"The new table looks nice.” I say, settling myself in with a sigh. It’s so good to be home, after two weeks in the hotel, and the week before that in Spain recovering from our wounds. Being on painkillers, the time flew by quickly, but in other ways it seems I’ve been gone from here forever.
“It’s a lot sturdier than the last one. We don’t have to eat on the pool table anymore.” Mireille states proudly. She’s been here every day for the last two weeks, getting the place cleaned up, refurnishing. We have a new sofa, a new pool table, new plants and bookshelves. It all looks good. I wanted to come with her but she was firm in her command that I rest.
“After all, I need you in top form to make our first tea there.” she’d quipped, looking at me sternly, but her eyes were smiling. So I spent my days healing, drawing, and weaning off the pills. I looked forward to her nightly reports on the apartment progress. I never heard her talk so much before, and it was something I looked forward to every day.

Now here we sit, our first tea together back at home. It’s been a long day, getting settled back in, and I’m tired. We sip our tea in grateful silence. I wonder if she will become more quiet now that we’re back home- I hope not. These last few weeks I’ve felt closer to her than ever before. She drains the last of her tea, pushes back her chair and gets up from the table.
“Where are you going?”
“I’m going to change” she tosses back over her shoulder “and then come do the dishes.”
“I should do that.” I fight a yawn as I speak. I hate getting tired so easily. “You made lunch and dinner.”
“And I made a mess…” she turns, putting her hands on her hips with great authority. “…which I am going to clean up, while you get ready for bed.”
I sigh, because I am too tired to argue the point. I gather up the teacups and place them in the sink with the other dishes. At least our teacups survived. I would have hated to get new ones.
I start to leave the kitchen when she appears in her favorite nightshirt, the oversized one with the rolled up sleeves. She brushes past me and I lean against the door, watching her. I realize how much I’ve missed the sight of her, just as she is now, busily filling the sink with suds. A few weeks ago, at the Manor, I never would have thought this was possible. But here I am. Suddenly I feel tears in my eyes, and find myself stumbling towards her. My arms go around her waist, and my tears sink into her back.
“Kirika?” she tenses, alarmed.
“It’s okay.” I choke out.
“What’s wrong? Do you need a doctor?” her voice is concerned, and she goes to turn off the water. I free a hand and stop her.
“Don’t.” I beg her. “Just stay like this. Please.” I mouth the words into her shirt, but she understands me. After a moment, she turns the water back on, and my hand returns to her belly. She feels so warm and good.
“I’m happy. So happy to be home.” I breathe into her.
“Hmph.” comes a non-committal grunt as she begins to scrub the dishes.
She works silently, and I become aware of her muscles moving as she reaches to put each dish in the drainer, and relish each movement. It’s all new, this feel of her body moving against mine. I sigh and hold her more tightly.
“So this makes you happy, hmmm?” she asks, putting the last dish in the drainer.
“Yes.” I answer, wishing we had more dishes.
“Well I hate to make you unhappy, but I need to dry these and put them away. Go on to bed, okay?” she says, not bothering to look at me. She gives my hands a quick squeeze that makes my heart jump funny. I try to squeeze back but she puts my hands down.
“Let go, Kirika.” she says softly.
“Go to bed.” she says firmly this time, and I leave, knowing she means it.

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