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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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Pauline’s voice finally broke through my thoughts. “Is something wrong? You haven’t said a word. What do you think?”

I looked at her. My eyes stung. “I think … if we hurry, we might be able to bathe before dinner.” I slapped Otto’s backside. “First dip!”

Pauline was not to be outdone, and with a wild cry and prod in his ribs, she got her donkey to race ahead of mine.

Our reckless license was checked as we turned onto the main thoroughfare that wove through town. We tucked our hair into our caps and pulled them low over our eyes. Terravin was small and out of the way, but not so isolated that it couldn’t be a stopping point for the Royal Guard—or a tracker. But even with my chin held close to my chest, I took it all in. The wonder! The sounds! The smells! Even the clap of our donkeys’ hooves on the red-tiled streets sounded like music. It was so different from Civica in every way.

We passed a plaza shaded by a giant fig tree. Children jumped rope under its enormous umbrella, and musicians played a flute and a bandoneon, puffing out cheerful tunes for townsfolk who conversed around small tables that lined the perimeter.

Farther into town, merchandise spilled from stores onto neighboring walkways. A rainbow of scarves billowed in the breeze outside one shop, and at another, crates of fresh, shiny eggplant, striped squash, lacy fennel, and fat pink turnips were displayed in neat vibrant rows. Even the tack shop was cheerfully painted in robin’s-egg blue. The muted tones of Civica were nowhere be found. Here everything sang with color.

No one looked at us. We blended in with others who were passing by. We were two more workers on our way home after a long day at the docks, or maybe just tired strangers looking for a friendly inn. In our trousers and caps, we probably looked more like scrawny men. I tried to keep from smiling as I eyed the town that Pauline had described so many times. My smile vanished when I saw three Royal Guards approaching on horseback. Pauline spotted them too and pulled back on her reins, but I whispered a hushed command to her. “Keep going. Keep your head down.”

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