—the explosion occurred downstairs. Breaking glass and bursting wood, heavy thud. I thought about Siobhan in those frantic moments while I dressed and descended the stairs. I thought she might have done it, the old woman may have accidentally blown up part of the house, or maybe it wasn’t an accident at all but a spiteful outburst. She stood in the far sitting room on the main floor, wide-eyed and watching the flames dance about the room, an orgy of heat and snapping light. She looked at me and we extinguished the fire, her grabbing blankets and me fetching water from the kitchen tap. Someone had thrown a homemade grenade through the window and fire scattered in the room, blackening the carpet and much of the furniture. Siobhan wasn’t hurt. She must not have been in the room when the bottle came through the window. The smell of gasoline, acrid and nauseating. Siobhan called the security police but they never arrived, far too busy elsewhere in the city. I climbed upstairs to my notepad and attempted work on the project but was unable to focus. I heard small rockets detonate beyond the city and I thought, it’s hopeless, the end is nigh. An invisible circle closed tightly about me.

I focused my mind elsewhere, writing about the voice inside, writing about my mother and how I woke this morning thinking of her despite not having dreamed of her. I woke this morning (thinking of my mother) assessing the scab on my hand, acknowledging that one day I’d die violently, alone. I’ve always known it and my mother knew it too, she knew and refused to understand. If only I could have saved her, if only I could have said to her, Mother, do not worry. I woke thinking of my mother, yearning to read something, and then it was dusk with sirens swirling in the city. The shelling or the sounds of shelling then drowned out the sirens (along with all sense of time) and I was startled when the old woman opened my door and quietly walked to the bed behind me. She smiled but did not look at me, a small hand up at the side of her head to wrap strands of hair around her ear. Again I thought of Annalise despite my irritation at having just been startled, and it was bright outside despite the smoke. Siobhan had never come into my room during daylight. I could smell her perfume from the bed behind me and I closed my eyes, thinking of Annalise, my Ophelia, engulfed at once with longing and sadness. I needed to be close to her. I stood with my eyes at the window and walked to the bed, my arms out to her as she pulled me in. I stood there for a while, cradling her head in my arms. The world was fireworks and she sat weeping on the edge of the bed and I stroked her head, my eyes closed.

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