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The Price of Small Joys

"Was he worth it?"
She puts down the dao; traces the flat of the blade with a callused finger; feels the pitted steel, the runes brocading its surface; breathes out. This is not hers anymore. But its voice knifes through her gut, nonetheless, hot with accusation, the shriek of metal-on-metal, bitter as stomach acids.
"Were they worth it?"
She puts down the shield; puts down the battered, rusted armor, textureless from long use; puts down the visor half-eaten by a dragon's rage; puts down the helmet, the longbow, the quiver of rotting arrows.
"Was it all worth it?"
She pulls back the strings of her apron, twists them into a bow. She will never be graceful enough, never be pliable, never learn how to totter on stilettos without tumbling. Her skin will always bear a memory of iron, her smile a sharpness inexplicable in this manicured battlefield of confections and double-edged compliments. She will always smell of war.
She speaks a single word. Flames, oily, a scintillant indigo, leap to swallow the armament of a life laid to rest. The weapons scream a final assault: was this life worth the cost of the last?
She looks up the stairs. Outside, there is sunlight and the sound of her sons gamboling like foxes through the backyard. And she thinks to herself, as she glides up the rungs:
Yes. Oh, yes.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, October 13th, 2016
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