Wednesday was lunch with Claire day, and Kate wasn't exactly feeling up to it.
James had to head off to his job in the morning, and her Honda sat untouched in the garage per Doctor Mulroney's strict orders, but Claire offered to cut out of work early to pick her up. "It gets me out of the Thompson meeting, so it's like you're doing me a favor." She arrived exactly at eleven-thirty, and before long the two of them were at Franklin's Cafe. They slid into their usual booth at the back and ordered coffee. Claire watched as Kate studied the menu.
"You're not going to get your usual?" she asked.
Kate laid the menu on the table. "I, uh, figured that I would maybe try something new today? Or maybe, maybe not. Game-time decision."
"Alright," said Claire, setting down her own menu. "So that's a really cute outfit. The purple turtleneck goes well with your bruise."
Kate frowned. "Is this a thing with people now? That bruises are actually good-looking? Bruises are ugly, Claire. Accept it. Own it. Enjoy it now before it gets into that really ugly yellow-color stage."
"Ouch, just trying to be nice!" said Claire, trying and failing to fake a hurt look. "Listen, do you need to talk? Is James getting a little punchy over there? Blink twice if you need help."
"Very funny," Kate shot back. "You should write for one of those women-in-danger movie studios." She took a sip of coffee. "You and I and the rest of the freakin' world know by now about my adventures in home repair." Another sip. "But thank you for your concern. I'm glad that I have friends who will always have my back."
The waiter came and took their orders. Claire had the Cobb salad; Kate went with a turkey sandwich.
"Welp, so much for the new you," said Claire. "Back to turkey sandwiches already? That lasted a hot second. Welcome back, Old Kate. We missed you."
Kate sighed. "I don't... look, can I tell you something I haven't told anyone?"
"Um, always. The more tabloid it is the better, of course. Spill it."
Kate took another sip. "I don't know how to say this, but... ever since the accident? I don't remember anything that's happened to me in the past year. None of it. I mean, some of it. But it's all a blur, like waking up from a dream, and trying to remember that dream. It's so clear when you wake up and then, five minutes later, it's gone, even though you were sure there was no way that you'd forget it."
Claire's eyes were wide and huge. "Damn. I mean, Jesus. You can't remember anything? But you remember me, right?"
Kate nodded. "The last thing I remember clearly was from about a year ago. I was living on Grant Street, I was still working at Farmingham, I just bought the Honda, you were single, I was single... remember how I was chasing that guy Tim? All of those memories are clear. But then... before that it all gets fuzzy again. Like, how did I get from college to Grant Street? I'm not even sure. All a blur. Bits and pieces, that's all."
"So... you don't remember coming to my engagement party? Or planning my engagement party? Do you remember Steve at all?"
"That's the thing. As soon as you say his name, he pops into my head. I think 'oh, that's Steve,' and I know that you're engaged, but then... some of it fades away again. I know that James and I are married, and I love him. I think. But I'm not sure? I know that I'm in love with him, but I don't remember being in love with him. It's... it's confusing."
"Shit. Have you talked to... oh, thank you, this looks great, thank you, can I have some creamer? Thanks. Shit, Kate, have you talked to a doctor about this?"
Kate poked at her sandwich. "Doctor Mulroney says that he can't find anything wrong with me. He thinks it might be trauma-based. I'm supposed to see a psychiatrist next week."
"Kate, I'm so sorry. Please let me know if there's anything I can do. I had no idea you were going through this! And here I am making fun of your bruises and shit. I can be such an asshole sometimes."
Kate watched as Claire stirred the creamer into the coffee. She'll never taste the drug. She waited for the blonde to take a long, full drink, waited for her to place the cup on the table. Waited for the drug to take effect. She took Claire's hand, watching as Claire's pretty blue eyes began to dull and flutter, blinking heavily.
"Kate? I'm sorry, I'm so tired all of a sudden. I just... just..."
"Shh, it's okay, Claire. You're going to feel so wonderful soon. So relaxed and wonderful. I've just given you something that will help you relax a little. So that I can hypnotize you."
Claire shook her head slowly, as if she were underwater. "Hyp... hypno... don't want to be... hypno..."
Kate lowered her voice and pulled Claire's head to hers, just two friends enjoying a secret conversation. "But you're already so deeply hypnotized, Clare. You're already falling under my spell. I'm going to take you deeper now, Claire, deeper into trance. You're going to make an excellent slave. A mindless, hypnotized slavegirl.
"Ssssslaaavve... nnnnnooo... don...t"
"Let your eyes close now, Claire. So sleepy and tired. Deeply hypnotized. Ready to hear my voice, and hear my instructions, and to follow them completely, like a mindless, hypnotized slavegirl. A beautiful, brainwashed slavegirl. Isn't that nice, Claire?"
"Sssleepy. Mindless. Yes. Kate. Kate. Hey, Kate. Earth to Kate, calling all Kates. Jesus, did you fall on your ears, too? Kate!"
Kate blinked. Claire was waving her hand in front of Kate's face. "Hey, zombie, you're going to need more coffee in you unless you want to keep zoning out like that. No wonder Doctor Mulroney told you not to drive. Sheesh."
Kate put her hands over her eyes. "Oh God, I'm sorry Claire. I just keep drifting off at random. How long was I siting there like that?"
"A couple of seconds, maybe. You worried me, though. I thought I was gonna have to drive you to the hospital."
"You know what? I... ugh, this coffee is already cold. Let's get one for the road."
"It's on me," said Claire. "Next week's too. We're going to be here for you, Kate. All of us. Especially me."
Kate forced a weak smile. She watched as her friend went to the counter to pay the bill. Blonde hair, lovely curves showing through her sharp business suit, slender legs, dazzling smile. An odd thought popped into Kate's head for an instant, vanishing before she could fully grasp it.
Claire would make an excellent slavegirl.
* * *
That evening, James and Kate had a fight.
It didn't start out as a fight; few of their fights ever did. At least not the ones that Kate could dimly remember. James was frustrated with her. She was cold to his touch, Had been, ever since the accident. He was worried that she'd broken somehow, that she'd broken the part of her brain that governed emotions. He was also mad that she had lied to him about zoning out in Doctor Mulroney's office. He was worried, and she was cold to him in return.
"I just... I love you, Kate, and I don't know what to do. I want to be here for you, but you don't even seem to want to be here for yourself! It's like you're just a shell."
"Well, fuck, that's hurtful," she snapped back. "Do you think I don't worry enough about being a zombie? Like it's going to get worse and worse until I'm drooling on myself in a chair down at the nursing home? I'm thirty years old, James! And I'm scared that now I have the brain of an eighty-year-old! And all because you couldn't spare five seconds to go out and buy A FUCKING LADDER!"
"WELL I'M SORRY!"
"YOU SHOULD BE." She stormed out of the bedroom and made her way downstairs to the living room. "And fix this FUCKING LIGHT!"
She flopped down on the sofa and buried her head in her hands. The tears that had been building since Sunday finally broke free, and streamed down her face in sheets. She cuddled a pillow and sobbed openly, loudly, hoping that James would hear her, hoping that James wouldn't hear her. Gradually she settled down, only for the thoughts to come flooding back, and for the tears to return with them. "I'm a shell," she whispered. "I'm just a shell. I'm a worthless, empty shell."
She cried until her body mercifully collapsed into sleep.
* * *
It was dark, and late. The hot tub was deserted except for old man Takamatsu, who was enjoying his nightly soak. The other party girls had either gone to bed or were off drinking on the lower deck. She gently slid the patio door open and padded out into the night, her feet barely registering on the cool, wet tiles.
"Kono seki wa aite imasu ka?" she said seductively, letting his eyes wander over her body.
"Suwatte kudasai," he nodded.
She slid from the deck into the warm water as if someone had poured her from a container. She sat across from him and, without a word, slowly removed the electric blue bikini top. The tops of her firm, perky breasts just reached above the surface of the hot tub, and glistened in the light of the full moon. She ran her hands through her auburn hair until it framed her pretty face. "It's a lovely night," she cooed, eyeing him lustfully.
He looked back at her with greedy, hungry eyes. "American?"
"When it suits me," she said. She began to move towards him, slowly, making sure to slink and sway and jiggle her tits as she did so. She slid next to him on the hot tub bench. "Or sometimes, when it suits... others."
She raised her lips to his ear. "Watashi no koto suki desu ka?"
He reached for her, and they embraced, fumbling and sliding off the edge of the bench into the center of the tub. She laughed with joy, and pulled down her bikini bottom, letting it join the top at the side of the tub. Then she leaned into him again, rubbing her breasts against his chest, hands wrapped around his head, her full lips happily locked onto his, breaking away only to plunge back down for more.
As she did, her hands came together behind his head. Without breaking her rhythm, she slowly gave the square ring on her right hand a full turn, exposing the tiny needle inside. Before Takamatsu could react, she jammed her fist into the side of his neck, injecting the poison directly into his artery. He was dead within seconds.
She collected the bikini pieces and wrapped herself in a towel. "Oyasuminasai, my love."
"What was that?"
"You said something just now, like Chinese or something."
"No I didn't. Shhh. Just relax and let me work this out."
She was riding James, rising and falling on his cock, letting him enter her, enjoying the dizzying waves of pleasure he delivered with every thrust. His hands were on her smooth, firm tits, cupping them, playing with them, brushing his fingers over her hard nipples, occasionally breaking away to grab her ass as he pushed deeper into her. They moaned with pleasure, separately and together, as they both built towards climax.
Kate had a distant memory of James always being the one to blow his wad first, but to her surprise, she was the first one to give in. She let out a scream that was sure to wake the neighbors as she shuddered and convulsed on top of James, feeling him explode inside of her, letting the pleasure of the moment crowd out everything else in her brain. The week, the accident, the fight... she let it all go, to be carried away by the waves of orgasmic bliss, hopefully to be smashed to pieces somehow. The waves subsided, and she collapsed onto him, panting heavily, enjoying the rise and fall of his strong chest as he regained his breath.
"Now that..." she gasped, "...is the way... to settle... an... argument..."
(To be continued...)