Prompt line: “I’ve been alive long enough to know that those shoes do not go with that shirt.”

Written and read through in like an hour.

“Okay, but what’s the point of immortality if you’re going to spend it all…” Nadia’s voice trailed off from behind the changing screen—one of his favorites, dark lacquer and gold gilt, a massive dragon painted across three of the panels, brought with him from China years ago. Alex could almost imagine the hand gesture she made, and the expression accompanying it: a shape echoing rolling waves and her nose wrinkled. He laughed at the mental image.

Nadia stuck her head out from around the screen, brown curls tumbling down around her shoulders, nose wrinkled just as he’d thought it would be. “What? Why are you laughing?”

“Going to spend it all what?” Alex asked instead of answering, standing from where he’d been seated at the edge of his bed and shoving his hands in his pockets.

She pulled her head back and threw another shirt over the top. It landed in a heap of expensive silk at his feet. “Going to spend it all doing that. Alexander, you leave that shirt just where it is.”

He had reached to pick the shirt up, but he stepped back just in time. Nadia stuck her head around the edge of the screen again and pointed to one of the shirts lined up along the other edge of his bed.

“That one. In the blue.”

He tossed it to her, a lifetime of useless knowledge cataloging it for him. A heavier silk than the one she’d just thrown at him, more suited to the season. A nice blue that wouldn’t do much for her eyes, unlike the green one she’d discarded five minutes earlier, but matched her favorite necklace and earrings. He remembered when all silk was essentially the same, and it hardly mattered because most people never saw silk in their lives. And when the dye would have been richer, hand-dyed to perfection. None of these giant chemical vats people favored these days.

“Mother henning me.”

Startled out of his ruminations, Alex stared at the screen as though that would help him translate. He’d learned hundreds of languages in his life but somehow Nadia always seemed to be speaking a dialect he had never heard. “Mother henning you? Are you propositioning me?”

“Since when is ‘mother hen’ a proposition? Besides, you’re way too old for me. You’re what, six thousand?”

“Under two, thank you very much. What’s taking so long? If you’re not propositioning me, why do you care so much what you look like? Unless the love of your life is going to be there. What’s his name? B—”

A shoe flew through the air directly at his head. Alex had enough time to be mildly impressed at her blind aim before he thought to catch it, inches from his forehead. He turned it over idly in his hands while she talked, flicking at the stiletto heel. What the inventors of the stiletto would have thought of their weapon turned into the heel of a shoe he had no idea, but he imagined they wouldn’t find it as funny as he did.

“I would have thought you’d been alive long enough to get over the concept of the love of your life,” Nadia said, stepping out from behind the screen. She held a necklace out to him and turned her back, waiting for him to fasten it.

“I’ve been alive long enough to know that those shoes do not go with that shirt,” Alex teased, dropping the shoe over her shoulder and into her hands. She tossed it into the pile of other rejects. “That necklace belonged to Catherine the Great you know.”

“I do know. You told me that when you gave it to me.”

Alex fastened the necklace and smoothed it down. He kissed the top of her head and waited for her to turn around. “You look gorgeous.”

“Do I look gorgeous enough? There’s a room full of other women out there.”

“What’s-his-name isn’t there for them. Brandon. Braden. Bruce. He’s here for you. So go enjoy your party and don’t drink too much. I’ll make my appearance later this evening.”

Nadia gave him a grateful smile, but added, “You’re not dressing up as a gladiator again, are you? Because that works for Halloween but—”

“That wasn’t a gladiator. No gladiator I knew ever wore that.” Alex glowered down at her, but she just laughed, leaning down to adjust a strap on one of her shoes. “You’re going to drive me to drink. In all my years, I’ve never met anyone as infuriating as you. And I knew Cleopatra.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Nadia checked her hair once more as she passed the mirror, tucking a few invisible strands of hair back where they belonged. She blew him a kiss as she stepped through the door. “It’s Brian, by the way.”

“Right him.” Alex watched her go and turned to survey the mess she’d made of his room. “This is the last time I let her get dressed in here.”


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