If she hadn’t screamed, I surely would have. I swiftly pulled my hand from my pajamas as I blushed bright red. I opened my eyes in the dim light. I wasn’t home. I was further upset as the mattress beneath me shook. Two more screams, one more screamer.
“Where are we!” Shouted a third girl and I had my head on a swivel. I was lost. My comforting blue walls and seventies pulp movie posters were gone. My stiff half bunk bed had been replaced by a much larger much softer bed. Two girls were scrambling off either side. There were girls in the room. Another one started screaming. The first panicked screamer had shut up, hyperventilating.
More confused and incriminating shouts launched over each other. I could feel my heart racing, confused fear overriding the familiar fear attached to feminine proximity. I sat up, not quite alone in the big bed. There was a girl on my left, she sat up and retreated with me to sit with our backs against the white metal headboard.
“Shut the fuck up!” Shouted one girl and two more turned on her. They were snapping. I picked the sleep out of my eyes. These were girls from school.
“Dean? Are you OK?” I turned to the girl still in bed with me. Kia Parker. We got on at the same bus stop. I hadn’t spoken to her since we had shared classes in elementary school. My advanced placement and her french immersion had separated us before she had grown into one of many frustrated fantasies living in my head. She was as tall as me, but whether that made her tall for a girl or me short for a man was debatable. Her hair, the last I had seen it had been a dark purple, now showed her natural blond. She was dressed, in full pajamas, boring white but shiny, maybe silk. I was shirtless and turning a deeper red. I slept in a pair of pajama bottoms. They had been a boring green and blue plaid. They felt the same yet were as pristine white as Kia’s.
All the girls were in white. Two more in full button up top pajamas like Kia, a handful wearing t-shirts or tank tops with shorts, a few were in varying length night gowns and one girl had on a long t-shirt. Xiomara, my sister’s best friend, was yelling in the face of Connie, who I’m sure had called out the others to shut the fuck up.
“Your hair’s blond again.” I told Kia.
“Oh that too,” I perked my ears up as I watched her twirl her bangs in front of her dark green eyes.
“What else changed?” I asked, petrified to admit what I had learned moments before the commotion happened. I was calming down. Kia remaining on the bed, unlike the other three girls, had bolstered my ability to remain collected. I looked to the left but the other bed, which had held another five girls, was tempest tossed and empty.
Kia smiled at me. I had to smile back. She softened her eyes and pulled her lips even further away from her teeth. I finally realized what she was showing me.
“Yeah,” She nodded and looked over the room before turning back to me, “You didn’t seem surprised about me being different. Is it cause you don’t need your glasses?”
I burned red in a deep blush before she had made her suggestion and I could jump on it. She tilted her head, confused. I sighed.
“I, ugh,” I tried, unable to communicate. I looked down at my crotch and she followed her eyes but didn’t fill in the blanks. I needed a euphemism, “I’m, uh, not so Jewish anymore.”
“But your family goes to the same church as we do...” She missed the mark but after two beats her eyes went wide, “Really?”
“Yeah,” Could I get my ears to ignite from blushing alone? I had a very focused view of where my toes bumped up the comforter. All the bedclothes were also antiseptic white.
“Goddammit! Fucking shut up!” Shrieked Connie and finally her vitriol punched through the panicked noise. We all turned to look at her. She and I didn’t fly in near any of the same circles. Me and my two slacker buddies had never really connected with the Beaverton North High School social scene. Connie, a cheerleader, had a reputation of commanding it. Connie liked you? You went to the better parties, with the hotter girls and better sex. Or so the rumors circulated. The girls fought for her favor too. I had always just ignored her. Connie’s legend was propelled mostly through her cult of personality but her looks added to it. Our school was large but rural. A beautiful black girl in the senior class stood out and grabbed attention. I had done a bit of grabbing with her in mind since forever. Not as much as Kia or Xiomara, but those two were much closer at hand than Connie’s queendom.
“What’s going on?” I asked into the short empty calm after the silence changed from relieving to oppressive. The shriek was horrendous. Renée, the other cheerleader in the room, was dressed in a tank top and panties. She zipped to hide behind Suzi and Xiomara.
“This is your fault!” Was the other response. Apparently, no one had taken in the full room yet because three of the girls were very surprised to see me. Renée and Andrea reacted with embarrassment and modesty. A skinny redheaded girl, I might have known but couldn’t place, ratcheted up into anger.
“How the hell is this my fault!” I retreated against Kia’s shoulders. She shuffled away from me; I felt targeted, alone.
“Some sick male fantasy? You kidnapped us all for sort of sex thing!” She was nasal and her eyes and nostrils flared. She stepped away from me, “I won’t be raped.”
“I wouldn’t!” I finally went white over red. I looked around. Connie’s eyebrows were coming down in anger. Kia was frozen next to me. Hannah covered herself with crossed arms. Suzi stiffened. Renée gripped Suzi and Xiomara’s arms. Xiomara gave me a smile.
“Dean didn’t do this,” She asserted, “If he was going to kidnap a bunch of girls for a sex thing, there’s no way he wouldn’t have picked up Elizabeth.”
“Elizabeth who?” Asked Hannah.
“Elizabeth Briggs?” Renée suggested, “She’s on the student council with me. She’s pretty.”
“Yeah, that’s her,” Xiomara declared, “Plus I’ve known Dean for, like, fifteen years. He’s a nice boy, way too shy for any of this.”
That hit me hard as the redhead’s accusation. The redhead had scared me and horrified me. Xiomara just hurt me. She was smiling though, sympathetic. She had never been the kindest to me. She and Zoe had been terrors for all my life. She had grown up nice though. Slender and leonine. Her black hair was all wavy, falling over her shoulders down to her elbows. Her eyes were bright, her smile was full. She usually wore a bit too much makeup, she was beautiful and had been determined to flaunt it.
“I’m pretty sure he’s as much of a victim as we are,” Kia returned at my side. I finally let out a full breath. I nodded.
“I’m not a victim,” The redhead seethed, “I won’t be.”
“That makes me feel better,” I said with a smile and she looked just as angry. We all turned as the room brightened a little more. The room was a long rectangle. The over-sized beds were laid head first towards a short side, with a thin walking path between them and along each wall. The lights were overhead, two strips ran along the long walls with sectioned blocks. So far three on each side were lit up, but fairly dimly, showing the beds clearly and the room’s features but not really displaying everything. Two meters past the foot of the bed, a large square table sat in the center of the room. Its surface was the same antiseptic plastic white as the walls and floors. The legs and stools surrounding it were more of a clean dull metal color like the bed’s headboards or the roof. Walls of lockers lined the right side and a counter over and under metal cabinets lined the left. Further down, at the opposite wall were two large glass enclosures on either side of four toilets. There was no privacy here. I blushed again, for me and for the girls.
“Let’s get up and see what’s here,” Kia touched my shoulder. We smiled at each other and started off either side of the bed. Everyone was quiet but not silent. One girl was sobbing and another was wordlessly comforting her. Renée’s foot rapidly vibrated as she nervously tapped the floor. Connie was controlling her breathing with loud relaxing full breaths. The redhead was swivelheaded looking at the ceiling, daring, or hoping for, more of the lights to come on.
“OK,” Hannah said as I touched down between the two beds. Kia was off the other side, looping around, “Can we sit down? Figure out what’s happening?”
I was surprised at that from her. She was the most different looking from how I knew her. She was thinner (I touched my own gut and found it flatter.) I wondered where our excess weight had gone. Her hair wasn’t inky black with a blood red highlight at her right ear. It was auburn, closer to brown than red but definitely reddish. Her eyes weren’t ringed in thick eyeliner and her lips weren’t black or blue. Her eyebrow piercings were gone and it didn’t even seem as if they had ever existed. She was wearing white, not her color at all, a knee length night gown that draped awkwardly over her shrunken body remind us of how she had once looked. She was like a different woman. Maybe we were all different people? Could that happen?
“Yes, let’s sit down at the table. Let’s make sure we all know who’s here, what we have and maybe find out what we can do.” Connie taking charge from Hannah felt right. I exchanged looks with Xiomara and Suzi while Andrea and Renée booked it to the far side of the table.
On each side of the table there were two stools. Connie and Kia took the seats on the right. Renée and Suzi took the seats opposite the beds. Hannah sat down with Andrea on the left. I was left standing, socially paralysed, there were two more seats and four more of us. Xiomara walked up next to me while Marin and the little redhead watched me. One glared and Marin just seemed thoughtful. I took the seat on Kia’s left, Xiomara walked up beside me.
“Do you mind?” She asked brushing her hair over her ear. She pulled my stool out further and walked in front of me. Her round bottom rested on my thigh. I just looked at her, a little dumbstruck. She collided her shoulder with mine, “There’s not enough seats for everyone.”
“Of course he doesn’t mind!” Scoffed the little redhead viciously. She walked around the table and poked Hannah in the shoulder, “Though there really isn’t enough seats.”
“OK, Pat,” The name meant nothing to me but Hannah shuffled over and shared half the stool with the rage girl. Nope, I guess I shouldn’t have looked at her because she harrumphed at me.
“I guess I sit here then,” Marin announced and settled in beside me with a smile. There were three redheads in the room, nominally Hannah and vibrantly Pat. Marin was a bit more an orangehead than a redhead. Her freckles were missing, they normally covered her nose and cheekbones. Her eyes were blue and a little smokey. Her lips were naturally pinkish despite her otherwise lack of complexion. She had been in my art class; she was super talented. I remember fawning over her sketchpad in grade 10, and what started as a sorry excuse to get next to her had turned into real respect for her work. She made me ashamed of my sorry sketches and I think I offended her when I refused to share my work back. We hadn’t really talked in the two years since. I often regretted that. Not enough to motivate me to course correct or anything.
“Well, we’re all here. We all know each other,” Connie started.
“Um,” Kia mumbled, “I don’t think I know her.” She pointed to Marin.
“Yeah,” Marin sighed relief, “I was thinking the same thing.”
“I also have no idea who Pat is,” I gestured towards the little redhead.
“Oh fuck off, Dean! You piece of shit!” She slammed the tabletop and leaned towards me. “I should claw your fucking face off!”
“What! I don’t know who you are! I’m sorry?”
“Don’t be an ass, Dean,” Kia joined in the glare at me. Xiomara was stifling a chuckle as Kia said: “That’s Pat. She lives three doors down from your place. She and I share a backyard.”
“Um, yeah, I don’t. I really don’t.” I tried to look contrite but all I was getting were mixed looks. No one was angry but Pat, though Kia wasn’t impressed. Xiomara started belting out raucously laughing.
“It’s not funny.” Pat pouted as she sat down awkwardly sharing the stool with Hannah. Hannah looked like she wanted to change seats. Xiomara collapsed against me and I held her, tentatively, very aware of the way she felt and smelled. She was warm. She always had cold hands. She whispered, between breathless guffaws. “Trishie.”
“Trishie! Holy shit!”
“I get to hit him in the face.” Pat announced.
“That seems fair,” Marin said through a smirk. She wasn’t being mean or vindictive. She was just amused.
“No it isn’t!” Trishie had been in my grade 6 class and she had been the second tallest girl there. She was now the shortest person in the room. Still, I remembered a few things about her, “Aren’t you like a kickboxing champion or something?”
“No, I never won anything for my Muay Thai,” She said behind a venomous smile, “I got my titles for Brazilian jiu jitsu.”
“That’s really cool,” I admitted.
“Yeah,” agreed Renée.
“But please don’t hit me,” I tried a smile and she relented a little. She was still freaked out. All of us were, but she calmed down.
“OK, but all bets are off if you call me Trishie.”
“Right, so, I’m Kia.” Xiomara and I were pushed back by the girls on my right and my left.
“Yeah, I’m Marin,” the artist replied.
“We all good now?” Connie asked, “I guess the first thing we should point out is we all seem a little bit different.” She gestured specifically at Hannah, she and Kia being the most obviously changed. Connie was wearing full pajamas like Kia and Andrea. She rolled up her left sleeve above her elbow, “My tattoo’s gone.”
“And your ears aren’t pierced, either,” Renée said from her seat at Connie’s right hand. Most of the girls reached to their ears to check themselves as well. It seemed all piercings were gone. The next three overhead lights came on. We all looked around. There was nothing really new to see, just that the big glass structures on the far wall were multi-headed showers. If the beds were big enough for five, the showers were big enough for four. I shifted under Xiomara and she turned to me. She brushed my hair with her fingers. She was blushing, nervous and teasing all at once. She always had a brave face. I wasn’t looking around as much as the others because Kia was on her feet and dashing towards the counter behind Suzi, Hannah and Pat.
“What is that?” Asked Connie standing up. We all turned. Hannah knocked Pat off the stool. I smiled with Suzi, silently, laughing along with her. I felt a little vindicated after how I had been accused and treated.
“It’s a clipboard in a steel case,” Kia said lifting it up. The steel opened like a book cover. She was right, a thick sheaf of papers on tall rings were on the right. There was a pen magnetized to the inside left cover. The biggest thing of note was that until now everything had been sterilized white or dull metallic grey. The paper inside the clipboard was baby blue. There was a large type font written in an introduction. That I could read it without squinting from my seat was telling. I had a generally weak nearsighted glasses prescription and I didn’t always wear them. The clarity at which the type revealed itself to me, suggested I had needed a stronger prescription.
Experiment ARK-0E-91 was written on the letterhead. I was almost at the first sentence when Kia turned the page back to herself and started walking back to the seat.
“Oh for fuck’s sake!” Pat said getting back on her stool half, “Read it out loud, please.”
“Yeah,” Andrea agreed. Her eyes were puffy and red. They looked dry now. I noticed a similar but less pronounced effect on Marin and Hannah. Someone had been sobbing early, it could have been any of them. It left the biggest effect around Andrea’s eyes. I wondered if it was because she was darkest, or whether it was her Chinese eyes, or she had cried the hardest, or if it was some other collection of factors I didn’t know. She looked away when she saw me studying her and I looked down to the tabletop when I realized I was studying her.
“Experiment ark Oh-Ee ninety one,” Kia read midst vocal fillers. Her voice grew raspy and she licked her lips.
“I can do that if you want,” Connie said and held her hands out for the clipboard. Kia whispered a thank you as she passed off the duty.
We all turned to Connie, though I gave two quick checks on Kia. She noticed everyone doing that and blushed right into her pajamas. She did sit up straighter and found a place on the wall between Pat and Suzi to focus on.
“Experiment ark zero e nine one,” Connie had a crisper voice when she read. Confidence is sexy and I was drawn in listening to her, “It is posited that within the next 100 years of Third Sol the ecosystem and social climate will finally to dissolve into wasteland and war.”
“What does Third Sol mean?” Suzi spoke up. She shared the most of my classes. She was valedictorian material, provided the English teachers nominated her. I knew what she was doing; it was super condescending. I looked to her, she looked completely unchanged from school. She was petite with dark brown eyes. Her hair was cut short, framing a cute Asian face. She ruined the look by faking her helpful little smile. She was asking a question she knew the answer to but she suspected other people hadn’t put together, to make sure the rest of the class kept up. I was glad she had run off with Renée to the other side of the table. I didn’t like condescension. I’d rather Pat punched me in the nose.
“It doesn’t say,” Connie replied scanning quickly down the page.
“It means Earth,” I injected, “Sol’s the sun and Terra is three planets out.”
“Terra?” Asked Connie.
“Terra, Luna and Sol,” Marin made a little triangle in the air with her left index finger, “Earth moon and sun. In most sci-fi anyway.”
“So what? Is this written by aliens?” Scoffed Andrea.
“Look, let me read the thing!” Connie barked. We all went silent. I took a deep breath in the emptiness a few beats later. She made sure to scowl at all of us. I felt better when Suzi flinched.
“The dominant species is expected to achieve tech-four status before this happens. The species is knotted with worrisome dogmas and sects. The species has been vetted to be viable for interstellar connectivity if these flagged dogmas and sects can be excised.
“The species is sexually dimorphic. Collecting samples from outside the flagged groups is important to understand if the species should be given a second opportunity to come to fruition and if greater steps need be taken to contain the flagged groups.
“To determine how to reboot the species samples have been collected. Each sample contains 10 nearly developed adult specimen in varying fractions of the sexes. A sample will be placed in preselected environment on Second Sigma Draconis. Due to the distance between Third Sol and Second Sigma Draconis and unmitigatable environmental factors, samples must be acclimated during transportation.
“A nine hundred eighty six per mil confidence is expected of samples to remain viable upon reaching Second Sigma Draconis.”
We all looked on as Connie lifted the cover page to go deeper into the clipboard. She swore and flipped through, accelerating as the vein on her forehead bulged, the remaining stack of papers.
“Goddammit!” She shouted tossing the clipboard across the table. It slid easily and Andrea caught it.
“What?” Asked Renée.
“Each of these pages seems to be the same thing,” Andrea told us, “Except the second one is in Mandarin and a few later is in French.”
“Well, if it’s an experiment, telling us that much seems to be a bad idea,” Suzi suggested, “Shouldn’t a properly run experiment be blind or double blind?”
“Are we really aliens’ prisoners?” Marin asked with a fearful reverence. Hannah was shaking. Kia’s fingers were drumming on the tabletop.
“We have no fucking idea or proof,” Pat declared. She wasn’t wrong until, “All we know is that we’ve been kidnapped and now we’re going to be studied.”
“I think we’re actually clones,” Suzi hazarded. I had to agree.
“Clones? What the fuck?”
“Or something like that. It could explain the lack of earring holes or scars. Or the changes in body fat.” I felt so mean as I finished that sentence, because I, maybe unconsciously, looked to Hannah.
“Cloning sure as hell beats exercise and dieting,” She mumbled.
“Except, we aren’t untouched clones either,” Kia declared, “I may not have my braces but I know what my teeth felt like in grade 10 and this isn’t it.”
“Maybe,” I said licking around my mouth. The little gap in my top teeth was closed.
“But we kept our hair styles,” Connie noted.
“Just no dyes,” Hannah sneered.
“But there’s another reason to fix our teeth,” Xiomara pulled us back to Kia’s topic, “I mean, they wouldn’t want their experiment to fail because our wisdom teeth came in and cause an infection.”
“That’s kind of smart,” Suzi applauded in that condescending way.
“That’s not the point!” Pat growled up, “It said ARK, like Noah’s Ark. Like saving us so we can repopulate a new world? We’re all just breeding cows for Dean! I knew this was some sick little fantasy!”
“Wouldn’t it just be populating a new world?” Joked Marin.
“And, it wouldn’t be safe to build a populating with just 10 people,” Suzi said, “You’d want a couple thousand. A hundred at least but you’d definitely want more girls than boys.”
“I think Suzi’s right,” Kia agreed, “That paper said they were scared of dogmas and sects. I think they want to see how we handle this socially. The,” she went red to her collarbone again, “The repopulating thing is probably smaller potatoes than seeing how relationships develop.”
That’s when Andrea burst into energetic tears. She fell face first into her hands and turned away from the table. There was nowhere to run to though. She just ducked at the side of counter and whimpered into her hands. Marin and Xiomara went after her. I missed touching her immediately. I realized my foot had fallen asleep a second later. I got weird looks when I started banging my limp foot off the ground. Andrea rejected the other girls concern. Maybe crying is as infectious as yawning or laughing because Renée and Hannah looked really affected too. Connie was blinking, hiding a tear or two as she dug her fingernails into the heel of her palm. I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to do something. I looked away from everyone. There were still those big lockers and cabinets.
“Who wants to look through the lockers with me?” I asked. Pat nodded and zipped around Suzi and Renée to turn our back on the other girls. I could hear everyone shuffling around. No one talked above a whisper and I knew from snippets I should let their conversations alone. Pat stepped ahead of me and opened the first locker.
They had latches like our lockers at school, except none of them had the red dialled combination locks that decked Beaverton’s halls. There were eight lockers. Each as fat as a high end refrigerator and standing the full two and a half meters to the roof. They were as deep as they were wide. The next geometric number of lights turned on. One more interval before the room was fully lit. I wondered if that was our clock. I wondered how long the days were on Second Sigma Draconis.
The first locker, closest to the beds, contained extra bed clothes and extra sets of each of our pajamas. Three sets of each actually, in black, royal blue and light pink. I raised on my tiptoes but couldn’t see the top shelf.
“Pick me up, I want to see,” Pat demanded of me. I hesitated to touch her, “Now, Dean.”
“I thought you moved away after elementary school,” I said stalling, “That’s why I didn’t recognize you.” Also she had had huge glasses.
“No, my dad lived in a better school district for junior high, so I went to Kensington,” She shrugged, “Now lift me up.”
“OK,” I took a deep breath and gingerly put my hands on her hips. She gripped the door and pulled herself up. I didn’t help and she just hissed my name impatiently. I sucked it up. I took a better grip and lifted. She grabbed the lip of the top shelf to look above.
“It’s extra pillows!” Suzi shouted from the other side of the room. It would have been helpful before I was holding Pat by hugging around her thighs just above her knees. Any lower and I would have had an armful of bare skin.
“OK, put me down now,” She hurried me as I hesitated again. I got a swift back kick from her heel. I finally lowered her.
The next two lockers had other sets of clothes for us, in the same four color combinations as the bedclothes. I quickly grabbed a black t-shirt meant for me and pulled it over my bare chest. Knowing I could cover up apparently made me more nervous about being shirtless than I had been. As we moved on Renée darted for the clothes and found herself a pair of jeans (pink) and scurried into those.
I looked over my shoulder. Andrea was still inconsolable, hanging tightly onto Kia who had her back to me. Marin was sitting in Andrea’s old seat flipping slowly through the clipboard hoping to find something more. Connie pulled Renée back into the discussion she was having with Xiomara and kept her eyes on everyone else. Suzi was searching through the cupboards under the counter, apparently that’s where the food was kept. Hannah was still in her seat, she wiped her eyes and smiled wanly when I made eye contact. She gestured that Pat and I should keep going.
The next, fourth of eight, locker had towels and shower products. Pat shouted an “Oh, thank God!” to see how well stocked it was. There were body washes and shampoos, skin cremes and moisturizers, loofahs and scrubbing pads, tissues and feminine products. Pat ransacked the place. I caught the comb she was about to drop on the floor. “There’s no makeup!”
“What?” I said dumbly as couple other girls crowded me out of the way. Hannah edged me down the line and into Xiomara’s chest. I felt her pick up my fingers.
“Let’s check the next ones, OK?” She tugged me along. I was more excited for the next one, but I kept my cool. Showing excitement for geeky things while in the presence of girls had never been easy for me. The fifth locker was filled with books: novels, comics and schoolbooks, everything in hardcover. Xiomara thumbed across the spines and made a judgmental tut. She closed the door. The next one was filled with fun stuff: board games, tubes of dice, dungeons and dragons books, two skipping ropes, free weights, several different sized balls, padded gloves and headgear. The second last one was filled with stationary, sheet music and musical instruments. The final locker was locked. I wasn’t happy about that and stopped myself from kicking the huge metal locker with my bare toes.
“Over here we have food and dishes and stuff,” Suzi alerted us as the final lights turned on. I nodded having a decent inventory in my head. Connie and Renée had taken Andrea from Kia and walked her over to the lavatory end of the room. They helped her clean up at the sink and mirror. Renée, Hannah and Kia were taking out clothes for themselves. Suzi walked over to me.
“You have to sit back down at the table,” She told me.
“I’ll sit with him,” Xiomara agreed. She lifted up a small notepad and a deck of cards.
“We want to get cleaned up and dressed,” Suzi nodded towards the lavatory side, “And you shouldn’t be watching.”
“Oh, um,” I said growing red and a bit stiff. That made me more red because pajama pants couldn’t quite hide my reaction. Xiomara tugged my hand, “Yeah, OK.”
I was put into Renée’s seat facing the beds and Xiomara took Connie’s. I guess we didn’t have assigned seats but life with Zoe had conditioned me very quickly in what was mine and what was hers. Xiomara put down her notepad between us and picked up the deck of cards ripping away its cellophane wrapping.
“Aw! C’mon, dammit! This shower doesn’t wo--Ow, too hot--too hot!” Renée motormouthed. I instinctively started to turn but Xiomara grabbed my hair and kept me focused on her.
“What happened?” Asked Hannah, “It just shut off again.”
“OK, I’ve got the temperature sorted out. But it won’t start anymore.” Renée grumbled.
“Let me--There it goes again,” Suzi yelped.
“This is stupid,” Kia announced, “I don’t like having you guys in the room, let alone Dean, and now this stupidity.”
“Torture, isn’t it?” Xiomara laughed at me.
“It only turns on when two people are in the shower,” Connie stated.
“Really?” I lit up but my hair was pulled tight again.
“No you don’t,” Xiomara shook her head at me, then looked over my shoulder, “Girls, hurry up or I’ll make him bald.”
“It really needs two people to start the shower?” I asked Xiomara quietly. I lifted my heel off the ground and my whole leg started pumping like Thumper in springtime.
“Seems so,” She grinned.
“Then how am I supposed to clean up later?” I worried. She put on the tormentous smile I had known her for. She tossed the first card to me.
“Beat me at cribbage?”