“Are you sure about this?”
Leda held the opaque vial filled with milky white potion up to her eyes, examining the contents warily.
“I’m tired Rue,” she murmured softly, almost inaudibly.
Leda’s eyes flashed away from the vial and found Rue’s pale blue ones, making a desperate plea. Rue was calmer than ever.
“Trust me,” Rue commanded.
Hesitantly at first, and then suddenly boldly Leda lifted the vial to her lips and sipped.
Rue watched her closely with narrow eyes.
After a moment she asked in a quiet voice, “How does it feel?”
Leda smiled dreamily back at her.
“Oh Rue it’s wonderful!” Leda laughed musically, but her eyes continued to look dark and tired.
“It doesn’t . . . hurt anymore?” Rue prodded.
Leda shook her head. “Hurt, pain—those words seem meaningless to me now.”
Rue frowned. It was the first time that she was beginning to wonder if there wasn’t something unnatural about it. When she had done it herself, she had never noticed.
Rue knew how Leda must be feeling now, the smooth calmness as the liquid worked its way further into her body, the lightness as the heavy weight tumbled from her shoulders. It was a good feeling. Wasn’t it?
Leda laughed again; it made Rue shudder involuntarily. She had made a mistake. There was something horrible about Leda’s sudden happiness.
Leda grinned at Rue and stretched her arms overhead as if she had just woken from a long, hard night’s sleep.
Rue attempted a smile in return, but her heart had begun to pound. Her brain had begun to tell her that this wasn’t Leda.
Leda didn’t seem to notice. She placed an untroubled hand on the headstone beside her and sighed contentedly. Suddenly she stooped down to the fresh bouquet of flowers she had laid there minutes before and plucked a purple one to place behind her ear.
Rue realised her mouth was open ever so slightly and shut it tightly. “Leda—”
Leda had already turned her back to the fresh grave and called over her shoulder, “Come on Rue.”
Rue stared a moment longer at the stone recently erected atop the short green grass and whispered, “I’m sorry Lex.”
Rue hurried to rejoin Leda’s side and glanced sideways at her. “Where’s the nepenthe Leda?” She tried to keep her tone casual.
Leda slipped her hand into a pocket and pulled out the small vial and waved it in front of Rue.
Rue reached for it, but Leda just laughed and returned it to her pocket. “What are you doing Rue? I’ll need more once this dose wears off.”
Rue gulped. “Maybe you shouldn’t Leda.”
Leda frowned. “What? Why not?”
“I’m not sure this was such a good idea.”
Leda became defensive quickly. “You were the one who suggested it Rue. Besides, you’ve done it yourself loads of time. You’d rather I suffer?”
Rue shook her head. “I’ve only done it twice Leda and of course I don’t want to see you suffer. You’re not acting yourself.” She held her hand out for the vial again.
“Forget it Rue,” Leda replied, swiping Rue’s hand away. “I need it.”
The dark circles around Leda’s eyes made the grief seem closer to the surface than it had appeared at first.
Rue dropped her hand hesitatingly.
Leda forced a laugh and the tension was forgotten, too.
Rue bit her lip.
“If only Lex could see all the trouble he’s caused me!” Leda laughed, but her voice had grown harsher and more unnatural. “Well Lex, you can’t trouble me anymore—you’re dead!” And fingering the vial of nepenthe in her pocket, she laughed again.