Kristine has her freedom and uses it, disappearing deep into the facility each day. So long as the food keeps appearing I know she’s alive and kicking. So long as I eat it she leaves me alone to wallow in my own disinterest. Between fugues we eat together with familial pretence.
A rare moment of lucidity is required when our iron beast’s vital fluids are once again scheduled for exchange. I show her my gun collection before diving back into the Sea of Serenity. They are the cleanest, best organised items I own. A formidable array of killing machines laying in precise rows at the indoor basketball court.
Familiarisation is my goal. Accuracy will come with practice. If the weapon is properly loaded, readied for action and aimed in the right direction, a threat may still be taken down.
I allow Kristine her closed-eyes, turned-head method, until she manages to hit the crotch of a target. At near point-blank range. I move her back a few metres and she fires the magazine out with short, scared shrieks. I shoulder a shotgun and clip the ear of another cut-out with a single pellet.
At the end of our session the emasculated silhouette is the only casualty. She says improvements to her aim are hampered by inept tutoring so a draw is called.
I get a makeover. Kristine hints about a hairdressing course she once did, while staring at the birds nest on top of my head. I’m subjected to a full work up. More for her benefit than mine. She tuts and fiddles with the fringe, complaining I’ve ruined it.
Last I checked, hair grows continuously, so what does it matter if my fringe stops at the top of my head? Takes longer to poke into my eyes that way.
After bogging the comb in a nest of snarls that flow over shoulder blades in true Fabio style, a unilateral decision is made to reduce its length.
The three styles I reject, and resulting buzz-cut to fix the last, layered, streaked atrocity, leaves me with a facsimile of martial excess. I succumb to pouting lips, and she shaves the tangled beard as well. Razor burn and white skin glows around a tan line.
Kristine happily packs the instruments away, having satisfied that craving for now. The outcome is secondary to the delusion she forms; that profound external changes will influence the man within. My reflection is not adequately forewarned when I meet him in the mirror. He is speechless until persuaded the new ‘do’ is decidedly macho.
Nothing of any consequence happens for a month. We live together but apart. We share few joys and hoard many fears. We forget the outside world and it ignores us in return.
Then the comfortable rut I’ve worn is filled with boulders.
A dreaded awakening once again breaks contented routine. Kristine swaggers into Naptown and calls me out. I open rusty orbs to find bright eyes burning into me. They look determined.
“Sam? Sam? Sammy?”
Shit. Whenever she uses that name I’m going to be carrying something heavy or doing something unnecessarily complicated.
“I need you to take me shopping.”
“I’ll get the keys.”
Her face lights up.
“No you silly cow, not really. Don’t be bloody stupid.”
Her face darkens and I’m made to feel guilty again, even though, as usual, I haven’t done anything wrong. She should factor in my grumpiness when I first wake up.
“You’ve got everything you need. I haven’t got anything.”
“That’s not true. I lent you that T-shirt.”
I remind myself she doesn’t have a lot of stuff to call her own. She’d lobbed in here with nothing. Not a lot of gear we salvaged from the property room and guard’s lockers suits her small, busty frame. Judging from the uniform sizes, the guards here had been rather beefy women.
Kristine has lowered herself to wearing prison smocks lately. There’s no shortage of those, in all sizes. The dull grey hues depress her vivaciousness and she refuses to wear second hand shoes.
“I need personal stuff, women’s things,’ she cries, vaguely. An attempt to use a known squeamish ignorance of female plumbing against me. The subterfuge is backed by a list, lending credibility to the demands. Mysterious medicines, hygiene products, an expansive roll call of makeup items. I snatch it from her and boldly suggest alternatives for each one.
“Soap does the same thing as all of this stuff. Can’t you shove a rag up there like in the old days? What the hell is Thrush?”
There’s a moment of disbelief then outright scorn.
“You really don’t understand women’s needs at all, do you?”
No argument there.
I refuse to consider another incursion into enemy territory. I won’t even think about it. Subject closed, end of discussion.
Females have no respect for authority when they want something badly enough. Kristine doesn’t resort to nagging; she has better armaments.
Ones that can cause unceasing tension in a region I can’t control.
Until now she’s taken great care to cover up. We’d come to an understanding about the correlation between Monkey see, Monkey want to do. Like any man, I enjoy catching glimpses of flesh. In these circumstances, with no chance of fulfilling desires her golden skin provokes, small courses and short durations have been preferred.
Kristine’s modest behaviour ceases at once.
She dresses in the skimpiest, sluttiest clothes she can find, taken from personal property bags. Some of those underage girls had no shame.
Underwear is dispensed with beneath skirts that scarcely brush the tops of nicely turned out thighs. Buttons are left undone to air a full cleavage.
It takes a day or two before I complain about the display. She’s wearing a wide belt sans pants.
“Umm, Kristine. I can see your truckies crack. From the wrong end.”
“Well, I don’t have anything to wear, do I?” she yells and stamps off.
It’s like a soft porn channel that’s never turned off. Boobs swing unfettered as she ‘accidentally’ leans over me. Skirts ride up when small nothings are removed from low surfaces. I walk around hunched, with a permanent hard on.
To screw the cap on tight, she uses a sixth sense to note peak pressure. Furtive vanishings to rid myself of offending erections are interrupted with a crash of doorknobs into walls. I fear a fatal sperm build up from postponed ejaculations and unfulfilled masturbation.
Her actions thin the ice that restrains bridled lust. Man’s sex drive has been known to cause regretful actions. Sadly, I am not of that type. The faith she places in her revered right of sanctuary leaves her untouchable.
Then cuts and blisters from jogging without proper sneakers are tendered as further evidence. I’m rewarded with the silent treatment, and no dinner, upon issuing advice to stop jogging.
My uncaring façade is worn away and made to care. She knows her grievance is just and sticks to her guns.
I reconsider my position and reread her list. The things she desires extend to more than common conveniences. Possessions she feels will fill empty spaces in her mind the way I use drugs to evict the occupants of mine. Her links to the past are severed too raggedly to heal without certain survival tools. For her that has become the accrual of furnishings and ablutionary paraphernalia.
Eventually, after much deep thinking and a disrupted week, I cave in.
“Alright you crazy bitch, we’ll go shopping. Now, I’m going to my room to rearrange my stamp collection. Please put some fucking clothes on by the time I finish.”
Triumphantly she kisses me. The affection speeds up the urgency of getting to my philatelic pastime.