Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day(44)

By: Seanan McGuire

“Yes, yes; thank you, yes,” she says. Then she frowns. “Did you want something in return?”

“I’d like to ask for something. It’s on you whether you give it.”

“What do you want?”

I take a breath. Am I really ready for this? I could stop now. I could wait a little longer. There’s always more time, if you’re willing to take it. That’s one of the beautiful things about being outside the normal flow of things. It’s easy to see that there’s always more time.

But I’m tired. I’ve gone home and I’ve seen that there’s nothing left to run from, and I’m done. This is right. This is how it finishes.

“I’ve earned it,” I say softly. “I’ve earned my last day. I want to take it from you.”

Sophie’s eyes widen. Then, wordlessly, she nods, and offers me her hand. Her fingers are smaller than mine, delicate and soft; it’s like holding hands with a child. The time flows out of her and into me, and I am a day older, I am a day closer to the grave, and there it is, finally, finally, after all this time, after all this running; I’ve reached the border of my dying day.

Sophie’s eyes widen further still, until I have to wonder what she’s seeing when she looks at me. Something has changed for her; I know that much. Something has changed for both of us.

“There you are.”

I turn and there’s Patty standing in the alley behind me, a smile on her face and a plastic flower barrette in her hair. I don’t think. I just run, yanking my hand away from Sophie and throwing my arms around my sister, burying my face against her skin. She smells of salt and peppermint soap. She caresses my hair, and everything is all right. Everything is going to be just fine.

“Took you long enough.”

I lift my head to look at her. The alley is gone. Sophie is gone. I’m a little sorry about that. I’d been meaning to say goodbye.

“Have you been waiting all this time?”

Patty shrugs, like it makes no difference to her; like forty years was the blink of an eye. “Not all this time. I had to show Ma and Pa where to go. Now I get to walk with you. All the way home.”

“You won’t leave me again, will you?”

“Never.” Patty’s hand slips into mine and holds me, holds me fast, the two Pace girls against the weight and width of the world. When she turns, I turn with her, and we walk, side by side, into the silvery light of something more than a mirror, something less than a moon. I don’t know where we’re going, but I know this:

It’s been a lot of years and a lot of miles, but I’m finally going home. And I am not afraid.

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