Warpaint
mechanical. So lean and chrome. Looking back, I suppose it was self-defense. A robot can’t get hurt.”
    â€œIt can break down.”
    â€œOf course, but they can also be fixed, like a toaster or a car. That’s what I thought. But even mechanical things sometimes can’t be fixed.”
    â€œLike the Heap. Like me.”
    Quiola rested her hand on top of the suitcase and gave C.C. a look that said, without speaking:
and this is why I have to leave, for now. When you say things like that
.
    â€œWell? It’s the truth, isn’t it? I’ll never be entirely the same.”
    Quiola stared at the wood floor, silent.
    â€œGoddamn it, Quiola. Can’t we even talk about this? I’m not the same, I’ll never be the same, and there’s no guarantee I’ll even make it. You ask me to promise to get well, but you can’t really ask me, for your sake, to believe in a miracle, can you? You can’t just ignore the fact that I’ve been bent, spindled and mutilated, that I’m sick, and that you’re leaving.”
    â€œI’m not leaving, leaving. I’m coming back. Three weeks.”
    â€œFine! I stand corrected. I’ll be alone for three weeks.”
    â€œBut you won’t be alone! There’s Margaret next door, and then Valerie will be here – and you said you’d be all right, you said it was a good idea! I can cancel my trip –”
    â€œNo. That would be a mistake.” She glanced up warily. “For both of us.”
    â€œYes, it would. I need to get – I’m sorry, C.C. I need a break. I’m not perfect.”
    â€œNeither am I,” said C.C. quietly. “Neither am I.”
    Â 
    â™¦
    Â 
    â€œMom.” Her long, thick dark hair in a single braid down her back, Quiola stood solemn, a point of stillness in her blue Catholic school uniform. The cramped kitchen bustled, as the first wave of the dinner hour swung into tempo at
Rose Garden.
Tucked into a corner of the Lower East Side, the tiny restaurant had grown hot as a furnace with local traffic. Rose Otter turned away from the gas stove she’d been supervising at the sound of her daughter’s voice. A spry woman, Rose Otter was just thirty; her employees called her Mrs. Dynamo.
    â€œWhat is it, Quiola? You can see how busy we are. Why don’t you go upstairs and start on homework? Then come back in an hour or to help us out. Tonight looks like a rush already. But then it is Friday –”
    â€œMom, I – I don’t feel well.”
    Rose frowned. She touched the shoulder of the woman standing at the stove beside her. “Britta? Can you handle this by yourself?”
    â€œSure, no problem – it’s early yet. Go on.”
    Rose wiped her hands on her chef’s apron, and laid a palm against Quiola’s forehead, her gaze full of concern. “I don’t think you’re running a fever.”
    â€œNo, it’s not like that,” said Quiola lowering her voice to no more than a whisper, which got lost in the clamor of pots, flares, chopping, dicing, the fragrance of onion and garlic, vegetables simmering, meat sizzling.
    â€œHey,” said Rose to a young man. “Watch how much of that oil you use! I’m not Mrs. Gotrocks, ya know! So tell me, Quiola, how don’t you feel well?”
    â€œI’m sick.”
    â€œTo your stomach?”
    â€œNot exactly. Maybe. Please, Mom, can’t we talk about this upstairs?”
    â€œHave you lost your mind? Do you see what’s going on here, hmm? Dinner. I can’t just leave and you know it. Quiola, honey, what is wrong with you? Do you have a headache? I don’t think it can be flu, you aren’t running a fever and you don’t look flushed.”
    â€œOrder up, number nine!” cried Britta. “Now, George!”
    â€œNever mind,” said Quiola. “I’ll go up and lay down.”
    â€œDo you think aspirin would

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