Containing comments on adultery, depression and biceps, and a little impatience on Myrine's part.






"Women in my position are supposed to die tragically, and now I know why," Mercy said, her elbows propped on the kitchen table at Amazon House. Futuristic shooting sounds were coming from the living room where she had deposited Bruce and Bennie with their toys.

"Don't be ridiculous," Myrine said impatiently.

"It used to be to pay for their sins," Diana said. "Geoff told me all about that. At length."

"That's just it, it's not to pay for their sins," Mercy insisted. She paused to take a sip of Darjeeling tea. "I didn't commit a sin anyway."

"Well then, why do they die?" Lily asked reasonably.

"It's so they don't have to face the mess they made of their lives by going out of bounds." Mercy took another cookie, lifting her wrist briefly to the corner of her eye in the process.

"Your life was a mess before," Myrine pointed out.

"And you certainly seem to be doing better now than before you went to Texas," Diana added. Mercy was looking better somehow, despite her present depression; not as bland and dull. There was an almost imperceptible change in her figure as well--it was still full, but it was no longer overflowing.

"But I think George has guessed something. He's being even more unkind than usual."

Diana snorted. "Asshole," she commented.

"Why don't you just tell him about Travis," Myrine said.

"You don't understand. That would make it even worse."

Lily nodded. She was unusually serious.

Myrine shook her head. "I still don't understand why you won't get out of it once and for all."

"It's the kids," Mercy explained. "But I'm so depressed. I've never felt quite like this before."

"What's 'this'?" Diana asked.

"To use an overworked but appropriate cliche, on the edge of a yawning precipice."

"I should have introduced you to Geoff," Diana murmured.

"If it's yawning, maybe it will close its mouth soon," Myrine said.

Mercy gave a weak smile. "I certainly hope so. I find myself at the most inappropriate times wanting to break into tears, and I don't want to do anything."

"Sounds like a classic case of depression to me," Lily said. Lily would know.

"Pull yourself together," Myrine said. "Isn't there any way you can get out of this rut?"

Mercy heaved a ten-ton sigh. "If only it weren't for the kids..."

Said kids took that moment to come charging into the kitchen with their figures of terror. Playing alone was getting boring and it was time to bug the grown-ups. Recognizing Lily as their most promising victim, they shoved their muscular monsters into her face.

"Ugh!" Lily responded with sufficient disgust. "Who's that?"

"Skeletor," Bennie answered. "He's the bad guy."

"And who's the good guy?" Lily asked.

Bruce held an overdeveloped blond figure up to her for inspection. "He-Man."

"Oh, no," Myrine said.

"Are you sure this is politically correct?" Diana asked.

"Probably not," Mercy replied, looking on benevolently. Lily might be crazy, but she was good with the kids. They always went to her when they had a choice.

"Look at those biceps," Myrine said, her voice dripping with disgust.

"Perverse," Diana agreed, shaking her head.

Mercy laughed with more sincerity than she had all morning.

The plastic figures proceeded to demonstrate their fighting techniques, complete with sound effects, to the women assembled at the round table. Futuristic of not, they sounded distinctly like cowboys and Indians.

"I'll get you!" He-Man said.

"I'll never give up!" Skeletor replied.

"I'll make you choke on that," He-Man said. "And then you won't just give up, you'll throw up!" The women at the table laughed in surprise at the verbal wit of a kindergarten kid.

Children really did have their advantages at times, Mercy reflected. They forced a certain amount of optimism on you; having children who would be adults in fifteen years, she had to believe the millennium would bring something more hopeful than global catastrophe.

Taking note of his success, Bruce decided then and there to repeat the performance at the next opportunity. Bennie, as usual, felt left out.

"Clever!" Lily said.

"What do you expect?" Mercy asked, feeling much better. "He's mine."