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(in case I don't see you) good afternoon, good evening, and good night

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The house is quiet on Tuesday morning, and quieter on Tuesday afternoon. Tuesday afternoon is tea afternoon, when Yolande will remark on a civic scandal and Rae will counter with gossip-behind-gossip from behind the counter, from the most well-informed eaters of cake in the world.

Much of the news comes from the bakery office, and Rae's mother — she has the measure of Old Town, and Old Town has the measure of her — though it reaches Rae by a variety of human filters. So when Sadie calls, Yolande thinks that if it were a normal day, Yolande would be tempted to remark, "Hello, we were just talking about you," if only for the look on Rae's face.

When one has grown old — and then, embarrassingly, older — it is an indulgence to alarm the young with levity.

But it is not a normal day, and Yolande becomes grateful to Sadie for delivering her news so fiercely that she almost distracts from its shock. Yolande's instinctive response is to think things like, It's not my fault! I haven't kidnapped your daughter, and to lean away from the phone. Fear for Rae sinks in as a belated weight.

Yolande tells Sadie every paltry thing she knows about Rae's whereabouts. Sadie comes back around, like a pincer attack, when she tacks on a seeming courtesy: the fact that the police will probably be in contact tomorrow if Rae hasn't returned.

"Yes. Thank you."

"If you remember anything before then..."

— which is also a warning. The story she is telling Sadie had better match any other version she tells. Yolande can admire the other woman's ability to align what she wants with what you want (or don't want, and can avoid by pleasing her). But Sadie has no purchase here.

Yolande puts the phone down. That woman: with awe. Sadie in full fury makes Yolande feel fifty years younger, and anyone who thinks that's a good thing should try it. That woman raised Rae. This is Sunshine's first necessary advantage.

Wardcraft and divination do not mix. Wardcraft is the act of making the world more firmly what it wants to be: adding stanchions to reality. Yolande knows exactly this about Rae's location: she had a just-fixed car and a full tank of gas yesterday.

Yolande walks out of her door, down the path, through Rae's outer protective circle, and onto Rae's porch. She pauses. She knocks on wood.

The wards respond to her examinations. They tell their maker that they make Rae safe, that they shut out the parts of the world that will do her harm and keep in the parts of the world that complement her life. They tell Yolande that they are the borders of Rae's home.

Home because she's happy here: Yolande feels a little flattered, and hopeful. Oh, are you, now? she asks them, all contrary, and pushes: if you are Rae's home, prove it. Make it so.

Wall-forms become hall-forms, open and welcoming: a castle, a beacon on a hill. Home-wards, calling homeward.

Bring her home. Yolande goes to bed early.

She goes to bed early the next night, too. Yolande does not believe in fidgeting. The master house ward, the heart-ward, blazes from her study, compelling Rae's whole apartment to act as a summons, amplified by the light of the just-passed day. Sunshine will come, if her feet can lead her, and the light that isn't light will guide her.

(It later turns out that Rae's impressively overworked magical senses dismissed the ward Yolande had turned inside out as Yolande's innocent sitting-room light. That would be a useful point to note for the future, were Yolande not worried about a more pressing problem, viz., her tenant's adopted vampire.)

This conversation has been coming for some time.

There have been times when Yolande has seen Rae draw breath to speak, but then, her tenant has asked if she would like her mail collected from her box in town. Or she has told a story from the coffeehouse. Or she has remarked upon the garden.

Each of these times, Yolande listens to what she is saying, instead of what she is not saying.

There are many things Rae is not saying, but some of those Yolande can deduce for herself, and to ask for confirmation of sureties would be discourteous.

There are many things Rae is not saying, but other times, Yolande defines the dichotomy differently: one may be acting instead of speaking. She has seen, in apprentices, the kinds of silent fumbles that lead to progress. Rae's path may be more perilous than most, but she is on it.

They are in the garden, on a balmy evening. The shadows fall further and further towards them both. The roses breathe into the air.

There are many things said about roses, too many symbols to draw on and draw out at once, in one garden: but one thing in particular, Yolande has enhanced. They say you can tell the roses your secrets. Yolande has told her roses this.

"I don't think you've ever told me what you retired from," Rae says, all of sudden, to Yolande and the roses.

Good. Like begets like. One loves those who ask for love; one hates those to whom one has done wrong. If Rae can ask for knowledge she has no right to, she can ask for help.

Yolande tells her everything she knows, and everything Rae needs to know, for now, and sends her further into the dark.

There are places in the world where darkness rules, and Rae has chosen to challenge them. The choice can be debated. But the manner, certainly, has chosen her: the Straight Way ward, which favours confrontation, revelation, and truth, tells Yolande a great deal.

For another battle, Yolande might offer a kind of protection, or a cloak of deception, or an item that neutralises the battleground. For Rae, she and her colleagues make a shortcut: a tighter circuit between power and desire, feeding her magic back in on itself without relief, like a netted sun. Let no words hang on the tip of her tongue; let her hand not falter; let her burn like a fuse if she must.

Yolande cannot walk the ways that lead where Rae has gone, though she may send her there. She only feels it when they go. The sun sets over the balcony, and Rae and her dark companion have gone over too — or under, or far, or through.

In that sense, they have gone nowhere. They are still in Yolande's clenched hands. It is possible to let go, but Yolande does not choose to. It cannot be too long before the dawn.