A red-robed figure approaches me as I wait at the designated spot. I don't recognise her gait or her voice when she offers the accepted greeting and tells me her name.
"Where is Ofqueen?" I ask. My previous walking companion's been pregnant for some time, so she is no longer required to go on her daily walks. Yet miscarriages are not uncommon and accidents not unheard of.
"She has taken ill," the woman says. I detect some hesitation in her words.
"You know something," I say, trying to temper my alarm.
She links her arm with mine, tugging me along. "Let us walk."
I stall, placing each step carefully on the cemented sidewalk, so she has to slow her pace to match mine.
After about a minute, she relents. "I hear she has been taken to the hospital."
"Is it her babe? Tell me."
"It is better for you not to know, given your... attachment to Ofqueen."
I stop dead. We've been careful, subsisting on fleeting glances and subtle touches since the first time suspicion fell on us. "Let that be my concern."
"Very well. I warned you." She pauses. "There was an accident. Mr Queen's Wife attacked her with garden shears."
It's a familiar tale: unable to bear children of her own, the jealous Wife eliminates her Handmaid's child instead of raising it.
Cold terror seizes me. I try to break free, but Ofgrayson's grip is too strong. "Don't make a scene. They wouldn't let you see her anyway."