Sion Mills, Eastern Region, 17th August 1901

Something more beautiful than what they are.

Two heads, one as blonde as the bleached grass they lay in and one as black as night, lay pressed together, damp with morning dew. Both bodies were sore with experience. The boy's fingers made circles on the girl's back, right where she said it hurt.

Above them, a chrysalis glinted gold over green in the sunlight. It seemed to cling, frightened, to the thin stalk it had made its temporary home. As the breeze pushed it one way, then the other, it was a miracle its weight hadn't toppled the grass by now.

"It doesn't seem real," said Riza. She was lying in the crook of his arm, one leg thrown between his and one arm pillowing his head.

"Mm?" queried the boy, sleepily.

"The colours. The cornflowers, the sky, that bug," she said, her voice full of wonder. Suddenly, she snapped her head to face him, eyes fierce. "And I don't want you to spoil it with science."

He laughed and bumped his head against hers. "It's wonderful."

She looked at him for a long time, checking if he was teasing her, but she saw his eyes were full of admiration. She looked back at the chrysalis.

"Though that's not a bug."

She groaned. He really couldn't help himself.

"It's probably just a soup of cells at the moment."

"A soup-"

He bumped their heads again, as if he might transfer the science by way of osmosis. "Pupation. Soon, that soup is going to be a butterfly. A red admiral maybe," he said, sighing. "It's magical in its own way. More magic than magic." He laughed at himself.

She rolled her eyes but said nothing. Her chest rose and fell under her thin yellow shirt and her eyes misted with a sudden strength of feeling.

Roy sat up and studied her, concerned. "Are you okay? You're not in the habit of crying these days, are you?" She didn't answer. She just kept staring, angrily almost, at the innocent little pod. Roy laughed and kicked her lightly; rousingly. "Riza," he said.

"Do you think it knows that it'll become what it's going to become?" the girl asked, her voice tight with something like upset. "That it's turning into something better than what it was?"

Roy looked back at the pod, now just inches from his face. "I don't know," he said softly. He pushed his fingers through her hair and left them there. His heart filled with new admiration for this strangest of strange girls- all his. It was just the two of them. "I don't know," he shrugged. "It's some transformation though: turning from this little hungry worm into something capable of flight... colourful... fragile. Even its name becomes more beautiful."

Riza pulled him back to lie beside her. She spoke with her eyes fixed on the sky above her. She tried to imagine what that butterfly would look like the first time it flew. After a time, she took his hand and laid it gently on her stomach. He smiled at her fondly. "I wonder if that's what happens when we die," she whispered. "Is there something more beautiful for us when this is all over?"

The boy bit his lip, struck by her question as powerfully as the thought must have struck her. He supposed it was a kind of death. "I don't know," he said. "But I really hope so."

Please let me offer the biggest thanks imaginable for your wonderful support over the last two years. (Two!)

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Writers I want to signpost here are: disastergirl, Antigone Rex, Oedipus Tex (no relation), ThousandSunnyLyon and Sammyquill.

Thank you.