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Avon, my Avon

By Vanessa Mullen
Page 2 of 3

In the next few days, you make good progress. I no longer fear for your health. By the time you are on your feet, I have got to know you better. By turns, you are casual and flippant, acid and sarcastic. I find it difficult to handle some of your moods. I want to be gentle with you, make you aware of what I feel, but you're forever digging, probing, trying to find that which will irritate me. Have the years made you so bitter? Yet, sometimes, when I see the light of battle in your eyes, you seem to me more beautiful and desirable than ever.

      It's a fine sunny day when I convince you to take your first walk outside. I can see all the way to the horizon across the open grasslands. The sky is blue, and some species of bird is warbling overhead. I don't know the proper names of anything that lives here, although I've given them all names of my own. That bird's a blue warbler. All right, so it's a silly name, but I know what it refers to. I don't mention the bird to you, somehow I think you'd only laugh at my amateur interest in ornithology.

      I deliberately lead you to a small knoll just beyond the southern gate of the factory compound. It's an oddity in the local landscape - everything else is flat. I walk up the knoll without saying anything, and you follow me - a little out of breath perhaps, but the climb isn't beyond you. I wouldn't have brought you here if I didn't feel you were up to it.

      "So, that's your cairn?" you say thoughtfully when we reach the top.

      I nod.

      You say nothing, but you pick up a stone from nearby and place it on top of the pile. That touches me, and gives me strength to say what I might not have been able to say otherwise. "When she died, I thought I'd never be able to love again..." I hesitate, and you pick up on that instantly.

      "But?" you demand.

      I swallow. "I love you, Avon." There, I've said it.

      "I see," you say guardedly. "And what exactly is that supposed to mean?"

      I reach out for you. "This," I say, wanting to gather you in for a kiss.

      You slap my hand away, cold fury in your eyes. "Don't ever do that again!" you hiss.

      "I'm sorry," I plead. But it's no use. You stalk off down the slope, leaving me standing alone by the cairn. There seems little point in following. I sit on the grass by the cairn. Sometimes when I sit here, I can imagine that she is still with me. I wonder what she would say to me now? I like to think that she would want me to find love again. I can't see her face now though, I can only see yours. I see the disgust on your features, and know that I will never feel the same about this place again. I wish I hadn't brought you here. This was always my place to sit and think in peace. Now the peace has gone. I sit and stare at the horizon for an hour or more until clouds start to build up. It will rain soon. I see little point in getting wet, so I walk slowly back indoors.

      I neither seek you out, nor deliberately avoid you. We're the only two people here. We need each other's company. It seems simplest to pretend that nothing ever happened. Apparently you've decided the same thing, because when I join you for a meal, all you mention is the condition of the spaceship.

      The ship's a problem. The autopilot made a pretty poor job when landing you here. You were all right, the crash systems protected you, but the ship needs some serious repair work. There's a fair bit of equipment around here that we can use: welding tools, circuit tracers and so forth. The hull wasn't breached as far as I can tell, but some of the internal systems are a bit smashed up.

      "We ought to be able to make a start tomorrow," you comment.

      Ah, that brings us to the next problem. You aren't going to like this. "You're going to have to do most of the repairs yourself," I say.

      You look at me in astonishment. "Whatever for? Have you forgotten how to jury rig a circuit board, or is this just some complex scheme to keep me stranded here with you?"

      I go hot under the collar, but keep my temper. "Nothing like that," I reply. "Shortly after Star One was destroyed, I had a run in with the Federation. I don't know exactly what they did, but it caused a lot of memory loss. There's a fair bit of technical stuff that I'm having to relearn from scratch. That isn't easy you know."

      "How much else have you forgotten?" you demand.

      "A lot," I answer. "I try to remember, but there are whole areas that are blanks. I can't recall faces. I try to remember what Cally looked like, and there's nothing there, just a blank."

      "That's tough," you say. But you mean it sympathetically rather than sarcastically. I toy briefly with the idea of trying to play on your sympathies, but reject it. Not only would it be unethical, but I don't think it would work in any case.

      I change the subject. "I'll be glad to get away from this place." It isn't totally a lie. There are things I will miss here, but being alone with you is going to be a strain from now on.

      You smile slightly. "For once, we are in agreement."

      The next day we start repairs on the ship. The work helps to take my mind off things, which is some relief at least. It's not quite so difficult as I had feared. I can manage some technical jobs - others are totally beyond me. I stick to the tasks I can handle, and leave you to deal with the rest. Every now and then you call me over to do something on the console you are working on. Screwdriver work. I get to fix the mechanical problems while you test the computer functions. I get the distinct impression that you are enjoying ordering me around, and I don't like it.

      The day after that is even worse. It's a hot day, and even inside the ship with its insulation, I can feel some of the heat. You're obviously enjoying yourself, buried in what you're doing. I'm getting bored. Most of the simple mechanical tasks have been done now. I sit in front of the navigation console and idly flick some of the switches, trying to call up a display. You stick your head out from under a mass of circuit boards. "Do you mind?" you say icily. "You're causing interference on the relays."

      I'm damned if I'm going to say sorry. I mutter something under my breath to relieve my feelings.

      "Why don't you go and fix the outside sensors?" you ask.

      "I've already done that."

      "Well you'd better do it again. The short range scanner isn't registering properly."

      "How do know it isn't a fault on the console?" I ask. "Maybe you missed something."

      "Just do it, Blake."

      I manage to restrain myself from the urge to kick your teeth in. I venture out into the heat once more to examine the sensor array. I'm trying to recall why I ever found you attractive. No, wrong question. You're still attractive, but I don't want to kiss you any more, I want to screw the living daylights out of you. The sensor looks all right. I run a circuit probe over the connections. Damn! You were right. There's a broken circuit on the short range scanner. I'd not bothered to check it after I'd fixed it. Can't you ever be wrong, you infuriating bastard? I flux the metal and restore the connection, then I test it again. You're not going to catch me out twice. It checks out. I go back inside.

      "Try it now," I say shortly.

      You tap a short command into the keyboard and are rewarded by a string of figures on the monitor. "Better. Next time, concentrate on what you're doing in the first place."

      "You're not the one trying to work out there," I protest. "You try concentrating in that heat."

      "I don't need to," you say. "As I'm the only one capable of rational thought around here, I get to work in the shade."

      I'm furious. "There's no need to treat me like an idiot," I say tersely. "There's a difference between ignorance and idiocy. Not that you'd know anything about it. You may be rational, but it's a moot point as to whether you're human or not."

      Infuriatingly, you smile at that. "I was wondering when you'd return to normal," you say.

      "Just what's that supposed to mean?" I demand.

      "I was beginning to think that the Federation had destroyed your nerve as well as your memory. Mildness doesn't suit you."

      Mildness? "Have I changed that much?" I ask.

      You raise an eyebrow. "It's been like living with a stranger."

      I freeze in momentary shock. Were things really that bad on the Liberator? Arguments all the time? I don't know.

      I'm hot and tired, fed up, and I'm hungry. "I'm going to get a shower and a bite to eat," I say, without bothering to consult you first.

      You stretch out your arms and arch your back. Okay, I know you've been working in cramped conditions, but I wish you wouldn't do that. It's very distracting. "Good idea," you say.

      We walk back to the factory together. I raise the subject of where we should go when we leave here. You want to head out somewhere quiet and safe, as far from the Federation as possible. A couple of days ago I might have agreed with you, tried to share your viewpoint. Now, I hold my own, insisting that we try and join forces with other rebels. You argue like mad, debate every point I make, but you seem to take it for granted that we'll stay together. I have to keep on my toes though. You have a devious line in discussion. I need to stay mentally alert to try and pick holes in your hypotheses. You really are a cynic aren't you? How much of that is real though, and how much is sham? I think at least half of what you are saying is just intended to wind me up. So be it. I intend to give as good as I get.

      I go off to see what delights are worth salvaging from the food stores today, while you take first grab at the shower. I dig out some packets of dehydrated soup, and a tube of soya concentrate. Not exactly high cuisine, but I'm used to it.

      When I come back, I notice that you've laid out some clean clothes on the bed. Well, clean overalls at any rate. That's all there is to choose from here. I pass an idle moment trying to visualise you in different clothes. What would you look best in? What would you wear if you had the choice of anything you liked? What would I like to see you in if I could choose? I hear a movement behind me and turn around. I feel a sharp stab of anger. You stand there before me wearing nothing at all, and looking totally unconcerned about it. Your hair is still damp from the shower, but your body hair is a light halo around you, presumably the result of a vigorous towelling. I can still see the marks of recent injuries on you, but they don't detract from the grace of the way you carry yourself, nor from your slender symmetry. Your genitals hang between your legs, limp, but exquisite. It's too much. You didn't have to do this to me.

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