Meg contemplated the mirror one last time. Or at least she hoped it was the last time.
She’d tried to do something with her sullen, limp blond hair but regardless of products or tools it refused to be anything but shapeless. She’d even consulted Spike, for reasons she’d never be able to fully explain to herself. But Spike’s idea of fashion was a flowery flowy sun dress over her old beaten desert combat boots with mangled and chopped hair that looked like it had been cut by a dull lawnmower or a woodchuck.
In the end her own sense of personal aesthetics battled to an exhausted draw with her desultory psyche and her natural inclinations took over. This meant the formal engagement she was to attend would see her attired in her usual battered Justin cowboy boots, jeans, and a pretty purple summery blousy thing she’d bought specifically for the purpose. With her WWII musette bag acting as a purse she looked not a little like some hippies idealized version of a cowgirl.
She let out a long resigned sigh at her image in the mirror.
Spike sidled in behind her in the cramped bathroom. As always, she stood far too close.
“Mmm…” She said, appraising the same image. “Like a lollipop. Good enough to lick.”
“Knock it off, Spike.” She said, swatting her back a step. “None for you.”
“Can’t I just have one taste?”
“Not now. Not ever. But keep the commentary coming. I seem to have hit a dry spell in my love life.”
“I could fix that right up for you.” Spike said archly in her customary southern drawl.
Meg turned and wrinkled her nose at her.
“Sorry. Sometimes I get a little carried away.”
Spike was one of Meg’s oldest friends. They’d been together through the war – literally – and two years ago Spike had traded her Georgia magnolias and spanish moss for icy Minnesota winters and a snow shovel. She was a devout lesbian. Since their early days in the Marines the particular object of her adoration had been Meg’s body, which flattered the mind that inhabited it but not enough to sway it’s innate sense of sexuality. Their friendship blossomed in the hothouse of Spikes always forthright expression of affection and it’s corresponding rebuffing, but it’s foundation was built of jokes shared in moments of sheer terror where jokes hadn’t been at all appropriate but desperately needed nonetheless.
“Why are you going to this thing, anyway?”
Meg slung the musette bag/purse over her shoulder.
“Masochism, remember? The same reason we joined the Marines.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I joined the Marines to meet girls. It was that or hang out at college cheerleading camp and they ain’t really my type.” Spike pretended to help her adjust the strap of the bag. “Isn’t there a case you could work on instead? A mystery to solve? We could get drunk over the file and see where it leads.”
As usual the pretense of help with the strap turned salacious quickly, but not that salacious. Spike wasn’t good at being girly or flirty, though she had heart and doggedly stuck at it in spite of physical handicaps that made such flirting look ridiculous. She was an inch over six foot, and had a gawky body that seemed to be all wrong proportionally. From a distance she looked like a tall woman, but the closer you got to her the thicker she seemed till she seemed like a sculpture made unskillfully by someone concerned with architectural soundness rather than proportionality. Add to that, the broad, board level shoulders capped off by her USMC tattoo and you had the perfect picture of feminine solidity.
“You could go with me, you know.” Meg said. “I could use someone to drink and make fun of people with. Almost everybody there thinks I’m gay anyway.”
“To your 20th reunion? Dude. I love you but you couldn’t pay me. Besides who’d take care of Dutch?”
As if on cue the giant curious head of Meg’s rottweiler peered curiously from around the corner of the bedroom. He swiveled his confused face at both of them and then trotted over to Spike as if she belonged there. Once at her side Dutch gazed at Meg as if confused as to who she was. Meg scowled back.
“Traitor.” She spat at the dog. The dog looked nonplussed and was rewarded by a healthy ear scratch. “I might consider sleeping with you if you came with me.”
“That desperate huh? In that case I’ll get my coat.” But Spike didn’t move. Instead, she took a seat in one of the kitchen chairs by the table where she sipped the preparatory pint of white wine Meg had poured for herself. Meg slid past the table and into the little passageway that led to the living room. She opened the closet opposite her bedroom, flicked on the bare overhead light and stepped onto the shoebox sized step stool.
“What do you think?” Meg said over her shoulder. “Glock, Baretta or Sig?”
“What about a SAW?” she replied. “Maybe a Desert Eagle? Maybe you should just go in your dress blues with all your ribbons and bells and whistles?”
“Well shit. I didn’t even think of that. Come on, Spike this is important.”
Spike came up behind her. She was tall enough that she had no need to use the step stool.
“Sweetie, It’s important if you’re getting coffee in Sadr. Besides those are all ugly. You should have one of those pretty guns. A nice pink Taurus or the North American Mini.”
“I hate pink and I hate revolvers.”
“Or wait. Maybe you should figure somethin’ a little less lethal…”
Meg grabbed the Sig and dropped it in her purse along with an extra clip of ammunition. The ensemble was complete. Spike backed out of the closet and into the kitchen to retrieve her pilfered drink.
Meg stood in the hallway and spun out her outfit for show. The dog snored on the rug by the old fashioned kitchen sink.
“How do I look?”
Spike took a long deliberate sip from the frosty pint glass, licking her lips when she was finished. Her large sad eyes poured over her friends outfit and the person inside of it. They lingered over her, nearly expressionless and distant as though Spike was looking beyond her into a past or a future that was just a breeze on her fingertips.
“Delicious.” She said. Meg stopped spinning and shot her the look – a darting glance from the corner of her eyes in an angled head, like she was taking aim with disapproval. Spike quickly revised her appraisal to ‘deliciously anachronistic.’
“So what are you going to do?” Meg asked looking at the rapidly emptying bottle of wine on the table. Spike filled her glass with the rest of it.
“Me an’ Dutch are going to drink ourselves stupid while blowing away zombies.”
Meg started to head for the door through the living room and past the chaotic wreckage of her valued but neglected video game system. It felt like pulling herself from something vaguely tragic, like a missed chance for sympathy. She stuffed the feeling inside of her like it was another piece of her outfit.
“Well don’t fuck up my high score or I might have to use the Sig.” She tried to say lightly.
“And I might have to tase you.”
Like all good Minnesotans she hung on the doorway for a moment and turned around.
“Are you going to be here when I get back?”
Spike cocked her wickedly wry grin at her.
“Naked in your bed, of course.”
“Right then. I’ll take the couch.”