That memorable smell of burning flesh drives me from a foul nightmare. I’m at a Parasite BBQ, and they are leaning down to bite pieces from me. I barely contain my shriek as full wakefulness finds me on the floor beside Kristine’s bed, under a blanket. Presumably I must have blacked out while guarding her. The mattress I grope at to get up is bare of bedclothes. She’s up! I bet she’s doing laundry already.
I’m so incredibly tired. Add to that, sore, sweaty and smelly. I haven’t showered for two days and my stink wrinkles my own nose.
That aroma of frying meat from the dream lingers in the air. I gain a standing position and plod towards the kitchen. Kristine is cooking energetically; banging pans and bustling about. She wears a light dress which strikes me as abnormal after so much casual nakedness. More importantly it looks like breakfast is almost ready.
She greets me brightly as I slouch in.
“Bout time you got up.”
“I can barely move.”
“You managed to get this far. Maybe you’ll live. Hungry? I found sausages under a pile of those yucky meat patties.”
My grunt is correctly interpreted as a yes. I fumble amongst pill bottles for something to keep me going. The capsules I shove towards Kristine are rejected.
“I don’t want those.”
I hesitate, and then put them back in their respective bottles. All the more for me.
“Phew, you stink! Toxins are coming out of you. You’re having a shower before I feed you. I’ll keep it warm.”
My hangdog expression is not enough to excuse me from this unpleasant task. Like a good boy I shower quickly and change into fresh clothes before presenting myself. Kristine approves my efforts and lets me eat my fill. A guilt-inspired offer to wash up is thankfully not accepted. She pushes me away from the sink and into a much better place. The lounge room.
“Veg out in here. I don't want you in my way while I’m cleaning.”
“But I kept everything spotless while you were sleeping.”
“Actually, I can see you tried, Sam. No offence, but my clean is a little bit cleaner than your clean. Now sit. I need to fix your face. Nasty.”
“Hey? Yeah… well… you look like the runner-up at a wife beating contest, or something.”
Despite my irrational comeback I welcome her motherly concern. It’s just that the instantaneous change from nurse to patient is disorientating. Or maybe it’s the Vicodin.
“You sure you’re OK, Krissie? You should rest.”
“Nope. I’m still pretty sore but I’ll do better without those drugs. Besides, they’re too addictive.”
I feel her meaningful gaze while she stings my ragged ear with alcohol swabs.
“Leave them to those who can handle it, Babe.”
She sighs and I change the subject.
“Umm. How’s your guts. You having your period?”
She pulls a face in distaste.
“Why do you want to know something like that for?”
“You were pissing blood for a few days. I was worried.”
She blushes acutely.
“I’m not due for two weeks for your information. My kidneys are bit tender but no major problems.”
“Looks like it cleared up then. You copped quite a few hits in the back.”
“Don’t I know it. I’m lucky to have Gaia to help me.”
“The Earth Mother.”
I hold in my snort of disbelief just in time. In truth I’m amazed at her attitude. Her ability to shrug off that horrific event absolutely astounds me. Natural sleep therapy, spiritual beliefs, healthy body, healthy mind.
Sounds too much like hard work to me.
“Where’d you get that dress?”
“From the truck.”
“You shouldn’t be going down there by yourself!”
“Why not? You did, didn't you? Anyway, I couldn’t resist taking a peek. Glad you moved the body away. I wouldn’t have been able to that.”
“Sam! Please tell me you moved it! I’d hate to think that boy is crawling around down there, all squashed and yucky.”
The mental picture she draws almost makes me shudder.
“Oh yeah, right, I moved it.”
I’m preoccupied and desperately afraid I’d missed something that needed to be hidden from her and only half listen as I rack my brains. No further detail from that blackout period comes to me. She’s still talking.
“You can’t expect me to wear rags when I’ve got a truck full of expensive clothes downstairs... Earth to Sam? What haven’t you told me? I know that look.”
“For your information, I haven’t forgotten anything at all. I disposed of the body in a sanitary way. You needn’t hear all the gory details.”
“Ohhkayyyy. I suppose not, Mr Grumpy. I still think you’re hiding something though.”
She’s not in a mood to get the truth out of me. Thankfully her mind is on matters of far more importance. Her loot.
“It’s a real mess down there. Almost got buried when I opened the back of the truck. The load must have shifted with you driving like a maniac. You gonna help me clear it out tomorrow? You don't have to; I can probably do it by myself, if I have to.”
And the trap is sprung.
I was planning on sinking into the sulky depths of self-pity tomorrow, but her request is a demand that most men learn to pick up on. I respond as trained; only I agree to help with slow reluctance and a fervent hope the floor will cave in.