It was not something you wanted to be when you grow up, because it was not something you knew existed until you were properly desperate. But later in life, when hope fled your own Pandora’s jar, someone would say to you, “Actually...I might know someone who can help.”
Never someone you loved. No one would send a loved one to this sort of help.
Not that people sent their enemies here, either. Just...someone who wasn’t particularly invested in you. Indifferent. Your neighbor’s cousin, perhaps, in for the holidays. Or your child’s substitute teacher. Or an old flame’s old friend.
And you would go. If you were properly desperate.
For David, it is his sister’s freshman roommate from New York University. Leah didn’t even graduate from NYU; she switched to Wesleyan.
He doesn’t recognize her when she first approaches him in the grocery store, and common courtesy only demands he ask her how she’s been the past few years and that he’d pass along her love to Leah, but she doesn’t ask him how he’s been doing.
Instead, she says, “You don’t look too hot.”
This is borderline rude, but her tone is concerned, not prying. “Yeah, I’m just tired. The move, you know.”
She nods. “And you’re...trying,” she says softly.
He freezes. “I--uh. Um. Yes. We--we’re trying...we’re on the waiting list...” He swallows. He cannot talk about how he and his husband have been trying for years to adopt a child, have been failing for two years, with Leah’s freshman roommate at the grocery store, because he cannot start crying in the cheese aisle of the only organic market in this town. John would kill him.
“I know someone who can help,” she says. She holds out her hand and presses it against his. She smiles sort of sadly at him and turns to leave.
David looks down and opens his palm. She’s left him with a white business card with an address printed in silver writing on one side, and 11:23 AM written in someone’s messy handwriting on the other.
If you were to meet your sister’s old roommate at your new local organic market, and you didn’t even remember her name, and she gave you a business card after guessing that you and your husband had been wait-listed for two years, you would throw it out. You might text your sister that you bumped into her weird old friend and that she’s still weird.
You wouldn’t go. You aren’t desperate.
But David is. And he goes, the very next day.
When she was five, Alviva learned how people could trap the sun in their hands.
The boy from the neighborhood showed her what he had learned in school: how leaves can trap sunlight right inside of them, and turn that sunlight into green. Every single green plant she saw, he told her, had trapped a bit of sunlight inside of it.
I’m going to trap the sunlight inside of me one day, she said. To herself and to anyone who would listen. She was going to chase it down and store inside her blood, her bones. And it would turn her bright and shiny and maybe even green.
One day. When she would grow up.
For now she had smaller things to do: helping her mother with the laundry, gathering fruit from the orchard, but her dream was always there. Hanging low enough in the sky for her see clearly but just a bit too high to touch.
He turns around to leave as soon as he walks in. What he thinking? Tiffany?
He loves Angela, but an engagement ring is not worth going bankrupt.
Even if it is what she wants. Exactly what she’s wanted. For her whole life.
And so he’s back inside again, because doesn’t he owe it to her to look? Just to check.
And then he does, and he hears someone say “Thirty-five,” he knows that he means thirty-five hundred, and then he realizes it might be thirty-five thousand, and he turns to leave again, but then he hears someone say, “Jack?”
He moves his head automatically, even though he knows she can’t be talking to him, because who would know him here? But then the woman who spoke--ginger, tall and lanky, vaguely familiar--smiles at him.
“It is you,” she says, like she’s pleasantly surprised. “I bet you don’t remember me at all, huh? Too young, probably.”
He takes her in for a moment; her dress and heels make him think she might be a friend of Angela’s, but then he recognizes her bright green eyes and nasally voice and he remembers.
“Chelsea,” he says, smiling. “From Camp Windy! Of course! Wow, it’s been years. How have you been?”
He keeps his smile plastered on his face as she tells him in short about what she’s done with the past twenty years of her life, during which he has had no contact with her. Why should he have? She was a counselor for the girls’ bunk two years older than he was.
“But enough about me,” she says, and Jack’s grin falters a little. “How’s life treating you?”
“Oh, I...” he says. “I’m doing great. I graduated a few years ago. Rutgers...archeology.”
Chelsea laughs. “Still digging holes, huh?”
Jack forces a laugh too. “Yep. And I work at the Natural History museum.”
"Oh, wow! And...what are you doing here?”
Now his smile slides off his face. “Oh. I was just...looking for ideas.”
Chelsea’s eyes soften. “For a ring?” she says gently.
Jack clears his throat. “Yeah. Yeah, I just couldn’t find anything in the catalogues that I liked, so I thought, maybe I could get inspired here.”
The excuse sounds lame even to his own ears--like the whole internet held no answers, and his only option was to go to Tiffany for ideas?
She sees through. Right away.
Angela always says that his head is inside out and everyone can see exactly what he’s thinking just by looking at him. Maybe that’s it. But Chelsea must be a real mind-reader, because she says to him, in a voice that is low and cautious, “I have someone who can help you get the money.”
He flusters, takes a step back. “I, uh, don’t--”
“Here,” she says, and thrusts something against his chest. “Don’t be late.”
Then she leaves, her orange hair fanning out behind her when she opens the door and lets in the wind.
Jack looks at what she’s given him. A business card. An address he doesn’t recognize printed on one side, and 6:37 PM written in pen on the other.
And it’s crazy. But so’s how much he loves Angela, right? So he has to try. For her.
Alviva started school with a fervor unseen in her small town. Science was for people in the big city: they had to deal with more practical things. Milking cows and harvesting wheat and the like. People did not care how plants grew; they only cared for how they could make them grow faster.
But Alviva did. She wanted to learn everything there was to know and she wanted to discover new thing no one else had ever even thought to explore and she wanted. To touch the sky. To feel the wind in every city in the world. To trap the sun inside her hands; to blossom with it shining inside her.
She was learning. She wasn’t there yet, but her one day was growing closer. She could feel it.
Her first guess that this was not going to be a happy meeting, Leila thinks, should have been that her agent was dressed too nicely to be seeing her.
A chiffon dress and Louboutin heels. Now, with her mind clear of nervous anticipation and her eyes of tears, Leila can see that those did not make an appropriate outfit for meeting a client you were about to let go of.
Which means that her agent’s agenda for the day looks something like this: 9:oo AM-Breakfast with Harry. 11:30 AM-Destroy Leila’s dreams. 12:00 PM-Lunch with Amanda.
She doesn’t know who Amanda is, but she can guess. Probably someone who can write well enough to be published. Well enough that her books are auctioned off. Publishers probably fight over them.
No one wants Leila’s books. Not any publisher in the world.
Her mother would tell her she was being dramatic--oh, God. Her mothers. That’s another fun part of being let go by her agent. Now she gets to tell her mother. And everyone else she knows.
The thought of having to tell people that not only is she still unpublished, but even her agent doesn’t think she has a chance of ever writing anything liked by anyone enough to buy is what does it, and now she’s crying all over again.
But she’s not in Clarissa’s office. She’s in an elevator in the building, and a man has just walked on.
She’s staring at his shoes--Italian leather, probably works on the twelfth floor--and trying to keep her sobbing to a minimum when he says, “Leila?”
She jerks her head up automatically. “Oh,” she says, her voice sound as she tries to find a way to discreetly cover her face with her hands. “Um, Rick.”
“Richard, right! Sorry!” She laughs a little but she doesn’t think it sounds very convincing. “How are you?”
“I’m...all right. Hey, are you okay? You look....”
Like I’m crying, jerk, she thinks to herself. “Oh, fine,” she says. “Just a little...under the weather.”
And now they are both painfully aware that she is crying; she, the failed unpublished author and Richard, the guy who works on the twelfth floor and he takes a step closer, like he is about to say something, but then the elevator stops and then someone else gets on.
Whoever it is doesn’t say anything to either of them, and the three of them are all quiet until the third person gets off two floors later.
“Listen,” Richard says as soon as they go. “I think...I think you should take this,” he says and holds something out.
She takes what he offers her. A card. It’s like a business card, but there’s no name on it. Just an address on one side in sleek silver lettering and 10:49 AM in messy black ink on the other.
“What is it?” she asks.
“It’s, ah. Well. They can help you out.”
“It’s...a publishing company?”
“Something like that,” he says. “Look. If you really want...whatever it is...it might be worth a visit.
The elevator stops again and someone else gets on. Richard is silent until he gets off.
And then she finished school. And the world was not quite her oyster, but she was proud enough of herself to feel like it was.
Not all colleges accepted women, but she only needed one. Just one school was enough for her to learn everything she had dreamed of.
Learning was good. It took her one step closer to knowing.
When she walked outside in the city, she could feel the sun on her skin better than in her small town. It never slipped in through the cracks, but it came close.
There are broken mannequins in one window and the other is bordered up. The door has a black X painted on it. The sign on top has letters missing and David can’t make out what it once said.
There is a blond woman in a red shawl sitting at a small round table inside, crouched over a notebook and scribbling furiously, an empty chair across from her. Behind her is a large clock on the wall, with peeling bronze paint in swirling decals on the edge. It only has one hand, long and thin, and no numbers.
She turns to look at it and then turns back, making eye contact quite suddenly and not letting go.
David can feel his heart pound in his throat. He doesn’t think I should leave, Maybe this is a bad idea, Why won’t she stop looking at me like that. He doesn’t think anything at all--doesn’t give himself time. Instead he walks in.
“David,” she says, as soon as he does. She looks to be in her forties or fifties. Her face is too blank to be sure.
“Yes,” he says, and that is when he thinks, What am I doing here?
“What are you doing here?” she says. Her near-colorless eyes are expecting, slightly concerned, but her lips are curled in a way that makes him think she is mocking him.
“I,” he says, and then he stops, flustered. Because he does not have an answer. Not one he can give her. Outside, in the dim light of an autumn afternoon in a complete cover of clouds, the air had been mysterious, giving him a little boost of courage. Like it was magical, like something great and adventurous and miraculous was about to happen.
But now he is inside, and the lights flicker in a way that is not at all encouraging, and the air is heavy with dust.
“I see,” she says, and now he is sure she is mocking.
Heat rushes to his cheeks. He is not on the cusp of anything; he is stupid and has followed Leah’s weird old friend’s advice to an abandoned shop to...what, exactly? Pick up a newborn?
“Let me rephrase, then. Why did you come?”
Because there’s so little he can do, he’ll leap at every opportunity that presents itself. Even one like this.
The woman smiles then, without showing her teeth. “There it is,” she sighs. “Sit down.”
And he does.
The woman pushes her loose waves behind her ears. “Now,” she says, leaning back in her chair and closing her notebook, “your adoption process. How long have you wanted a child?”
David’s insides twist. “You mean...actively?”
“No. Just in general.”
David swallows. “Well. I guess. Forever?”
The woman sighs again. She closes her eyes. “Yes...and how long have you and your husband been working towards that dream?”
His heart lurches. “Two years. A bit more...” His throat goes dry. He wants to ask from some water, but....
The woman lets out a sharp breath. “Two years. Well.” Her eyes fly open, and he jerks back a little in his seat.
“How much are you willing to give for a child?” she says, and her voice is low, and she leans forward. It’s not seductive; it’s threatening.
His palms grow sweaty and his breath quickens. “I...anything. Everything.”
She moves closer a fraction of an inch, her eyes narrowing almost imperceptibly. She holds him there, for a moment: pushed up against the back of the seat, frozen. Then, slowly, her lips curl upwards. She moves back and he waits for relief to wash over him, and it does, but it’s different. Not as cool, not quite worth savoring the feeling. It does a good enough job of calming him down, though, and he smiles briefly. A reflex.
“Good,” she says.
He can feel his pulse return to normal.
“You may go now,” she says. “Tell your husband your news. Congratulations.”
His feet carry him out before he fully processes what she says, and he’s gone before realizes he never got her name. He’s not stupid enough to wonder why he didn’t get the name of her adoption company.
That night in bed, John is asleep beside him, and he is exhausted, but he cannot close his eyes. He can only see the woman in her red shawl, the faded old clock with only one ticking hand behind her.
And then she fades out of his vision, and he feels himself being pulled under.
She was only a year from graduating when the boy from the neighborhood proposed.
She accepted. It was not her ultimate dream, but it was one of them. She loved him. Not in the all-consuming way she loved the sun, but in a gentle way. He made her smile and laugh. He listened to her talk about all the bits and pieces of the sky that make it look blue.
Alviva knew she was lucky. A man like hers was rare.
So when she had to skip a few classes here and there to be with him, she begrudged no one anything. She would make up the classes and she would touch the sun. It would just take a short while longer than planned.
The place is sketchy. Jack can’t believe he’s here, in this alley where most of the shops are closed for repairs and none of them look like they sell anything he’d be interested in, least of all the one he’s standing in front of.
The door’s marked with an X, for one, and the inside is empty except for a clock he cannot figure out how he should read (it’s got no numbers and only one hand) and a small round table with two chairs. One of them is occupied by a woman. She looks up at him just as his eyes land on her and he starts.
She doesn’t drop her gaze and her eyes pale, maybe blue, and then he’s thinking of the sky at Angela’s favorite time of morning, and then he’s walking in.
“Hi,” he says when he comes in. “I’m. I have an appointment?” It comes out like a question because he doesn’t, really. Some girl who worked at a summer camp he went to twenty years ago told him to come apply for a loan at an abandoned clothing store and he agreed. Because he’s stupidly in love.
That doesn’t seem like a good enough reason to be here, suddenly. It’s not worth it. Because the loan won’t be legal, right? This isn’t a bank. What was he thinking?
“Jackson,” she says. “Sit down.”
“Oh. Well. I actually--”
He’s not scared of her. She looks older than his mother. And she’s wearing vintage, which Angela says is non-threatening.
But then she looks at him and he sees here eyes are not blue, they are too pale to be named a proper color, and she closes the notebook in front of her with a snap! and he jumps.
“How long have you been with...your partner?”
Jack, despite the situation, smiles a little. He can’t help it. He always smiles when someone mentions Angela. “Five years,” he says. “But we were friends before that.”
“And how long have you wanted to marry her?”
Jack smiles wider this time, and the lady’s lips curl upwards a bit. “All my life.”
He has. He’s wanted to marry her since they were four years old. He can’t remember a time he didn’t love her. She’s the one true constant in his world.
The lady closes her eyes and lets out a loose breath. She tilts her head upwards. “How long have you been trying to buy a ring?” Her jaw clenches a bit.
“Uh,” Jack says, eyes darting anywhere but her face. “Um, I guess I’ve been really saving up for...a year?”
“Yeah. But, you know, it’s expensive. I mean, what she wants. Not that she said she wants me to spend a lot of money, it’s just I know she really wants this. Oval cut, surrounded by smaller diamonds. Like Kate Middleton. You know, the duchess.” Again, he can’t help but smile, a bit bashful. She’s better than a duchess. She’s a queen.
He clears his throat. “So. I can, like apply with you? Or...do you reference me to someone? Or...?”
The lady’s eyes pop open. “What would you do for this ring?”
Jack shakes his head. “Like. Anything. Really. Whatever extra hours I had to. At whatever job. Jobs. I mean...this is her dream ring. And it’s, like, really important to her. You know, all the princess stuff...she really...and I want to give it to her. So whatever I’d have to do...even sacrifice a while in my field, if I had to....”
The lady sucks in her bottom lip. She tilts her head back again and sighs to herself. Then she straightens.
“You may go. Pick a ring you like.”
“Oh...I’m approved? Do you guys, like, partner with my bank?”
"You may go,” she says, and her eyes latch onto his again. The hair on the back of his neck stands up and he doesn’t wait for her to say anything else; he just leaves.
He gets home and he doesn’t need to pick a ring she’ll like. He knows what she wants.
It’s what she loves. The fairytale stuff. And he’s so lucky she loves him, he just wants to give it all to her.
So he keeps a twitching hand on his phone all night, hoping the bank will call.
Alviva was married for two years when the baby came.
It was joyous, of course. And the girl’s hair was as golden as the sun. When she held her, it was almost like her lifelong dream had come true.
She doesn’t own a car, so she walks to the place on the card Richard has given her.
The place is so story-like it is almost comical. An alley off a busy street people walk by, never looking twice at. A collection of abandoned stores, all prime real estate, if someone would just finish fixing them up.
The windows are remarkably well kept. Shined and glossy, but the door is marked with an X and the mannequins inside are broken and undressed. She can see a clock on the wall, old and useless, with only one hand ticking on to nothing, because there are no numbers, either.
There is a woman sitting down at a small, carved table. Leila can make out swirling decals in the wooden legs. She looks up and stares straight into her eyes at 10:49 exactly.
Leila doesn’t hesitate. She walks in and sits down.
The woman doesn’t take her eyes off Leila, but she can’t help but look down at her notebook. Leila can’t read her writing upside down--it was her who wrote the time on the card, clearly. Her penmanship is beautiful in its unintelligibility. This woman is writing for herself and herself alone.
She closes the book. Leila looks up at her.
“Why have you come here?” she says. Her voice is old. Older than she looks--only fifty or so.
“I’m a writer,” Leila says, and she thinks she sounds younger than she is. Smaller. Because she doesn’t feel like a writer this morning. At least, not a particularly good one.
The woman’s eyes spark with something. “And...how long have you been a writer?”
A small smile tugs on Leila’s lips. “My whole life,” she answers honestly.
Her eyes close. She tilts her head back and her mouth, small and pink, parts open slightly. Leila feels uncomfortable; like she’s intruding on something private.
“And...how long have you been writing this book?”
Leila thinks. “Twenty years, I guess.”
She stifles a groan. “Twenty years?”
“On and off.”
The woman’s eyes flash open. Her hands curl on the edge of the table. “And...what would you give...to publish your book.”
Leila exhales sharply. “My whole soul.”
The woman bites her lower lip. “Your whole soul.”
Leila nods. Why not? She’s already poured all of it into her writing, anyway.
“Go home,” the woman says. She looks down and shakes her head. “Twenty years,” she says, to herself. Then she looks back at Leila. “I suppose I’ll see you again.”
Leila leaves, feeling as though she is being watched the entire time.
There were more children; all as beautiful as the first. Not all had golden hair, but she did not mind.
It took a while, but she finished school. She was not ready to chase down everything she planned to just yet...they were too little to be left alone, and she would not want to, anyway. And her husband, too.
She would get there. When they were older. When she was older.
It is the girl’s first trip to the beach, and John has not stopped talking about it all week.
“Ugh, perfect,” he says when he pulls back the curtains in their bedroom that morning. “I literally could not have chosen better weather myself. Perfect!” He turns to face him, grinning broadly. David manages a sleepy smile.
“I’m going to put everything in the car,” John announces. “Can you get Emily dressed?”
He doesn’t wait to hear an answer. He’s already gone, and he doesn’t see David’s face at the mention of the girl.
Grimacing to himself, he pulls himself up and makes his way to her room. He pauses at the door and takes a deep breath before entering.
She’s already awake, sitting up in her crib. She coos when she sees him and reaches out her hands to stand up. She bounces up and down a little.
“Time to get ready,” he mumbles.
All right. It’s just getting her dressed.
And thus it begins. The girl’s waking hours of the day. The best had been when she was about a year old; she slept the most then. Now is not so bad, with her finally sleeping the night, but she still wakes up before six every day.
He’s not cruel to her. He knows how screwed up a kid can be, how they pick up on everything. So he tries to act like John does. But the smiles are forced. The joy is fake. He doesn’t love her.
And he doesn’t care anymore. It used to bother him, and when they first got her, the day after he came back from that woman just over two years ago, he thought it was because he hadn’t prepared properly. They hadn’t nested, they hadn’t met her mother. So the click wouldn’t come right away. It hadn’t for John, either.
But it did come. When she was a few days old. And for David, it never did.
And it hurt him so much, at first.
And then...now...nothing. He just doesn’t care.
He doesn’t want her. He doesn’t want to love her.
But you can’t give a child back after you adopt them, can you? And there’s John to think about, besides. And he loves John, even if he’ll never love the girl.
So for him, he stays, and he changes diapers, and he prepares bottles, and he goes to parent teacher conferences at daycare.
And waits for her to turn eighteen.
The binder, Jack thinks, is what started it. His nerves. Back when he still called them nerves, months ago.
Angela had bought them a wedding binder, where they would put in all their plans. Their guest list, the flowers, all the phone numbers. Everything. Seeing what was supposed to be the most important day of his life all compacted into one binder really freaked him out.
So he had suggested moving everything onto a joint folder in Google Drive. Perhaps that would make it easier for everyone to be updated, he’d said.
And Angela had said that she liked for them to be able to see everything in front of them. And she’d like them to have the binder, to keep, to look at when they grow old together.
But now it’s a month till the wedding, and Jack doesn’t feel nerves anymore. He doesn’t feel anything at all.
Sure, he thinks she’s nice. Everyone thinks she’s nice. And she’s pretty. Like a princess. With her curly blonde hair and her bright eyes and especially with that ring. But he’s not really into the whole princess thing anymore.
It didn’t happen overnight. And he fought for them. How could he not? He owed it to her, to them, to their families. So there had been couple’s getaways and trips alone and hikes with his brother and even some therapy, but now, there was a month left till the wedding, and he didn’t think there was any reason left to try.
People fall out of love sometimes. She just...wasn’t it anymore.
And it’s better that they find out now, right? Before they’re actually married. There aren’t any kids involved. Just the cat. And she can keep it, if she wants. He’ll miss it, but it’s hers.
He’s sorry to hurt her. She’s a good person. But he’ll have to do it tonight, right? It can’t go on any longer.
Because he’s not going to marry her. He’s known for a while now, if he’s being honest with himself.
And it wasn’t the binder. It was that ring on her finger. Too big. Suffocating. How did she even lift her hand with it on?
That wasn’t the ring he wanted. It was what she wanted. And that...mattered. Didn’t it?
He just has to tell her gently. And his mother.
It’s better this way. Kinder. To do it now.
The trouble is, there isn’t really a kind way to tell someone you don’t want them anymore, is there?
It had been years since she stopped chasing the sun.
Her children had grown and had children of their own. Wanted things of their own--and gotten them. And she envied them something awful. So the sun had turned her green, in a way.
And one day, the boy from the neighborhood and her children and grandchildren were just not enough. And someone whom she hadn’t seen in decades, whom she didn’t even remember how she knew, directed her to a place she’d never been before.
There was a woman waiting there. Skin nearly as dark as the table she was sitting at, and thick black hair all in braids. She asked her what she wanted and what she would give to have it.
Everything, she said.
But offering the price was easy when you didn’t have to pay it right away.
And good Lord, did she pay.
Nineteen years to the day she first published her book, Leila leaves her apartment and sets off for the abandoned store.
People recognize her on the way. Ask her to sign something. Ask her if she’s writing something new.
She ignores them, as always.
She still does not have a car. She has a driving company now, but she is determined to walk. She knows that once, long ago, she would have appreciated the parallel. Now she does not care, and that is what bothers her.
The place has not changed at all. The mannequins are in their same positions, the X on the door, the clock ticking onward to nothing.
And the woman. She does not appear to have aged, and she is still writing in her notebook.
She looks up at Leila. Perhaps she is expecting her, just like twenty years ago.
Leila does not bristle. She walks in.
“Hello,” the woman says, pleasant.
“What did you do to me?” Leila asks, her voice hollow.
The woman cocks an eyebrow. Her expression is so mocking, filled with a fake befuddlement. “I gave you what you wanted.” She goes back to her notebook.
Leila slams her hand down on the table. “This is not what I wanted.”
The woman slowly looks up.
“No?” she says quietly. “Did you not want your book published?”
“And did I not publish your book?”
"Did we not agree on a price?”
“You know what I mean!”
“I’m afraid I don’t.”
“I don’t want to write anymore!” she cries. “I’ve...lost it! I haven’t written in twenty years! I don’t create anymore. Art has no purpose in my life...you took it from me!”
The woman shrugs her shoulders a little. “That’s not my problem.”
Leila’s throat closes up. “I want it back,” she forces out. “You--you give it back to me.”
The woman narrows her eyes at her. She bites her lip. Not in the way she did then, twenty years ago, when she savored the taste of Leila’s dreams and desires. In a calculating way.
“Hmm,” she hums, weighing her options. Then she says, “You’ll never write again.”
Leila’s heart sinks. “You give it back to me,” she demands weakly.
“I didn’t say I wouldn’t,” she says. Then she stands up and inches closer to Leila.
Up close, she can see the woman’s eyes are not as colorless as she once thought. There’s the barest trace of green in them.
“You’ll start now,” she says softly.
Something clouds over Leila. “Start what?”
“You want...to want...again?”
Slowly, Leila nods. Tears fill up in her eyes but they do not fall. “Yes,” she says. “Yes.”
"Then they will come,” she says. “And you will trade them. Their dreams...for that feeling.”
“Their ability to dream,” Leila says, realizing twenty years too late what she gave.
The woman only smiles. Completely mirthless, as ever.
Leila sits down.
“On this side,” the woman says. “You’ll greet them from here.”
“Well...what if I don’t want to?” she says, looking up at her. She instantly regrets her choice of words.
"Sorry,” she says, her voice all derision. “You want?”
Leila bites the inside of her cheek.
“I didn’t think so.”
The woman gathers her shawl tightly around her. “They’ll be in soon,” she says. And she smiles at her--a real one, this time. “You’ll enjoy it,” she says. “You’ve forgotten what it feels like."
And she has. So the woman leaves, but she stays.
And waits for her first client.