by Mari Ness
"Stop speaking," he tells his wife.
"I'm sorry," she says, flinching. Another glittering diamond and a gleaming pearl drop from her mouth; she grabs a fine napkin, pressing it against her bleeding mouth.
He looks away.
He should not have been so harsh, he knows.
Five rooms now filled to bursting with gems. The hungry kingdoms on his border, now eyeing his wife--and the five rooms filled to bursting with gems. Infuriated bankers claiming that his jewels have made all other currency worthless, which has done nothing to drive away the crouching armies.
And the blood, dear god, the blood.
He had known this when they wed, even kissed away the blood from her mouth where the diamonds had once again cut her. It still astonished him--and puzzled the doctors that he had summoned--that her lips had never become scarred or hardened, that almost every diamond cut her mouth.
Which meant the pearls, too, came out stained with blood.
He turns back to her and hands her another fine napkin, as if in apology. She opens her mouth. His lips set in a thin line, and this time, they both look away.
Unbidden, another face, less lovely, pockmarked, uneven, comes to mind.
He will not think of her, he tells himself.
Instead, he thinks of toads.