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This story arc has been published as a novel!

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Among Mortals, Second Thoughts Are Ever Wiser

The Sunday after Thanksgiving, Suzanne fretted. She could barely think for the fretting. She wasn't sure why the weekend had been so awful, why she had fought with Andrea when the woman had pressed her for information about her life purely out of concern, or why she'd been so ugly to Ira and Andrea's poor harmless husband, David, who hadn't meant to break that plate while washing the dinner dishes.

Or, perhaps, she couldn't admit she did know why she was so overwrought.

She was afraid Andrea would hear about Simon somehow. Or that she'd spill the secret herself, shredding her own web with a casual wave of her hand.

As she'd said to Vita, if Andrea knew the truth, Andrea would have no compunction about pillorying her.

Vita! Suzanne had walked out on Simon for precisely the reasons that Vita had said: Simon had lied to her, misled her. Then she'd walked out on Vita for truth-telling.

Well, and because Vita was being vicious about Simon.

Who she'd walked out on.

Who, perhaps, had not been misleading her or lying to her. He did stop things before the clothes really came off. Was it really so offensive that he didn't walk around with a sign on his chest, proclaiming that he had been born a woman, and no, there was nothing male in his tight black jeans?

Or was it her own problem?

Suzanne rattled around the house liked a Mexican jumping bean, her thoughts tailchasing each other madly. Ira had gone out, heavens only knew where, and there was no companion that day. She stood in the doorway of Josh's room, staring in at his inert form, then forced herself to shut the door and walk away to find a book. She fought with a sudden, vicious temptation to go in and pull out his feeding tube and press a pillow over his face.

She was starting in on a page of a David Sedaris essay for the fourth or fifth time when the doorbell rang.

When she opened the door, a woman about her own age stood there. She had short brown hair, gold-rimmed glasses, and wore a grey wool blazer, blue buttondown shirt, and well-worn jeans. She smelled of cigarette smoke.

"Suzanne Feldstein?" the woman said after glancing swiftly over her face.

"Yes...?"

"My name is Holmes," the woman said, extending a card between her first and second fingers.

Suzanne took the card, frowning perplexedly. The card was plain white, with the name WATSON HOLMES, and, under it in smaller font, Consulting Detective. She gave the woman a disbelieving glare.

Watson Holmes gave a small, self-deprecating shrug. "It's only partly a joke," she said. "I just wanted to confirm my deductions. Thank you."

She turned to walk off the stoop. Suzanne said, "Wait, what? What deductions?"

Watson turned and looked at her with an angelically innocent expression. "If I say that I'm a friend of Simon Canis, does that clear things up for you?"

Suzanne felt her stomach plummet, but kept her face scrupulously irritated. "What exactly do you mean?"

Watson stepped back up and said, in a low voice, "I think it would help him if I demonstrated that no, he didn't purposely mislead you, and even if he had, he's a rank amateur next to some people, Mrs. Feldstein."

Suzanne couldn't stop her eyes from widening. "Please don't," she said, one hand reflexively going to her throat.

"Whyever not?" Watson looked at her and through her in a way that convinced Suzanne that, actually, Watson was a good deal older than she was. "You made it clear as nails that your little dalliance is over, madame."

"I've reconsidered," Suzanne said, and wondered at it. Had she? When had she? How? And did it matter now?

Watson stared at her for a few moments, then turned away again and started down the steps. "You better make it a very good apology, Mrs. Feldstein," she said, half-turning at the bottom and speaking over her shoulder, without really looking at Suzanne. "And you'd better treat him a hell of a lot better. He's young and stupid and prone to terrible mistakes, like taking back intolerant lying assholes like you. But he has friends." And with that, she strode off, every footstep of her big black Doc Martens ringing on the frigid pavement.

Suzanne saw a dark-skinned giantess apparently waiting for Watson. She couldn't hear what they said to each other as Watson closed the distance between them. She closed the door very softly and made certain it was locked. She leaned against it and breathed slowly and deeply for a long time.

On Monday morning, she left her desk midmorning, offering to pick up coffee for Sheila, who gratefully accepted.

Suzanne walked into the Great Scot and saw Simon immediately. He was chatting cheerfully with a customer. She saw his glance flick over her and saw his smile freeze for a fraction of a second. Then he carefully did not look in her direction again.

She ordered her own coffee and Sheila's coffee from the cashier, paid, and stepped to the side to wait. There was no chatter from Simon, only the coldest, most polite smile as he handed over both coffees, and a, "Thank you, ma'am. Please come again." She could imagine what his yellow eyes looked like behind the tinted lenses, and she had to repress a shudder.

Somehow, though, she still managed to go through with it. She stepped away from the counter, took a sip from her small coffee, then slid a strip of paper into the heat sleeve. She turned back to the counter and said to Simon, "I'm sorry, but this isn't what I wanted," and handed him the coffee cup with surprisingly obvious paper. He gave her a stunned look and she offered a contrite smile. "It's all right, I don't think I'm up to coffee anyway right now," she added, in case the woman lingering nearby was a manager, and then basely fled with Sheila's coffee.

She could only hope that the paper, which had her cell phone number and "Please call?" written on it would convince him to at least give her a chance to apologize, if nothing else.


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