said, demanded. “Take my things and walk away. Near a full year I’ve been here for you and I’m just to walk out the door and not look back.”
She expected a denial, some weakening of Benella’s expression. Instead she got a flat stare, a firm nod and a gesture towards the back door where Exie’s traveling bag sat waiting. This time Exie was the one to look away. No matter how often this happened she never expected it. It always hurt to be turned out of a place that she had begun to consider home, even though it could never be her true home.
“Please go,” Benella said.