For the second time in as many days, Davey woke up fully dressed with the lights still on.
“At least I didn’t have shoes on this time,” She mumbled, wiping a string of drool from her cheek. Ajay’s breathing was smooth and steady, his head still leaning against the headboard. Davey slipped carefully out from under his arm and off the bed. She flipped off the lights, slid out of her dress and into a long t-shirt. As she was crawling back onto the bed, Ajay mumbled himself awake.
“What are you doing?” He muttered.
“Getting comfy. Do the same and go back to sleep.” She burrowed under the covers, resting her head on the pillow.
“Mind if I crawl under there, too?” Ajay yawn and pulled off his sweater.
“As long as you let me sleep, you can do whatever you want.” Davey snuggled further into her pillow. As she drifted back into sleep, she felt the bed shift as Ajay crawled in beside her. The heat of his body was comforting and she let herself relax into a deep, uninterrupted sleep.
“Davey. Davey.” She heard the whispers in her ear a few minutes later.
“Go away.” She rolled over and pulled her blanket up to her ears.
“You should wake up.” She felt his hand brush against her arm.
“Ajay, I want to sleep. That was part of the deal.”
“How much sleep do you need?” He chuckled but pulled his arm away from her.
“It’s been like five minutes.” She mumbled, eyes still closed. “We can fool around in the morning. I promise.” She lied.
“Then prep yourself for some fooling around, cause it’s well into the morning.” His chuckle was deep this time, closer to her ear than before.
“What are you talking about?” She rolled over and peeked through her eyelids. The light was much brighter than she expected. She found herself looking into Ajay’s eyes. “Oh, it is morning isn’t it?”
“It sure is.” He smiled.
“Why does it never feel like it’s time to get out of bed? Stupid body.”
“I kind of like your body. Stupid or not.”
“You’re awfully forward for a boy that’s sleeping in his clothes.”
“Who’s in clothes?” He raised an eyebrow.
“What!” Davey lifted the blanket and looked carefully underneath. Ajay was in a block undershirt and a pair of black boxer briefs. “When, I said get comfy that’s not exactly what I was thinking.”
“No one sleeps comfortably in dress pants and a sweater. Why bother trying.” Ajay peaked under the blanket, “Besides, I see you did it, too.”
“My room. My bed. My clothing.” She laughed and tucked into the pillow. “After all that stuff you told me last night, a good sleep seemed like the only answer.”
“Did it work?”
“Not really. It’s all still bumping around in there.”
“I’m a good distraction.” Ajay shimmied closer. “If you’re interested.”
Davey inched closer to him. She knew she wasn’t supposed to get involved with anyone unless it was in the engagement directive, but everything here was so much heavier than she’d expected.
She let her thumb trail along his jaw until she was cupping the back of his neck in her hand. He showed no resistance when she pulled him close and brought his lips to hers. They were softer than they looked. The beard was pleasantly scratchy. Ajay slid an arm around her, placed a hand on the small of her back and pulled her against him. Davey felt herself slide across the bed until they were touching. Every sensation was new to this body. The programmers hadn’t prepped her for the experience. This body was pure.
When Ajay’s fingers wound into her hair and pulled her deeper into the kiss, she felt her breath catch. Her head began to swim with emotions she’d never felt before. Her skin started to tingle, everywhere. She wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him closer, rolling onto her back so she could feel his weight. He moved along with her easily, following her every move. Davey ran her hands along his back and slid them under the fabric of his shirt. Her fingers explored dips and curves she’d never felt before. The body of a soldier, tuned to perfect condition.
“Unless you want this to be more than a distraction, watch your hands.” Ajay mumbled into her ear.
“Oops,” Davey giggled and returned her hands to the back. She shifted as he brought his lips to her throat and an uncontrolled moan escaped her lips. “Ajay…” she paused.
“Yes, Damhnait?” He lifted himself up to look at her.
“I’m not… well, I’m not experienced, so this is going to end soon, okay?” Her skin felt unfamiliar, more so than normal, and it wasn’t even a little unpleasant. She didn’t want to incur the wrath of the Masters by going too far off book. She’d done this in a few other bodies, but it had been long ago and in much older, more experienced personas.
“You control the speed.” He kissed her gently and settled back onto his side of the bed.
Davey smiled and stared up at the ceiling. Maybe Ajay had a friend she could use to bring a little joy back into Carly’s poor, depressing life. A light tap at the door followed by a soft swishing sound drew their attention. Ajay glanced towards the door before pushing himself off the bed and returning with a stapled packet of papers.
“What’s that?” Davey pushed herself up against the headboard and reached for the phone, room service menu in her lap.
“This,” He answered when she hung up the phone, “is the official change of wardrobe notification. Apparently, Joy is no longer in love with the Loli fashion sense.”
“But I love it. I want to keep wearing those dresses.” Davey pouted, “And it’s all I own.” She tossed a hand in the direction of her closet.
“My guess is that your appearance in town, and you’re appearance in those clothes, has something to do with our sudden change in attire.”
“What do you mean?” Davey wrapped her hair into a messy knot on top of her head and reached for the reading glasses sitting on the side table.
“Have you ever looked at yourself in the mirror? You’re gorgeous, my dear.”
“Ah, thanks.” Davey grinned and pulled the papers from his fingers. “I still don’t know what that has to do with anything.”
“I’m not the only one who’s noticed how pretty you are. You stand out in a crowd. There’s no way Joy hasn’t noticed. She likes to be the centre of attention, and you were taking it away from her in those adorable dresses.”
“So instead, I have to wear skinny cords and these ugly, fuzzy boots? And, oh my god, I have to wear Nordic sweaters? Like those knit things with animals and snowflakes and trees on them.”
“If that’s what Joy has deemed fashionable, then yes, you’ll be wearing that until you hear otherwise.”
“Great.” Davey pushed herself out of bed to answer the knock at the door. The woman who had brought up their desserts the night before now stood in the hallway with her tray of breakfast foods. “Bring them in.” Davey nodded, stepping out of the way. The woman’s eyebrows rose as she looked at Davey’s t-shirt and Ajay lolling on the bed in his underwear before she left the tray and took away the ones from the night before.
“Well that worked out better than planned.” Ajay scooted towards the end of the bed.
“How’s that?” Davey pulled her plate of food towards her.
“Remember how I told you last night that she’s a Wave and it was good that she saw us ‘fooling around’ together? Well, now what we wanted people to think happened is exactly what she’ll report. We’re in your room half-dressed, still in bed midway through the morning.”
“So our pretend tryst is keeping you out of trouble.”
“Exactly.” He grinned and jammed a forkful of egg into his mouth. “And not just me.”
“What do you mean?”
“If they think I was telling you stuff about the Fenton, you’d be thrown in the Cage so fast.”
“If anyone asks, we had all the sex.” Davie nodded.
“This is a good time to lie.”
“I guess I have some shopping to do today.” Davey sighed as she settled down to eat, staring at the rows of dresses in her closet. “Wanna keep me company?”
“Darn, I have to work in a couple hours. That’s really too bad.” He replied sarcastically.
“You sound totally broken up about it.” She rolled her eyes.
“Completely.” He grinned.
“Well, hurry up and eat. If I must shop alone and for ugly clothing, I’d like to get it done as soon as possible.” She smiled back and tucked into her omelet.
A few hours later, Davey stood in front of a rack at a clothing store, flipping through row after row of knitted sweaters. She wrinkled her nose at the pictures of reindeers and snowflakes and bears and moose.
“Seriously,” She mumbled to herself, “These are hideous. No one looks good in these.”
“That’s entirely the point.” A voice sounded quietly from the other side of the rack. Davey looked up to see Marisa flipping through another row of sweaters. “Joy really, really dislikes you.” They continued their conversation without looking directly at one another.
“Why?” Davey sighed, “I hardly even know her. I have nothing to do with her. I just want to be left alone so I can finish school and hang out with my friend.”
“That’s not how it works, Davey. You need to figure out the new world order. You don’t fit, but you could.”
“How can I fit if I’m already pissing off the Holy Joy and I haven’t even tried?”
“Jett’s interested in you. And we all know you spent the night with that new hotty that’s been hanging around town.”
“You what? How!?”
“Marco was in the restaurant last night. He saw the two of you leave looking all cozylike.”
“What does any of this have to do with Joy? Or with these ridiculous new clothing options?” Davie finally found a sweater she didn’t entirely hate.
“There are rules, Davey. You’re new and stuff, but you have to know them by now. You obey the rules, and you get to pass. You piss off Joy or Jett or me and Marco, and you pay the consequences. Taking all the boys from Joy is going to get you landed somewhere very uncomfortable. All she has to do is say the word. Watch yourself, Davey.”
“I’ve had enough of this shit.” Davey pulled a couple more sweaters off the rack, one she knew Carly would love, and began to walk away.
“You’re not the only one who would have to pay.” Davey stopped dead in her tracks. Listening even though she kept her back turned to Marisaand pretended to look at a pair of boots. “If Carly’s really that important to you, you’ll distance yourself from her. We can screw with her just to hurt you. And Joy will.” Marisa pulled a pair of pants from a rack and walked away without another word.
Davey hurried through her purchase and out of the store. If she spent even one minute longer in there, she would punch that girl, and that wouldn’t be useful for Carly. Not at all. Once she was outside the store, Davey hoisted her shopping bags over her shoulder and headed in the direction of Carly’s house.
It didn’t take long to get through the Parks area and into the dull neighborhood of the Dry Zone. There were more people out today. Children in yards, playing quiet, solitary games. A small girl about six years old sat on a swing attached to a tree in front of her house. Her dark brown curls hung limply from her head, pooling around her shoulders as she moved slowly back and forth. Her scuffed brown shoes dragged in the sand beneath her seat. She watched Davey walk down the street with those vacant eyes that seemed to possess all the Dry Zone occupants.
If Carly was suffering this much after only a couple years of Fenton influence, how would a girl that young handle continual torture for another decade. Davey smiled at the girl, but got no response. She wasn’t entirely certain the girl was really seeing her. She quickened her step and hurried to Carly’s house. Even the sunlight seemed duller here, less inviting. As she rounded the corner to Carly’s street, Davey saw a large burgundy vehicle pull up in front of the house. The side of the vehicle rolled open and two grey clad guards hopped out. They reached back into the interior and pulled Carly out onto the sidewalk. With a little prod, and a double check that she could hold herself up, they turned to enter the vehicle. The blank faced guard on the right caught sight of Davey and faltered for a second before jumping inside and closing the side of the van.
Part of her knew it was Ajay, knew that he had just dumped her best friend on the front lawn only hours after he’d sat in Davey’s bedroom eating breakfast and kissing. She’d known this was his life, the life he’d chosen in order to save his sister, but it was still pretty hard to stomach seeing him doing the work. As soon as van was out of sight, Davey ran down the sidewalk.
“Carly!” She rushed up to her friend, dropping the bags at the end of the sidewalk. “Carly! Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I’ll be okay.” Carly leaned against the small fence that ran along the sidewalk. “I just need…” She took a deep breath “I need some water.”
“Let’s get you inside and I’ll get you something to drink.” She wrapped her arm around her friend’s waist and helped her towards the door. “Are your parents home?”
“I’m not sure.”
“Do you have your keys?”
“Dry Zone residents aren’t allowed to lock their doors.” Carly inhaled a deep shaky breath. “Just get me inside, please.”
Davey clenched her teeth to keep from venting about the invasion of not allowing locks. She helped Carly into the sparsely decorated living room and lowered her into the cushioned chair near the entrance. She quickly grabbed a glass of water before she hurried outside to grab the bags she’d left on the sidewalk. When she returned, Carly’s colour had begun to settle into its familiar, dull grey. The surface of the water in the glass clutched in her hand vibrated rapidly.
“What the hell happened, Carly? Where have you been? Why did the guards drop you off?”
“I was… I was in the Cage.”
“Why? What happened?”
“I don’t know. I just don’t know. Normally, when you’re taken in, they tell you why you’re there. You go to the frog lady and she reads you your sentence, and you go for your punishment. But this time was different. They ambushed me not long after you dropped me off. The Waves burst into the house and took me away. They said something about causing a disruption at the parade, but they didn’t explain anything. I’ve been in there ever since.”
“They used the Shockwave on you? That seems a little extreme!” Davey picked at the fabric ridges on her pants.
“They didn’t. I went willingly, but the fact that they sent Waves at all is serious. I don’t understand what I did. I’ve tried. I’ve tried so hard, Davey.” Carly’s eyes flooded with tears. She showed emotion for the first time in three days. “I do my best to make sure that I don’t break any of the big rules. I keep myself in line. I’ve always known, always understood, why they punish me when I break the rules. But I didn’t do anything this time. I didn’t do anything! I feel like I’m being punished for something I didn’t do.” Her body shook as she tried to control the tears but sobs took. “Why are they doing this to me? I don’t know how much longer I can take it.” Carly got out of her chair and started down the hallway.
Davey pushed herself out of her chair and started after her. “Carly…?”
“I need to sleep. I’ll see you later, Davey. Just go, okay? I need to be alone for a little while.” Carly continued toward her room.
“You’re not going to… you’re not going to do anything dangerous are you? Please, Carly. I just need to know that you’re not going to…”
“I’m just going to take a nap, Davey. Come over later and we’ll talk.” Carly turned and stepped back towards her friend. She took Davey’s hands in her own and squeezed the fingers lightly. “I just need to sleep. And put some ointment on these friction burns.” She gingerly touched her fingers to her chest, wincing. “I need a couple hours. I promise.” Carly turned, walked down the hall and disappeared behind a door near the end.
Davey stared at the closed door for a few minutes before she staggered back to the living room. She pulled the dark blue sweater from the bag and folded it so the yellow canary was visible. She slipped down the hall and placed it on the floor in front of the closed door to Carly’s room. She touched her fingers to her lips and then to the door. “Please, Carly. Please keep your promise.” She whispered before she made her way out of the house and back to her temporary home. The pit in her stomach telling her that she might be about to fail her first engagement.