“What are you doing in here?”
I don’t answer. He too is illegal, here, with me, he can’t give me away. Nor I him; for the moment we’re mirrors. He puts his hand on my arm, pulls me against him, his mouth on mine, what else comes from such denial? Without a word. Both of us shaking, how I’d like to. In Serena’s parlour, with the dried flowers, on the Chinese carpet, his thin body. A man entirely unknown. It would be like shouting, it would be like shooting someone. My hand goes down, how about that, I could unbutton, and then. But it’s too dangerous, he knows it, we push each other away, not far. Too much trust, too much risk, too much already.
“I was coming to find you,” he says, breathes, almost into my ear. I want to reach up, taste his skin, he makes me hungry. His fingers move, feeling my arm under the nightgown sleeve, as if his hand won’t listen to reason. It’s so good, to be touched by someone, to be felt so greedily, to feel so greedy. Luke, you’d know, you’d understand. It’s you here, in another body.
“Why?” I say. Is it so bad, for him, that he’d take the risk of coming to my room at night? I think of the hanged men, hooked on the Wall. I can hardly stand up. I have to get away, back to the stairs, before I dissolve entirely. His hand’s on my shoulder now, held still, heavy, pressing down on me like warm lead. Is this what I would die for? I’m a coward, I hate the thought of pain.
“He told me to,” Nick says. “He wants to see you. In his office.”
“What do you mean?” I say. The Commander, it must be. See me? What does he mean by see? Hasn’t he had enough of me?
“Tomorrow,” he says, just audible. In the dark parlour we move away from each other, slowly, as if pulled towards each other by a force, current, pulled apart also by hands equally strong.
I find the door, turn the knob, fingers on cool porcelain, open. It’s all I can do.