19 th August, 2032. Compiègne.
She’s curled up in the corner.
Around her, a snow angel of broken glass and splintered picture frames. Her tantrum was stupid, really – even as she tore the room apart in her grief and anger, she knew she’d spend the next month painstakingly repairing the place. But Simone Lasalle, assistant professor of critical cosmological studies at the École des Arts Magiques, is allowing herself a little emotional slack right now.
The detectives left an hour ago. They were a bit disappointed at how little she was able to give them, but what more could she say. She’d gone on a couple of dates with Mimi after the Death of Heaven, but that was it - her estranged wife’s heart clearly wasn’t in it; they’d found new meaning, new intimacy, and that was OK.
Them … the word tastes bitter on her tongue, especially after yesterday, but she pushes the feeling down. Simone had seen what was left of Mimi after the first advent – had sat in the refugee camp with the smoke-scarred, shuddering thing barely able to form words - and had seen them restored by the new bonds they’d forged and the family they’d found. Victor, Nguyễn, Artemis, Sandrine … so many Friends. She’d been – was – is happy for them, for what they found.
There’s only so long a woman can comfortably huddle foetally under the coffee table, though, and eventually – wincing as little pieces of glass dig into her leggings – Simone pulls herself out, elbow walking over to a pile of spilled papers. Scattering a broken-spined copy of the FF Filofax, and a stack of denied requests to the Seeker Archives for Malone & Alderwood’s notes on the Snarl, she finds what she’s looking for. It’s a photo – creased and a little torn from her earlier rampage. Simone, Maryam, and a year-old Karim, out for a stroll in the Jardin des Tuileries – Karim gripping with babyish wonder onto one of the tassells of Maryam’s hijab, pulling it lopsided as his mother laughs and throws an easy arm round Simone. Maryam, who became cut off, alone from that love, that intimacy of connection, and who’d shatter the souls of a world to get it back. Maryam. Simone sits a long while staring at her, as the shadows lengthen outside, and is only disturbed by a knock-scraaaaape at the back door.
She startles, reflexively readying the cat’s cradle of her erase solution. The lieutenant had warned her that people might come to bother her, had given her a number to call, but so soon … ? She pads over to the door, string in hand, and flings it open. There’s nothing – nothing until she looks down, into the eyes of a wizened brown-and- white goat that gently headbutts her in the thigh. She recognises Willow, of course – Maryam’s old familiar – but is honestly too numb at this point to wonder what the animal is doing in her garden. She absently scratches her behind the ears – Willow nuzzles back, bleating softly – and leads the beast in, to find her something to eat.
It’s only once she’s back in the kitchen that something about Willow gives her pause. Goats follow humans – especially into places where there’s food – and are naturally very smiley – but something about the look that the elderly Toggenberg is giving her goes beyond the usual ‘razor-sharp- intelligence-so- long-as- it’s-about- an-edible- treat’ savvy. She bends down and stares into Willow’s clever golden eyes, seeing intelligence – intelligences – behind them.
Her own eyes widen.
Suddenly, Simone Lasalle’s kitchen is feeling very crowded.