My Penance

Now, after everything, she could see how vain her apartment was. The single mezzanine bedroom, the floating stairs with no railing, the low glass wall of the balcony that overlooked the river. It was just as well. She clearly wasn't supposed to be a mother anyway.

"Camilla," said a voice gently nearby. In response she closed her eyes. She had meant to move to her bedroom, because it had a lock, but that was where it was sleeping. What would she do if it woke up?

"Camilla, don't cry," the voice pleaded after a moment. She hadn't noticed the tears on her face before but now she could feel them burning trails across her cheeks, tumbling into her hair. Soft hands brushed her eyes and cupped her chin, a gesture of affection that felt out of place so many years since she had last felt it. She finally looked at her visitor and promptly turned away. How could she draw comfort from a face that looked just like the person she hated - herself? To her amazement she felt another hot tear, this one not her own, land on her chin, and then she was being awkwardly embraced where she lay.

"Oh, Camilla," Patience breathed into her ear, or maybe just thought loud enough for Camilla to hear. "It's going to be okay, I promise."

No, it won't, but typical of you to try and tell me it will.

Her sister sat back after a moment. Camilla could tell Patience was looking down at her. Even so she couldn't summon the effort to steel herself about what her twin was about to say, and more tears welled painfully in her eyes in anticipation, erasing her limited view of the stupid mezzanine.

The words came anyway. "Camilla," Patience stumbled, taking a deep breath, "please… Please, just once. Please. Just… hold her once, before…"

And there it was. Camilla turned her head as far away as she could, pressing her hot head into the trendy leather cushions on her couch.

Helpless to comfort her sister, Patience stood and went to comfort her dying niece instead.

The End

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