“What are you painting?” Shannyn asked her lover from where she lay, soaking up the late spring sun. He stood shirtless in front of his easel, swim trunks riding low on his hips.
Giovanni smiled over his shoulder at her. “The way you make me feel.”
“You’re such a sap,” she said fondly, a tender smile on her lips. Even though they’d been together over two years now, she still wondered how a gentle man like him could love a harsh, unkind woman like her.
“Yeah, but it’s one of the many many reasons you love me.”
The memory Shannyn had shrouded herself in shattered, bringing her back to the present. As she got to her feet, her hand went to the knife she kept in her pocket at all times. Visitors were not welcome at her home.
She released the knife when she looked out the narrow window by the door and saw Jason on the other side. Over the past weeks, the two of them had run into each other several more times. One day, he’d shown up at her door, offering her an extra fish he’d caught. Part of her wanted to tell him to fuck off and die because she didn’t need him…but she also sort of liked having him around. Though solitude had its perks, it was, well, solitary.
So she’d given him some carrots in exchange for the fish and told him he could expect the same deal whenever he had a fish to spare. It was an even trade, in her opinion. She provided him bait; he provided her the catch.
She opened the door and allowed him to step inside. “Jason.”
He smiled at her. “Hello, Dolly.”
She snorted softly. “That’s not my name either.”
His smile grew; Shannyn couldn’t help but notice, as she had every other time she’d seen him, just how fucking attractive he was. I mean, Jesus fuck he’s hot. “I’ll guess the right one some day.”
“I doubt it.” It had become a game between them ever since that first meeting. She rather enjoyed the banter.
He placed a colorful fish on the counter next to her sink. “You want me to clean it?”
“I’m a big girl. I can clean my own fish.” She’d struggled a bit the first time and ended up with a few tiny bones poking her in the tongue, but she’d gotten better at it since then. She gestured to one of the shelves. “Grab what you want.” She would watch him, of course, make sure he didn’t try to wipe the entire shelf out. She always watched him like a hawk whenever he was in her house.
It wasn’t easy going around and harvesting those plants. Her back ached constantly, and her legs felt like a couple of bloated sausages. Once or twice, she had even considered asking Jason if he could just bring the fish to her for the last month and change until the baby came and then she’d owe him the produce. But both her pride and common sense held her back. She wasn’t able to get proper medical care or even vitamins from a drug store, so she needed all the nutrients and vitamins and minerals she could get.
He packed some carrots and strawberries before picking up one of the lemons she’d found. “You found lemons?”
I nodded. “Yeah. Just the one tree.”
“Bet they help the taste of the fish.”
He was right, they definitely did. There weren’t a lot of spices or seasonings around. Pretty much all she’d been able to get her hands on was salt, which meant all that fish tasted bland as hell. At least the lemons gave it some zing.
“You can take a couple,” she said generously.
He smiled brightly at her. He was always doing that. Shannyn didn’t see how anyone could smile so much in an apocalypse. Giovanni had kept up a good act, but even he had let the mask slip sometimes, proving that he didn’t have quite as positive an outlook as he pretended.
“Why are you so damn happy?” she asked, half accusingly and half with genuine curiosity in her voice.
He turned away from the shelves, a surprised look on his face. It was replaced by a more solemn expression as the silence stretched between them. “I’m not,” he said finally. “Who could be happy, living like this?” He gestured around the small room, but the movement seemed to encompass everything beyond it as well. “But what’s the point in being shitty and miserable all the time? We’ll never make the place better again that way.”
“You think anybody is out there trying to fix this?”
“I am – or, at least, I’m working on fixing one of the problems. Others must be out there trying too.”
Shannyn scoffed and rolled her eyes. “Enlighten me. What do you think you’re capable of fixing in this clusterfuck?”
“I’ll let you know if it ever works out, Nikki,” he said with a crooked smile. He picked up his bag and let himself out.