Lay Down Your Heart (Liz Westbrook-Trenholm & Hayden Trenholm)

Jeremy inspected the spare bedroom, rearranging the pillows on the double bed. A vase on the night table awaited a fresh bouquet of flowers, and the small desk held a pen set and a sheaf of note paper. A space had been left for a fresh water jug and a glass. A single photograph adorned the wall, from their trip to the jungles of Bechuanaland to see the gorillas in 2007, the year before Lesedi went away.

Lesedi had always needed a retreat, a place to go when the troubles of the day—his or hers—led her in the night to abandon their marriage bed for a place of private repose. After twelve years of sleeping apart, he doubted either of them would easily grow accustomed to sleeping together again, no matter how hard he had worked for and fervently dreamed of that blessed day. She’d need the room more than ever, and it was perfect. He would have to commend Henry for the thoroughness of his preparations. He jotted an aide memoire on the pad he now kept tucked in his jacket pocket.

But wait. Where was the book? He’d told Henry to put it there. Told him he wanted Lesedi to see it. That book, that book about—he scrabbled through his notepad, looking, looking.

No such book exists. His own scrawl, just that sentence and a date. A memory sputtered to life. He’d shouted at Henry, accusing him of stealing the book, and Henry’s dark eyes, gentle as he reminded him that they had talked about it before, that he did not own such a book, that Master Falconbridge himself had searched and found no such book had been published.

Jeremy lurched to the window, leaning on the frame and pulling in deep breaths. Two men stood across the street, watching the house. He leaned closer to the glass, squinting to make them out. They resolved into one figure only, the single hawker who always waited forlornly beneath the palms for someone to buy his fruit cups.

Jeremy’s face flushed with sudden heat, and he raised the sash to relieve it. The dry season was well begun and the morning air was cool against his skin, though the wintery July sun promised heat before the day’s end.

He thought briefly of a trip he and Lesedi had made on one of the few occasions the Tanzanian Institute of Advanced Physics could spare its assistant director, to the Serengeti highlands, waking to frost on the ground and the duttering of an old bull elephant half hidden in the high grass at the edge of their camp.

Warmer than that here, and the breeze carried the smell of curry from the small restaurant on the corner and, faintly beneath, the honeyed scent of jacaranda trees. Beyond the fruit seller lay Bagamoyo at its most beautiful, the turquoise Indian Ocean lapping languidly on white sand, empty of all but a few of his neighbours, huddled beneath open-sided tents away from the browning rays of the sun. A liveried slave stood to one side, awaiting the whims of his owners. A momentary unease filled him, like the stomach drop in an elevator, and the sand was filled with laughing children—black, brown, and white—playing together under the watchful gaze of their loving parents. Absurd imaginings.

The never-ending hum of traffic was underlaid with the faint rhythm of drumming from the free town of Jijilabure, on the far side of Bagamoyo. Rehearsal for the evening festival which he had promised to let Henry go to. Perhaps he and Lesedi could join him. . . . He turned to ask her.

Jeremy stumbled back to the bed and sank onto its edge. He forced his thoughts into coherence, planting himself firmly in the here and now, Lesedi in prison for twelve years because she would not help the government weaponize her work, and he, expending his dwindling political capital in obtaining her release. This room was the symbol of his success at last, thanks to a regime change that placed some of his carefully nurtured contacts into positions of power in the new government of national unity. This waiting flower vase, this pen set and notepaper, this space ready for water all meant that Lesedi herself was returning. He remembered her here from all those years ago, turned sideways on the desk chair, voluptuous and desirable in her little pink suit as she listened to him expound on the bureaucratic battles he was fighting to bring his colleagues into the twenty-first century and to convince his government that investment in selective breeding, maternal health programmes, and better care were critical to maintaining Tanzania’s pre-eminence in the slave trade.

“Feed them, treat them, breed them properly, and Tanzania will have the most valuable stock on the continent,” he’d told her.

“And it makes the slaves happy,” she smiled, raising an eyebrow.

“Happy workers make for higher productivity,” he’d rejoindered.

How often they had had that talk, Lesedi his sounding board for justifying better treatment of slaves?

Then it would be her turn to tell him her latest thoughts on the mutable relationship between space and time, translating near incomprehensible physics into thrilling possibilities.

“This science changes everything, even our understanding of time and space. We need to harness it to light the world, perhaps even reach the stars. Not use it to blow up our neighbouring countries. ” Her eyes sparkled with intensity and intelligence he found inspiring and erotic.

They would have that life again, they would.

His heart lifted, slowed, and settled. The room was perfect. It was perfect, except Lesedi was still not home, was still stuck in the halfway house in Zanzibar City. Every promise of her release only led to further delays in their deliverance. For three days now, no word had come at all and he feared the latest shuffle of ministers would provide the Security Minister, a holdover from the previous all-white government, yet another excuse to keep his wife away from him. Should he again contact Curtis Nyere, his former senior advisor-turned-politician, or see what more Doris O’Brian, restored from the limbo of “special projects,” could do?

Excerpted from Seasons Between Us, copyright © 2021

A Grave Between Them (Karina Sumner-Smith)

The man in the black mask says this is what he has heard: that it must be her hand on the shovel, her breath and her earth; so no, he won’t help her dig. He won’t fall for her tricks.

He’s wrong in the details—wrong in the head—but there’s blood on his hands, more with each passing moment, and he has the gist of it close enough.

Avery nods, quick and afraid. “I’ll do it,” she says. “Whatever you want. Just let my family go. ”

He doesn’t, of course. Instead he binds them tight and locks them in the basement, then bars the door while Avery watches, trembling. Her mom and Aunt Jenny she doesn’t worry about as much—they’re

bound, but beneath the duct tape and bruises their anger burns hot. They’ll have themselves free by morning, one way or another. No, it’s the kids that concern her: Katie with her head held defiant,

little Matthew sobbing into his stuffed dog, Lucas so silent and still that Avery knows he’s hidden himself away in the dark corners of his mind. She wonders how long it’ll be before she can coax him to


“You can let them out yourself,” the man tells her. He adjusts the ski mask over his face, then bends down to pick up the blanket-wrapped body he brought to their door, struggling with the weight. “When

you’re done. ”

He’s lying, but maybe she needs the lie.

“This way. ” Avery clasps her hands tight so she can’t do anything she’d regret, and leads him into the backyard.

Excerpted from Seasons Between Us, copyright © 2021

Table of contents

Foreword------------------------------------------------------------------ Lucas K. Law

Introduction-------------------------------------------------------------- Candas Jane Dorsey

Clear Waters------------------------------------------------------------ C. J. Cheung

Groven--------------------------------------------------------------------- Heather Osborne

Robocare----------------------------------------------------------------- Rich Larson

Dress of Ash------------------------------------------------------------ Y. M. Pang

Hope to See the Ghost Tonight---------------------------------- Patrick Swenson

Lay Down Your Heart------------------------------------------------ Liz Westbrook-Trenholm & Hayden Trenholm

The Veil Between----------------------------------------------------- Karin Lowachee

Sympathétique-------------------------------------------------------- Alvaro Zinos-Amaro

The Selkie’s Skin----------------------------------------------------- Bev Geddes

Messages Left in Transit, Devices Out of Sync----------- S. B. Divya

Joe------------------------------------------------------------------------- Vanessa Cardui

Summer of Our Discontent---------------------------------------- Tyler Keevil

A Grave Between Them--------------------------------------------- Karina Sumner-Smith

Blue Kueh---------------------------------------------------------------- Joyce Chng

Second Thoughts------------------------------------------------------ Eric Choi

The Sabhu My Destination----------------------------------------- Maurice Broaddus

The Hidden Knowledge Society---------------------------------- Bogi Takács

The Light of Stars------------------------------------------------------ Amanda Sun

The Hollow Oath-------------------------------------------------------- Brent Nichols

When Resin Burns to Tar-------------------------------------------- Maria Haskins

Exchange of Perspective--------------------------------------------- Alan Dean Foster

The Astronaut’s Four Seasons------------------------------------- Jane Yolen

Afterword------------------------------------------------------------------- Susan Forest


About The Contributors

About The Editors

Copyright Acknowledgements

Appendix: Mental Health Resources & Anti-Discrimination Resources


What is a life well-lived? How should life be lived? What kind of stories will you leave behind? Travel with 23 speculative fiction authors through the different seasons of life to capture the memories, identities, and moments of stepping through the portal of change, as they cope with their own journeys of growing older. Authors include Jane Yolen, Alan Dean Foster, Maurice Broaddus, Candas Jane Dorsey, and Rich Larson. An award-winning anthology series.


The anthologies in this award-winning series (Strangers Among Us, The Sum of Us, Where the Stars Rise, Shades Within Us) have been recommended by Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, Library Journal, School Library Journal, Locus, Foreword Reviews, and Quill & Quire.