Chapter 38: Bride of the Bastard

Tradition demanded a big party before a big job, though catering for a quarter million in a provincial part of the galaxy, and on such short notice, was simply out of the question.  That said, when the fleet commanders gathered on the Queen’s hanger deck five days before Operation Spartacus, they came thirsty and loud.  This was the first time in many months anyone had reason for cheer and none would have it pass unnoticed.  The entire fleet buzzed with excitement.  A tense, cautious excitement, but a better thing then they had known since leaving the March.

            Third wing survived its hundred-lee odyssey undetected and nearly unscathed, courtesy of Danger Debbie Love.  Taking that motley flotilla across colonized space was the greatest feat of astrogation Julian McAllister had ever heard of and made it widely known he thought so.  The incredible voyage of the transport fleet did much to lift the spirits of the two fighting wings.  Their own long road to the Expanse had been brutal, the cost tremendous.  Sixty-four ships of war remained, barely a third their original numbers.

Entire wings were devastated or lost; most painfully the Happy Ostrogoths, oldest in the Rift with a long and storied history.  They were the last of the founding wings that settled the March, pushed from the old Rogue Stars centuries ago by the expanding Free Trade Federation.  Their first home had been called Purple Haze after a beloved Old Era tune.  Today it was known as ValuMart Prime.

Somehow the loss of the Ostrogoths stabbed at Julian as much as that of his own family, also being lost at a frightening rate.  He ordered the combined fleet to maintain com silence as the ancient song was broadcast over every channel, the significance of the moment lost on none of the homeless Rifters.  All the old ties were severed and any future would have to be taken at the cost of much blood.

Julian’s thoughts turned to Floyd and the rest of second wing, still unaccounted for.  The transports and a quarter-million refugees were only alive because of the brass pair that took.  Farrokh had initially been put off by the suggestion of Floyd as wing captain for the second war fleet.  Doc Flamingo Darcy had only commanded the Gae Bolga to that point, and for under a year at that.  Julian had no doubts though and had been proven right, although he wished that vindication came in less dramatic fashion.  There would be no more waiting, in five days they went to dance with or without them.

The Rex made his bizarre request of Olga immediately following the observance and news of her acceptance spread quickly.  Precisely the right valve to bleed-off some pressure, the event proved a catalyst for celebrations throughout the fleet.  Iceni Queen found herself pressed into service as a ship of leisure, the event to be broadcast throughout the vessel.

            Upon learning of the ceremony to take place, Ursula, Nefertiti, and Debbie took Olga into custody and vanished for several hours.  Though Julian had word they were back and hold up in Ursula’s quarters, the man he sent to fetch them returned with a black eye for his trouble.  With the hour growing late, and people waiting, he determined to go and retrieve her himself.

            Exiting the lift and making his way down the corridor, he was knocked to the floor from behind.  He had been ambushed, set upon by Olga’s “Maidens of Death and Dishonor,” as they identified themselves: Ursula, Nefertiti, and Debbie in black leather with their faces concealed behind bandannas and referring to each other as Mandy, Brandy, and Candy respectively.

            Brandishing shotguns, they pinned him to the ground, binding his hands and placing an old sack over his head while they dragged him to his feet.  One of them gave Julian a hearty kick in the ass, nearly sending him back to the deck.

They laughed as one, they will pay as one, he promised himself.

            They cut his bonds and unmasked him in the big gallery forward and above the bridge.  Farrokh, Victor, and Bonesaw were selected as Julian’s “Best Bastards” and stood there smiling at him.  Whatever function they served it clearly didn’t involve his welfare, grinning like idiots at his humiliation.  The doctor gave him a little wave.  For a physician that man takes entirely too much pleasure in other people’s suffering.

Also present, the most Reverend Parson, looking especially uncomfortable.  No doubt dragged here unceremoniously to conduct some blasphemous rite for the perverse amusement of scoundrels.  This managed to put Julian back into a festive spirit.

            Olga stood there in a long red dress.  The bridegroom did not recognize her for a moment, blinking repeatedly in her direction.  A lacy affair dyed a bright crimson with a yellow hammer and sickle embroidered on it beneath the letters “C.C.C.P.”  A makeshift red veil sat atop her head, pulled back as it left her completely blind.  In her hands she held a bouquet of that weird purple celery they grow on Trezoro Groto.  The pair stood there smirking at each other a long time until Parson affected a cough to gain their attention.

            “Can we get this over with, please?”

            “Here you go, your worship.”  Victor handed the official some small cards with writing on them.  Parson looked them over and rolled his eyes.  Opening his mouth to protest, he noticed Kruger’s hand on his sidearm before a sound emerged, so he thought it best none should.

            “Dearly beloved,” Parson began but Kruger snapped his fingers in the reverend’s face and pointed to the cards.  The reverend inhaled deeply.  Sometimes the only way forward is headlong, or so I’ve been told.

“Scum, swine, assorted vermin,” he said to the delight of all present.

            “I told myself I wasn’t going to laugh,” Ursula said, wiping invisible tears from her cheek with a giggle.

            “May we continue?” Parson begged.

            “Don’t wait on me you silly cunt.”

            “This bitch knows her cunts,” Debbie confirmed and was slapped in the back of her head.  “Ouch!  You dizzy dyke!”

            “Call me mistress and beg, strumpet!” Ursula roared.

            “Knock it off!” Nefertiti commanded and all obeyed.

            “Thank you,” Parson told her and went about his task.  “As I was saying:  scum, swine, assorted vermin…  We are gathered here today as one family,” Parson actually smiled slightly at that.  Perhaps they meant to take this seriously on some level.  He read further and was disabused.  “Under pain of death by double shift, to unite these miserable wretches for all eternity, at least in so far as the condition applies to them or until one or both parties die at the hands of the other.

            Please see Ursula if anyone is interested in the pool concerning this last probability.  You may also leave your information with the boat master and she will get back to you.”

            “First three months are full-up.” Ursula announced at this point.  “No more wagers for any time in the first three months.”

            “Please put me down for the first available date,” Parson said, scoring many points with the assemblage.  He then turned to Olga.  “Do you, foolish, foolish girl, take this hedonistic, self-important bastard as your old man?  To badger and beat him down, to do his laundry, slay his enemies, and pick your teeth with his bones when it’s over?”

            “Da, blet.”

            “And you.  Asshole,” he turned to Julian.

            “Does that thing say ‘asshole’?” The Rex demanded.

            “Don’t interrupt,” Farrokh said, taking one of the purple stalks from Olga and hitting him over the head.

            “Do you promise to die the slow death of monogamy?  To fade-away a little more with each passing breath until your lungs seize, your eyes glaze, and you beat your head bloody against the wall, crying:  ‘What have I done?  What have I done?’”

            “Ah, Okay. . .”

            “You’re fucking married,” Parson told them, flinging the cards away and making for the exit.  Trying to find a ride back to the Exodus was going to be an unholy pain in the ass and he was in no mood to be fucked with anymore today by these lunatics.

            Julian called Nefertiti over.  Word had reached him about the incident aboard Exodus.  A young jihadi boy was killed, apparently because of an ill-advised relationship with a young crosser girl.  Rioting nearly broke-out until Parson stepped-in.  The three guilty parties could not be identified, and none would admit to knowing a thing, so Parson ordered a lottery.  Even his name, and those of his daughters went in.

            Now that’s nerve, Julian acknowledged.  He hated it, but he was developing a real respect for God Boy.  In the end, the mother of the slain boy stepped forward to demand it be stopped; saying it was enough for her to know the crossers would have to live with these cowards in their midst, but would have no innocent blood on her hands.  The three men were eventually found-out and killed anyway so it had a happy ending at least.

            “What’s up, boss man?” Jones asked.

            “Make sure someone gets him home,” Julian told her, nodding at the reverend, still trying to navigate the rowdy crowd.

            “Done,” she said and slapped his ass.

            “Hanz off my man, sooka!”


The couple retired to the captain’s suite while the rest drank themselves into various stoopers.  Bonesaw would be up bright and early tomorrow, fending-off the influx of people needing to be sobered, rehydrated and smacked in the head.  Aside from religious types, marriage was nearly unheard of in the Rift.  Indeed it was largely a thing of the upper classes in general and a strange proposition coming from Julian.  Sometimes the non-conformist in him got the better of itself.


* * *


Crazy Horse entered a high orbit of Nova Antigua, assuming its place among the spiral of vessels waiting on permission to approach and land.  Taken by the Vercingetorix crew from a mercenary company as payment for an escort job, Julian talked his brothers into pooling their resources and buying the clipper gunship.  At seven-hundred and fifty tonnes, crewed by twelve mariners and a dozen raiders, she was of modest size, but terribly quick and agile.  With two rocket pods, a pair of external missile racks, a duel pulse laser turret, and a twenty-millimeter chain gun under the nose, she was a petite little firebrand who knew how to dance.

            Julian was raised to captain in a raucous ceremony aboard their former ship, Deacon was named quartermaster and Billy would serve as ship master and pilot.  At Haveno Libera they acquired a talented gunner named Floyd Darcy and engineer Broden Calhoun.  An Earther, a few years older than the boys, Calhoun worked commercial shipping lanes for several years then tried his hand at dust mining in Tau Ceti.  All these ventures proving to be dead ends, he recently made his way to the Rift looking for a better living.

            Several key positions remained open however, most notably the scope and boarding masters.  After much discussion they decided Nova Antigua, largest port in the March, was their best chance to fill the slots they required.  Not a word had been spoken about their first trip home since their exile, each hoping the stay would be brief and the incident more or less forgotten.

            Crazy Horse, you are cleared to land.  North quad, pad forty-two.  Proceed to Belt-North, Lagrange two and begin decent.”

            “Acknowledged,” Julian said and departed the bridge to get out of his vacsuit, leaving Billy to take it from there.  He dreaded the return to normal gravity.  Crazy Horse was too small for a centrifuge and the first few days planetside would be a miserable affair coming-off nearly two months in space.  With luck they would be feeling better just in time to set off for Nova Tortuga to begin a joint operation with Vercingetorix.

            He pulled himself through the hatch and along the tube that ran the length of the ship until he reached the slide-hatch to his quarters.  Little more than an eight cube box containing a locker, some boxes strung on guy wires and a zero-G hammock.  Placing a foot in one of the holds he bent his knees to bring himself against the wall and slipped off the top half of his vacsuit.  Grabbing another he spun the other way to remove the leggings.  Though slow to get his space legs, Julian had become quite adept at maneuvering in free fall during his years on account.

            Once in his street cloths and his gear secured, the new captain moved to the small porthole in his quarters.  Eleven years had passed since the brothers had seen their old home.  The shining blue-white globe of Nova Antigua grew large, her broad belt of rings slowing transformed from a flat disk of gossamer haze into an orderly procession of innumerable chunks of iron and rock, some no larger than a mote of dust, others the size of houses.

It was the most beautiful thing Julian had ever seen and he deeply resented it.  Six times during their ten year banishment Vercingetorix made port here, once for over a month.  The three of them would remain in orbit, either aboard ship or sometimes on the orbital station, but always avoiding any view of the planet below.

            After a few minutes, the ship turned and sped forward.  A flickering orange glow filled the window, suddenly replaced by blue sky.  Worries about the return to gravity were well-founded; he reentered the central tube and crawled back to the bridge, feeling like he did so under five meters of water.

            The port bustled with movement and noise, at once deeply familiar for all their long absence.  Setting down and checking-in, everyone went their separate ways, most looking for a place to bed down for the night.  Normally, a long period in space would inspire an immediate frenzy of eating, drinking, gambling, and preening, but the trip left them exhausted and wobbly, moving sleep to the top of every agenda.

            Two days later, people began to emerge from their rented beds and gathered at Blind Pete’s Boozoramma, between the Cheesy Texas Mother-Fucker Grill and Jenny’s Tea Cup, across from Grandpa Skeeter’s Killporium.  A dark and seedy basement establishment, what it lacked in class it made-up for in vice, just the sort of place to find aspiring young corsairs.  Julian turned up an hour late, much to Deacon’s chagrin, having set out early that morning to see the Viceroy.  The black mood he returned in kept any questions as to what he found at bay.

            Two engineers were signed the first day, Deacon having the foresight and fortitude to post the openings upon arrival.  A turret gunner and dozen tuffs were added later in the week.  The scope and boarding masters were proving more elusive however, and they were contemplating the possibility of moving on to Nova Tortuga without them when they walked through the door.

            A couple in fact:  Kyle Richter was an expert in his field, which was killing people.  He made a name for himself as a mercenary ground fighter with a licensed firm in the core worlds.  Somewhere along the way he ran afoul of the authorities and had been forced out of his unit, coming to the Rift where he hoped to get in on the ground floor with a pirating operation.  Crazy Horse came highly recommended, its captain having a reputation as an aggressive fighter willing to take risks.  Two years as ship master aboard the famous Vercingetorix lent Julian credibility few new captains shared.

            Richter struck Julian as arrogant and belligerent, qualities he typically liked, but somehow it rubbed him wrong with this one.  Dismissing it as the result of seeing his home desecrated by the local crossers, he agreed to take him on.  Richter demanded a triple share instead of the double that the position usually rated, but his resume was unimpeachable and Deacon agreed it a worthwhile investment.  Especially since his significant other was an electronic warfare specialist with a gift for computer repair and software writing.

            Her name was Olga Ekemova; tall, only a half-inch shorter then Julian, broad-shouldered and muscular, with long red hair, a rarity even among the ghouls.  Julian had never seen it before except in a painting his mother had done of her namesake.  Quiet as well, speaking in a thick accent when she spoke at all.  Another Earther, she grew-up in an ethnic exclusion zone in the Moscow sprawl, migrating to the Rift some five years ago.

Raised to be an athlete, she enjoyed a brief celebrity after becoming Earth’s planetary champion female weight-lifter, and one of only five ethnics chosen to represent the capital world in the 484 Olympics.  A series of food riots the previous year led to their being banned from competition however, and the loss of her university scholarship.  Bitter and brilliant, she resolved herself to a life of crime and was wanted for fraud on a half-dozen worlds.


That night the crew put on their dodgy long-threads and set course for the “Thunder Run.”  At least one shot and a beer from each of the fifteen taverns enclosed in the spacer’s mall which, by tradition, only ship crews were allowed to patronize.  A custom the rest of the population was only too happy to observe, wanting no part of the insanity known to take place there.  Pirates were the economic backbone of the colony, as well as their pride and joy, but everyone wanted them safely out of the way when carousing.

            Over the course of the evening, Richter and Ekemova drank heavily and argued constantly.  Julian found himself liking the funny talking girl immensely.  No great beauty by common standards, he found himself smitten nonetheless.  Hitting on a crewmate’s woman was entirely unacceptable of course, even when that crewmate was an obvious scumbag.  After Richter stormed-off later that night, making a point of letting her see him with another woman, she wondered off saying she wanted to be alone.

            Noticing her later in a window as he and his brothers passed, the captain made excuses that he still felt worn-down from the gravity change and wandered back in the direction they had come.  Pretending to be occupied with pouring something from his boot until his brothers were out of sight, he entered.

            “Is he going in there after her?” Billy asked.

            “Are you kidding?” Deacon answered.  “Of course he is.”

            “Damn him,” Billy sighed.

            “Sooner or later,” Deacon assured him.

            Julian made for the bar and acted surprised to find her at a nearby table.  He made his way over to ask if she was alright and noticed she had obviously been crying.  She grunted at him angrily and waved her hand when he spoke so he turned to go, only then stopping to consider the possible consequences.  She then barked at him to get a bottle of vodka and join her.  Shrugging, he did as commanded.

            The large crowd tonight kept him waiting for several minutes at the bar.  By the time he returned he found Olga arguing with another patron.  Closer examination revealed it to be the prostitute Richter left with earlier.  Taking a moment to decide if he should intervene, the Russian corsair leapt to her feet and smashed an empty bottle over the woman’s head.  The panicked street walker shrieked and ran for the door, blood gushing from her scalp.

            “Belligerent but effective, a good Alexandrian solution,” Julian said as he poured two glasses and sat down.  Olga pushed the glass in front of her away and grabbed the bottle, downing half a liter in a single swallow before slamming it down on the table where it shattered and cut her hand.  Julian sat there in stunned silence, watching.

No good can come of this.

            “Men are vial pigs!” she spat after tearing a rag from a passing waitress’s apron and wrapping her injured hand.  Julian shrugged but made no comment, the new scope master clearly had some venting to do.  “You deny?” she demanded after a pause.

            “Oh!” Julian said, surprised.  “Is this an interactive tirade?  No, no.  Not at all.  I make it a point never to disagree with women on these matters.  Besides, he strikes me as something of a pig as well.  Why are you with him?”


            “You’ve got more?”

            “He iz how I start verking on ships.  Vhat doz matter?  You are all pigs.”

            “Oh, right.”  Julian waved over a fresh bottle.  The waitress swept up the broken glass and shot the pair a furtive glance.  Olga noticed and showed her teeth, hissing at the terrified young woman who made a hasty retreat.

            “You have woman?” she asked after downing a shot from the new bottle.  “Some pretty mouse who swoon for you vhen you come home?”

            “The ship is home,” he said.  “Never in port long enough for new attachments.  There was someone back on the Rix, my last ship, but she stayed on there.”

            “She not come vit you?  You must treat her like shit.”

            “It’s not something I like talking about,” Julian said.  “Besides, we have other concerns at the moment.”  He pointed over her shoulder at the three large tuffs who were being directed to their table.  The trio came over and surrounded Olga, the largest leaning in to speak.

            “You laid hands on one of Rufus’s girls, miss.”  He looked to his companions in exasperation.  “You seem like a nice young girl, not much to look at, but a nice girl.  Maybe you should just lower your standards a bit, find a man you can hold onto.”  The two thugs behind her laughed at that.  The leader then planted a finger on the table as his face grew stern.  “What you can’t do is put your hands on one of Rufus’s girls.  Not ever.”

            “Look,” the captain said, interrupting.  “I know Rufus, you just tell him she’s with me and I’m sure–” A knife flashed in the captain’s face.  Julian sighed.  Leaning forward, he crossed his arms on the table in front of him, making sure the tips of his right hand were inside his open coat where he could retrieve a blade of his own should it come to that.

Olga acted before anyone.  Springing to her feet, she slammed to back of her head into the face of the man behind her.  The poor fool’s nose and jaw were broken and he fell to the ground like a bag of rocks.  The other tried to grab her but was taken by the arm and thrown over her shoulder into his boss, sending them both to the floor.  By the time they were back on their feet Julian had a gun trained on each of them.

The leader pointed angrily as they made their retreat.  “We’ll be back!” he warned, only to be struck in the face by the second bottle which Olga hurled at him.

“Until then,” Julian said waving.


The captain half-carried the new scope master from the tavern not ten minutes later at the request of the proprietor, who emphasized his point by aiming a shotgun at them.  Never one to unduly anger a barkeep, an armed one especially, he agreed.  Olga proved to be more than a handful, snatching another bottle from someone as they exited.  No one came out after them of course, content to see them leave.  He took it from her only to be punched in the stomach, sending the both of them crashing to the ground.

            The commandeered tequila shattered on impact with the street and sent her on a crying jag.  He did what he could to console her, but in her inebriated state she could only rave, sob, and curse in her native tongue.  When a group of passers-by felt compelled to make a snarky comment she leapt at them, brandishing the broken bottle by its neck.  Julian managed to calm her down long enough to facilitate their escape, which they promptly affected.  With battle averted, she lay down with her head in his lap and passed out.


            “Well look what we have here,” a voice said.

Julian sighed; he was in no mood for any more comments by people with a death wish.  Just as he looked up to issue a warning he was struck in the face and knocked to his back.  Rolling over to gain his feet, he was kicked with enough force to flip him.  Fortunately his long coat and sidearm cushioned the blow enough to keep his ribs from breaking.

            Six large tuffs, including two of the three Olga had battered earlier, now dragged the semi-conscious scope master to her feat and began working her over.  A pair of them held her up while their boss, the one struck by the bottle earlier, punched her repeatedly in the stomach.

            With a low growl, Julian made to stand again.  One of them noticed and came over to give him another kick but the captain was ready.  He reached out and grabbed hold of his attacker by heel and toe, violently twisting and spinning him round in the air.  No sooner had he crashed down face-first, Julian drove a knife into his back.  The dying man tried to scream but only a faint puff of air escaped.

            Rising up he drew his new Blackhawk, a beautiful antique revolver he acquired that very morning from Grandpa Skeeter’s, finest gun shop in the Rift.  A pair of hands grabbed his arm and forced it wide, a thunderous shot sounding in the night, merging into the high-pitched ricochet that followed as the projectile struck the cobblestone road.  While the first grappled with him, the others dropped Olga in a heap and rushed over to the melee in progress.  Julian didn’t mind that he was going to die; only that it wouldn’t be in space, and very much that it should be at the hands of lubbers.

            Jamming the thumb of his free hand into his opponent’s eye with force, he could feel the initial resistance give-way, his nail digging into the soft tissue beneath as the gooey fluid sprayed across the inside of his palm.  The tuff let go of him, falling to the ground screaming.  Off-balance, Julian staggered backward trying to keep his feet, as he swung his pistol forward and fanned two more shots at those descending on him.

            One of his enemies also fired a shot, grazing his left arm.  Silhouetted by the street lights behind them, he could barely make-out a fragment of skull and a dark mist erupt from one of their heads as gravity and momentum laid him on his back.  His right elbow hit the ground hard and he dropped his weapon, a tingling pain shooting up through his forearm from the impact.

            His enemies now standing above him, he heard the crack of three more shots ring out, one of the men falling on top of him.  He opened an eye and looked about, finding all three face down in the road.  He pushed the body off him as a hand extended from above.  Taking hold of it, he was pulled to his feet.

            The captain blinked repeatedly at the large man who helped him up.  Tall, about six-three, and weighing a good two-fifty, he wore a silver tricorner Julian had not seen before; that and a magnificent ball gown of blue-green silk, cuffed in flowing cream-colored lace.  The big man in the dress poked at his wound and he flinched, slapping the intrusive probe away with an “Ouch!”

            “You look none the worse for wear, deary,” the big drag queen said with a laugh.

            “Jules!” a familiar woman’s voice said from behind.  “I should have known.  Damn near scuttled by some wharf-pimp’s thugs before taking your first chase as captain . . .”  Mean Molly Doolittle tisked three times at him and laughed out loud.

            “Thanks,” Julian said with earnest, taking her by the forearm.

            “Let’s get these crazy kids patched up quick so we can get back to our drinking,” the Valkyrie captain said.  “Care to join us?” she asked, turning back to Julian.

“Da, blet!” Olga was heard to say.  Julian found himself laughing.  That did it, he was in love.


* * *


Julian sat upright in bed that night, his bride sleeping beside him.  She and Richter broke-off their relationship within a month of joining the crew, and though he often thought about trying to start something up with her, he never did.  In part because of Richter, asshole or no, she was his ex and that was considered bad form.  Deacon had given him a lengthy speech the next day, refusing to believe him when he said nothing happened.  For ten years he held a quiet torch for this woman, only following through less than two years ago when Richter left the ship, or was about to at any rate.

            Only now did it occur to Julian that he had killed the man right in front of her.  He suspected it didn’t bother her all that much, what with her kicking his dead body and spitting in his face.  Still, he wondered if that wasn’t at least in part an affectation.  Richter was undeniably a sack of shit but he had to wonder how much of his antipathy for the man was over this woman.

            Watching her sleep for a long time, his mind raced with thoughts of the upcoming battle.  So much depended on Deacon’s success at Lockhard City and they had no direct word from him since they left the Expanse more than a year ago.  There was also no way to be certain his second message had even reached his brother.  Too much left to chance, he thought, a sinking feeling in his stomach.

Did he lead everyone to their death?  Perhaps so, but they had nowhere to turn back if they wanted.  Dismissing this line of thought as morbid and unhelpful, he decided to be brash and count some un-hatched chickens.  As overall commander, choosing a name for the new Rogue Star would fall to him; an ancient mariner custom practiced since before the first ship crept past Scylla and entered the Rift.  Having done it once now, he already had taste for it.

Given circumstances an Old Era music theme seemed appropriate, leaving but a single perfect option:  Dearg Doom, “The Red Destroyer.”  Thematically appropriate and possessing a fine onomatopoetic resonance.  It was also a favorite of his mother’s; she often called him by the name while he was small and difficult to control.

            Getting up, careful not to wake Olga, he went to the crib that Chavez built for the infant Hypatia.  Bonesaw released her from the infirmary the night before, still tiny but proving to be a born fighter.  Sitting beside his daughter and watching her mother for a time, he decided to write, knowing he’d get no sleep tonight.  While he hated composing with anything but pen and paper, he didn’t want to wake either of his girls with a light, so he went to the desk and found his portable.  The words: “DON’T PANIC” written on it in large friendly letters.


My tongue stumbles through the void,

Knowing words may not transverse it.

Watching the candlelight dance on her flesh,

I sit here alone by a bed filled with her,

Bewitched and bewildered by her rhythms.

I sit here and witness the sheets rise and fall;

Enslaved, like me, to her every breath.


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