The Removers (Part Four.)

Reggie was having such a good time that it almost made him forget about the can of mace he had in his pocket. It cuddled the inside of his leg like a snake that had been tamed by having its teeth pulled out and then spat on. His mother had sent it up to him in a care package with a handheld alarm and a key ring whistle; she’d made him promise to not go out without all three items and to make sure that he checked in with her once every four hours- no exceptions, not even for sleep. He had a five-minute window at six designated points during the day in which to alert his mother to his whereabouts before she contacted the authorities.

Reggie wasn’t even the worst off in terms of maternal instinct, Logan Chase in his Psych 101 class had to check in every two; his mother often making him walk around with her on speakerphone so she could listen for any sudden movements or ambush. She’d had to take a sabbatical from her job in marketing for JP Morgan; they said she’d be allowed to return when she was ready, but true be told they’d already filled her position with a 23-year-old Wharton graduate called Deborah. She liked baking frangipane tarts for friends in her spare time and thought her spiralizer was a godsend for creating easy and healthy midweek meals. She didn’t agree with the Democratic view on gun control and she would probably describe herself as an introverted extrovert; she enjoyed wearing heels to work and liked to think she displayed an aura of professionalism at all times. No, she wasn’t planning on starting a family in the next few years but thank you for asking. She was career first and all the rest of those nonessential life components would be pushed aside for now, perhaps eternally. And sure, she was fully aware that the company did not have a policy for childcare or a crèche onsite. She too thought that breastfeeding in public was disgusting, why can’t they all just be respectful of human decency? Thanks so much; you are so right; she wasn’t like normal girls, it’s because she’d been brought up with brothers, that’s why she was so acclimatised to correct behaviour in order to impress people with her altered and improved personality.

“I’m so sorry about Sherrie, she doesn’t mean to be nasty- it’s just a sort of ingrained temperament. Her Dad was an alcoholic and all the usual stuff. Too many fists to the face changes a person. It takes away the ability to see others as inherently good.”

Reggie turned around to find the other girl from the bulletin board standing beside him holding a cup with long painted fingernails in the shape of ruby spears. She was unaccompanied, slightly tipsy and determined to carry on spilling secrets that weren’t her own.

“Sorry I didn’t catch your name last time?” Reggie said, remembering his mother’s excruciating daily lessons on extreme politeness in the hope that he would be able to remain safe through the possession of a decent set of manners.

“Would you have wanted my name before?” the girl asked. Before needed no explanation or introduction, everyone had stones stitched into their pockets with the weight of the word, before. It feathered and spilt tongues like scissors; it hid around the sides of buildings like illicit, atrocity caresses. Before me, before you, before them; before they began; before they did what they did. Before they started doing, what they do, to us.

“Of course I want your name,” said Reggie, unsure whether he was saying the right thing, the right thing was itching and clawing at his stomach lining, digesting the room, the noise and its occupants. It was a deer in headlights and a rabbit in a potato sack.

“Everyone seems to want names these days, perhaps they think it will help them,” she said, more than a little sadly. “Let’s go back to mine; I’m done with Fraternity Shimmer and Smiles for this evening.”

“Erh…I don’t know- I mean you seem nice and all, but is that a good…?” Reggie started spluttering, he was worried about things escalating and missing his designated 4am Clementine check in.

“One-night-stands are still allowed you know. Shall I make a quick sign so we can walk home together?”

She found an empty crate of beer and tore off one side. With a pen she wrote in block capitals, “I AM CONSENTING.” It was shorthand for The Removers; they had released a press statement recently through CNN stating that they didn’t condemn the practice of casual sex, as long as both the parties involved approved of the dynamism and methodology of the insertion that had been undertaken. They were currently in talks with Trojan to release a limited edition condom range that was supposed to smell like revenge.

Emmeline took Reggie’s hand and led him out the house, holding the sign above her head with her other hand to pacify any watchful eyes or ears that she was leaving the party by her own free will. She continued to flash the sign out to the seeming dark at several well-lit areas on the way back to her dorm room.

“You can never be too careful,” she said, stroking Reggie’s palm. “Although, I can’t imagine what it’s like for you, to never feel safe walking round anywhere. Especially on your own.”

To be honest, Reggie had never really thought about it in terms of fairness, he had just accepted it as part and parcel in the consequences of being a modern man.

“It’s ok I guess, you just always assume that it’s never going to happen to you,” Reggie said quietly.

The night had been a real triumph. Reggie wasn’t one to kiss and tell but Emmeline had been so kind and understanding, she didn’t even laugh about him having to text his mother in the middle of events. He lay in her bed, idyllic and portrait-like, resting his head on her chest and wished that they never had to move from the woollen nest they’d woven with love and a patchwork quilt. But she was to leave him; she had an early Chem class the other side of the college and couldn’t find her lab coat. Emmeline kissed the top of his head and said to let himself out when he was ready, there was no rush.

He snuggled back in the bed and breathed in the scent of her dormant skin; it had the faintest hint of sugar and spice and all things nice. Reggie wondered if he would be allowed to see his Emmeline again, but he didn’t want to seem too keen, so he would tell his friends that she wasn’t that pretty and her labia was somewhat wrinkled in places.

It was then he saw it. As if scolded by unforgiving flames, he quickly threw the quilt onto the floor, his hands still burning at the thought of its touch. In the top left hand corner of the blanket there was a freshly sown on patch; threads still dangling off; waiting to be snipped clean. Inside contained the black symbol of a raised fist.