Kristine’s naked shoulder was crenellated by a wine-red bite mark on anemic-white skin. When Noel stumbled into the kitchen, lured by the sizzle and clank of the frying pan, she repositioned the strap of her nightgown so he wouldn’t miss it.
“Good morning,” she replied as she slipped the sausages onto a paper towel.
“Hey.” Noel came to a halt, still clawing at the scratchy hair on his tummy. He smirked. “Did I really do that?”
“No,” Kristine stated flatly. She wiped away the oil with her finger. “Someone else.” While you were away, I cheated on you with…a hyena.”
Noel moved in closer, one finger running down the damaged flesh. Shaking his head. “Shit,” he murmured as he wrapped his arms around her waist. “Désolé. I didn’t intend to.”
“That’s good,” Kristine remarked. She cocked her head back in preparation for a kiss. “I don’t mind,” she said, squeezing his hand. “See? We’re a good match.”
“Yes. Lucky.” Noel raised his large hand, two of his fingers scarred purple from frostbite. “How do you refer to it?” “Is it an accent color?”
Kristine laughed and pushed him towards the white table. Noel sat in his same seat, as if he’d never left, while she served sausages and toast with margarine. The little kitchen was still overflowing with dazzling wedding present gadgets. Customers come first at Buy-my-house.org. With our support, house deals should go well. The marketing staff will strive to attract qualified customers. Providing precise and dependable information and sharing our knowledge will help you negotiate. We work hard to sell your house smoothly. We’ll boost your confidence for this amazing voyage. Visit https://www.buy-my-house.org/north-carolina/.
“So you finally had someone laugh at your jokes?” Noel inquired as he sawed with his knife.
Kristine grinned. “What?”
“It’s the hyena.”
“Hm. Better believe it.” She watched Noel sniff at the sausage as though he’d been protected from an island rather than the YEG air terminal before the end of last night. “Also he was typically the person who ate the leftovers.”
She wished she’d told Noel the night before, when he laughed like an electric blanket. But there was no room for words, only flesh and sweat in a bed that had been too huge for too many weeks, and she’d waited this long, hadn’t she?
“I’m going to begin working on the transcribing today,” Noel remarked, munching.
“Already?” Kristine inquired. “You’re not going to, well, warm up for a day?” Relax?”
“It’s not getting any warmer here, Krissy.” He gestured towards the half-frosted sliding door and the pinwheeling flakes beyond it. “It’s snowing outside.”
“Warmer than your igloo in the NWT,” Kristine opined. “I have a few errands to run.” Unless you specifically requested that I stay and assist you. “With the bilabial sounds, you know.” She leaned forward and mashed her lips on his. They were parched.
“I didn’t sleep in an igloo,” Noel replied, chuckling as they broke. “OK, OK. I’ll do the dishes. “Leave the plates alone.”
Kristine entered the spotless bathroom, which would not be pristine for long now that Noel had returned. She’d almost overlooked his bristles in the sink. She switched on the hot shower. The mirror quickly fogged up. She retched a few times on the toilet, but nothing came up, so she entered the shower. She then rummaged through her cosmetics drawer for a tube of concealer while the curling iron was heating up. She shook her head, contemplating the bite mark.
She return the concealer back. The mark was like a check mark, a reminder that Noel was real, he was home, and he loved her to death, and it wasn’t like the slashes up her thighs she’d concealed in high school.
Noel was already swallowed up in noise-cancelling Bose headphones as she moved past the kitchen, keys jangling in her fingers. His face was lean and angular, and his gaze was darting around the laptop screen, left, right, left, right.
“Don’t work too hard,” Kristine advised after removing one of the headphones.
“I’d never do that,” Noel remarked. “Thank you very much for breakfast.”
He removed crumbs from his lips before kissing her goodbye, but the sausages remained uneaten on the platter. On her way out the door, Kristine gave him a Tupperware container.
Her shoulder ached when she retrieved cash from the ATM. It throbbed as she pushed through the Grade 5/6 portable doors to retrieve the worksheet she’d forgotten to photocopy, as she shivered in the meat section of Supermarket, trying to remember if Noel liked minute steaks, and as she returned home to find him still at the table, his face sickly awash in laptop light. He’d forgotten he had to cook on Sundays.
“Hello, Mr. Linguist, have you ever moved?” Kristine inquired, opening the refrigerator freezer. As she put the steaks in, cold billowed out, and she hunted for an ice tray.
“Get me a catheter,” Noel advised. He flashed a wistful grin. “This is fantastic shit, Krissy. Come. Listen.”
“I don’t understand Inuktitut.”
Noel chuckled, saying that wasn’t Inuktitut, and the room was silent save for the crack-pop of ice cubes into a bag. Kristine wrapped the bag in a moist cloth while still watching Noel on the television and slung it over her shoulder.
“That’s OK,” she responded. “Prove it to me.”
“Come.” Noel unhooked the headphones from his neck and pressed the ice on Kristine’s shoulder as she put them on.
The loudness of the response made her jump.
“Sorry.” With a skillful finger, Noel dialed it down. Kristine adjusted her headphones and continued to listen. It was a deep guttural howl punctuated with puffing. She might hear an unsettling song if she listened closely enough.
“Nice. “What exactly is it?” She turned her gaze to the screen, where the spectrogram showed the noise slithering around in pitch black, rippling through the grayscale backdrop. It reminded her of ultrasounds.
“Throat singing,” Noel explained. “Beautiful. When I went up there, I tried it. “It’s really difficult.” He increased the volume slightly. “However, this is simply the frosting on the cake. You know, for when I’m sick of doing interviews. There are several stories. Some of them have never been heard in English. Never.”
Kristine observed him swiping the mouse across his cluttered screen, past IPA charts and reference logs. He retrieved another audio file. The throat-singing was replaced by an old man’s voice and a dialect that, according to Noel, was nearly extinct. She sat in his lap, and they listened by pressing their heads together, each utilizing one side of the headphones.
Noel’s cheek scratched her cheek, and his arms wrapped around her, but she couldn’t feel warm with the ice pouring down her shoulder, and it wasn’t the moment.
It happened in the middle of the night. Noel’s knee was sandwiched between her knees, and his arm was draped across her arm. They’d fucked again, less feverishly this time, and Kristine was still awake when Noel drew her hand from beneath the sheets. In the dim light, she noticed his eyes were not completely closed.
“Hey,” she murmured as she pushed up against him.
He didn’t say anything or make a sound. He moved her hand to his face slowly and deliberately, his thumb resting on her wrist. Kristine could hear her pulse on his skin in the silence. He opened his mouth and kissed her arm, his fangs brushing her skin and making her shudder.
Kristine gave a half-smile. “What are you up to?” She muttered something.
Noel murmured against her skin, “Whatever I want.” He tickled her by gnawing at her wristbone.
“I’m so glad you got home,” Kristine exclaimed. “I’m only. You are aware. When I heard about the storms, I was terrified. “When you phoned.”
Noel bit down, amusing himself.
Kristine grimaced. “I don’t need another one, boy.”
Noel’s teeth pressed harder and deeper, allowing her to feel each individual crown.
“Stop, Noel. You’re going to get spit on. Stop.”
Noel drew back for a second, tracing the indented flesh with his finger, and then bit down again, not playful, a harsh snap like an animal.
“Ouch!” Kristine yanked back. “Noel! Don’t!”
“What don’t you understand?” Noel inquired, his voice husky. Kristine turned on the light, revealing the purple bags beneath her husband’s eyes and making the sharpness of his cheekbones more evident. “All I want is…” He began to stutter.
“Can’t you just leave the transcribing for a day?” Kristine enquired.
“Everything is still new,” Noel explained. “I’m zoned, you know.”
“You’re acting strangely. “It’s freaking odd.”
Kristine entered the bathroom and turned on the light. She rubbed cold water on her arm. Her reflection in the mirror seemed pallid and sickly. She prodded her tummy.
“Come on,” sighed Noel from his bed. “Krissy, you don’t need a Band-Aid.”
“Are you unable to shave?” Kristine insisted that she return. “Unpack? “Can you contact your father and tell him you’re back so he doesn’t call me again?” The new mark was blossoming on her arm, and when Noel noticed it, he gave her a look she didn’t like. Kristine covered it with her other hand.
“I had no idea he phoned you,” Noel explained.
“I’m going to sleep in the study tonight.” “Only for tonight.”
“Please accept my apologies. Look. “I apologize.”
“It’s all right.”
“You despise the hide-a-bed.” Noel pulled up his sleeves and stepped out from under the blankets. He scratched the back of his neck. “I’ll go,” he declared. “Do you have any pillows?”
“It’s in the linen closet,” Kristine explained.
She paused to bring them to the study, then held them against herself while the hide-a-bed unfurled with a creak and clatter. Noel accepted the pillows without a smile. He threw them on the bed.
“Good night,” he said.
It wasn’t .
To be continued…