The professionalism in Dawn’s voice as she greeted Keandre in was impeccable. We are coworkers, her tone said, and I am greeting you as such.
Her eyes, however, were warm. If not somewhat chiding.
With a brisk hand, she patted his arm, subtly offering him a stick of peppermint gum before drawing back.
She returned Isa’s nod as she strode in, clasping her hands behind her back and standing at attention. It didn’t take long for the other Runes to make their way in after her, or for Dawn to identify them as they passed. She had been expected to look through the files of each before they arrived, to familiarize herself with their names and faces and abilities. Ms. Avuna, the Berkano, came first. Then there was Ms. Knight, Mr. Santora, and Ms. Aldridge: Tiwaz, Algiz, and Sowlio, respectively. “I’m afraid that there is no bar on site, Ms. Knight,”
Dawn replied. She spoke softly, but the lilt of an accent still came through. “However, there are a few throughout the city not far from here. Once you have completed your duties, you are free to visit one if you’d wish.”
Purely professional. A face among countless.
Fatigue. Pain, a headache. Nausea.
Cordelia didn’t feel it herself. No. Her own head didn’t hurt, even if it was lost in a mist, and swirling with smoke and secret things. And her stomach was quiet inside her. The aching discomfort was a hum at the edge of her thoughts, a phantom limb with an itch you couldn’t quite scratch. But she could, in some ways. Maybe.“Hello, hello, Keandre.”
Her smile widened. She had been smiling before, but it was wider now. She was always smiling. Was she? Sometimes it felt she wasn’t, but when she would look into the mirror, she would be smiling. It was good to smile. But Keandre was nice, and it was good to be friendly towards people that you liked. She liked to think he was a friend. She set out a bottle of painkillers at the table closest to him, alongside a cup of tea.
She returned Isa’s nod with a wave. “Hello, Isa. There’s tea if you would like any. White Peony.”
There was no point in correcting the “Laguz” with her name. To Isa, she had become her rune the moment it stained itself over her heart. That was who she would be now. Perhaps she had never been Cordelia at all, and she was imagining ever being called so at all. It was such a curious thing to think about.
One by one, the other runes, her fellow Runes, entered. One she knew from the clinic. Cordelia had taken the bits and pieces that had hung from her, hung out
of her, and put her back together again. Like a puzzle. If puzzles were made out of human flesh. And bled all over your gloves as you worked on them.
Perhaps it wasn’t the best comparison.
It didn’t matter if she recognized the company, or if she didn’t. She treated them all the same, with a smile, a sleepy smile, a dazed sort of smile, and a lift of the tea kettle.“Good morning, everyone. And hello. You all are welcome to have a cup of tea if you’d like. Or two. There’s honey. And milk.”
She poured herself a cup, then sat down, sipping from the china. All the feelings, the nervousness, the excitement, the stress, hummed around her.