Zelda tiptoed down the hallway, shivering slightly in the chilly morning air. It was nearly summer, but the little dell that surrounded the Spellman home always seemed a little cooler than the rest of Greendale. It was also, Zelda reasoned, only just after dawn.
She opened Hilda’s bedroom door ever so slowly, eyeing the softly snoring blanket-lump that was her sister. With an impish smile she crept up to the bed. She counted to three, then whipped the covers back from Hilda’s body in one quick motion. Hilda yelped. Zelda snickered, flopped onto the mattress, and stretched herself out beside Hilda.
“Wake up, Hildy,” Zelda said, nudging Hilda with a sharp elbow.
Hilda groaned and rolled to the other side of her bed. “Zelds, your feet are icicles,” she mumbled. “What time is it? The sun’s barely up.”
“Early,” Zelda whispered, scooting closer to Hilda and ignoring the squeals when her toes made contact with Hilda’s shins. “We’ve got a big day ahead of us.”
Hilda cracked open a single eye. “Zelda,” she said, “what are you on about?”
“You and I are going on a trip,” Zelda said, green eyes bright in the gloom of the new morning. “I packed your suitcase last night after you went to bed. We just need to have some breakfast and then we’ll be off.”
At this, Hilda sat up. “Zelda, you haven’t forgotten that my wedding is the day after tomorrow…? We can’t go anywhere. There’s still so much to do.”
“Of course I haven’t forgotten. What kind of maid of dishonor do you think I am?” Zelda asked. “That is precisely why I’ve left Sabrina and Ambrose a list.”
Hilda gave her a flat look. “You can’t honestly tell me that you trust Sabrina and Ambrose to get everything done in time,” she said. “Or anything done in time, for that matter.”
Zelda snorted. “Of course not; don’t be ridiculous. I gave Marie a list, too.”
Hilda opened her mouth as if to protest, but Zelda barreled on as if she hadn’t noticed. “Moreover, as far as Sabrina and Ambrose know, everything on their list must be completed by today to ensure that, realistically, everything will be completed by the end of day tomorrow, and I delegated the truly crucial tasks to Marie.”
Hilda appeared unconvinced. “My dress—” she began, but Zelda cut her off.
“Is perfect and beautiful and hanging on your dressmaker’s dummy.”
“And the cake—”
“Is resting comfortably in the morgue’s spare refrigerator,” Zelda said, patting Hilda’s hand. “There’s really nothing you can say or do to get out of this, Hildy.”
“How far are we going?” Hilda asked.
“Not very,” Zelda answered, winking as she crawled out of the bed.
“And you promise we’ll be back with plenty of time before the wedding?”
“Oh dear, you’ve seen through my plot to kidnap you away from Dr. Dracula,” Zelda deadpanned. “And here I was, thinking I was being so very cunning.”
“Zelda.” The anxiety in Hilda’s tone was palpable, and Zelda’s expression softened.
“Hildy,” Zelda said, “you’d think I was leading you to your execution, not taking you on a surprise sojourn.” She wrapped an arm around her sister and pulled her closer. “I understand that you’re worried, but I assure you I’ve really thought all this through. We wouldn’t be doing it if I hadn’t. I really want this trip to be special.” She took a deep breath and focused her stare on the ceiling.
“You… deserve for it to be special.”
Hilda beamed and threw her arms around Zelda’s neck, only clinging tighter when Zelda grumbled and tried to pull away. “Oh no you don’t,” Hilda said. “You’re getting a lovely big hug whether you want it or not, Zelda Spellman.”
Zelda blushed and tried very hard to not let on how much this pleased her. “Fine,” she said. “I shall allow it just this once.”
“Yes, sure, Zelds,” Hilda said with fond exasperation, “just this once.”
“Zelda, what is that?”
“What does it look like, you ninny?” Zelda asked as she tied her hair back with a silk scarf. “It’s a car.”
“It’s very… red,” Hilda said, appraising the cherry-bright sports car uncertainly. “Zelds, you didn’t… you didn’t buy this, did you?”
“It’s a rental, Hilda, for hell’s sake” she retorted, eyes rolling beneath her sunglasses. “I thought it might be fun to, mmm, ride in style, as it were.”
As Zelda stowed their suitcases in the trunk and a picnic basket of travel snacks in the back seat, Hilda made as if to take her customary position in the driver’s seat. Zelda shook her head. “I’m driving today, Hilda,” she said firmly. “I’m not about to spoil the surprise now after I’ve kept it secret for weeks.”
Hilda chewed her left thumbnail as she settled reluctantly into the passenger seat. “Do you even have a current license?” she muttered, knowing full well the answer.
Zelda smacked Hilda’s hand from her mouth, not choosing to dignify that particular question with a response.
“How fast does this car go, exactly?” Hilda tried instead.
Zelda adjusted the mirrors and smiled. “I’m told its top speed is 155 miles per hour,” she said. “Isn’t that something?”
Hilda paled. “You’re not serious,” she said.
“I’m always serious, Hildegard,” Zelda said, pulling out of the driveway. “You know that very well.”
“You’re not allowed to go any faster than 150 kilometers an hour, Zelds, whatever that is in miles, and I mean it.”
“What if there’s no one else around?”
“Zelda Phiona Spellman—!”
Zelda sighed. “You’re no fun,” she said. “But I’ll follow your ridiculous little rule, since it is a trip in your honor.” She flicked on the blinker as she turned onto the main road that led out of Greendale.
“You do realize, Zelds,” Hilda said, “that there are actual laws about how fast you can drive?”
“They can’t pull you over if they can’t catch you, sister,” Zelda said, wicked and merry.
Hilda opted to disregard this statement and change the subject. “And you’re really not going to tell me where we’re going?”
“What if I guess it?”
“Then I will ignore you, Hilda.”
“Are you taking me to New York so we can finally see Wicked?” Hilda asked, testing the validity of Zelda’s assertion.
Zelda shuddered. “Not in this lifetime nor any other,” she said.
“We’re going to the mountains for a hike, then,” Hilda said.
Zelda wrinkled her nose. “So I can, what, wear tennis shoes?” she scoffed. “Absolutely not.”
“We’re going to a casino?”
“You’re too competitive for a casino, Hilda. I’m entirely too fond of money to watch you gamble ours away, thank you much.”
“While I am so enjoying playing this inane game with you,” Zelda said, “Sabrina lent me something she called an ‘aux cord’, and apparently you can use it to play music. You can pick something, but none of that banjo-infested folk music of which you’re so fond,” she added sternly.
“Ooh, actually,” Hilda said, “Sabrina gave me her old phone to use in case of a crisis—”
“I assure you she will not be indulging in any of her usual theatrics, not if she knows what is good for her.”
“—and she taught me how to download podcasts onto it. There’s one she introduced me to that I’m particularly fond of; it’s called My Favorite Murder.”
Zelda squinted. “You’ve captured my attention,” she said. “Continue.”
“You’ll love it, Zelds,” Hilda enthused. “It’s hosted by two very saucy American women—they’re both comedians, I think—and they spend each episode talking about different murders from history.” She giggled. “I’ve bought one of their t-shirts, actually. It says you’re in a cult, call your dad on the front.”
“If cults allow you to keep personal phones nowadays, they’ve certainly changed in the last century,” Zelda said. “And why would I call my father? What could he possibly do to help?”
“I think it’s meant to be a joke, Zelds,” Hilda said, scrolling through the episode list. “Why don’t we start with the one on the Somerton man? Or is that too much of a sore spot still? I know how close you got to solving it in the 50s.”
“I read the entirety of The Rubaiyat in its original Persian,” Zelda groused, “and for what? Absolutely nothing. They ended that inquest prematurely, you know.”
“I know, Zelds,” Hilda said, patting Zelda’s shoulder and fighting the impulse to roll her eyes. “I know they did.”
They arrived at a seaside bed and breakfast just after 12:30. It was a pretty clapboard house located on the quieter end of the boardwalk. There was an overgrown garden in the front yard, bursting with lavender and jonquil and lily of the valley.
“Oh Zelda,” Hilda breathed, “it’s perfect.”
“I thought you might like it,” Zelda said, and a twitch at the corner of her lips revealed how satisfied she was with her sister’s reaction. A sleek tortoise-shell cat stood guard on the front porch, licking its front paw with no regard for their approach. “Shall we check in? I’ll get our suitcases if you get the picnic basket.”
The paneled walls of their room were painted pale green and the floors were a soft brown pine. Two windows framed by gauzy white curtains looked out onto the shore. The furniture all appeared to be antique and was mismatched, though deliberately and—even Zelda had to admit—at least somewhat tastefully.
“Sabrina booked the room,” Zelda said, setting their bags down on their bed, which was a queen with a faded brass frame, “through something called ‘air b and b’. She thought this one looked the most ‘your vibe’.”
Hilda giggled and gave Zelda a sideways look. “My vibe?”
“Your… sense of style,” Zelda explained. “It’s how the mortal youths are saying it now, or so I am told.” She sat down on the edge of the bed and patted the comforter, inviting Hilda to join. “So, what shall we do first?”
“What, you mean you don’t have a detailed itinerary that lists every activity you’ve scheduled?” Hilda teased, elbowing Zelda.
Zelda scowled. “Well of course I do,” she said, “but I thought it might be nice to let you choose and then have a plan to fall back on in the likely event that you choose something insipid.”
Hilda grinned. “Now I’m tempted to intentionally pick something especially insipid, just to see what you’ll do.”
“Do not test me, Hilda.”
“I wonder if they’ve got a minigolf course nearby?” Hilda said with mock thoughtfulness
“Or one of those old fashioned costume photo places…”
They ended up changing into bathing suits—Hilda’s dark yellow and ruffled, Zelda’s an elegant black maillot—and staking out a small spot on the beach. It was a cloudless day, but early enough in the summer that it wasn’t scorching. In the distance, gulls called out to each other and children shrieked as they ran in and out of the crashing waves.
They settled into a comfortable silence, Hilda reading one of her romance novels as Zelda reclined with a faded hardback. Save an occasional trio of seagulls or a passing jogger, they had this stretch of sand all to themselves. The waves lapped and foamed a few yards down, occasionally wafting the smell of seawater towards them on the warm breeze.
“This is nice,” Hilda sighed from her lounge chair. She dug her toes into the sand and wiggled them happily.
“It is rather lovely,” Zelda admitted, peering at Hilda from over the top of Lady Chatterley’s Lover. “I’d forgotten how much I enjoy being by the sea.”
“When’s the last time we took a beach vacation?” Hilda asked. “It’s been ages, hasn’t it?”
Zelda thought for a moment. “It’s been a while since we had any sort of vacation,” she said.
“We took Sabrina to Disney World a few years ago.”
“I do not count that as a vacation, sister,” Zelda sniffed. “Chasing after an over-excited nine year old in the cloying Florida humidity and riding on roller coasters was a particularly hideous form of punishment, not a treat.”
“I enjoyed it,” Hilda said mildly.
“Yes, well, you didn’t have to accompany her on the rides,” Zelda said.
“It’s not my fault I have vertigo, Zelda,” Hilda said innocently.
“Vertigo indeed,” Zelda said, rolling her eyes.
Hilda stretched. “I think I might go for a little swim,” she said. “Care to join me?”
An emphatic absolutely not was right on the tip of Zelda’s tongue, but something hopeful in Hilda’s face stopped her short. She pursed her lips and sighed. “I’ll come,” she said, “but I’m not going in above my knees, and I will not be putting my head under.”
Zelda stood at the water’s edge and let the tide lap at her feet. Hilda waded out until the water nearly reached her hips and was promptly knocked under by a wave. “It’s freezing!” she shrieked, spluttering, after she resurfaced. “Why don’t you come out where I am, Zelds?”
“Tempting,” Zelda said, “but I think I shall stay here, where it is decidedly not freezing.”
Hilda pouted. “But it’s my trip,” she said. “Pretty please?”
Zelda exhaled sharply through her nose. She walked gingerly out to where Hilda stood, struggling to stay upright as the surf crashed into her. “Happy?” she asked.
Hilda smiled mischievously. “Almost,” she said. She dove under the water and disappeared from Zelda’s view.
“Hilda?” Zelda said. “If you’re intending to sneak up on me, I would strongly advise against—Hilda!”
From underwater, Hilda grabbed Zelda’s ankles. Zelda squealed and tripped, just barely catching herself before her chin slipped below the waves. “Hildegard Antoinette Spellman!” she gasped, fingering the limp ends of her reddish gold hair, “I am going to kill you!”
“Not if you can’t catch me,” Hilda called, backstroking away with infuriating nonchalance. “I was always the better swimmer.”
Zelda paddled ungracefully over to Hilda, grabbed her shoulders, and dunked her. “You may be the better swimmer,” Zelda said, panting from exertion, “but I’m taller.”
“Not fair,” Hilda said, coughing up seawater, and then pointed towards the horizon. “Oi, Zelds, do you see that? Is it… is it a fin? Like a shark fin?”
“It is not!” Zelda said, scrambling backwards anyway, just before Hilda pushed her under.
“Now that,” Hilda said with an air of great satisfaction, “is fair.”
They followed their time by the ocean with hot showers and a luxurious nap, and then dressed for the evening. They wore bright linen sundresses that Hilda had sewn when Sabrina couldn’t have been older than three or four. Hilda’s was pale yellow and cap-sleeved, Zelda’s turquoise and full-skirted. The bridge of Hilda’s nose was sunburned bright pink, and new freckles had appeared like constellations up and down Zelda’s arms and shoulders.
“I look very… cheery,” Zelda said, examining her ensemble uncertainly in the room’s full-length mirror.
“You look lovely,” Hilda said, her chin on Zelda’s shoulder. “That color suits you. It’s perfect with your hair.”
Zelda glowed at the praise, but bent over to smooth imaginary wrinkles from her skirt so Hilda wouldn’t see. “Is there anything you’d particularly like to do tonight?” she asked. “I thought we might get dinner, and then I assumed you’d care to explore the boardwalk like proper tourists.” She scowled when this elicited a smirk from Hilda. “Well, if we’re going to do something we may as well be thorough, Hilda.”
“We should rent one of those two-seater bicycles,” Hilda said, giggling.
“I don’t believe there’s any scenario involving you, me, and a two-seater bicycle that doesn’t end with at least one of us maimed or dead,” Zelda said darkly.
Hilda just laughed as she fastened her sandals. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Zelda scrutinizing herself in the mirror. She caught Zelda’s eye and offered her an encouraging smile. Zelda fluffed her hair, affected a momentary pout, and offered Hilda a shining smile of her own.
They found a restaurant which, though it appeared to be little more than a beach shack, still claimed to have the best crab legs in the entire city. The pastel-painted buoys strung on lighted ropes around the porch seating area left Zelda skeptical, but she acquiesced after only minor cajoling on Hilda’s part.
Once they were seated, Hilda ordered them each a fruity cocktail that was served with a tiny plastic sword and several cherries. Despite Zelda’s initial complaints, it tasted better than it had any right to. She held up her glass to toast and Hilda did the same.
“To your future marriage,” Zelda said. “May the life you share with Dr. Frankenstein be less tacky than his bookstore.”
Hilda stuck out her tongue. “Ha ha,” she deadpanned.
Zelda took a dainty sip of her drink in lieu of a response.
“We should play a game,” Hilda said, “while we wait for our food.”
Zelda rolled her eyes. “What sort of a game?” she asked.
Hilda flushed and giggled. “There’s this game I’ve seen Ambrose and Sabrina play before,” she said, “where you name three different people, and one of them you’ve got to marry, and another you’ve got to kill, and the third you’ve got to—well, you have to… you know—”
“Fuck,” Zelda supplied, and she laughed when Hilda choked on a swig of blue liquid. “The word you’re looking for is fuck, Hildy.”
“Yes,” Hilda said faintly, “that. Do you want to play?”
“Why not,” Zelda said, tapping her fingers against her chin. “Alright, I’ve got one. Those three men over at that table. Pick one for each category.”
Hilda squinted at her. “I don’t know them, Zelda,” she said.
“So?” Zelda asked. “Use your instincts. Start with the one you’ll kill. Statistically speaking, at least one of them has likely done something vile enough to warrant being murdered.”
“Still, I don’t know that I could murder a stranger in cold—oh no. Oh dear,” Hilda said, eyes wide.
“Land’s sakes, Hilda, what is it?” Zelda asked.
“One of your… your three choices,” Hilda squeaked, “I think he might be coming over to our table.”
“Is he now?” Zelda asked, smirking around her straw.
“Zelda,” Hilda said in a warning voice, “don’t cause any trouble.”
“Me?” Zelda intoned, eyes glinting, “cause trouble? Don’t be absurd.”
The man approached the table before they could exchange another word. He was wearing a flannel shirt and jeans, and looked entirely too smug for his own good. “Hi there,” he said. “My friends and I were wondering if we could buy you ladies some drinks?”
“Erm,” Hilda said, “that’s very… gallant of you, but I’m actually—”
“Hush, Hildy,” Zelda said, “don’t be rude to our handsome new friend.” Zelda leaned forward on her elbows and batted her eyelashes coquettishly. “Another drink sounds magnificent,” she purred, “but my sister and I were wondering something about you all ourselves. Perhaps you can settle it for us once you’ve got those drinks ordered.”
“Alrighty then,” the man agreed, and pulled the waitress aside. He then proceeded to lean against the table and peer down Hilda’s dress very unsubtly before addressing Zelda again. “Now what was it you wanted to ask me?”
“Well, we were playing that delightful little party game ‘fuck, marry, kill’, and I picked you and your two comrades for our first round. So tell me: which of you do you think we should murder? I’m leaning towards you at the moment, but I would love to hear your thoughts.”
Once the man stalked off, Hilda and Zelda burst into delighted peals of laughter. “You,” Hilda said once she’d caught her breath, “are… well, brilliant.”
“Believe me, sister,” Zelda said, graciously accepting their drinks from the waitress. “I know.”
“That really was delicious,” Hilda said as they strolled back onto the boardwalk.
“It was tolerable,” Zelda said. She’d had entirely too much to drink, and her head felt like it was floating a few feet above the rest of her body. “Where would you like to go now?”
“I saw a candy shop a few blocks that way,” Hilda said, pointing to her left, “and the sign out front said they have saltwater taffy.”
“I ate my weight and then some at dinner, Hildy,” Zelda said. “No more food.”
“But what about the drive home tomorrow? I bet they’ve got peppermint,” Hilda wheedled, “and lemon meringue…”
“I do like peppermint,” Zelda sighed.
They ambled slowly down the boardwalk, occasionally stopping to peek into windows of stores that caught Hilda’s eye. Zelda just managed to talk her out of buying an entire tank of hermit crabs, though had considerably less success when it came to a kitschy seashell-encrusted jewelry box.
“Tell me a secret, Zelds,” Hilda said, linking her arm in her sister’s as they walked.
Zelda laughed. “What sort of a secret?” she asked.
“Mmm,” Hilda said, squinting, “a secret about yourself. It doesn’t have to be too serious, just something you’ve never told anyone.”
“Hilda, we’ve been sisters for three centuries,” Zelda said. “I imagine you know all of my secrets by now.”
“Come on,” Hilda said, punching Zelda playfully in her arm, “there has to be something you’ve never told me.”
Zelda looked at Hilda out the corner of her eye and gave her a shy smile. “You won’t share this with anyone?”
“Cross my heart,” Hilda said, drawing an X over her chest.
“Alright… Zelda said, closing her eyes a moment in thought. “Your books—those ridiculous harlequin romances you read—let’s just say I don’t hate them nearly so much as I purport to. In fact, there are some that I rather… enjoy. ”
Hilda squealed delightedly. “I knew it,” she said with great relish. “You’re awful about remembering to mark the page where I left off, you know. And you’re always dropping them in the bath; half of them are wavy and waterlogged now.”
“Oh hush,” Zelda said, blushing. “Now you have to tell me a secret, and after that I deserve a juicy one.”
Hilda wriggled her shoulders. “Ooh, I know,” she said. “Do you remember that girl in your year at the Academy, the one who always wore her hair in plaits? Who was so nasty to you?”
“Theodosia,” Zelda said darkly. “She had a maddening habit of pouring ink onto my chair and ruining my favorite pinafores.”
“Yes! And do you know that end of term presentation you all had to do for intermediate conjuring when you were, oh… I think fifteen or sixteen? And in the middle of hers Theodosia started speaking complete and utter nonsense?” Hilda asked.
“How could I forget?” Zelda asked. “Everyone thought she’d had a nervous collapse. It was delightful.”
“That was because of me,” Hilda whispered. “I made a babbling draught the night before and slipped it in her morning tea. I was tired of watching her make you miserable. I thought she could do with being taken down a few pegs.”
“That was you?” Zelda asked, equal parts shocked and elated. “Hildy, that was brilliant.” She kissed her sister on the forehead, a rare display of tenderness almost certainly brought on by the cocktails and the relative emptiness of this part of the boardwalk.
“Believe me, Zelds,” Hilda said, smiling brightly, “I know.”
It was past the witching hour when their feet sunk into the cool, damp sand as they stumbled, giggling, down the beach. A full moon shimmered high above them: a big, beautiful, bossy moon, the kind you want to serve things to on a silver platter. Zelda carried her shoes in one hand and had her other arm caught through Hilda’s. The night air blew around them, stirring their skirts and tousling their hair.
“I need to lie down,” Hilda said breathlessly. “I’m very… swimmy.” They had stopped at a fish-themed boardwalk bar for a nightcap and were now wandering back towards their bed and breakfast, lazily chewing saltwater taffy as they walked.
Hilda found a good spot, lay flat on her back in the sand, and gazed up at the velveteen sky. “Come here, you,” she said to Zelda. “It’s so gorgeous.”
“I’ll get sandy,” Zelda said through a small hiccough.
“You can always wash it off, Miss Priss,” Hilda said.
“Oh, shut up,” Zelda said, but her tone was light and free of any hostility. She joined Hilda, groaning when her knees made popping noises as she lowered herself to the ground. “I’m getting too old for this.”
“No you’re not,” Hilda said, “because that means I am.” She grabbed Zelda’s hand and squeezed it. “Isn’t it funny how the sea and the sky are sort of the same thing?”
“What the heaven are you talking about, Hildy?” Zelda asked. “Did you really drink that much more than I did?”
“No, no, it makes sense!” Hilda insisted. “They’re both, you know, blueish, and so big that you can’t see where they end, and made of water….”
She trailed off and fell silent. From her spot on the shore, Zelda felt a relief spread through her. What a sweet thrill it was in this comfortably impersonal place: to be outside so late in the evening and know you’d be left alone. She felt safe, as though she and Hilda were drifting in a bubble far above anyone else. She closed her eyes. She imagined she could see Sabrina and Ambrose putting the house to sleep as they got ready for bed; she imagined she could see Marie, reading in a room full of dried flowers and tealights.
She flew higher. She could see their entire house—the wrap-around porch, the hearse in the driveway, and the forest standing sentry at its edge. She looked and saw all of Greendale, all the people she knew and even some of the ones she didn’t. She saw lights burning on front porches; nightlights in nurseries where babies dreamed pretty pastel dreams, their tiny, strong hearts beating in union with the trees and the wind and the river. She saw the desecrated church and the Academy, the students tucked safely away inside its stone walls.
Zelda felt at once both ageless and ancient. She felt a part of the world and as though she were looking at it from somewhere very far away. She turned her head so she could watch the steady rise and fall of Hilda’s chest. She remembered being very young and not being able to fall asleep until Hilda did, because she had to be certain that Hilda was still warm and alive and breathing; Hilda, who was always the map she needed to understand the world and her place within it.
“Is it going to be different, do you think?” Zelda whispered.
“Is what going to be different?” Hilda asked.
“When you’re married,” Zelda said, too drunk and drowsy for eloquence, “is it going to be different? Life; us.”
Hilda thought a moment. “I don’t think it will be,” she said. “I don’t think Dr. Cee intends to shake things up, anyway.” She laughed softly. “He knows that after nearly 300 years I’m rather set in my ways.”
Zelda sniffled and turned so that her face was buried in the sleeve of Hilda’s dress. “Zelds,” Hilda said, brushing hair back from her forehead, “are you crying?”
“Leave me alone,” Zelda said, voice thick with tears and muffled by fabric.
“Come now,” Hilda said, cupping Zelda’s cheek in her palm, “there’s no call for all that. I’m not going anywhere, you silly thing.”
“Yes you are,” Zelda said, peeking up at Hilda through damp green eyes. “You’re going to leave and nothing will ever be the sa-ame—” her voice hitched, wet and wavery, on a messy sob. Drinking really did make her so insufferably emotional, though she was sure Hilda didn’t mind.
“Zelds!” Hilda said, fond and concerned in turns. “Darling, you’re getting yourself all worked up over nothing, really you are. It’s all going to be okay. I promise.”
“You can’t promise that because you can’t know for sure,” Zelda said, stubborn and pouting.
“Zelda,” Hilda said, pulling Zelda into her arms for a hug. “Do you honestly think I’d ever let anything happen to you? Do you have any idea at all how much I love you?”
Zelda sighed, settling into the familiar warmth of her sister’s arms. “Maybe,” she allowed, “but it helps to hear you say it.”
“If we stay here much longer I’m going to fall asleep,” Hilda said, yawning as if to prove her point.
“Just a few more minutes,” Zelda said, and she knew that Hilda would hear what she meant: give me this last moment of stillness before it all changes.
“Alright, my love,” Hilda agreed and kissed Zelda’s forehead. “I’m not in any hurry.”