Is the Order a Fork?

70.6k words, three days before my self-imposed deadline of 31 May, the raw manuscript of Worlds Without End is complete.  I shall make one to two editing passes at it before handing it to my very talented editor/copyeditor Monica San Nicholas.  In parallel I’ve the staff at Jacoby Alley working on the cover.  With the luck of a stainless steel rat and the grace of God, I might have this released to the wild by 4 July.

My liver is looking forward to its vacation.

Epilogue

***

With a last “huf!” Lauren pushed her bicycle to the ridge that separated the Clinch River and Tennessee River watersheds. Her eight fish in their basket between her handlebars made increasingly fainter protests. In twenty minutes she’d be home and cleaning them for dinner.

“Stopping,” the girl next to her said, braking her bike. She only had two fish.

Suppressing her sigh, Lauren slowed and stopped. Her friend was already off and stepping out of her shorts and around a tree. Stepping back into them, she returned a moment later.

“How is it, friend Lauren,” she asked, “you are so much better at fishing than I when I am better at everything else?”

“How do you see fishing?”

“Hunting underwater.”

“Ah. To me, it’s a chance to relax… especially with friends!”

The puzzlement in her friend’s eyes was evident. Even after knowing each other and becoming best friends a year and a half ago, she’d so much to learn. Lauren watched as she swung her leg over her bike. Her breath caught when she suddenly looked up, her smile lighting up her golden eyes.

“I’ll do better, next time, friend Lauren!” Henge said.

Lauren and Henge coasted their bikes to a stop just next to the mailbox of the Hartmann homestead. Henge put her feet down and looked to her friend before dismounting.

“You’ve an odd look on your face, friend Lauren,” she observed.

“Was thinking about when we met, over eighteen months ago now!”

Henge’s smile was small.

“That was an… active two days!”

“Yeah!”

Henge swung her leg over and made to push her bicycle up the gravel drive.

“Need help?” Lauren called.

Henge paused and looked back.

“I’m not an invalid.”

“Didn’t say you were,” Lauren countered. “But…”

She looked pointedly at the slight bulge to Henge’s belly.

“She’s fine, friend Lauren. Both you and my husband fret far too much!” she said, slowly blinking her golden eyes. “Once inside, I promise we’ll rest for a bit. We will dream together.”

Lauren didn’t even pretend she understood that phrase.

“I know how busy your mom is with your kid brother. If you or Faustina need anything, let me know!” She gave a small wave and pushed down on the pedals, headed home.

Henge watched her trail off east into the emergent twilight. She took her left hand from the handlebars and touched below where a human would have had a navel.

We’re home, Aurelia. Henge felt, not thought.

Mama…

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