Side A – Yasgrid
There comes a time in every dance when motion ceases. There comes a time in every battle when the conflict ends. There comes a time in every lie where silence must reign or the trust must come out.
“No,” Yasgrid said. “I’m not.”
Marianne waited, listening for the metaphor Yasgrid was sure to make.
But Yasgrid had already played coy like that. She’d already confessed who she wasn’t in careful terms to suggest she was speaking poetically rather than with literal truth.
She wasn’t Nia. Somehow Marianne knew that. On some level, the former love of Nia’s life knew the woman inside Nia’s body was not the woman she’d known.
“My name is Yasgrid Kaersbaen. Nia and I experienced something neither of us can explain, but she now lives in my body and I live in hers.”
Marianna wasn’t ready for the truth to be laid out so simply. She opened her mouth to speak but closed it slowly and tilted her head. She blinked, and search Yasgrid’s expression.
“I know how that sounds,” Yasgrid continued. “And I have nothing to prove what I say. Or at least nothing that you can verify. So I’m not asking you to believe me. It’s a lot easier for everyone if I just carry on with Nia’s life and check in with her when something comes up.”
“Check in?” Marianne said and shook her head. “What did Endings do to you?”
“It wasn’t Endings,” Yasgrid said. “This happened sometime on New Year’s night. We went to sleep as usual but woke up in each other’s bodies.”
“What happened New Year’s Eve?” Marianne asked. “Were you running away from something? Did someone hurt you?”
“No,” Yasgrid said, glad that Marianne was still talking, but painfully aware of the confusion that was written across Marianne’s entire body. “Our dreams were weird, I think, but there were no warnings or precursors that either of us saw. The year changed and so did we.”
“What did Kayelle say? Or your mother?” Marianne asked, still visibly stunned.
“Kayelle doesn’t know,” Yasgrid said. “My mother doesn’t either. Nor does Nia’s mother Naosha.”
With wide eyes, Marianne stepped back to looked Yasgrid over from head to toe.
“You’re serious,” she said.
“”You seemed like you’d figured it out and that it was bothering you,” Yasgrid said. “I haven’t lied about who I am, it’s just no one asks since I look and sound like the girl they know and I can ask Nia for context on things if anything important comes up. I’m fine with that, but I don’t want to hurt people, especially not people who care about Nia.”
“So you told me? But I only half thought something was up. I didn’t…well I guess I did think something profound had changed, but I had no idea.”
“You believe me?” Yasgrid asked, surprised at how light that made her feel.
“With every word you speak it gets harder not to,” Marianne said. “How has Kayelle missed this? No, wait, I have a million questions more important than that.”
“Ask away,” Yasgrid said with a more relaxed smile than she’d worn in weeks.
Side B – Nia
Connections aren’t made by clever words or shared interests. Those can help, but what really binds people together, Nia decided, was time.
The giant plate of assorted fish in front of her had somehow largely disappeared as had more hours than Nia could account for. Neither had gone to waste though. The fish was delicious once she acclimated to the various sauces the pieces were marinated in, and the conversation with Belhelen was even more delightful than that.
They’d started with stories of Yasgrid’s past, of events and escapades the two had shared, told from Belhelen’s point of view. It had been a beautiful window into Yasgrid’s life but even more than that, Belhelen’s stories had given Nia a wonderful glimpse into who Yasgrid’s best friend had been and who she’d grown to become.
There was love there. A deep and abiding love, though not quite the kind a younger Yasgrid’s crush-filled heart had dreamed of.
Nia felt a twinge of guilt at taking away such a precious connection. It hadn’t been her choice, and there wasn’t anything to suggest she had any options for changing things back, but she had accepted Yasgrid’s life with open arms and that felt like it carried responsibilities with it.
“They’re not going to kick us out of here are they?” she asked, looking at the plate of fish which was not only empty but licked clean. She glanced outside. Was it dark already?
“Probably,” Belhelen said. “We’ve been here a little longer than usual.”
“Not long enough,” Nia said, and felt the truth of the words as she spoke them.
Spending time with Belhelen was more than a responsibility. Bel was the sort of woman Nia had never been allowed to spend time with, and it seemed someone she’d always needed. There was a different sympathy between their spirits than there’d been between Bel and Yasgrid but that was ok. Bel seemed to enjoy having Nia as an audience as much as she had Yasgrid, and if the bedrock of shared experience she’d shared with Yasgrid had washed away like silt down a river, at least Nia’s efforts to pave some new roadways between them was appreciated.
“We could head out to a tavern for some drinks?” Bel suggested. “I think I’m about done for food but there’s always room to pour a bit more liquid refreshment in.”
Nia stared at the empty plate in front of her again. If she needed to eat again in the next week she would be amazed. That said however, Bel’s idea did have some merit. And Nia had an idea for how she could improve on it.
“We could go looking for drinks,” she said. “Or we could go looking for trouble, which I notice is a common theme in the stories you’ve been telling.”
Bel flashed her a quick smile.
“That would feel like old times.” She leaned forward. “What did you have in mind?”
“Why don’t we do both?” Nia suggested “Cause I know a place where we can definitely find drinks and trouble.”
Bel’s grin turned wicked as she read the meaning in Nia’s eyes.