I think it’s particularly good I thought watching myself in the mirror.
It takes me more than hour to decide what I should wear on this whole “wife’s meeting”. Not an hour for a cocktail, not an occasion for a jeans… And managing dresses has never been my strong point anyway. It should be something in the middle. Not so official, not so casual… Choices… I stared at my reflection in the mirror. While this I realized I saw such kind before. Somewhere else. The same frame, these brackets made of brass, worn well actually. This mirror has seen many years, maybe it was another piece of antique furniture, like this TV I got ride off lately. But, yes, I saw this before I was sure…
I stared at myself dressed so properly, elegant, so maidenly, almost arrogant with this “as it should be”; exactly that. Nothing more, nothing less. And that was expected. And even it was just official school uniform lightly enriched by petite jewelery essentially lent me by the School, it was “exactly as it should be”. You’ll never understand ’till you be dressed in one.
“Thank you Miss Duckworth” I didn’t feel so sure. I felt not exactly in my own skin, not in my place. This she in the mirror wasn’t me at all, I was someone else. And it wasn’t only feeling there essentially nothing belonged to me. More this reflection has been prettier and shinier thanks to Miss Duckworth efforts, and mine in staying still mostly, more I felt I was just a passerby there.
And when Ms. Maxwell showed at the doors of the room, the rest of my courage and self-confidence melted momentarily, and below the lowest ground level even. She always made me so small. A small consolation, she used to make everyone that way.
“Almost madame” She answered with a slight bow. Anyone around this woman standing at the doors was always starting to act like in presence of Queen Elsa, and I mean: this Elsa from two centuries ago. I felt even more not in my place than before.
“Good. You have got five minutes.” Now she seen me “And you, girl. You will not disappoint us, will you?”
I shake my head. But – believe me or not – I could smell in this moment these strange, sweet perfume she used. A smell so ancient as she seem to be for us. According I was nearly fifteen at this time… Well – anybody elder than thirty was “ancient”.
Nevermind. My confused brain played tricks all over again with me. A wise doctor could say “To much stress”, go heal yourself, doc.
There was a time still. “Wifes” scheduled (my Sim… what’s a language!) me at sixteen hours. A plenty of time. What I’m gonna to do, dressed already? Clean cleaned dishes? Rub a toilet with hope a magic Jinnie jumps from? Watch a TV? Back – we’ve got no TV anymore. Right. Maybe read? What I should to choose? Grammar, Physical Excercise…Math for Kids? A Company Command Scheme?
I’ve just sat in the kitchen listening refrigerator’s rumble. I still have got “free days”. I started dislike this “free” part.
And I think I fell asleep.
A knocking woke me up an hour later.
Another “inspection”? Huh. At last this time I was dressed properly.
“Hi, I’m Elsbeth” A woman in her middle thirties (as I thought) grinned at me “And, yes, yes I know it’s rude and all this stuff, but my son is already on the date, and my daughter is breaking the base electronic defense or something like this, and I’m free at this moment, it’s really good to say something like that. So hello is what I wanted to say. And nice to see you”.
“Hm… Hello” I answered still slowed by the nap a bit.
She stared at me for the moment.
“Oh, yes. Come in, please” I finally caught the intention. At last I won’t spend another two hours meditating on what I should do. I thought. I really needed to go to work. This free time was killing my brain.
“Good. Thanks” She came in. “And don’t bother making coffee. Only a water” She loaded in.
“Sure” I brought her some.
“I don’t understand” I tried to be calm, yesterday a captain invaded my house and stripped me from television, anything could happen these days.
“Obviously. You’ve never be married with a soldier and you’re not from army family, right?” She finished water like it would be a scotch. A bad one.
“Yes, I wasn’t and I’m not, but…”
“And that is the matter” She brought an empty glass to the sink and washed it “You’re terrified and confused at once not mentioning feeling like moron able only to make a mess around, what’s completely normal in such circumstances”
“And while all these stuff around, you’re thrown into another officer’s wifes, and these officer’s wifes sounds like some secret covenant, you know – eating children, drinking virgin’s blood, depravating innocent boys, let’s skip these boring, minor details. And with whom you’re expected to befriend, at last for a convenience, just before the colonel will show you his best I’m damned important man here face.” She seems to be a bit amused “And you” She pointed at me “Want to be so great, so proper, so promising and please all around, especially your nice bobby…”
I was speechless. Did she manage to examine my pants in such short time, too?
“Ok, Nathalie, can I call you Nathalie? Anyway, we need a bit workaround” She stated decisively.
“I don’t know what to say”
“You already said something, which means, you already know what to say. Have you something light at hand? Summer-like?” She grin again. “I don’t believe you arrived there without some useful clothes”.
“Sure I have got…” I started
“Good, you’re not so stupid as I was” She laughed “When I came here I have got one pair of jeans, a skirt and I was already pregnant… crazy times. And while I was seventeen it wasn’t so bad as it could be. And don’t worry… ” she waved hands “usually I don’t speak so much it’s not possible when you have teen son who always knows better, not mentioning my genius daughter, who is merely nine years old but has been almost charged twice as a threat to national security. Call this venting.”
I’ve changed while she waiting near the kitchen. It wasn’t take much time.
“Well, and the meeting?” Strangely this situation started amusing me a bit. In some absurd way.
“Girls are waiting. I’ve said I’m an emissary, right?” She giggled, I swear.
She led me through the officers settlement. I realized I’ve even not look around after arriving. Everything went so fast. There wasn’t many houses, most of them very similar, able to house four or five inhabitants and no more. From the base sounds of engines and something like that came, and it was hot, really.
Behind the homes, I saw this earlier, was a cliff – a whole base was placed on a top of steep hill. Almost a little mountain. Overlooking the town and two bays.
“That’s a church?” I pointed a building where she led me.
“You still have chance” She laughed.
The “girls” were there already. Sitting comfortably on the benches and the table, eating something looking like hot-dogs but I didn’t smell a burned meat.
“Finally” One who looked youngest of them – about middle in her twenties – throw half-eaten sandwich to the trash “I started to worry if you got M.I.A or something”. She jumped off from a table where she sat with another woman at similar age, dusted off hers hands and shortly examining which one is cleaner reached that looked better to welcome me.
“You’ve started a beer, monsters” Elsbeth frowned.
“Youngsters, no patience, no respect” Elsbeth sighed theatrically “Well, as Milena introduced herself alone…”
“Hi, I’m Laurel” This one which sat on the table with Milena interrupted Elsbeth “And those two” she pointed on the other two women, both heavily with child as I noticed “whales are Claire and Helen.”
“And we know, you’re this new bird called Nathalie and you caught this sweet bobbie we planned to tie, rape and eat. So shame…” Milena interrupted again.
“Don’t mind her” Helen laughed a little “These two are almost as new as you”
“And the second is anger” Helen said from her side “This is why she is acting so silly, like cheery girl talking about nonexistent dozens of lovers”
“Don’t mind ’em” Elsbeth moved next to the table and grabbed some beer “They’re acting silly just for impressing you”
I sat on the one of the chairs and Milena gave me a bottle winking.
“Sarah shall come?” Elsbeth asked turning to others a little.
“She has a half day shift today” Helen answered “No way she will make there”.
“She’s just busy” Laurel shrugged “Sarah is a wife of major Olsen, you know him, I think, he was a lecturer of our boys in the Academy”.
“Josh mentioned him, yes. They seems to be a good friends” I nodded.
“Yep” Milena affirmed trying not to spit up the food “He is the one because of, we ended in this hole” She giggled when she finally managed to swallow “Not in some lovely base in the middle of desert, or dirty port full of drunken sailors”.
“When you start your school-work?” Helen asked me when we filled ourselves to the point where more meal would be a crime.
“Next week, as they say to me” I answered placing myself on the bench.
“Tell me” Elsbeth shrugged “When I get there they kept us closed like prisoners.”
“Before it was level four base” Elsbeth sat on the table “No one in, no one out, complete madness. I thought I will end in asylum these days. I even wouldn’t be allowed to jog or stroll with kids out of the fence.”
“Yeah, I remember” Helen nodded.
“But they lowered base points three years ago and the command was changed. This old Evergreen was a pain in the ass” Elsbeth continued “You know, like all superstition and stereotypes about military idiocy would impersonate as one particular major-general. Sick bastard” She shake hers head “Imagine – he demanded a weekly report from each base personnel member, and he treated families, like a part of personnel. This moron was giving me orders, dammit!”
“Oh my” Helen laughed “I remember. And he ran inspections in our homes. Mad times. Really. All because of terrorists and spies he has seen everywhere. He really was a psycho.”
“For the king!” They raised bottles with laugh.
Was it beer or filled stomach or anything I felt a little relaxed. It didn’t seem like I imagined – this wifes meeting. As I’ve seen in the TV shows or I was reading in the books. We sat around exchanging little stories despite I have not much to say. I was youngest there, and also I seem my life uninteresting at all.
“You know, we’re kind of big family, a little sick one but a family” Helen passed last bottles of beer around I noticed It was already afternoon, time passed so fast…
“Otherwise you’ll go crazy” Claire added “You start to hook with troopers or something”
“Yep, you need to have standards, no less than lance corporal, and only if he is from Black Ops, they have engines, you know, nothing less is worth the risk of being demoted” Milena stood up “One more and it shall be too much for me” She rubbed her eyes and rose a bottle higher, pointing it to me she started to recite: “Repeat soldier: This is my beer…”
“Without my beer I’m nothing” She continued while I watched at them confused a bit.
“Without me, my beer is nothing” They laughed like children spilling what still rest in the bottles around.
“Off time closed girls, dress up your adulthood!” Announced Elsbeth after this little ritual Milena has made on my behalf, and we started to clean the mess we made here. Soon the meeting was over and each of us started to go to our respective homes. Elsbeth leaved us first murmuring something about checking his son’s condoms’ supply, or something like that I didn’t hear this clearly. The rest walked away, one by one, Claire just stayed behind a little with me to escort me home.
“It’s not necessary” I opposed a bit at first
“As I said before” She smile a bit when we arrived at my doors “There’s not a big room for secrecy”
I looked at her questioningly.
“Kind of?” I felt a bit drunk after this beer and hot sun mixture.
“Any standard kind, you shall see yourself. We have children around, husbands… The problem is elsewhere” She comforted hers belly.
“Wanna rest a bit?” I asked
“Not today but thank you, I have to take care of kids before they blow up the house. My boy has night shift in the base” She looked at her home for a moment “We’ll talk later Nathalie”.
“Surprised?” She smiled a bit “Don’t worry. And you’re invited for out monthly sabbath” She giggled a little.
“We all needs some fun, not only warm beer in the sun” She waved to me and walked to her house.
I felt down on the couch and stared at the place where TV was two days ago. Josh still was in the base. It happened before, when he had position in Bridgeport. I lied down where I was and dozed up a little.
He wasn’t here when I woke up at the morning with pain in the back and serious headache. Instead of my fiancée a phone from command offices came and I was informed, he and other few officers were on delegacy to another facility for next two weeks.
I thought I should start to gettin’ use of such things.
This day wasn’t so hot as one before. I thought my yesterday outfit, this one I choose first, shall fit the colonel with whom I was expected to visit at his office this particular day. Freaking busy week indeed. However, he also was elsewhere. Instead of him I’ve met major Brown.
“I’ve read your record miss Fox”
She stared at me from behind the desk and my record lied before her. Not so big pile of papers where all my life was placed in tidy spreadsheets and paragraphs “And I’m perfectly aware about your condition”
I felt like she was able to look through my body to the deepest level of my soul.
She looked at me with such kind of attention I felt like mere worm caught and examined as specimen by some scientist.
“Your record is very impressive one, especially for someone like you. Getting Hawker’s stipend is not an easy task for a very young lady with your condition and position. I expect nothing less what you’ve already archived, girl. The best grades and the best behavior.”
“Yes, madam” I did it, too.
“I will do my best, madam” I gasped.
“I understand you may encounter some difficulties during your fresh start here, we all needs time to adjust” Makor Brown continued staring at me closely however with a bit a smile, a nice one if I could say and her voice recall me to reality “And while it is not exactly a frontline unit, there are some rules we demand to be followed closely.”
“Most of them are just common sense in regulations, others are side-effect of this facility nature. Do you ever wondered what your fiancée exactly do there, Miss Fox?” She asked me surprising me a bit by this question.
“Well…” I answered with hesitation “I did not, in fact”.
I opened the box and looked closely.
“It’s kind of… electronic chip, major” I answered examining object, she gave me a sign to turn it around “1952” I red on the bottom “It’s not possible” I shook my head with disbelief.
“The first commercial chips were placed on the market at early ’80s, right, but of course experiments lasts a few decades before” She took back the chip from me “This particular one is T-6, six-bit chip. Don’t ask me what it was created for and why it is 6 bit, because I don’t know” She put the box with a chip back in a drawer.
“Kind of. In the manner of speaking.” She affirmed somewhat and somewhat she did not. “As many other promising officers there. Most of our creations, like this particular one, sooner or later are passed to a common industry. Most of them are created for very different purposes or even without particular one at all. ” She smiled a bit again
“Commercial industries usually are blinded by market efficiency and profit, academic scientists, on the other side, are tied for their financial sponsors, publications, academic recognition and such things. We have no such limitations there. Nobody will ever know which particular one engineer, or a team made this device almost sixty years ago. We work there on things just from imagination Miss Fox. But a side effect of this, is a great pressure situated on every crew member”.
I stared at her expectantly.
“Part of this facility Miss Fox is under third level of security clearance. This means exactly – the base, facilities and all buildings inside are completely out of limits. And whatever happen there, it stays there.”
“While your future husband may work on the engine for refrigerator, or spaceship or a new shower for the president or sophisticated epilator machine, whatever kind of machinery or chemistry and – which is very likely – even without any knowledge about what exactly he is working already, he is and will be under heavy constraint and sometimes also tight timing. And he cannot just come to a home and get advice, consolation from his wife or something like that” She explained still with this little, nice smile. “He is obligated to keep secrets secret, and you will have to deal with that.”
“Well… I’m happy to hear that, and your confidence is reassuring. But all spouses, gender regardless, of our personnel went through this. First year is the worst, as they say. And this is why the command demands from You both a patience. Lieutenant Lambert has been given a permission to marry with you, after six month probation time. Call this betrothal period”. She smiled very kindly. Something like hit in the face with one hand and giving a cookie with another.
“It has been decided Miss Fox” She stated seriously “And while this probation time I encourage you to take these courses we send to your account. You don’t want to be tied to playground for your whole life, do you?”
“Without a degree you’re unable to get a reasonable job; for now, you’re locked at the lowest positions. But we have got, as I stated before, a set of courses prepared for personnel spouses. You’re not limited Miss Fox to professional possibilities with you arrived there.”
“Thank you major” I said with some kind of resignation.
“I don’t want it would be harsh for you, anyway, more harsh at it has to be. If you encounter any problem you always should report this to me, colonel, or speak with another wifes. And I advice to do all three ways. We’re here for you. This is our job to keep this facility running at its best, and you are, even on this moment, and will become even more soon, one of important parts of this efficient organisation.”
“I surely do” I affirmed.
She gave me a couple of documents to sign before I could go, what I did. And another ones which I took with me to further study. I left the offices with kind of mess within my head. Josh was somewhere where I even couldn’t call, and they decided we marry after a six month probation. I felt uneasy. What they did to think!? They expect me to report if he was hard, or he has sudden attack of impotency? How my periods are? I was upset. They decided, and decided alone. They even did not ask me, or him… Fuck this!
In fact it was my first visit in town center. I stopped in the small cafeteria next to the city hall and movie theatre. Got some coffee. Watch at the ocean a bit. Cursing in mind.
“You heard that? Fucking bastards! Yes you heard, fuck the orders…”
“But what?” I asked surprised her anger.
“They get our husbands for fucking two weeks! Without a warning. I hate this place” She almost kick off a chair.
“I need a drink” stood up for a while and lit a cigarette “And I’m not so vulgar in daily routine, sorry, I’m just pissed off to the edge.” She grabbed a drink from a bar “I get a three days off from work, and tomorrow is our anniversary. I hoped we spend a little time together but instead I will be toasting to the fucking mirror.”
“Don’t be sorry, shout a few fuck these bastards! with me”.
She was really moved. In fact more than I suspect a rather young wife with a short marriage experience used to be. We chatted cursing orders which stripped us from our men a bit. It was maybe silly and useless, but gave a bit of relief, for a moment.
“Come on Sarah” Suddenly she shout loudly to very attractive woman walking on the street which she saw by the window.
“Yes, they did” She came along and stood next to us. “I’m Sarah Olsen” She introduced herself without waiting for Milena initiative. I stated my name. She seems to be at the middle of her twenties, assumption which I had to correct later. And she definitely did not look like one of the wifes I saw yesterday.
Sarah followed her with gaze for a moment before she disappeared somewhere behind and sat next to me grabbing a free chair from another, closest set.
“Don’t mind her” She drunk a bit of water she ordered “She really have reason to be upset”
“It’s not about some stupid anniversary. They are trying for a baby from eight months and without success”
“Not a big secret, not among us. They have not any problems. It’s just a quite challenge to be impregnated by a men who is nearly never at home.” She shrugged a bit “We’re kind of family, the others said it to you already as I think. And they will do many times more.”
“Something like that” I affirmed.
“Take this seriously, Nathalie” She looked at me “When you get sick, when you get pregnant, when you cannot get pregnant, you hit a trouble with a child, or simple bad day, you’ll be mostly alone with that. Yes, yes, you can report. Really?” She smiled ironically. “We’re keeping together, because in fact we’re on our own. You can call a repo for a fridge, but your problems there cannot be fixed by filling some papers.”
“Just a little. Hows your furry friends?” Sarah turned to her a bit
“Howling, barking, meowing…” She shrugged “I work in animal clinic there, I’m a vet in fact” She explained to me.
“It’s great, I always wanted to be one” I was thrilled somewhat “I’m already waiting when they allow me to get there my cat. I had to left behind this poor animal in the city. He is with my friend now. I miss a little bastard.”
“Sure. No problem, just before he shall start to spread my legs to conquer his prize.” She said this with a little cynical smile “It’s much more motivating that way. Before.”
My confusion must be clear on my face.
“We’re vile, cynical and all good stuff. Don’t worry, you’ll adjust” Milena shrugged in my direction.
“You think if we put fire on ammo depot, they would come back in hurry?” Milena asked her from hers another drink.
“Don’t be tempting” Sarah said leaving.
I told her about my own “betrothal period” problem, mostly because I wanted to keep her occupied. Out of not present husband, and out of scotch.
“Ooohhh you bump into this fat cow major Brown, right” She pulled a face “And her I’m serious fifty-five virgin face, yep?”
“A witchy one, powerful bitch, no kidding” She sat deeper and I noticed she ordered another round. “She could throw you out of the fence just with one slight move of her brow. She is a major only, but in fact, in the personnel matters, she is the second in command”.
“I thought she was just in the stood of colonel”
“Colonel is a little dick, don’t mind the moron. He is just signing orders. If the matter is serious, she rules the circus. But she is kind of bitch too”
“Right. Like w all are” She laughed “What she showed you? A gun or a chip?”
“Mhmmm, so you’re the smart one in her eyes. Keep yourself out of her gaze. She’s a Medusa.”
“I’m quite good in being unnoticed” I stated quietly.
“O.K. I will take this from here” She grabbed Milena.
“Yeah, I’m sure. I shall kick her ass and she will be sober like before confirmation”.
Seems it wasn’t the first time.
“Go home, get some sleep, weep the cushion, but if you wanna be drunk, just don’t leave bathroom, OK?” She said to me and focused on her burden “Spewing officer’s wifes or fiances just on the street, are bad for PR”.
“And Nathalie!” She shouted after me “Don’t hit the porno sites. This damned Elsbeth’s girl broke our servers again, fucking bored brat.”
A busy day it was.