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the defrayment of price

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The thing about hekamy that they don't tell you, is that it relies on your body to keep the spell.

 

Every seven years, your body is remade anew- the work of eating, and moving, and living your life having worn away layer after layer until there is nothing that remains of the old you, except for brain cells, which live longer. It's the brain cells that clutch to the dregs of a spell; they're why hekamy works.

So then: Ari wakes up one day, and the cells of that plain old toast have been washed out, and she remembers her father scooping her up, depositing her in a heap on the front lawn, shouting that her mother is still inside. And the memory is raw but faded, like she'd forgotten how much it hurt, because that was exactly what she had done.

Her wrist aches a little less, and she considers finding another hekamist to smooth that pain away once more; she doesn't have nightmares, now. Rather, she spends more time on the roof, her bed untouched as she ponders the stars. Is there star hekamy? Can one forget what one has never known? How would the stars take a spell? 

The trauma doesn't return, though, so she doesn't tell Jess. The hekamist did her job well.

In another life, perhaps, Win and Ari would have grown old together. Or perhaps they would have grown apart, or Ari would have realized that she would rather live in New York than live with him. Perhaps she would have left him, and they would have remembered each other as childhood sweethearts, nothing more. 

Ari never remembers him, but the spell didn't erase her feelings of love; sometimes she wakes up, ten years later, aching for soemone she has never known, feeling ghost hands on chiffon hips or gentle arms wrapped around her shoulders. Those nights, she pulls up pictures of him, tries to remember kissing that face, touching those hands. The soup did it's job, though; she never gets so much as a glimpse of his face.

Diana and Markos broke up again, but this time because Markos was moving away, and Diana didn't want to go with him- she wanted to be with him, of course, but she did not want to try her luck at work in a new town, alone and isolated from her friends. She wanted to go to the boarding school her parents had recommended.

That isn't to say they lost touch. Somehow, he found himself pressing her number every night, lying in bed and listening to her do homework as he stretched his muscles, stiff from the hours of construction work which occupied his daytime hours. Sometimes they talked, but more often, the fact of being together in silence, miles apart, was enough. He learned to know when she was sad, and she learned to recognize when he'd fallen asleep.

Both were alone, but they weren't lonely.

 

Kay grew out of her beauty spell, in the fall in Cape Cod. One day, she looked in the mirror and saw her old face, and realized that her old face had grown, matured, and that with the end of puberty, her eyes were the right shape, her mouth wasn't too big, her nose looked unique and friendly. Of course, Mina reminded her of the trouble hekamy caused, convinced her not to get another spell. Besides, she didn't need one. 

Markos couldn't help but wonder about the future they never had, the future of Markos-and-Diana, Win-and-Ari, the future of children and house parties and neighbors and drinks, the future where Ari's children had Win's open, honest face and a ballerina's grace. On the anniversary of Win's death each year, he called Ari, even though she'd never miss what she'd given up. Some nights she cried with him, sobbing as if her heart was breaking. 

Win would have approved of Diana, he thought, as he watched his red-headed bride make her way down the aisle, preceeded by Ari and Kara and Kay and Mina. On their way to the reception, they visited Echo's grave, left cooked rice there for the birds. Markos hoped that she felt less alone when the birds were there with her.

 

All wasn't well, but that's not what hekamy is for. Hekamy just makes life more bearable, but even that falls away, lays bare the secrets it kept. It must come around again.