Christiana stuck her shovel into the straw once more, removing yet another steaming pile of droppings and disposing it on the wheelbarrow by her side.
“Seriously Bubbles,” She said. “If you try not to crap as much, you would make my day a lot better.”
Bubbles looked at her innocently. She held his gaze and he took that as an invitation to jump onto her back, wrapping his tail around her neck. Christiana smiled.
“You know, if you weren’t so cute, you wouldn’t get away with nearly as much as you do."
As if on cue, Bubbles nestled his face into her neck.
“I will never understand how you get that monkey to like you so much.” Jason said, leaning against the wall of the small compound that was Bubble’s home. “I swear he tries to kill me any time I get close.”
“It’s all about the amount of time you spend with him.” Christiana explained, offering Bubbles a treat. Bubbles took it willingly and jumped lightly off her back, taking it into a nearby tree with him.
“How much longer are you going to be?” Jason asked. “I only have half an hour left until my shift begins.”
“It would be a lot quicker if you helped.” Christiana said, digging her shovel into the mess once more.
Jason screwed up his face at the thought. “No thanks,” he said. “These hands are meant for much more delicate work.”
Christiana rolled her eyes. “I’m sure.”
“When’s Connor back?” Jason asked.
“He’s due tomorrow at 3pm.” Christiana answered. “Not that I’m counting down the seconds or anything.”
Jason laughed. “I know another person who’s counting down the seconds as well,” He said. “Although not for the same reasons I’m sure!”
“Jason!” Christiana exclaimed. “Please don’t make that worse than it is!”
“What?” Jason said. “I’m just saying, Adam has been in extremely high spirits since Connor’s departure.”
“Nothing’s going on.” Christiana said.
“Of course it isn’t,” Jason said. “And by the way, if it ever gets to a point where something is going on, I will beat the hell out of you. Not many of us were lucky enough to be saved with the guy they love.”
“Yeah well, I am more than happy with Connor. Although I hate that he went off on this stupid mission.”
“Oh come on, it was harmless.” Jason said. “You honestly think that there was anything that they had overlooked when creating this place? The likelihood of anything getting through is pretty much zero.”
“Still, it’s a lot more dangerous than staying here.”
“You’ve chosen a complicated man,” Jason said. “He’s always going to want to protect and, well, do something. If he stayed here without anything to do, chances are he’d probably go crazy.”
“Crazy’s fine.” Christiana said. “Crazy is my bread and butter.”
“Talking of which,” Jason said. “I noticed that your schedule seems completely taken up with sessions for the rest of the week. Anyone interesting?”
Christiana rolled her eyes once more. “For the last time Jason, I’m not going to start telling you about my confidential sessions that I have with other survivors.”
Jason let out a small pout. “That sucks. Here I am friends with one of the people that has to have the most amount of gossip at her disposal and you won’t tell me one little bit!”
“It’s called professionalism.” Christiana said.
“Fine,” Jason said. “But come to the bar tonight, I have lots of plans to get you drunk.”
Christiana laughed. “That won’t change a thing.”
“Still,” Jason said. “It’s your last night of freedom before you end up shacked up in your bedroom with Connor and I want to see you enjoy yourself.”
“Fine.” Christiana said. “But I won’t be able to come until 9pm. I’m going to pop in to see Daniela while Duncan’s there. He’s not giving up on this ‘reading the diary’ thing and I want to make sure that he leaves that woman with a little bit of dignity left.”
“You think she’ll ever be in a position where she’ll even care?” Jason asked.
“I don’t know.” Christiana said. “But I want to be able to salvage what I can in the off chance. I’d be there now if it weren’t for this shift.”
“Don’t need to worry there,” Jason said. “Shortly after you left, Katie came looking for Duncan. When she heard that he was with her again, she left on a war path. No doubt she’s chucked him out again.”
“Well at least that’s something.” Christiana said. She looked over Jason’s shoulder and an icy chill went down her spine as she saw who was there. “Don’t look now, but the Dragon’s looming.”
Christiana watched the blood drain from Jason’s face. “Crap,” he said quietly. “Am I late?”
Christiana checked her watch and shook her head. “Nope, you have twenty minutes left.”
Jason breathed a sigh of relief and turned to face her.
“Michelle!” He said. “How are you today?”
As per usual, Michelle greeted them both with her never-ending smile.
“Jason,” she said. “I thought I’d find you here.” She threw Christiana a disapproving look before turning her attention back to Jason. “You really should start looking at expanding your friendship base. It’s not healthy to spend your entire time with the people you met on the first night.”
“I’m entirely capable of making friends on my own thanks,” Jason said.
“I was just saying that the other day actually.” Christiana said to Jason. “I was saying how good you were at judging people’s character, you know exactly who’s decent and who’s not." She turned to Michelle. "But I’m sure that’s all part of being the amazing manager that he is,” Christiana looked Michelle straight in the eye. “That’s probably why you hired him right? His amazing judge of character.”
Michelle met Christiana’s gaze and kept her plastered smile on her face. “That was one of the reasons, yes.” She said. “The other was his amazing time keeping skills, which seem to be lacking right now… perhaps spending too long in one stagnant state has altered your other talents?”
“I have twenty minutes before I need to be at the bar.” Jason said coolly.
“As long as you know.” Michelle said. “I wouldn’t want your performance to drop because you were distracted by monkeys.”
Once again, Michelle met Christiana’s gaze and it took all Christiana had not to throw the full shovel of faeces all over Michelle’s face. Michelle turned back to Jason.
“Just don’t be late,” she said. “I don’t want to have to write up a bad performance review on you, especially as your bar keeping skills are the only thing keeping you here.”
“Funny,” Christiana said. “I could list a bunch of other things that makes him more than qualifiable for this place.”
“Well, when I need the advice of an ex mental health nurse I will be sure to come to you.”
With that, she gave them both another flourishing smile and power walked out of the compound.
“Remind me to talk to my manager about who he lets into this place.” Christiana said through gritted teeth.
“It would be no good,” Jason said. “People as bitchy as she is have access to everywhere."
“How did she even qualify?” Christiana asked.
“Easy,” Jason said. “She’s here to make the decisions that no one else wants to make."
“I thought that was Kelly’s job.”
“The difference between her and Kelly is that Kelly appears to be a normal human being underneath all the crappy decisions. Michelle? Well, you’re the expert, can I use the word psychopath with her?”
“Absolutely,” Christiana said. “That and any other word you fancy using.”
“Good to know.” Jason said. He checked his watch. “I better go. Good luck with Daniela. Turn up tonight, the drinks are on me.”
“It doesn’t sound nearly as impressive when all the drinks are free.”
Jason smiled and kissed Christiana on the cheek.
“I know, but I feel good saying it.”