Molly GrueOut of Stock
Molly said something strange then, for a woman who never slept a night through without waking many times to see if the unicorn was still there, and whose dreams were all of golden bridles and gentle young thieves. “It’s the princesses who have no time,” she said. “The sky spins and drags everything along with it, princesses and magicians and poor Cully and all, but you stand still. You never see anything just once. I wish you could be a princess for a little while, or a flower, or a duck. Something that can’t wait.”
She sang a verse of a doleful, limping song, halting after each line as she tried to recall the next.
'Who has choices need not choose.
We must, who have none.
We can love but what we lose –
What is gone is gone.'
Schmendrick peered over the unicorn’s back into Molly’s territory. “Where did you hear that song?” he demanded. It was the first he had spoken to her since the dawn when she joined the journey. Molly shook her head.
“I don’t remember. I’ve known it a long time.”
The land had grown leaner day by day as they traveled on, and the faces of the folk they met had grown bitter with the brown grass; but to the unicorn’s eyes Molly was becoming a softer country, full of pools and caves, where old flowers came burning out of the ground. Under the dirt and indifference, she appeared only thirty-seven or thirty-eight years old – no older than Schmendrick, surely, despite the magician’s birthdayless face. Her rough hair bloomed, her skin quickened, and her voice was nearly as gentle to all things as it was when she spoke to the unicorn. The eyes would never be joyous, any more than they could ever turn green or blue, but they too had wakened in the earth. She walked eagerly into King Haggard’s realm on bare, blistered feet, and she sang often.
An angry little beetle with her own kitchen beauty: fig, sesame, hazelnut, and cooking spices softened by rice flower.