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Yeast bread and spices. That’s what the house smelled like. How could the current inhabitants do something as comforting as bake hot cross bun? Satai stood on the porch. The railing was painted bright blue, and the floor a deep piney green. The vivid red door looked cheerful and welcoming. The fading daffodils and the budding tulips only added to the general good nature of the house. It was the kind of house where your beloved grandmother lived, or your best friend.

She’d been hunting them for what felt like forever, from the court of Catherine the Great to Timbuktu. That sounded like a metaphor for a long time and a long distance, but it was nothing but the truth. It wouldn’t have taken nearly so long, but she lost them during the chaos of the Crimean War.

Here and now Satai could hardly believe she’d found them. Her informant had been certain, and she’d left him in no condition to warn anyone of her presence. She stared at the forsythia golden along the steps. A house like this, it should have encysted them, pushed them out whole before they had time to infect it. When she’d circled the place earlier, counting the possible exits, she’d even seen a beehive in the back, in a small orchard.

The tiny video camera she was wearing would pick up the colors, the sounds of birds singing in the trees overhead, but not the smell of cinnamon and cloves. Satai hoped it wouldn’t betray her trembling, though she could probably edit that out when she made the DVD.

Standing here for too long was suspicious. This time of day, people would probably take her for a visiting friend, but the last thing she needed was a garrulous neighbor coming over to say hello. The inhabitants of the house would be sound asleep by now, not to wake until the sun was firmly set.

The lock was old. Satai slipped it easily, then closed the red door behind herself. The buns were on the counter on a cooling rack. She touched one, but they were cold. And crosses? Why would they have put the crosses on the tops?

A white porcelain bowl was heaped with dyed eggs, mostly red like the Easter eggs of her childhood, but some drawn with the intricate designs that the court had come to favor. She didn’t think anyone remembered how to make those eggs. She hadn’t seen any for so long, and the red ones in even longer. There was no skill to those, just boiling the eggs with onion skins, but nobody bothered.

She touched one, ran her finger over the smooth ovoid. They should be in a basket, in a kitchen that smelled of smoke, in a farm waiting eagerly for spring. April was a hard month back then, with winter stores nearly exhausted and summer’s bounty a long way off. Here and now, it was flowers and trips to the grocery store, an easier life but one that slipped by, leaving no mark.

Satai wondered if those she pursued missed their homes as much as she did, just then. They were the only ones who might remember, who had been shaped by the same spring, and the only ones who might help her forget.

She picked up an egg, turning it over and over in her hands, then took it out onto the porch to watch the bees rumble through the forsythia and wait for the dusk.

Twitter flash, with contributors:
Timbuktu, DVD production, Crimean War espionage – @quasigeo
Beekeeping and Easter eggs – @qitou

One Comment

  1. Nick says:

    Very nice.

    And not all where I had thought the end was going.