Part 23

“Muse?  Muse?  Can you hear me?  Please . . . .”

Muse could have slept forever.  But the insistent voice kept pulling at her, pulling her back to the surface like a hook dragging a fish out of the water.  She felt arms around her and dreamt of floating through the dark, but at the same time knew she was being carried.  Still she clung to the darkness, till she felt herself being lowered, the arms loosening their hold on her.

When she opened her eyes she looked into Love’s face.  He was just setting her down on a sofa, half bent over and half kneeling.  His glasses had slipped down to the end of his nose, and he looked anxious.

All she knew at that moment was that she was happy.  She was rested, and there was Love.  She smiled and said, dreamily, “Frances . . . you found me.”

“Are you alright?”  He still looked worried, though relief made him smile in return.

She sat up and put her arms around his neck, holding him tightly for a long moment.  It felt so good to hug him, to feel him breathing, to feel him slip his arms around her in return.  For a moment nothing else mattered.

Then she noticed Beauty standing in the corner, looking away uncomfortably, and she pulled back.  Love seemed reluctant to let her go, but he loosened his hold and asked again, “Are you alright?  We couldn’t wake you for the longest time.”

Muse swung her feet over the side of the sofa, to sit up all the way.  Love sat beside her and took her hand, watching her with concern.

“What time is it?” she asked, feeling confused.  She didn’t remember anything since being with Dream in the garden . . . though there was something . . . something niggling at her.  She shook her head.

“It’s about seven,” Beauty said, nodding toward the clock.  “I got home at five and you were sleeping on the bench outside.  I couldn’t wake you.  Love just arrived.”

Muse rubbed her face, and yawned.  “Wait . . . .”  She drifted off.  It had been mid-morning, perhaps around ten o’clock, when she’d been in the garden.  How could she have slept . . . slept . . . without crossing over, or even dreaming?  All day?

“I’m fine,” she said.  “I was just sleeping.”

They looked at her dubiously.  She turned to Love.  “How did you know I was here?”

He glanced toward Beauty.  She turned away, toward the window, and answered for him.  “I called him last night while you were in the shower.”

“I gave her my number . . . a long time ago . . . ” Love said, then trailed off almost apologetically.

“In case I ever wanted to meet him in this world,” Beauty finished for him.

“But you called about me?”  Muse frowned.  Beauty was in a very odd position for a matchmaker, all things considered.

She nodded.  “I knew where you were, and knew he wanted to find you.  So I told him.”  She seemed to think there need be no other explanation, and took a few steps toward the kitchen door.  “If you’re not unwell then I’ll let you be now.  It’s past my dinnertime.”

Love and Muse both watched silently as the door swung shut behind her.  She had tactfully left them alone, which seemed on the surface (as did all her actions) to be completely guileless.  Still, Muse felt a bit of a sting, as if she’d said “Look who loves him more” with her explanation.

“I missed you,” Muse said, breaking the silence.

“I’ve been looking for you everywhere.”  He smiled, squeezing her hand.  “I hope you don’t think it was ‘cheating’ for Beauty to have told me where you were . . . .”

She shook her head.  “I should have called you,” she said.  “I should have been the one to tell you where to find me.  But . . . .”

He waited a moment for her to finish her thought, but when she just stared out the window toward the garden, he said, “Are you sure you are alright?  I . . . it’s simply that being asleep during the day . . . it’s . . . .”

“It was Dream,” Muse said, snapping out of it.  “She put me to sleep.  And I was really asleep, like a mortal.  I—” She broke off abruptly, with a sharp intake of breath.

It hit her.  The niggling feeling that had chased after her ever since she woke in Love’s arms, finally caught her with a flying tackle.

It was a good thing she was already sitting down.

“What?  What is it?  What’s the matter?” Love asked, gripping her hand tighter.

“I remember,” she said, in a daze.  “I remember everything.”

“What do you remember?”

“My life,” Muse answered.  “I remember it now.”  She put a hand to her head, overwhelmed by the flood of memory — of feeling, of sadness and happiness and love and regret and dreaming and longing . . . and . . . .

And dying.

Dying had hurt.

A lot.

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