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In the shadows, the soft voice of a harmonica chased the discarded Tarot image down the gutter, dancing the white-faced harlequin in the clutch of a cold breeze.


Synthia didn’t talk to angels, but she saw them. She never mentioned them. She didn’t watch them directly, only out of the corner of her eye, and only because they were always there. It wasn’t like she had a choice. They haunted the periphery of her vision, watched her world from the shadows, but they never watched her. Synthia saw the angels, but they didn’t know she was alive.

When Syn had been ten, she’d tried to tell her mother. She’d sat down at the kitchen table and asked to share the oddly-scented herb tea that filled her mother’s afternoons. She could still recall the heat of the cup as she wrapped her small hands around it, and the way the mint and herbs had sifted up through the mist to tickle her nose.

She’d felt very grown up that day, as if a page in her life had turned, or a cycle had shifted to the next ring. Her mother had had very deep, brown eyes, and long hair teasing down over her shoulders. Syn remembered the way the morning sunlight had filtered through the blinds, striping the refrigerator like a surreal, oblong zebra. She remembered her mother’s odd little smile, the one that caused the shift. The one that made them friends, in that moment, and not mother and daughter. Deceptions were realities on all levels. That smile had drawn her in, and Syn had spoken her heart.

She had told her mother then, about the old woman on the landing of the stairs, white hair wisping about her face and eyes wide in pain, or fear. She told her mother about the two boys who mirrored her steps as she walked to school, books clutched tightly to her chest and eyes to the ground so that they would not catch her attention. She told her mother about the girl in the shower at school, the one who was there, always, naked and cringing in the corner, and the shadowy, half-seen figure who hovered over her. She even told her mother, for the first time, why it was that when they went to visit Grandmother’s grave, Syn had clutched so tightly to her leg.

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