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Human Rights Campaign Headquarters

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The temperature rose in the boardroom, degree by degree.

Bilquis sat in one corner, near invisible to all of these whites in suits, because she liked it that way for now.

“And so,” a woman was saying, “That’s just why I don’t think they should be included. My wife and I have been trying to make sure people see--”

Next to Bilquis, someone in a pantsuit with close cropped hair began to stiffen.

“-they’ve just never belonged,” the woman who theoretically had the talking stick was continuing. “We have to stay on message. They might just have to fight their own battles. Separate from us.”

A murmur went through the crowd.

“It’s time to break for lunch,” somebody said from the other corner. Somebody Bilquis knew wasn't there when she arrived. “Let’s think on this and see if this is where we want to leave it.”

Bilquis recognized her. Fresh-faced and angry under the surface, with eyes that said: who am I who are you what are we? I’m so confused. Confused and innocent.

Bilquis knew better.

She couldn’t go in for the kill. She would leave that to somebody else. It wasn’t her style. But this mortal woman… this one who had willingly given voice to throwing people under the bus… Bilquis knew what to do with her.

The crowd buzzed with uneasiness as the speaker made her way toward the back of the room. There was a studied attempt not to look uncomfortable from several other faces in the room.

Bilquis made a beeline for the speaker. The speaker of subtle hatred. Best to separate her from the crowd before she could offer her respectability politics to more people in the room. Not that they weren’t all here in their suits as a function of respectability politics--Bilquis knew better about that too.

“What are you doing for lunch, honey?” Bilquis asked by way of introduction, batting her eyelashes just enough times. Brevity is the soul of getting ridiculous people away from innocents before they make more of a mess. Even this many words almost didn’t feel worth it. But it would be. It would be.

“Oh. Um.”

Bilquis turned up the volume.

“Oh.”

“I’d like to have you for lunch,” Bilquis said, and it would be flat to anyone who understood her, the gods, or anything at all about how not to be a bigot.

“Oh. Me too. I mean. It’s.”

Bilquis took her by the elbow and turned.

*~*~*

“My wife and I, we just… I mean I shouldn’t but…”

Bilquis raised an eyebrow. “But you will, honey.”

“Oh, yes.”

“I heard what you said in that meeting. The world heard what you said in that meeting. Do you understand me?”

“Um?”

“I see you don’t have that many thoughts, my dear.”

“It’s just...you’re so...I’ve never cheated before.”

“I’d ask you about that little opinion you were giving in the meeting, honey, but I think we both know what it is and what it means.”

“Do you think I made some people uncomfortable?”

“Oh, honey, I know you did.”

“Will you still--I--”

“That depends. I suppose. If you behave yourself,” Bilquis said, her voice dry as ever. “Come with me, honey. We’re going to paint the town red.…”

Bilquis did not know the name this woman went by in the “real world,” the world of computers and the Internet and ‘screen time.’” She did not have to know. She had seen Dysphoria surface in the corner, likely to follow someone home that night. And this woman who had gotten in a TERF dog-whistle loud enough to summon Dysphoria was going to pay.

They drove from the restaurant to Bilquis’ red red room. They were silent, but the car stereo thumped.

./~ blood in the boardroom ./~

And so it was. Of course it was. This was always the way.

Later would come the screams.