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Pearson Mary E, “The kiss of deception”, public translation into English from English More about this translation.

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I placed the garland of pink flowers on her head, and she became a magical wood nymph.

“Your turn,” she said. My own shift was white with embroidered lavender flowers sprinkled across it. I slipped it on and twirled, looking at myself in the mirror and feeling something akin to a cloud, light and liberated from this earth. Pauline and I both paused, contemplating the claw and vine on my shoulder, the thin straps of the shift leaving it clearly visible.

Pauline reached out, touched the claw, and shook her head slowly as she considered it. “It suits you, Lia. I’m not sure why, but it does.”

When we arrived at the tavern, Rafe and Kaden were loading the wagon with tables from the dining room and cases of Berdi’s blackberry wine and preserves. As we approached, they both stopped mid-lift and slowly set their heavy loads back down. They said nothing, just stared.

“We should bathe more often,” I whispered to Pauline, and we both suppressed a giggle.

We excused ourselves to go inside and see if Berdi needed help with anything else. We found her with Gwyneth in the kitchen, loading pastries into a basket. Pauline stared longingly at the golden-crusted blackberry scones as they disappeared layer after layer into the basket. Berdi finally offered her one. She nibbled a corner self-consciously and swallowed.

“There’s something I need to tell you all,” she blurted out breathlessly.

For a moment, chatter, shuffling, and clanking of pans stopped. Everyone stared at Pauline. Berdi set the scone she was about to add to the basket back on the tray.

“We know,” she said.

“No,” Pauline insisted. “You don’t. I—”

Gwyneth reached out and grabbed Pauline’s arms. “We know.”

Somehow this became the signal for all four of us to go the table in the corner of the kitchen and sit. Gentle folds pressed down around Berdi’s eyelids, her lower lids watery, as she explained that she had been waiting for Pauline to tell her. Gwyneth nodded her understanding while I looked at all of them in wonder.

Their words were sure and deliberate. Hands were squeezed, days counted, and sorrows shouldered. My hands reaching out to become part of it all—the agreement, the solidarity, Pauline’s head pulled to Berdi’s chest, Gwyneth and I exchanging glances, so much said with no words at all. Our relationships shifted. We became a sisterhood with a common cause, soldiers of our own elite guard promising to get through this together, all of us pledging to help Pauline, and all in the space of twenty minutes before there was a tap at the kitchen door.

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