In der Nacht

On the first night, he comes to her as her teacher. He stares at her, ivory skin glowing in the moonlight, dark hair falling silkily about her shoulders. Why are you here, he asks her. Why did you come here? You do not belong here. This is no place for those like you.

She looks down at her sun-worn hands fisting in the sheets, then meets his eyes. I know who I am, and where I belong, she says. I am not afraid of you.

On the second night, he comes to her as her grandfather. Why are you here, he asks. Why did you abandon our tribe, our ways, our people? You left with this white-skinned foreigner. Does your heritage mean so little to you?

She bites her dark-red lip, but her hands are steady. What tribe, she responds. They are all dead save for a few. What use is the past if we cling to it, what use a heritage if we let it shackle us? Our tribe is two people. There is no point in tradition.

On the third night, he comes to her as her friend. Why are you here, he asks. Traitor, coward, rat. You left us, we need you and you left us. You threw us away for a soft bed and a warm meal. Why?

She stares back, dark eyes fixed on his face. I could not stay, she answers. I want to live, don't you understand? I want to learn, grow stronger, live. I have done so much for you, can't I do something for me? I want to live.

On the fourth night, he comes to her as her mother. Why are you here, he asks. Why did you betray me, why did you not stay? Bad little girl, dirty little girl. Cowardly little girl, running off and leaving me all alone.

She gazes at him. There are tears in her dark eyes but her cheeks are dry. You are dead, she says. You are dead, leave me be. There is nothing here for you. You cannot hurt me anymore.

On the fifth night, he comes to her as her brother. Neechan, Neechan, why are you here, he asks. Why did you leave me alone? You promised you would protect me, you promised you wouldn't let anyone hurt me. Why did you break your promise? Don't you love me anymore?

She clenches her hands into fists, eyes squeezed nearly shut in pain. You are not my brother, she says, and her dark hair flows around her face like a gossamer-thin veil as she shakes her head.

She is a very pretty child.

On the sixth night, he comes to her as her father. Her pale skin is soft under his fingers, the moonlight painting a picture of entwined flesh in a grotesque parody of love. She struggles valiantly but weakly, futilely. I killed you, I killed you, she whispers through tears but the silken sheets muffle her cries.

On the seventh night, he comes and sees that person standing in the doorway, hands folded in her sleeves, watching him calmly.

She disapproves.

Why, he asks. Why do you care about what happens to that brat? It is not as if she is yours.

She looks at him, calmly. Serenely. You are living up to your name, she tells him.

He does not come to her again.