Myka couldn't recall how she got to this mall, or why she'd decided to go shopping, so she did the thing she usually did when she was at a mall, which was to find the bookstore and regroup in it. This bookstore was what her father would describe as a corporate franchise nightmare dimension, but it had books, and where there were books there was safety.
She knew her name, and that she had grown up in Colorado Springs. Her memory had clear images of her parents, her sister, some friends, her dog. Girl Scouts. Twizzlers. Kissing a boy at high school and a girl at college. There were no memories of cap and gown, and that made her start to panic. It was an edgy, surreal feeling, like the recurring nightmare of missing an exam she hadn't studied for. Myka knew she'd graduated, or at least knew she was the kind of person who graduated, but she didn't know how or when it had happened. Or what her major was. She leaned against a display of glossy recipe books, and a giant eggplant on a spring wobbled above her.
"Hi, how're you doing today?" said the teenage girl behind the counter in a desultory way.
Myka knew the question was rhetorical, but she leaned on the counter anyway. "I'm looking for the Other Obelisk," she said, then frowned. She had no idea what that meant, or why she'd said it.
The girl regarded her, nonplussed for a moment, then attempted to parse the sentence. "You want to buy a book on obelisks?" she offered, tentatively.
Myka shook her head. "No, not exactly. Maybe I'll browse."
"Okay, sure," said the teenager. Her hair was bright pink, fading into a dusty orange at the tips, and she had her finger tucked in the latest YA bestseller. "Oh, hey, I love your brooch. Retro military is so crazy right now."
Myka ran her fingers over the enamelled metal, and lifted up her lapel to examine it upside down. "It's a medal," she said, in surprise. It wasn't pinned in place: the rays of a sunburst had snagged in the wool of her coat.
"I know, right?" said the girl. "But you know, you should get a proper clasp, or you'll lose it. You want me to try to fix it on? My sister runs an Etsy, and I help her with the jewellery closures. I'm sure I have a safety pin here somewhere…" She rummaged industriously through a drawer.
Myka's instinct was to prevent the girl from touching the medal, but there wasn't any reason to do that, was there? She opened her mouth to acquiesce, when a clatter of hooves outside the shop window drew the girl's attention. She ran to the door, and Myka followed.
"Whoa," she said, and Myka had to agree. A man in a Hussar's uniform clattered past on a nervous horse. The two of them were dripping regalia: brass buckles and gold fringing and a tall, curling feather on the man's helmet.
The girl leaned further out of the doorway, and the man turned in her direction. He had a splendid moustache, and he wielded a wide, curved blade with frightening confidence. He whirled it now, advancing on the bookstore with a roar.
This time, Myka listened to her instincts. She dragged the girl from the doorway, and pushed herself in front, so that if the man advanced on the store, he'd encounter Myka first. Myka had no idea what she'd do if that happened, but it was important that the girl be safe. Still, there was no reason to risk her own life needlessly; they retreated into the store until they were both shielded by a display of romance novels. Myka peeped out from under a cardboard pirate's armpit to watch what the soldier did.
He nudged the horse's sides with glimmering spurs and the horse reared up angrily on its hind legs. The man's feathered helmet caught on a banner advertising free donuts with every venti latte, and he slashed at it in rage until it hung about him ribbons.
"To victory! For the King!" he shouted, brandishing his blade, and then galloped off deeper into the mall.
Myka kept the girl behind her but crept towards the door again, and they both watched the man vanish, his horse's hooves skittering on the polished floor.
"You're kind of jumpy," said the girl, straightening her uniform.
Myka wondered if she'd overreacted. "That didn't seem weird to you?"
The girl shrugged. "There's all kinds of promotions going on all the time, it's no big deal. Last Christmas we had a camel. This is probably for the new menswear place on the fourth floor; they're kind of uppity." A piece of the shredded banner floated in through the door and she pushed it out again with her toe. "Mr. Lucero from the Starbucks is going to be pissed," she said with relish.
The mention of Starbucks made Myka's stomach growl, and she realised she couldn't remember the last time she ate, or indeed, what she had eaten. In the Starbucks, she scarfed down a scone, then nursed her coffee, still undecided on whether she took sugar or not, and laid out the contents of her pockets. She placed her phone next to a narrow tin that reminded her of a pencil box, though she obviously didn't keep pencils in it, since there were two of those loose in her pocket. On her hip, she apparently carried a raygun that had to be a toy. A slim leather wallet in her jacket pocket identified her as an agent of the tax office.
The tin buzzed, and she jumped, then slapped her hand on it to stop it sliding off the table. Her fingers flipped the latch open with a familiarity that completely bypassed Myka's conscious mind. Inside, on the circular screen, a man peered out at her with a sour expression.
"Where have you been? There have been sixteen calls to 911 about an armed horseman in the Cloverhill Mall. Sixteen, Myka! Stop gawping and get this Artifact secure before someone gets skewered."
Myka took a breath to ask what the hell was going on, since this communication device was obviously two-way, but an explosion sounded on the man's side and the screen shook. He closed his eyes in a weary way.
"I have to go and find out what Claudia just blew up, Myka. When I hear from you next, it will be with good news, do you hear me?"
Myka nodded, because playing along seemed like a sensible thing to do at this point. "I'm looking for the Other Obelisk," she said, as the screen went dead.
She'd said the same thing to the barista, too, though he had simply nodded and said, "Aren't we all, babe?" The need to say it was a compulsion, and above all the weird things happening to her, Myka did not like being compelled.
Someone slammed a plate down on the table, and Myka started. A woman with dark hair and an intense gaze slipped into the seat opposite.
"Why on earth did you order this?" she said, gesturing at the plate that held a scone like the one Myka had wolfed. She was English, this woman. She wore a trenchcoat and a wide-legged pantsuit, and she was elegant in ways that even an amnesiac Myka knew she would never be.
"Uh," said Myka. "I'm looking for the Other Obelisk." Damn it! She wanted this coolly beautiful person to like her, and starting with a weird non sequitur wouldn't cut it.
The woman sighed. "Yes, darling, we're all aflutter for the Other Obelisk, but it doesn't hurt to take a coffee break, now that I've sorted that Hussar. I'm all in favour of coffee breaks, I have to say. Except for this abomination." She gestured at the plate.
"It's a scone," Myka said. Her stomach rumbled and she thought about ordering herself another. "Don't you like scones? I thought all English people liked scones."
The woman pulled a receipt out her pocket and stabbed at the printed words. "I asked for whatever you're having, and he gave me this. I must say, I'm very disappointed."
"You didn't want a maple glazed scone?" Myka hazarded.
"This is not a scone! A scone has flour, butter, sugar and perhaps – perhaps! – currants. Not all this rubbish, for Heaven's sake."
"You sorted the Hussar?" She realised that speaking with her, Myka felt calmer than she had since recollection. She wished she knew her name.
The woman leaned forward, so that her voice slipped below the surface babble of the crowded Starbucks. "I lured him into one of those ludicrously small change rooms and knocked him out, so he won't be any trouble, not for a few hours at least." She prised the plastic top from her coffee with a wary expression. "Why is the future so obsessed with whipped cream from a can? It's most peculiar." She dipped her finger in the cloud of white floating on her coffee and licked it, then made a face and spooned it out onto a napkin.
"Yes, Myka, darling, it may shock you, but in the past, we whipped our cream by hand." The woman smiled at her. It was a wicked smile, and Myka couldn't help smiling back.
"What did you do with the horse?" she asked, suddenly. "There was a horse, wasn't there?"
"Yes, well, that was particularly clever of me," said the woman. "I left him in the parking garage. Had the devil of a time getting him into the cargo elevator, but there were a large number of dissipated teenagers down there who were willing to take care of him." She sipped her coffee, an expression of satisfaction curling around her smile. "It doesn't matter the era, there are always girls who love ponies."
Myka sipped her coffee too, pleased on the woman's behalf that things seemed to be going well. The woman watched over Myka's shoulder as they drank, and Myka watched the woman. It was clear that they were on first name terms, her and this woman, and the happy, ticking rush of Myka's heart at seeing her surely meant that they were at least good friends. Myka wondered if she would be angry if she learned that Myka had forgotten her name.
The woman put down her coffee. "Oh, dear," she said.
Myka turned a little so she could see in the reflection of a glass window. Six men in historical uniforms crept down the Starbucks, bayonets pointing forward and low. The other patrons fled out of the corner exit ahead of the wave of soldiers, and the barista was nothing more than a fauxhawk peeking over the edge of the counter.
"Come on," said the woman. "I've found there's all sorts of corridors tunnelling through this horrible place." Before she moved, her fingers found Myka's and wrapped around them, an automatic gesture. Myka snatched up her coat and slipped it on as they ran to the rear of the store. Behind them came roars of anger and the thudding of boot-clad feet.
They ran through the storeroom, squeezed between bags of beans and boxes of cardboard cups, and emerged into a claustrophobic corridor lit with flickering tube-lights and crowded with the day to day ephemera of mall life: piles of garbage headed for the Dumpsters, folded and crushed cartons to be collected for recycling, and a plethora of signs taped to the walls indicating exit routes and obscure rules about footwear.
Myka followed the woman along the skinny passageways, because there was no room to run shoulder to shoulder. This forced the bayonet-bearers to run single-file too, though, so Myka and her companion quickly moved ahead as they turned doglegged corners and randomly chose new directions at the five-way intersections. It was a high-speed chase in an anthill, but the woman had an excellent sense of direction. When they finally slowed, Myka found they were at the rear of a big box warehouse.
The woman was only slightly out of breath. "We've crossed our own path, so they should be coming that way any minute now. If we can hide, they'll go right past us. Then we might have a chance at figuring out what they're so intent on hunting."
Myka pointed at a tall cardboard box that had held a refrigerator. "How about in here? It's not much protection, but if we're quiet, we should get away with it."
"Excellent," said the woman. She slipped inside the box. "Come along!"
Myka, pleased with the way her suggestion was received, wriggled in beside her. Inside, it was cosy but not impossibly cramped, with only few Styrofoam peanuts sticking to the sides. She stood face to face with the woman, and wondered what her name was. She had such an interesting mouth, Myka thought. It was worth playing along with this weirdness, to watch her speak. And to find out what was going on, of course, but even if she knew that, Myka thought she would probably follow this woman, just to be with her.
A white curl of Styrofoam drifted down from the top of the box, and it clung to the woman's hair. Myka reached up to pluck it out, and the woman tipped her head as she did, so that she could kiss Myka's wrist.
"Oh!" Myka said, in surprise and more than a little pleasure.
The woman frowned at her surprise, then smiled again. "That's right, I did promise not to do that on missions, didn't I? I'm sorry. It was just an opportune moment."
Myka swallowed her guilt. It felt wrong to be deceiving the woman, especially if, if, oh, they were in a relationship of some kind. She'd want to know if her partner had completely forgotten her name.
"I should tell you," she started, but the woman stepped closer and pressed a finger over Myka's lips. The tramp of heavy bootsteps was extremely clear through the thin cardboard, and getting louder.
"Shh," she mouthed. Myka nodded. The woman's hands smelled of soap and a faint perfume, and her fingertips were calloused in interesting ways. As the men marched past, whispering to themselves, Myka suddenly realised that they could stab those bayonets through the walls of the box. She closed her eyes and held her breath and tried not to imagine sharp blades sliding through cardboard.
Cool fingers brushed her cheek, and Myka opened her eyes. "That's the last of them," she said. "Are you all right, Myka? You seem a little uncertain."
Myka took a deep breath to explain but the woman's gaze fell to Myka's lapel.
"Myka, how is it that you're wearing the Earl of Plymouth's medal?"
They took shelter from the Hussars in a homewares store, huddled on an overstuffed sofa crowded with cushions printed with ampersands.
"I thought this sort of thing only happened to Pete," said Helena. ("I'm Helena, darling, though other people call me HG," she had said as they crept through the corridors.)
"Who's Pete?" asked Myka, helplessly. "I'm sorry, all I remember is wandering through the doors of the mall. It's very hazy."
Helena slipped on a pair of purple gloves before she touched the medal. She lifted the thing off Myka's coat and raised her eyebrows, the question unspoken.
Myka tried picturing this Pete, or the mysterious and incendiary Claudia from the communications device. She shook her head. "Sorry, nothing's coming back."
"Don't panic," said Helena, calmly. "It's important to be systematic about Artifacts – next we'll try neutralising it." She was completely unruffled, about Myka's confessed amnesia, about the soldiers who were possibly drawn by the medal, about continuing to carry out her assignment while taking care of her partner.
"You're amazing. And a little intimidating. What did I do to get assigned to you?" she asked.
For the first time, Helena's expression was unsettled. "What did you do to get assigned to me? You were the only one who trusted me. And believed in me." She dropped her gaze, and concentrated on the silver foil bag that was apparently vital in neutralising these Artifacts.
Myka didn't have to have her memory back to know that Helena let her guard slip rarely and only with people she cared about. She leaned over the piles of tasselled pillows, brushed the hair from Helena's forehead and kissed it. "I don't know anything about you other than your name, and I know that I am safe with you."
Helena's smile as she worked was quite different from the one she wore in public. Myka liked this one, most especially because it told her that her self lost behind the amnesia must be pretty decent, to have been given the chance to see it.
Helena slipped the medal into the bag and zipped it closed. There was a pause.
"Is something supposed to have happened?" asked Myka.
Helena shook her head, rueful. "The fact that you had to ask me that rather answers your own question. No, I think that for your memories to be restored, we'll need to return the medal to the obelisk."
"I'm looking for the Other… Damn it!" Myka clamped her mouth shut and held it that way. After a moment, she let her hand fall. "Sorry, I keep saying that. I don't know anything about an obelisk, let alone the other obelisk, whatever that is."
"It's most likely the Artifact; they affect people in interesting ways." Helena stowed the medal, still in the foil bag, in her satchel. "And there's just the one obelisk. The Earl of Plymouth was christened 'Other'. It supposedly derives from some Viking ancestor, but I've met his family, albeit a little later than his time. I would expect the descendants of Vikings to have something more in the chin department."
A terrified squeak came from the woman at the front counter, and Myka knelt up on the sofa to peek between the shelves of a display of vases. A mass of feathered plumes moved stealthily through the store.
"That's our cue," she said to Helena. She was getting used to this, even if she still had only the loosest idea of what was going on.
Helena stood up, and took Myka's hand. "Swift and silent now," she said, and they were off again into the rabbit warren of corridors. Unfortunately, there were more and more of the soldiers, and despite their anachronistic clothing and turn of speech, they proved more than adept at tracking their foe. The corridors were no longer offering quick escape so Myka and Helena stole back into the mall proper. It was largely empty now.
"Excellent, Artie must have organised the evacuation," said Helena. She pointed over a glass barrier, towards a mass of soldiers congregated in the plaza below. They milled around the bottom of the descending escalator. A few bravely stepped onto it, horrifying their comrades as they were thrown backwards.
"They're going to figure that out fairly soon," said Myka. "We need to get out of sight again." She eyed an intake grill set into the wall between the Target and a camping supply store.
"Oh, please, not the air vents," said Helena. "Besides, that's only going to take us to the roof, and then we'll really be cornered. No, we need to start using this medal to our advantage – we can lead them back to the Obelisk; I'm sure it's what's generating them, after all."
Below, the Hussars had discovered that the second escalator went upwards, and now, they rallied around it. One staunchly saluted the others, and stepped on, starting in shock as he sailed upwards.
"Huzzah!" The others all sent up a mighty cheer. Then they rapidly formed a line, stepping onto the escalator in a swift but orderly manner. Myka was astonished, both at the way that presumably metaphysically generated soldiers of the Georgian era were mastering twenty-first century technology, and at how very polite they were about it, standing to attention on the escalator like toys, their bayonets safely propped on their shoulders.
Modern technology. "Maybe they haven't figured out elevators yet," she said, clutching Helena's arm.
The first and bravest Hussar reached their floor, and lowered the point of his bayonet as he approached them at a run.
Helena started running in the opposite direction. "I want you to know," she said, leading Myka through the deserted Target. "I want you to know I'd kiss you if I had the breath!"
"Maybe later?" Myka said, hopefully, as they ran. Target's storeroom was almost as huge as the store itself, but Helena ran with an unerring sense of direction to a set of wide double doors surrounded by cartons and scattered horse manure.
The cargo elevator was not swift, but it carried them to the loading bay in the parking garage. As it rattled downwards, Myka put pieces of the story together.
"So, there's this Earl, and I somehow picked up his medal," she said. "And that made the Other Obelisk angry, and it generated soldiers to reclaim it?"
Helena knelt in front of the operating panel of the elevator, wires strewn all around her. "The Obelisk was built in recognition of his effort in bringing the Kings's Own Worcestershire Hussars into existence. I suppose, perhaps in some way, it's still bringing them into existence, as needed. Are they through yet?"
Myka lifted the access hatch and peered up the elevator shaft. Thuds and bangs came from the door on the third floor, but there was no sign the soldiers had breached it. "No, not yet. Hopefully they think we're still up there, hiding in a little room."
"No reason why they wouldn't," said Helena. The elevator came to a juddering halt, and once the doors opened, she yanked hard on the wires. The panel sparked and smoked, and the lights went out. "That should disable it. Even if they do pry those doors apart, they'll have to climb down the ladders to get here. That ought to win us some time."
A cluster of teenage girls and boys sat on the loading bay, swinging their legs, all attention focused with laser-like intensity on the horse that Helena had liberated from the first Hussar that had menaced Myka at the bookstore. Myka regarded it dubiously, then a thought occurred to her.
"If we get the medal back to the Obelisk, then you think I'll get my memories back? But wait, isn't it in England? I'm assuming that's the Plymouth you're talking about."
Helena reached out to scratch between the horse's ears and it closed its eyes in pleasure. "I've learned that in the future, it's not only very fashionable to adulterate scones, it's also the done thing to transport a monument from point A to point B, brick by brick, and reassemble it. Which is what was done with the Other Obelisk, I'm afraid. It's sitting in the spacious garden of someone's mansion not far from here."
"Okay," said Myka. "So, the Obelisk and the medal, they're part of the same Artifact, then. And we need the medal to lead the soldiers back to the Obelisk, where they'll hopefully vanish?"
"When we reunite the two pieces, yes." Helena said. A teenage boy tugged at her sleeve and she turned to him. "Yes?"
"There's those dudes," he said, his mouth barely opening as he spoke. He pointed with his elbow, in as disinterested a way as one could, when indicating an oncoming mob of Hussars. The soldiers converged on them through the parking lot, weaving between the cars, their bayonets held ready.
The other teenagers melted away from the loading bay like shadows, and Helena was left holding the horse by the reins.
Myka watched the advancing wall of gold braid in dismay; there were well over a hundred of them by now. At least they were all on foot? Maybe if she and Helena hot-wired one of the forklifts, they could lead the men towards the Obelisk.
The horse whinnied, and Myka spun to see that Helena sat comfortably and competently astride the saddle. She patted the horse's rear, as if taking a seat there was as effortless as sitting beside Helena on a sofa.
"No," said Myka. The Hussars had seen them now, and their roar of fury grew louder and louder as they ran towards the loading bay. "No!"
"Yes," said Helena, and reached out for her. Somehow, she swung Myka's body weight in just the right way that sliding a leg across the horse's rump was not as awkward as she would have guessed. As soon as Myka was settled and her arms were safely wrapped around Helena's waist, Helena did something with her legs, and the horse sprung from the loading bay with a clatter of hooves.
The horse darted through the narrow spaces between cars, headed for the sunlit area outside the garage. Myka found it was tremendously slippery without the saddle to anchor her in place, and she clung even tighter, burying her face between Helena's shoulder blades. There was not quite enough space between two over-sized SUVs, and Myka's knee snapped off a mirror. Behind them, the Hussars had taken up the chase, shouting and baying like a pack of hounds.
"Do you know how to drive this thing?" Myka shouted in panic. She flung the mirror over her shoulder towards the oncoming horde.
Helena guided the horse easily out of the mall lot, and down a suburban street. "Oh, darling, driving is what you do with carriages. This is riding!" There was a terrifying elation in her voice.
"I don't like riding!" Myka wailed, as the horse leapt over a low brick wall and into a garden. "Never take me riding again!"
The Obelisk was at the end of a long, green space of lawn, as the centrepiece of a well-manicured parterre. The horse slowed from a gallop to a bone-shaking trot and finally a walk slow enough that Myka felt it was safe to throw herself to the ground.
Helena dismounted much more elegantly, and thumped the horse on the neck in cheerful solidarity. "That was splendid! If you don't dematerialise with the Regiment, I might speak to Artie about bringing you to South Dakota."
"No," said Myka. "Please, don't." She had grass stains on her knees, and horsehair in places she didn't want to consider, not to mention a bruise on her elbow and, oh yeah, amnesia.
"Are they here yet?" Helena brushed herself down, ran her hands through her hair, and suddenly she was as tidy and elegant as when she'd sat down at Myka's table at Starbucks.
"Not yet," said Myka, clambering to her feet, feeling as if she had been pelted with rocks. "Is the job always like this? It's pretty intense."
Helena laughed and took Myka's hand, tugging her towards the Other Obelisk. "Yes, it's always like this, and I assure you, the more like this it becomes, the more you relish it."
"That's a little frightening," said Myka. "I hope you're exaggerating." She didn't think Helena was exaggerating. Now that she wasn't afraid of falling to her death, Myka felt an exhilaration that had a familiarity to it. It was fun to tease, though, another thing that was familiar, judging from the little squirm of pleasure she felt from seeing Helena's quirked eyebrow. She reached out, a little cautious, to touch her there, and this time, when Helena tilted her head to kiss Myka's wrist, it wasn't a shock.
Myka didn't want to move her hand, not when Helena was leaning into it, not when there was dark silken hair brushing her knuckles. The moment lengthened, there on the grass in the sun, with bees buzzing around their ankles.
"We should probably…" said Myka.
Helena sighed. "Yes, of course. The Hussars are likely hot on our heels."
"It's just – I presume we had a first kiss, of some kind?" said Myka. "Was it good?" She hoped it was, but it would make more sense if it had been awkward and Myka had somehow poked herself in the eye.
Helena smiled. It was a grin, really, wide and happy. "It was splendid, Myka. We were on top of a skyscraper in Dubai and certain death loomed. It was all really very cinematic. Then there were parachutes, which, sadly, are not as romantic as you might imagine."
"I thought – before I get my memories back, you know. I mean, who gets a second chance at…" Myka gave up on words, and closed the gap between them. Time to stop being so tentative, and just enjoy the moment as it happened.
The moment she had put her lips to Helena's, Myka realised that though she had no memory of doing this, her body definitely knew what to do. One hand rested easily at Helena's nape, and the other circled her waist. Helena sighed, her mouth open against Myka's, and she leaned into the embrace with a softness that made Myka's heart skip.
"Ahem." A man's voice came from the garden path near the house, where the Hussars had arrived. Instead of skewering the two of them while they were distracted, the men had stopped and politely turned their backs.
Helena smoothed Myka's curls and turned to face them. "How delightfully chivalrous of you, gentlemen. Now, if you could give us a moment to regain our composure before we engage in battle?"
"Are you sure?" Myka whispered. Her fingers were wrapped around the butt of the weird ray-gun, and she hoped that meant she knew how to use it. It certainly felt comfortable.
Helena gave her a sideways glance and a smile. "Oh, Myka, these are men are soldiers of a more elegant age; we can rely upon their manners to allow us to put ourselves in order. We wouldn't want any uncouth behaviour to mar the noble art of war."
"Hear, hear!" A muttering of agreement came from the line of men with their backs turned.
Helena took the silver bag from her satchel and passed it to Myka. "I think it's best if you replace the medal," she said under her breath, nodding towards the glass panel inset in the stonework. The glass itself was shattered, and pieces lay in the grass.
Myka pulled the medal cautiously from the bag. "I understand about the soldiers – that makes sense, knowing the history of the Obelisk. But why does the medal cause amnesia? That doesn't seem to have any connection to this Other guy and his Regiment."
"Maybe he regretted what he did?" said Helena. "After the Boer War, it might have seemed a misguided act, bringing all those men together to die so far from their homes." She pointed towards the row of soldiers, so intent on honour, with little thought for the realities of warfare, and she finally looked tired. "Maybe he just wanted to forget all about it."
Myka pressed the medal into position, and a flash, bright and sharp against her eyelids, was the last thing she remembered.
When she came to, she saw blue sky, and her hands brushed the short, ordered blades of grass of a well-kept lawn. Her head rested in Helena's lap, and memory had settled comfortably back in her mind.
"That was exciting," said Helena, above her. She stroked Myka's hair, and flicked a midge away from her face. "How are you feeling?"
"Tell me the horse disappeared," said Myka. "There is no way Artie is going to let you keep that thing back at the Warehouse. The dog is enough."
Helena laughed. "Welcome back, darling. And yes, the poor horse has gone. Je suis désolé; he was a lovely thing, even for an ephemeral imagining."
Later, back in the kitchen at Lena's, Helena hovered at Myka's hip, supervising every move.
"No, just rub the butter in with your fingertips," she said. "Don't mash it, Myka, you have to…"
"You're a worse backseat driver in the kitchen than I am on a horse," said Myka. "Stop. Sit down, let me mess this up on my own."
Helena sat on the edge of a kitchen chair. "I suppose even a burnt scone is better than that grotesquerie from Starbucks."
Myka worked the butter into the flour thoughtfully, until it resembled breadcrumbs. Amnesia had been a strange and dislocating experience. Most of all, she had missed the feeling of family, of having someone solid at her back, and knowing she had a safe place to retreat to. If you didn't have that, she supposed, perhaps it would have been freeing.
"Do you ever want to just forget?" she asked, suddenly. "I know, you have so much history, and sometimes I can see how that would be…"
"Easier?" said Helena. "No, I don't think that what I've seen and done should be put aside easily." There was a stillness to her, sitting upright on the wooden chair in Lena's friendly kitchen, and it made Myka's heart ache. Then she smiled, and reached up to brush flour from Myka's cheek. "And I wouldn't for the world miss out on the things I've gained along the way."