Tenanbul seemed to let criminals in and keep officials out. They debated on whether Klenny was rightfully allowed into the city, but her dirt-stained cheeks and her hoodlum boyfriend seemed to accredit her better than any badge or murder count ever could. It was a lewd city, accompanied by posterior-taps from complete strangers, cat-calls, shouts at slave auctions, raucous laughter and the smell of vomit.
Klenny kept close to Mint as he had a talk with a skinny, malnourished man wearing sunglasses. The man nodded and let Mint pass through the tent. Past the tent was a set of stairs, where incense wafted through. Mint ushered Klenny into their private room and set all his packs down.
"Keep the Sambo with you. You'll never know when some nutty guy might come in and try to steal our stuff."
"Wh-where are you going?"
"I'm going to find Pepper and get the documents from him. I'll be back in a jiff, he's a great buddy of mine who got me out of this hell hole more than once."
He stopped and walked back up to her.
"Why did you come back?"
"It's my home," he smiled brightly.
Klenny was filled with a sense of completeness, but also fear. She stood up and hooked her fingers into his pockets. "We've just had an exciting run-in with a couple of your friends. Don't you want to celebrate a little?"
"Celebrate," he parroted, already intoxicated with the smell of her sweat mixing with her soapy fragrance. He kissed her neck.
He feels real. Why am I doing this? Why am I worrying? Why am I here?
"Clementine," he whispered.
"Yes, Mint?" she replied, even as he peeled off her shirt.
"I think I like you."
She laughed as she felt the backs of her knees bump into the bed. They tumbled onto it and wrapped up in each other. "You're really bad at this, aren't you?"
"I am," Mint said. "I hope it—I hope it doesn't bother you too much."
Before she could even respond, his lips suckling on her breast. She threw her head back, ran her hands through his coarse, black hair, and relished.
When Klenny woke up, to a clatter outside her door. She was still naked, but the first thing she did was reach for the Sambo. Something outside was happening, and she made sure to bolt and latch the door before scurrying back into bed. She sat and cradled the Sambo against her skin. Mint was off and away, and from the skylight, she could tell it was nearing night time. "What's taking him so long?"
Outside, she could hear a familiar voice—two, rather. Frank—Anna.
Despite how tempted Klenny was to go out and down the stairs and into the city and both embrace and shoot them, she decided to stay exactly where she was. She shut her eyes and heard the crowd pushing Frank and Anna back out the gates. Shooting happened, and after a small, tumultuous period, everything settled back to normal and the laughter and music began once again. She even smelled the fresh smell of bread and a potent ale produced in this part of the desert.
"You can't trust him. He's a liar."
"A cheater," Sandra offered.
"More deceptive than the both of us put together." Rain Petal put out her cigarette.
"He's been able to survive because he's so sneaky,"
"And two-faced—he preys off of us. He's preyed off of all of us."
Where is he? Klenny shut her eyes tighter. Why is he taking so long?
She only noticed her breathing was ragged when there was a knock at the door. At first, she didn't answer. Then, it started to ratta-tat-tat on the door cheerfully. She quivered as she wrapped the sheets around her body like a makeshift toga. She un-bolted and un-latched the door. Mint stormed in, fresh and happy and tackled her back onto the bed.
She couldn't help but laugh. He didn't smell like women or anything suspicious. Klenny, stop this. "You took a while."
"Sorry for keeping you. I just haven't seen Pepper since a few years back when I had to take my best friend Data across the border. He got into some serious trouble—ten head murder count."
"Oh, my. What for?"
"He didn't tell me, so I didn't ask."
"What is he like?"
"A brother," he smiled. "That's the only reason why I have this stupidass ring. I lost a bet."
"I like it."
"Yeah, well, everyone else hated it. That includes Quinn and Sandra—told me to take it off, but I always keep my word. Maybe in another five years, I think."
Your word. Klenny smiled and wrapped her arms around his neck.
"Damn, you look good."
"So do you," she laughed.
He inhaled her scent and sighed a contented sigh.
"So Pepper got you the documents?"
"Yep. They're all here. We could sign them later—"
"Let's sign them now. So we've got the rest of the night to ourselves."
"Okay," he sighed. He took them out of his breast pocket and laid them out beside her. She propped herself up on an elbow as he stroked her shoulder. "Aw, come on, you don't have to read all that crap. Just sign under my name so we could get to the action."
Klenny half-smiled. She still scanned through the document.
"Clementine, don't worry. Just sign them."
I'll take a look at this later. If there's anything wrong, I'll just rip these documents to shreds.
"Okay, okay. I'm just worried he might sell us off."
"Pepper always goes by his word," Mint said sternly. "It's all we have in the desert."
Klenny signed with the strange pen, jotting down her name hastily with Mint's urgent kisses and caresses. The document fell off the side of the bed as the two enjoyed their night.
Klenny awoke later on to Mint's soft snores. His face was relaxed and more boyish looking without his expressive eyes sending signals every few moments. She looked over the side of the bed at the documents. I shouldn't—I can't live like this. Klenny, why? She resisted the urge to look at the documents, but in doing so, she grew more angry and vexed, and frustrated. She had to know, but finding out would only break the word that Mint cared so deeply about. What if it was all a façade?
Klenny couldn't handle it anymore. She drew a blade from her bundle of clothes—she had retrieved it the very night that he un-cuffed her. She held it to his throat. I would rather not know than betray myself. I— "I-I'm sorry, Mint, I just—"
"I knew you had that thing a long time ago."
His eyes opened, their smoldering, translucent expression glinted under the starlight. They crinkled in an earnest, warm, inviting smile. "I don't care. You could do what you like."
Klenny's hand shook, and accidentally drew blood. Her eyes popped open, but she grew even more afraid and held the blade closer to his throat. The more she trembled the more he smiled.
"I guess it doesn't matter anymore." Mint slowly and calmly closed his eyes, and minutes passed with Klenny holding the blade to his neck. He drifted back into sleep, and left her shaking with fear and revulsion.
How could I?
The very next day, he was gone. He left everything with her, even the Sambo, but he himself was gone without a trace. The documents were in plain sight, on the vanity table. She dragged the sheets along with her, her eyes rimmed with red and darkness. She scratched her head of ragged morning hair and picked up the documents, sniffing.
She suddenly laughed, and tears spilled out of her eyes. "What do you know. It really was a border pass."
Presumably, said the malnourished-looking, dark-skinned man wearing the glasses, later on that day, He's probably on another forage for someone to sell off. Either that, or he probably rode off on his Moglan to die somewhere in the middle of the desert, like all homeless vagabonds.
Even though he laughed, Klenny didn't find it very funny. "That's where you're wrong. The desert is his home."
Everyone in the city seemed to cut around her without noticing her, kicking up dust in the wake of their flamboyant and stoic and noisy strides, creating wisps in the air that blearied Klenny's already sore eyes, wisps like a ghost made of sand.
Author's Note: Well, hopefully you had as much fun reading this as much as I had writing this. Right now, this is a skeleton for a tentative story. I might possibly go back and buff it up with descriptions and more love in the details and plot and dialogue! I'm just happy to have finished it, I can't even believe I managed to complete this poor story! I know it's seriously under-developed, but I still want to keep its ending. Tell me your thoughts—praises, harsh admonishments, or otherwise!
Thank you for taking this journey with me; I hope you will be inspired by the many, many things in this world worth the scrutiny.