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a physically triumphant woman

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Charles burst into the room. The agonized expression on his face, which had been fixed there since Madame Arcati had failed to rid him of his dead wives, really was intensely un-attractive.

Ruth looked at him. And wondered what she had seen before, all those years. It was almost impossible to imagine.

"You two are looking cozy," he bit out. After his endless entreaties to Ruth before she died that she should try to coexist with Elvira, it now seemed impossible to him that such a thing could actually happen. "She apologized yet? For murdering you?"

Ruth looked at Elvira, who had not yet apologized.

"Darling," she returned, turning her face from one of them to the other. "She was trying to kill you, not me."

Ruth noticed the edge of Elvira's lip curling up slightly.

"Your husband, she tries to kill your husband and you sit with her ..." Charles gestures at them, as if he's not sure what activities women could possibly do alone in rooms without men. "Talking."

"Let's just say," Ruth began, and lay down her newspaper. "I'm beginning to understand the impulse."

It was worth it to see the spark of fear in Charles' eyes. Elvira giggled.

Ruth had a memory, from what seemed like centuries ago. "She is, Charles."

"What?"

"Physically attractive. More so than me ... I believe the word triumphant was also used. I can see it now. She's better in motion."

Charles looked positively floored. Elvira's hand fluttered to her throat.

"It's the clothes, Ruth," she said, her tone delighted. "You beginners start out in whatever dull church-rags they bury you in. But there are tricks to getting new ones. Involving fabric and concentration and ... whatnot. I believe it was Sappho who taught me ... "

Ruth turned to face Elvira. Was Charles still in the room? Did it matter?

"Tricks, you say?"

Elvira leaned in. "I could teach you."

Ruth rested one cold hand on hers. She felt something distinctly wonderful stir inside her. "Well? Shall we begin?"