by Mary Ruth Pursselley -
Celeste dragged herself up the stairs to her room, her pack still on her back. A hard bulge just right of center made her muscles and kidney ache. It was the vase she’d unearthed this morning—the find that kept a smile on her face in spite of how tired she was. It was unusual to find something this size completely undamaged, aside from dirt stains and some chips in the rim. Beneath the staining, it looked like the original paint was still intact, which made it worth even more.
Celeste dug in a pocket for her key, unlocked her door, and swung it open.
Someone was already standing in her room.
Celeste felt herself going numb as she took in the shapely trousers, the aqua-colored blouse, the beaded shoulder bag. The kinky blonde hair just like her own, only cleaner and better cared-for, the big green eyes set in what Mom had called an angel face.
Celia’s grin was dazzling. She covered the room in two strides and flung herself into Celeste’s arms.
Celeste hugged her little sister tight, tears running down her ash-covered cheeks. It had been so long—too long—since they’d been together. Celia was so much taller now, so grown up! She was a young lady instead of the little girl she’d been the last time they saw each other.
Celeste silently cursed herself for not visiting Celia in Zirconia. She’d been so occupied with trying to earn enough money to keep them both alive… but that was no excuse. She should have visited. She should have kept in better contact.
“I’m so happy to see you,” Celia said.
Celeste squeezed Celia tighter and smiled, until it suddenly dawned on her: Celia was in Adagio.
Celia. Was in Adagio. Not Zirconia.
“Celia!” Celeste found Celia’s shoulders and pushed her far enough back to look at her. “What the heck are you doing here?”
Celia smiled sheepishly and shrugged. “Uh… Surprise!”