Chapter no 42

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow


The Stranger arrived in the early spring, when the thawing ground had the texture of crystalline silicon. Her inky hair had been customized into plaits, and she wore round, silver glasses that seemed as if they belonged to someone else. The Stranger wore black, and from a distance, her cleverly tailored velvet overcoat almost concealed the fact that she was with child.

When the Editor of the Friendship Mirror inquired, the Stranger revealed that her name was Emily B. Marks. Friendship was a town of pseudonyms, so no one made the mistake of assuming it was the name she’d been born with.

The Editor held out his hand for Emily to shake. “When will your spouse be joining you, Mrs. Marks?” the Editor asked, looking significantly at Emily’s abdomen.

“It is Miss Marks, and I am alone and intend to stay that way,” Emily said.

“I warn you: a comely young person like yourself never finds herself at a loss for company in these parts,” the Editor said. “Life is quite difficult here, and even the most independent among us find it beneficial to pair up. Where will you be staying, if you don’t mind my asking?”

She reported that she had selected a parcel of land in the northwesternmost part of Friendship. “I’m told it’s on a high cliff, by the water,” she said.

“Upper Foglands? Hope you like rocks! No one’s kept a farm in Upper Foglands for as long as I can recall,” the Editor said. “And the only folks nearby are—” The Editor searched his memory. “Alabaster Brown, the vintner, who has been married a dozen—”

“I have no interest in town gossip,” Emily said. “Skip.”

“If you change your mind, be sure to take a gander at the town message board before you go. It has the latest Friendship happenings.” The Editor indicated a hutch on which the community news and offerings of Friendship were posted. “I shall post a story about your arrival as soon as we are done speaking.”

“Is it possible,” Emily asked, “to opt out of such a posting?”

The question seemed too complicated for the newspaperman to consider, and so he ignored it. “Even Alabaster Brown’s vineyard is closer than your plot in Foglands. If it were me, Miss, I’d find land nearer to town should the opportunity present itself. Verdant Valley would certainly be a fine place to raise a—”

“Skip.” Emily asked to be pointed in the direction of the stables so that she could procure a horse. The Editor obliged, and Emily was halfway down the street when he stopped her again. “Here,” he said. Seemingly out of thin air, he produced half a baguette, spread with red sauce and sprinkled with greasy strings of cheese. “It’s a gift. To help you get started.”

“This is very generous,” Emily said. “What is it?”

“I call it a panem et caseum morsu. It’s based on a dish my grandparents made in the old count—”


In the time it took Emily to add the offering to her inventory, the Editor had disappeared.

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