Gillian and Mongo are nose to nose, Gillian fully clothed, Mongo in his furry altogether. Gillian is burning three candles and a stick of sandalwood incense. The candles flicker intimately. The incense spawns a slender snake of smoke. Gillian hugs the monkey, pressing it against her forehead.

"Heal me, Mongo; chase away my demons."

She holds him back from her face to search his enigmatic features.

"How could I have been so stupid. Okay, I was young. But even youth has a sense of right and wrong. Inexperienced. Vain. Gullible; God knows I was gullible. But mostly stupid. You pay for stupidity, Mongo. You get what you deserve—though maybe I got a more than I deserved. Life isn't fair. I knew that back then, so what's this nonsense now? Something dead and buried ought not be exhumed. Never told anybody; could that be it? The whole thing never happened; I had it removed. Surgically. Odd, isn't it, how we can deny a locked-up experience? I guess Pandora's box resides in every skull. Forgotten. Under lock and key. Until that key gets turned. By me? By someone else? I'm terrified when I think of what's inside." She stares past her confidante into the bedroom shadows. "Ought to tell someone." Her gaze returns to the monkey's noncommittal stare. "But who?" She shakes her head. "You don't count this time, my little friend."

One flame drowns inside its wax; two flames persevere.

 

 

The mustard...

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