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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

The Book of Ataniel

Seven Year Itch

“Karel!” Khyrisse screamed again, losing a short and unsuccessful struggle to think of something, anything else to say to her errant brother.

“Goodbye,” whispered Silverlace, casting a mysterious smile back over one lovely shoulder as she melted into the fabric of the Hotel.

Karel barely seemed to notice her leaving. “Look,” he said, desperately, “Khyri, it wasn’t--”

“Wasn’t what it looked like?” she demanded, her hands shaking with a rage she couldn’t suppress. “What were you doing then, Karel, checking her lips for poison?”

“No, I--look, of course I was kissing her, Khyri, but it wasn’t--it wasn’t real.”

“Oh, it wasn’t,” Khyrisse snapped. “Let me guess, you were rehearsing for a play.”

“No!” He buried his hands in his hair, a look of anguish on his face. “I mean it’s not real. C’mon, don’t you have erotic dreams about people besides Ebreth sometimes?”

Not in a long time, actually, but Khyrisse did not want to feed her family’s stupid superstitions about pasirels right now. “This isn’t a dream,” she said instead.

“It feels like it. Everything happening out of order, nothing fits together with anything else--it’s like some big, bizarre dream sequence. Khyri, please don’t tell my wife.”

“Why?” she said acidly. “Don’t think she’d buy that excuse either?”

“I don’t know,” he said. “But it would hurt her even if she did, and I don’t want to do that.”

“Maybe you should have thought of that before fucking a fairy behind her back!”

“Khyri, for gods’-- we weren’t fucking, all right? It was just a kiss!”

“That’s because I walked in on you, Karel! You’re really trying to tell me you would have stopped if I hadn’t?”

“Well we’ll never know now, will we?” He slumped into a plush chair, defeated. “I don’t do this kind of thing in real life, I swear. But it’s not because I never think about it, it’s because I don’t want Miyrr to leave me. Look, I know you’re a newlywed and all, Khyri, but I’ve been married for twenty-five years. Of course I fantasize about other people. I don’t act on it because I love my wife, but you can’t crucify me for dreaming about it. This place--it’s random, disjointed, there’s so much stress and fear, and then suddenly there you are with a woman you had a raging crush on twenty years ago and she’s taking off her sweater. I’m supposed to not kiss her? It felt like a dream, Khyri, I swear. I’m only mortal.”

Khyrisse sighed, very heavily. “I believe you, Karel, but this isn’t a dream. It’s practically the opposite of a dream... what you do here affects your entire destiny. You could be jeopardizing your future with your family over these--these silly, hormonal--you have children, Karel, how could you do this?” She hadn’t wanted to shake him this much since she was about eleven. “If you start fooling around with other people in here, what’s going to happen out there?”

“Nothing,” he said, stoutly. “I have free will, Khyrisse. They can’t make me cheat on my wife if I don’t want to.”

“They just did!”

“They can’t make me do it without drugging and disorienting me first. Thinking about other women isn’t new for me, Khyri. I haven’t gone to bed with anyone but Miyrr in twenty-five years and I’m not going to start now.” Khyrisse sighed again. “You aren’t really going to tell her about this, are you, Khyri? It was just a phantasm, not a real woman. And she just turned forty last year, and she’s been so goddamned sensitive about it--”

“No, I’m not going to tell her,” Khyrisse sighed. “You think I really want to screw up your home life, Karel? You think I really want to make Miyrr upset? I’m not even mad for her sake, I’m mad for yours. You have three beautiful kids and a wife who adores you and a thriving business and you’re happy, Karel. I can’t bear to see you throwing that all away over something as stupid as this.”

“I won’t,” he said. “I swear, Khyri. On my mother’s grave.”

If he was talking about Aunt Eleni, he must be taking this seriously. “Well, you’d better not,” she muttered, trying to suppress all the extraneous emotions battering at her that didn’t, in all fairness, have anything to do with Karel or his aborted dalliance. “Come with me. I can see I’m going to have to keep an eye on you all over again.”

“Yes, Khyri,” he said humbly, and followed.

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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

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