“You kill Bear Killer?”
Khoreia saw murder flash in the beargirl’s drowsy eyes, felt her heart tick’tick’tick its small warning, however confident she could leap away – and Khoreia slipped out a broader smile as she thought the pun -- if the situation went wild, she decided and chanced, “Probably.”
Possibly murder might not have hurt as much. Khoreia barely allowed to breathe. The beargirl’s arms tight around her. Something like laughter huff-puffing in Khoreia’s shut eyes.
“You’re a happy girl, I see.”
“You kill Bear Killer – I happy! – Do birds pick him yet?”
The beargirl puffed up Khoreia’s nose all the wine she’d enjoyed there. Suddenly springing up from the bench, and Khoreia feeling her sleeve rip at the armpit as she was dragged along, the wild girl by lurchings got them to a crowded table, and one harmless seeming man there in particular.
“Hullo, Beauty! – Like more wine?”
His crowd roared. Khoreia knew this game. She might like a summerwine herself, and a seat in a corner where she could watch.
But suddenly the beargirl hefted him by his horsetail onto his feet – laughing her laugh at him – roughly took his mouth in hers. He flung himself back – blood bright on his lips. His crowd gasped, as they should. The beargirl laughing hard, tipped sideways, and Khoreia put her arm around, held her upright. She had no animal viciousness in her, Khoreia guessed: only a happy bear unused to summerwine.
Then the shocked man, still on his feet, dabbed his mouth on his sleeve. His mouth was not mangled, not cut, but reddened – and Khoreia certain the reddening was fading as she watched.
This changes All! – Khoreia decided. She needed time to think.
The man and his crowd were preoccupied with his ongoing healing. Khoreia stole the happy beargirl away, like sister leading drunk sister upstairs. Khoreia put her to bed, just as a distant rooster crowed the nearing morning.
Khoreia stood in the small window, not especially awed by another dawn paling over the smoky town. Her thoughts ticking, like that odd machine at the circus they show the crowds: she knew she wanted to keep the beargirl, but the how.
And then – dawn. Behind Khoreia, the snoring did change, deepened, very strangely, very suddenly. The bed creaking and popping, as it might if it were bearing a very large sleeper.