Mongrel: Zebe at Xanthe's (Part 1)
|Landed by Ian Strange|
Zebe decides to go see what's up with Xanthe, despite Xanthe's threat that Zebe isn't welcome unless invited.
Zebe waited in Xanthe’s minuscule front porch, more impatient by the minute. It wasn’t like Xanthe to be late for her twin, even if she was coming from work. Zebe had hardly let Cele know she’d be gone for the weekend, then had to wait for an hour for the boat to take her to the mainland, to then fly to Brisbane. Normally she didn’t mind the journey but Xanthe’s email had been so mysterious.
The most worrying thing about it was the way Xanthe alternated seeming anger and actual excitement. As if she was saying something more than just the meanings that could be attached to her words.
Xanthe hadn’t very far to come at all since she had a town house in the SoHAB residential facility, almost next door to the complex. Zebe on her toes could just make out the roof of the central octagonal hall. “Come on, Xan!” she said. “I’m here, on the doorstep.” Her twin-key hadn’t let her into the house, as Xanthe had threatened. There was a new lock, and a couple of newly installed ID scanners.
Zebe so wasn’t in the mood for explanations. Even the fact that she was here this weekend was wrong. It’d been Xanthe’s turn to come to Zebe. But as was often the case, if she wanted the twin thing, Zebe was the one who had to let go of anger and irritation. She gritted her teeth. It was the pattern they settled into after their turbulent teens.
Finally a hoverole painted all over with SoHAB security logos swept into the residential transport parking. Xanthe hopped down from the passenger-side before the hoverole skirt had deflated, earning her a growl from the driver. Probably about safety.
The hoverole settled and the driver also got out.
Tall, and dressed in the SoHAB security uniform, his muscles were well-defined. Hair blond. That handsome hunk Xanthe had been raving about. Neil, Zebe recalled.He walked round to the passenger side of the vehicle.
Zebe stepped into the garden to be out of view and so not distract her sister’s tilt at romance. If that’s what was on Xan’s mind.
Neil reached into the back of the two-seater and delicately handed out SoHAB souvenir bags, one by one.
Xanthe strung them along her arms, five on each side.
Reading his body language, Zebe heard him say: “That’s the lot. How about a kiss?”
Xanthe lifted her face with a cheeky sideways smile, for him to do the deed.
The man took Xanthe’s whole Viking-daughter width and length in his arms, snaking in under the bags on Xanthe’s left and around Xanthe’s shoulders on the right. He cupped the back of Xanthe’s blond head and directed it so her lips met his. He seemed to have her measure.
Xanthe’s be-bagged arms hugged him to her as she also worked at the kiss.
Her lover walked her backwards until she rested against the side of the hoverole and he leaned into her.
Zebe closed her eyes. She felt left behind even though it was always Xanthe who began anything new. Zebe swished impatiently at the bushes.
The couple broke apart with a final, ordinary, see-you-later-alligator peck on the cheek. The man got back into his vehicle and Xanthe walked for home.
And I don’t even have a prospective lover on the scene, Zebe thought blackly.
“Cheer up,” Xanthe said. “You look like another wet five-day-weekend.”
“That was last time. Looks like a dry weather weekend from where I’m standing.” Probably Neil was the reason Xanthe had refused to come to Zebe’s.
At the front door, Xanthe hugged Zebe and gave her the bags to hold. She said softly and with her face hidden between the two of them, “I had the security upgraded.” She stared into an iris ID scanner at the same time as she allowed another machine to scrutinise the inside of her left wrist.
The door clicked open.
“You don’t believe in security. What happened?” Zebe likewise spoke softly. The fact that Xanthe was mistrustful about something, straightaway raised Zebe’s paranoias.
Xanthe waited with replying until they were in the house and she had relocked the door and reset the ID equipment. “Never did anything illegal before!” Xan pulled faces to tell Zebe that she’d cooked up something absolutely fatal.
Funny faces were a Xanthe thing. Zebe got her way with the poker variety.
Zebe walked on, into the living room. She stared around. Nothing illegal here that she could see.
Xanthe came into the room and gently set the souvenir bags next to one another by the door. Just resting them delicately against one another. “Smile,” she ordered. “After all, I’m doing it all for you.”
“All of it for me?” Zebe said. “In your email you said you’d already begun down that road. And anyway, I’m not a good enough excuse for you to get involved in something dangerous to your freedom.”
Xanthe over-rode Zebe’s piddling resistance. “It’s something you’d never guess of me. But get us a drink first, will you? To get you into the right mood and me to relax after a whole lot of plotting and paying.”