kawuli (kawuli) wrote,

How to be a family: Part Two

Continued from here

It would be nice if somehow a good night’s sleep and good food and 24 hours where nobody yelled at her and nothing was broken fixed everything. Rokia isn’t dumb enough to think the world works that way but still: it’d be nice.

But they walk back into Lyme’s house and Lyme sighs and goes over to look through the messages on her phone and Rokia grabs her things and hops on her bike and heads for the hangar in town because life goes on and hovercraft don’t fix themselves. The real world settles back on her shoulders with a familiar weight and Rokia looks around the shop and gets to work.

A couple days later a call comes in while she’s eating dinner with Lyme. Lyme passes her the phone, a strange half-smile on her face. “It’s Kadi,” she says, “she wants to talk to you.”

Rokia’s breath catches and she takes the phone. “Hello?”

“Rokia!” Kadi’s voice is thin over the phone lines, excited or nervous or both. “When are you coming back to visit?”

“I don’t know, Kadi,” Rokia says, suddenly nervous herself.

“You should come! I planted carrot seeds with Marc and I helped make supper and there are 22 kids in my class at school and we learned about met-a-morph-ic rocks.”

Rokia smiles. “That’s great, Kadi, that sounds like a lot of fun.”

“But it’s the weekend coming up and I won’t have school and I want to show you the garden and Heidi says it’s okay so you should come, please?”

There’s one name conspicuously absent from this conversation, and maybe she shouldn’t bring it up but Rokia asks anyway. “What about Ali—Alima?”

Kadi sighs, indignant. “She says she doesn’t care.”

Well, that’s not exactly an invitation, is it? But it’s not an outright refusal, either. “OK, Kadi, I’ll try to come down Saturday morning. Can you tell Heidi for me?”

“That’s great! It’ll be awesome, I’ll show you everything, I’ll tell Heidi you’re coming.”

“OK, Kadi, but I should go now, I’ll see you soon, alright?”

“Yeah, okay, bye Rokia!”

“Bye Kadi, I love you, tell—“ Rokia breaks off, adjusts, “say hi to everybody for me.”

“Love you too, bye!”

The line cuts off and Rokia looks at Lyme, who’s leaning against the counter, watching her.

“You okay?” Lyme asks.

“Yeah,” Rokia says, taking a deep breath. “I’m fine. I guess I’m going back on Saturday.”

She sleeps badly enough the next few nights that she gives in and lets Lyme give her a sleeping pill Friday night. It means she’s groggy when she wakes up but at least she’s not shaking with adrenaline from yet another nightmare. Lyme drops her at the station and wishes her luck. She’s glad for the last lingering effects of Lyme’s drugs to tone down the panic that coils in her stomach, pulling the muscles in her shoulders, her jaw, her whole body tensed with it. It’s the worst on the train where there’s nothing to distract her, where she has to sit, still and waiting with both hands tight on her knees.

Heidi and the two girls are waiting at the station when she gets there, and Kadi grins and tackles her as soon as she steps onto the platform. Rokia’s arms come up around her and she returns and Heidi’s smile. Allie’s standing a little apart, and she’s not smiling but she’s not glaring either so Rokia disentangles herself from Kadi and says hello.

Allie glances at Heidi, then back at Rokia. “Hi Rokia,” she says, looking at her feet. Rokia doesn’t press, just smiles and lets Kadi chatter as they walk back toward the house.

When they get in Heidi turns to the girls. “Okay, do you girls have homework?”

Allie and Kadi trade glances and then Allie nods. “Yeah, but—“

Heidi interrupts her. “No buts. Go get your books. You too, Kadi?” Kadi nods. “Me too,” Heidi says, smiling. “We’ll get that done first and then we’ll see what else we want to do with the day.”

Rokia smiles as the girls disappear into their room. Heidi looks her over. “You want to rest a bit? I’ve got accounts need sorting out.”

Rokia laughs. “It’s okay, I’ve got plenty to keep me busy. We all got homework, I guess.”

Heidi’s eyes narrow for a second and then she nods. “Guess so,” she says.

Heidi pulls out a stack of neat ledgers in careful handwriting and sits. Rokia sits across from her with her datapad and her ratty shop notebook. When the girls come back with their notebooks they sit, Allie next to Heidi and Kadi next to Rokia, and work quietly for a while until Allie sighs and drops her pencil, leaning back and crossing her arms across her chest.

“Math is dumb,” she says. “I hate fractions, they don’t make any sense.”

Rokia looks up. “Do you want me to help?” she asks, hesitant.

Allie glares at her. “What do you know? You quit school when you were my age. I shouldn’t even have to go.”

Heidi looks over. “Math’s important, Allie, what do you think I’m doing?”

Allie looks over. “Yeah, but not stupid fractions,” she says.

Heidi laughs. “Let me see,” she says, shifting over next to Allie. “Okay, look here…”

Rokia looks back down at her notebook and tries not to be jealous over math homework. But Allie’s worrying her bottom lip, writing carefully, glancing up at Heidi for reassurance. When she reaches the end of the page she looks up, triumphant, and flings her arms around Heidi’s neck.

“You’re the best,” she says, and Heidi laughs and hugs her back.

“Thank you, Miss Alima, that’s a sweet thing to say”

Rokia bites down hard on the inside of her lip and doesn’t, does not look up from the part file she’s working on.

Kadi finishes after a bit and starts looking over Rokia’s shoulder. “What’s that?” she asks. “Is it a robot? Can you build me a robot?”

Allie rolls her eyes but Heidi smiles. Rokia ruffles Kadi’s hair. “Sorry, kiddo, I don’t know how to build you a robot. We could probably find something else to build, if you want.”

Kadi thinks about it. “Okay, can you build me a car?”

Now Heidi chuckles, low and amused, and if they were back in Six Rokia would tell Allie to be careful or her eyes’d roll right out of her head. Rokia thinks about the hill down the road. “Maybe a soapbox car,” she says, “you could drive it down the hill.”

Kadi’s eyes light up. “Really, could we?”

Rokia glances over at Heidi. “Better ask Heidi,” she says.

“Please Heidi can we?” she asks, bouncing on her heels.

Heidi catches Rokia’s eye, raises one eyebrow. Rokia shrugs. “I don’t see why not, just so long as it’s safe,” she says, catching Rokia’s eye at the end. Rokia nods.

Kadi grins. “It’ll be the best, just wait and see.”

Marc gets the story when he comes home that evening, complete with colorful sketches and parts-labeled diagrams that Rokia and Kadi spent the afternoon drawing while Allie and Heidi baked bread with the ingredients Brutus sent along. He laughs, deep and booming, tousles Kadi’s hair and Rokia’s as though they’re both kids, and kisses Heidi with the honest pleasure Rokia still can’t quite believe. Allie gets a bear hug and she wraps her arms around his neck and he lifts her right off her feet while she giggles. He trades a coded glance with Heidi as he sets her down.

Rokia loses a long argument with herself that night, so she’s curled up by the door again when Kadi starts whimpering in her sleep. It’s quiet but Rokia jerks awake immediately, moving to the side of the bed without conscious thought. Kadi’s curled up with her back to the room and Rokia slides over to lean against the bed, reaching to run a hand through Kadi’s hair, down her back. Kadi doesn’t wake up, but she quiets, shifting to lean into the touch. Allie’s eyes flutter open and Rokia takes a breath, waiting for the explosion but Allie just smiles and closes her eyes, snuggling up closer to her little sister. She’s not really awake, but Rokia feels like she’s been given a gift all the same.

Heidi gives her a look when she comes down in the morning, slipping out when the siren wails. “Do you actually sleep in there?” she asks, “Or do you just watch them?”

Rokia flushes. “I sleep some,” she says, ducking her head. “I just like knowing they’re okay.”

Heidi smiles. “They’re going to be fine,” she says, “don’t you worry.”

“Alima seems to like you a lot,” Rokia tries to keep her voice even, but a glance at Heidi tells her she’s maybe not succeeding as much as she’d like.

“Well,” Heidi says, “She’s a sweet girl when she wants to be.” Rokia smiles at that. “She’s just trying to figure things out. It’s not been an easy couple of years.”

Rokia feels her face grow hot, “I know, I should’ve taken better care of them, I just—“

“Hey, no, babygirl, that ain’t on you.” Heidi’s looking right at her, intent, and Rokia has to look away. “It’s been hard for you for a long time, you done the best you can.”

Rokia wonders how much she knows, what Allie has said and what news makes its way out here. She hasn’t seen the TV on, not once, so maybe Heidi hasn’t seen the worst of the gossip, the televised hearings after the fighting wound down, asking them all to flay themselves open for the cameras one last time. She never watched, doesn’t know whether they’re still broadcasting stealthily-captured photos with speculation about who she’s working for or sleeping with or what she’s wearing. She’d hope that people have better things to do than guess why she’s running around in Lyme’s stolen sweatshirts and her own baggy jeans, but who knows.

Heidi’s still watching her and Rokia’s not sure if she’s embarrassed or annoyed or what but she glances up and shrugs. “Wasn’t good enough though, was it?”

“Who told you that?”

“Besides Allie? Nobody has to.”

“Alima’s hurting,” Heidi says. “She’s confused and she’s angry and she’s putting that on you. You can’t make yourself responsible for everything that’s happened.”

“I was supposed to protect them, and I didn’t. She’s right to be pissed.”

Heidi turns back to pull the kettle off the stove and sighs. “It’s more complicated than that, Rokia,” she says. “But whatever happened, you’re here now and you love her and she’ll see that eventually.”

Rokia’s spared trying to answer when Marc walks in, kisses Heidi good morning, and runs a hand through Rokia’s hair, back to front, so that it stands out from her head like a corona. He grins at her and she can’t help but smile back, and the tension in her chest releases a little. Heidi cuffs the back of his head as she passes toward the table. “You’re impossible,” she says, and his grin spreads.

“You love me,” he replies.

Heidi looks over her shoulder and nods. “Sure do.”

They spend most of the day at an old quarry, long-since flooded to become a lake with water so clear you can see all the way to the bottom. None of them know how to swim, but it’s cool and the kids scramble around on the rocks and throw stones and sticks in the water to watch them sink. Marc and Heidi lie on the grass, her head on his shoulder, and they look contented and half-asleep and they’re watching the girls through half-closed eyes.

On the way back they stop at the garden. Allie perks up then, walking over to a freshly raked patch of dirt. Kadi follows her and they stare hard.

Marc’s grinning as he comes up behind them. "You won’t see much there, not just yet. He gets down on his knees and points to a few tiny green shoots just coming out of the ground. “See? Here, and here.”

Allie’s face is wide open wonder as she reaches down to touch the threads coming out of the earth. “Really?” she says, quiet, “these are the ones we planted?”

Marc puts an arm around her shoulders. “Yes, ma’am, those are yours.”

Kadi’s bouncing up and down behind them. “They’re going to be carrots!” she says. Allie glances up at her, spell broken.

“Yeah, Kadi, they will,” she says, climbing to her feet. “C’mon, let’s go.”


Rokia walks her sisters to school Monday morning before taking the train back to town. Allie just shuffles her feet a little and says goodbye. Kadi flings her arms around Rokia’s waist, burying her face in Rokia’s chest.

“You promise you’ll come back?” Kadi whispers, tears leaving damp spots on Rokia’s shirt.

Rokia holds her tight. “I promise, Kadi. Next weekend, okay? And we’ll start building your car.”

That gets her a small smile. Kadi pulls away reluctantly, slipping her hand into Allie’s. “Bye, Rokia,” she says.

“I’ll see you really soon, Kadi, okay?”

Kadi nods, and Allie puts an arm around her shoulders and leads her into the school.

Rokia spends her time on the train making parts lists for Kadi’s car and noting where she might be able to source them. When she walks into Lyme’s she’s smiling, excited, and Lyme looks her up and down and smiles when she says hello.

They spend the afternoon climbing, and after dinner Rokia explains the soapbox car and how they’re going to build it and where she’s getting the parts and Lyme indulges her until she finally ruffles Rokia’s hair and says she’s heading to bed. Rokia hesitates. “I’m just going to put some of these orders in,” she says. “It shouldn’t take that long.”

Lyme gives her a look, assessing, but finally she nods. “Okay. Don’t stay up too late.”

Rokia rolls her eyes and grins. “Yes, mom, I get it.”

She is only planning on putting in parts orders, but when she checks her messages there’s three from Matt, and suddenly she remembers, he’d asked for part files for landing gear components. She dials the number, embarrassed.

“Matt,” she says when he picks up. “I’m so sorry, I totally forgot about those part files, I was gone the last couple of days.”

“Oh, shit Rokia, I was starting to get worried.” Matt says, voice hissing through the patchy connection. “I didn’t know where you were and you weren’t answering so I wondered…” he trails off.

“No, Matt, fuck, everything’s fine, I just went to visit the girls and I don’t get signal out there.”

“Oh,” he says, pauses. “I guess—that makes sense, but damn, girl, you had me worried.”

Rokia sighs. “Yeah, sorry.

“Yeah,” Matt pauses. “How’re your girls?”

Rokia sighs. “Allie’s pissed as hell at me, Kadi’s gotta be attached to someone all the time, they seem like they like it where they’re at, but who knows.”

“Well,” Matt says, “It’s probably better there, we’ve still got rolling blackouts here, it’s pretty sketchy.”

“Yeah,” Rokia says, “I guess it’s good. They’re with a real great family.”

“That’s great, Rokia. Glad that worked out.” And that’s Matt, all sincerity, even when he’s just scraping by he’s still glad for her.

“Look,” Rokia says, “I can get you those part files by tomorrow, I just have to get into the database, it should be in there somewhere.”

“That’d be great. Hey, you take care, okay?”

“Sure thing. You too.”

Rokia hangs up and puts her head in her hands. Shit, how stupid is she, haring off to play games with Kadi and run around on rock piles when there’s people counting on her. Three whole days, and she’s gotten pretty much nothing accomplished. Well, one cure for that. She spends a couple hours finding the files for Matt, then looks around, antsy. She can’t fire up anything here, Lyme’s got some kind of super-senses even when she sleeps, she’ll come down and make faces at Rokia until she goes to bed. But it’s not that far to the hangar, she can walk, there’s plenty to do down there.

It’s still cool at night and the walk is almost pleasant except for the thrumming impatience running through her, the need to do something that doesn’t settle until she’s let herself in, brewed a pot of coffee, and flipped on the welder. There’s good, difficult work to be done, replacing body supports showing signs of metal fatigue, and it’ll take hours. Rokia’s maybe halfway done when she drops down to grab more angle steel and Lyme’s leaning against the scaffolding, arms crossed.

“So,” she says, standing up straight, “What’s up?”


“I seem to remember you saying you weren’t going to be up that late.” Lyme’s voice is neutral, conversational, and Rokia glares at her.

“I wasn’t. I had to deal with a thing. It happens.”

“Rokia, it’s 5AM and you weren’t in the house. I was worried.”

You would think that getting through a fucking Hunger Games and a fucking war and everything else would convince people of your ability to take care of yourself, Rokia thinks. Like she needs people checking up on her now, when she never once has before.

“I don’t need you worrying about me,” Rokia says. “I don’t need you coming down here to drag me home to eat and sleep and tell you my feelings, I need you to let me do my damn job.”

Lyme doesn’t even flinch. “I’m not going anywhere, Rokia,” she says. “You might as well get used to it. And I’m pretty sure the country isn’t going to fall apart because you got a decent night’s sleep.”

“I got three fucking days off,” Rokia says. “I got shit to do.”

Lyme just looks at her.

“What?” Rokia says. “There’s about a million things wrong with this fucking country and most of them I can’t do a damn thing about, but I can make sure this craft doesn’t fall apart on landing, so I’m gonna go ahead and take care of that, okay?”

Lyme’s still just standing there, watching her, and Rokia feels her hands clenching into fists. She’s got nothing in her hands but a fucking tape measure but it’s heavy duty metal and what the hell, she flings it hard at Lyme. Who snatches it out of the air without a word, and now Rokia’s pissed, what kind of fucking game is this, and it’s idiotic and pointless and Lyme’s bigger and stronger but Rokia walks right up to her and Lyme grins, sharp and mean, and drops into a fighting stance.

Matt is the one who taught her to throw a punch, out behind the shop with Sal a million years ago and just yesterday, and Rokia doesn’t care that she’d never really be able to land a punch on Lyme, she just needs her to go, dammit, and apparently talking isn’t getting the point across.

Lyme lets her get a couple of hits in and Rokia knows she’s holding back, barely even trying, but it feels good to hit something, feels like something unclenching in her chest, and she tries every dirty trick she’s ever learned and Lyme just keeps blocking the nastiest hits and taking the rest until Rokia steps back, breathing hard, to lean against the cold metal scaffolding and glare at her.

“I’m not going anywhere,” Lyme says again, soft, and she’s still just standing there, watching, and her hands twitch at her sides but she doesn’t move, leaves Rokia enough space to breathe, and Rokia looks closer and some of the skepticism fades.

“You know that makes you kind of an idiot, right?” Rokia says, crossing her arms across her chest, and apparently she’s also an idiot this morning because some things you don’t say out loud. But fuck it, here she is. “You know everyone who hangs around me gets fucked up somehow.”

“Rokia,” Lyme says, “There’s nothing anyone’s going to do to me I can’t handle.”

Rokia studies her face, ready to dismiss it as stupid sentimentality, but then again: this is Lyme, she’s a Victor and a Mentor and she fought in a war and it might, just maybe, actually be true.

“Yeah, kid,” Lyme says, watching her. “Believe it.” Her voice isn’t nice, isn’t soft and comforting, it’s hard and unyielding and her grin is fierce and Rokia grins right back, nasty and sharp and doing nothing to hide the acid in her veins and Lyme reaches over to drop a hand, heavy, on Rokia’s shoulder.

“Now, for fuck’s sake, at least come eat some breakfast,” she says, exasperated and tired-sounding and fond, and Rokia laughs and follows.


It becomes a routine, taking the train to visit the girls on weekends, staying with Lyme during the week. It’s strange, actually, to have a schedule, to have work days and weekends, and the train crews get to know her and smile when she gets on and she learns their names and knows the escape routes and relaxes into the rattle of the wheels over the track.

Finally, after parts on backorder and missing tools, Kadi’s car is nearly finished. It’s a hot day and they’re sitting out in the backyard and Kadi’s grinning from ear to ear as the shape comes together. Rokia watches her as, tongue between her teeth, Kadi adjusts the steering cable tension with a monkey wrench. It’s hard, sometimes, to back off, to let Kadi fumble with her tools and drop things and bend nails. It’s a game, Rokia reminds herself, not a job. Kadi has never had to do any of this—never had to struggle through a workday and a schoolday and scramble to put food on the table. She’s had Rokia, and when Rokia left she had Allie. Allie, who every once in a while looks out at them from the window where she’s helping Heidi bake bread for the week. Kadi waves at her, and Allie smiles back, flour brushed across her cheek.

They finish as it’s getting dark, and Rokia’s checking everything over one last time when Marc comes home.

Kadi’s been sitting on the grass watching, but she jumps up when she hears him.

“How’s it coming, Katydid,” Marc asks, as she launches herself into his arms.

“It’s great, it’s done, we’re going to try it out, Rokia says it’ll be really fast!” Kadi says, the words tumbling over each other. Marc sets her down and she takes his hand, pulling him over. He smiles over her head at Rokia.

Kadi shows him the car and Marc lets her explain everything, axles and steering and brakes and wheels and Rokia just watches, leaning back on her elbows in the grass and grinning.

“Rokia can we try it now? You checked, I did it right, can we please?”

Rokia sits up, looks at Kadi. “It’s getting dark, kiddo, we’d better wait till tomorrow.”

Kadi sighs. “Fine.”

Marc chuckles. “C’mon Katydid, let’s get you some supper.”

Rokia follows them in.

The next morning Kadi races through her breakfast and then looks over at Rokia. “It’s tomorrow, it’s light outside, can we pleeeeease try my car now?”

Allie rolls her eyes, Marc and Heidi smiles, and Rokia laughs. “OK, Kadi, let’s go try it out.”

“Yes!” Kadi’s up and out the door, and they all follow. Rokia helps her push the car around to the front of the house and partway up the hill.

“Okay,” Rokia says, suddenly nervous, as Kadi climbs in. “Push on the brakes for me, okay?”

Kadi’s eyes are wide and excited, but she bites her lip and her face goes serious as she finds the brake pedal. Rokia releases her hold on the frame but the car doesn’t slip.

“Okay good, now check the steering cables,” And Kadi shifts the steering, side to side. “Looks good,” Rokia says. “You can try from here first and then if it works okay we’ll start higher up the hill.”

Kadi grins. “It’s gonna be great, I know it,” she says, “we built the best car ever.”

Rokia steps away, takes a deep breath. “Alright, here we go.” Kadi flashes her a grin, takes hold of the steering cable and pulls her foot off the brake. The car rolls forward, almost imperceptibly, then speeds up until it gets to the bottom of the hill and flies on down the street. Rokia lets out a breath when it stops, and Kadi’s out of the car and running back towards Heidi and Marc and Allie, watching in front of the house. Rokia walks down to meet them.

“Did you see?” Kadi’s bouncing on her toes. “It was awesome!”

Allie’s laughing. “Okay, Kadi, it looked pretty cool.”

Kadi turns to Rokia, “I want to go from higher up! Let’s do it again!”

“Sure thing, Kadi, let’s go get the car.”

After two more runs Kadi goes up to where Allie’s been watching and asks, “Do you want to go?”

Allie’s smile lights up her eyes. “I thought you’d never ask.”

Rokia pulls the car back up the hill, sneaking sideways glances at her sisters. Kadi’s explaining everything to Allie, who’s nodding seriously and paying careful attention. Allie looks up at Rokia, holding the car while she climbs in.

“You got everything?” Rokia asks, hesitant. “Check the brakes for me, will you?”

Allie does, Rokia lets the car go and it holds. “Steering seems okay?” she asks, nervous again.

Allie looks at her, “I got it, Rokia,” she says, “Don’t worry about me.”

Rokia just smiles back. “I’m your sister, I always worry about you,” she says, keeping her voice light, “but I’m sure you’re fine.”

Allie just sighs. “Okay then,” she says, “here goes nothing.”

Kadi runs down the hill to meet her, and when Allie climbs out she’s laughing, gives Kadi a hug and they start pulling the car back up together. Rokia sits down on the front step next to Heidi. “Looks like they’re having fun,” Rokia says.

Heidi looks at her. “You did good,” she says, putting an arm around Rokia’s shoulders and pulling her close. Rokia smiles, and watches her sisters laugh, and leans into the embrace.

By evening, Kadi’s telling Allie all about the second car they’re going to make and how it’s going to be even better and maybe they can have races, and Allie’s humoring her but she’s smiling, playing along. Once she looks over at Rokia with a smile and a shake of her head, and Rokia smiles back and shrugs and tries not to show how much it means.

Rokia’s getting ready for bed when she hears the bedroom door open and Allie walks out.

“Are you okay? Can I get you anything?” she asks, getting to her feet.

Allie shakes her head and comes over, looking at her feet.

Rokia’s heart speeds up. “You want to sit?”

Allie glances at her, sidelong, nods. “Yeah,” she says, nervous.

Rokia sits next to her, leaves a little space. Allie turns towards her and looks up, holding Rokia’s eye. “I don’t hate you,” she says, looking away again. “I was mad. I was mad that you left and I didn’t want to come someplace new again and I didn’t know what to do and…” she pauses, gnawing on her lip. “But I don’t hate you.”

Rokia reaches out toward her, and Allie only hesitates a second before moving into Rokia’s arms. They sit like that for a minute while Rokia breathes deep, schooling her face and her voice into something like calm. “Thank you,” she says. “I’m really glad.” It sounds stupid, but she doesn’t know what to say.

Allie twists, looks up and smiles at her. “I’m glad you’re here,” she says. “I missed you.”

“I missed you too, babygirl,” Rokia says, her grandmother’s voice soft in her ear, “I missed you so much. I’m so sorry I couldn’t get you sooner.”

Allie just shrugs and curls up against Rokia’s side. She’s still so long Rokia thinks she might have fallen asleep but finally she stirs. “I should go to bed,” she mumbles, sleepy. “Kadi won’t like it if she wakes up and I’m not there.”

Rokia stands, helps her to her feet, then walks to the bedroom door. Allie hugs her and Rokia bends to kiss the top of her head. “Goodnight, Alima” she says, and it still sounds strange to say but she’s getting used to it.

“Goodnight,” Allie says, and slips into bed next to her sister.

Rokia goes back, curls up on the couch and cries. It’s silent tears at first, but they give way to wracking sobs that leave her struggling to breathe. It’s ridiculous, things are better, Allie doesn’t hate her after all and maybe she didn’t fuck up absolutely everything in her life so why is she crying now? But she can’t stop, huddled in on herself as the tears wash through her until the cushions behind her dip and she hears Heidi’s voice, soft and soothing.

“Oh, babygirl, come here,” she says and Rokia turns towards the voice and something strips away years and years and years of being strong and she leans into Heidi’s arms and cries like a child, Heidi’s strong arms around her and her brain isn’t really forming coherent thoughts but what she thinks now is safe.

She’s not sure how long she cries, while Heidi holds her, rubs her back, runs fingers through her hair, and never once tells her to be quiet or to grow up. Eventually, finally, she’s wrung dry, and she should feel embarrassed but she can’t seem to come up with the energy. Heidi runs a callused thumb over her cheekbones, brushing away the last of Rokia’s tears, lets her blow her nose and pull herself shakily together. Rokia doesn’t want to let go, but she’s starting to fall asleep there on Heidi’s shoulder. Heidi just smiles, lays her down and sits on the floor, one hand in Rokia’s until Rokia falls asleep.
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