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When she smiled the stars danced, and sometimes I had to remind myself that I had to execute her, just like the others. We talked long into the night and she was the only one who ever laughed at anything I said. Then I realized that she laughed because she thought them jokes, and we learnt only ever to be literal. But I didn’t have the heart to tell her, so I let her laugh, and sometimes she’d reach out her small hands, her light fingers and rest them against my skin, and I’d smile, slightly, back.
I considered transferring, to another regiment, then I thought of another fifty girls with quick fingers and a waltzing, quivering sky. Then I thought of her face and the way the freckles peppered around her nose and stretched to the tip of her cheeks. When I brought it up to my captain, he looked surprised. He said they were quicker, a larger volume, but he thought I’d like it here, this was the smallest regiment because we were picked out especially to enjoy not the mass of executions but the details in each one. We took our time and perfected every single death as if it was the most delicate of watercolors, and cherished the product as much as the end. He said a transfer would be easy but to think of it, carefully
I thought about it. And then I thought of leaving her to another’s hands. And so I stayed, and each night she’d brush her finger against some part of me, and one night her lip, soft and tender and quick, a second of wetness and then a hand to cover the culprit. I smiled back but she was beginning to think, or had been thinking all along that I was on her side, an undercover sympathizer and different from the rest of them. And I was, I supposed, me and the rest of my small regiment, who took special care with each and every one of our subjects.
Too special, maybe. One evening we sat in the garden with its barren branches overhead and the cold gray concrete beneath our bare feet and watched the sun stain the sky purple and orange and red, and her finger as usual grazed toward mine, then it was her whole hand, her small precious hand curled up, laced with mine and she said, isn’t it lovely and I looked up and yes, yes it was and without thinking I wrapped my other hand around the small of her back and pulled her towards me and lingered just above her open strawberry lips. “I have to kill you, do you know that?”
Her eyes met mine. “Yes.”
“So why not?”
She grinned and bit away the frown that dragged the edge of my lips. I let her, and everything else, after that. The silk of her skin, the lust in myself that overtook us without mercy.
At dawn the order came.
I watched her turn to her side and traced my finger from the nape of her neck down the notches in her spine. She didn’t wake, but I had to wake her for our last goodbye.
Or maybe I didn’t.
I considered. Then the long silver blade came into my grasp as if carried by invisible ghosts and with its weight in me, its glisten and glow beckoning I slid it, pierced her paper skin and watched as blood seeped across the blade and her eyes opened, I met her eyes, and I’d never been able to read her, not like the others. The thought angered me, even now, I couldn’t read her eyes, and as the blade cut across her neck, and bones fell defenseless against its edge and a trickle of blood dripped from the corner of those perfect lips, I thought, this would be the last time.
But it never was.