In the Capital
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I remember when I met that incomparable woman. Under the grey skies of a May morn, I stood in front of a tree and prayed in the capital of my country, wishing for happiness and nothing more. Today was the day I would meet the woman I loved, Wanda. I had been anticipating this day for months now, and I decided to say one last prayer to the shrine. The tree had been planted by the wife of a dead artist, and it was made to give wishes and prayers to; each wish that came true was said to bear a fruit once the tree blossomed, and the sweeter the wish, the sweeter the fruit.

I was hardly a native in this city of politics and demagoguery (in fact, I was content to stay as far away from it as I possibly could), and was content to stay at home in the pseudo-tundra. My usual day consisted of staring down at my desk and wishing that the Colonial Congress would stop objecting to everything the queen said and just go along with her for once. Despite this, I did like visiting the less political parts of the Capital; it had some fine dining, interesting monuments to fallen heroes, and the museums were simply fantastic.

It was walking along the avenue in front of the Ministry of Transportation that I met Wanda. She looking at a map of the city on her GlassHand, and checking the time, clearly impatient for me. She had the complexion of someone from the northern territories, perhaps Nuevo Azul or Everstrom. Her hair was dyed a garish shade of blue, and she was wearing a pair of darkened glasses over her eyes. She looked exactly as she did in the picture she sent to me last night, down to her black glasses. We had agreed to meet here and go on what I suppose could be called a date; her native town was only 20 miles away from the capital, and we had been in communication for much longer than that, and it was her that suggested that we meet up in the first place.

As soon as she saw me, she smiled, putting away her Hand. We struck up a conversation, she struck a match and began smoking (much to my distaste, but she at least took care to blow it out of the direction of my face). I brought up the situation in the southern territories, and she brushed off the subject, simply saying "I don't want to talk about politics; this is the first time we've met in real life." I acknowledged this was fair, and asked her where she wished to go; her first idea was to get some food.

So, we did just that. It was a second breakfast of sorts, with us walking into a simple restaurant and having simple food: seaweed-wrapped leopard burgers, with eggplant ketchup. As we ate, we reminisced about how we first came into contact; it was simple coincidence that my letter had gotten intercepted and sent to her house by mistake when I was trying to send it to my grandfather up north in the true tundra. Her mother, a postal worker, had accidentally brought the letter home, and it was opened by Wanda by mistake.

"You're lucky you weren't arrested," I said, eating some of the potato skins I had ordered with my food. "Mail fraud is quite serious."

She shrugged in response, having finished her food already. "We're both lucky. If not for that letter, I'd never have met you." She smiled, and squeezed my free hand gently. I squeezed in return, and smiled at her, causing an older man in the cafe to gag in revulsion and mutter something about northerners. I rolled my eyes, and we made our way out of the restaurant.

On our way out, we passed a rally of some sort, protesting the recent appointment of an abnormally-eyed human to the high court; it had caused the populace to go up in arms, and some were wondering if she wouldn't just turn someone whose case she presided over into stone or accidentally set the chambers of the court on fire, or hypnotize the other justices into doing her bidding. Of course, for all they knew, abnormal-eyed just meant that her eyes had white sclera instead of the usual black.

"How unpleasant," muttered Wanda, walking past the crowd. "You'd think that eye color wouldn't matter, now."

"It's the westerners that are doing this," I replied, swinging myself around a light post for no reason other than I could. "They're so afraid of change they've been wearing the same clothes for the past 5 years." Both this and the swinging elicited a giggle from her, and a wink from me. "To the art museum, then?"

"Yes!" She was an artist herself, albeit amateur, but I liked her work well enough. We saw all the great artists in the gallery; the Garney family, various members of the "Cold" movement, the Neo-Capitalists, and even a few surrealist pieces which had not yet been burned by the government. There was even a special exhibit dedicated to the Art of Circles, in which every piece was either inspired by circles, made using circles, were circles, or were made by circles. The latter group viewed this as racist, and found the name "circle" degrading; they preferred "angularly challenged".

It was getting late, and she needed to return to Everstorm soon, so I decided to treat her to one last visit: the Museum of Natural History. For some reason I still cannot fathom, she liked animals that had large amounts of sharp teeth, such as sabercats or sharks or the quokka. The museum, being one of the largest in the country, had all of those; she especially fawned over the Martian Amphibious Shark exhibit that was present.

But, like all good things, this had to come to an end. We eventually exited the museum when it was closing time, both of us exhausted. We stood in the plaza near the museum, in front of a memorial dedicated to those who had died in the Fifth War. She smiled at me, and we embraced, however briefly. It had been years, literally years, since I had been touched by another person. I felt like I was about to cry out of pure joy.

And, just as quickly as the contact began, it ended. She made her way towards the metro station, I made my way back to my hotel room. As soon as I returned, I sat at the desk in the room, and began writing another letter to her; miles away, I knew that she was doing the same.

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