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With Pearl and Ruby Glowing

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It was called The Palace, back when it was a theatre. A small theatre, long closed, the big city's bigger theatre and the big-screen multiplex pulling its customers out from under it, and the city council bought it after years of disuse, and it's going to be converted into a civic centre, as soon as they have the budget. For now, they've ripped out the seats, and stacked plastic ones in the corner, but the stage is still there, and the high windows are small and murky. The group who meet there won't wait for it to be finished. They need it now, and so they cluster in the corner of the big room with their plastic chairs and folding table and their cheap coffee.

The group has a name, but the members just say they're going to The Palace, if they talk about it at all. Not all of them have anyone to tell about it, except each other. So they gather, every week, and they speak like any other group of friends. (Are they friends? some wonder. Would they be friends outside The Palace? They hope they would.) They'll make small talk, about school (their own, their children's, all ages end up here), about work, about their partners, about their (other?) friends. A listener would notice nothing wrong, except they never call each other by their names.

In The Palace, they are the Saint, or the Princess, or the Lady. Superhero names. Secret identities. From the stories which made them feel weak, they take names to make them feel strong. In The Palace, where once people came to watch others in masks and makeup and false names take on false identities, they take on false names to speak the truth.

And every so often, not every meeting, but sometimes, one will raise a hand in a lull in the conversation, and say "I think I'm ready to tell you now..."