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Mind Games









‘Wow… Elaine, you look terrible.’

‘Gee, thanks…’ Ochre sighed, carefully massaging the back of her neck with one hand. It was stiff, and ached. She sat down, and crossed one leg over the other.

‘Sorry. It’s just you’ve got these massive purple shadows under your eyes, and you’re all… pasty. Do you feel okay?’ Lieutenant Silver gazed at Ochre, her head on one side and concern written on her face.

‘You’re not very subtle, are you? I’m fine. Just didn’t get any sleep, that’s all. So stop worrying, please.’

‘For how many days? It’s making you look kind of ill, this lack of sleep.’

‘Just… just a few.’ Elaine told a white lie. It had been going on for quite a while longer than a few days.

‘Aww…’ Silver got up and walked round the back of Ochre’s chair. The Captain felt Silver’s freezing cold hands on her neck, before she hit her hard.

‘Ouch! I was just trying to help you! Give you a break from messing with your own neck!’ Silver cried, stroking her sore hand.

‘Stop being so melodramatic…sorry, though. I just don’t like people touching me there. And I don’t know where your hands have been.’

Looking slightly offended, even though she knew Ochre had been gently teasing, Silver sat back down on the sofa, still nursing her hand. There was a short amount of time where Ochre simply turned her head this way and that, trying to ease the aching. It didn’t work. Silver suddenly spoke up.

‘Why couldn’t you sleep? Who were you with?’

‘Beth, just because I couldn’t sleep doesn’t mean I was with someone. Since when have I, ever, been with anyone on this base?’

‘Yeah, I guess you’re right. Why couldn’t you sleep then?’

Ochre turned and glared at her. A second later she wished she hadn‘t, as her neck gave a particularly painful twinge. She winced, her teeth gritted, before practically shouting, ‘It’s none of your business why I couldn’t sleep, so get off my case!’

Silver looked like a rabbit caught in headlights, her eyes wide.

‘Fine…’ She muttered after a pause, before picking up a brightly coloured magazine from the floor and disappearing behind it. Ochre didn’t regret her outburst one bit.

Serves her right for prying into it, she thought irritably, looking sulky.

Someone entered the Lounge. Ochre didn’t have time to turn her head in that direction - with resounding clicks - because Green identified herself straight away, by loudly, and happily, calling…

‘Hey Beth! Hey Elaine! Whoa, you look-’

‘Terrible, I know.’

Green gave her a rueful smile and sat down by Silver. She grabbed a corner of the magazine and gasped. ‘God, she’s looking big. Is she pregnant?’

‘No, not as far as anyone knows. She’s just gained loads. Remember she broke-up with that Pablo a few weeks ago?’

‘Who’s he?’

‘Model. You know, the nice one with the blonde streak in his hair and the silver earring? He’s been all over the papers recently, parading a new girlfriend round.’

‘I remember now! He’s really gorgeous, isn’t he? What does he see in that little blonde tart?’

‘Oh, good Lord…’ Ochre got up and left the Observation Lounge, as Green and Silver eagerly started to discuss the infamous celebrities.

There was nowhere really to go. With the two Lieutenants doing impressions of teenage gossipers in the Lounge, and a distinct lack of hunger which ruled the canteen out as well, Ochre started back to her quarters to try and catch up on some sleep. She had only gained about an hour’s worth last night, and about as much the seven or so nights before that.

Rubbing her eyes, she attempted to squeeze between Blue and Scarlet, who were strolling, spread out, down the corridor. Blue grabbed her arm, and she came to an abrupt halt.

‘Hey, slow down, Elaine. Do you want to… what happened to you? You look-’

‘Why does everyone keep saying that?!’ She wrenched her arm free, and set off again at a quicker pace, scowling.

Scarlet and Blue watched her as she hurried away. When she’d turned the corner, Scarlet dared to ask his colleague, ‘What’s wrong with her? She’s kind of tetchy.’

‘I don’t know. I just feel sorry for the rest of us. They may be relatively rare, but her bad moods last for ages…’

Grinning, Scarlet led the way into the Lounge. Green looked up, her smile widening when she saw who he was accompanied by.

‘Hey Paul, hey Adam…’ Silver gave them a fleeting glance before returning to her magazine. Blue gave Green a questioning look, and she replied, ‘Celebs.’

He raised his eyebrows. ‘Right…’




Ochre was pacing her room. It was slightly later, and, although she’d changed into her sleep gear, she hadn’t even tried to get to sleep. She was sure it would be pointless.

Suddenly, on an impulse, she strode over to her bookshelf, grabbed her photo album, and flicked through it, until she’d got to a picture of four people, three girls and a boy.

Her grinning, brown-haired brother was tightly hugging Ochre’s twelve year old self, who was smiling slightly, her long, chestnut hair blowing in the wind. Two of her teeth were missing, and she was clutching her right wrist so firmly her knuckles were turning white. A stony-faced eighteen year old, her sister, stood apart from them, her bright blue eyes fixed on her younger siblings, a purplish bite mark apparent on her arm.

A slim, defeated looking woman was standing behind the younger two. Although her cheeks were hollow and nose crooked, she showed signs of long lost beauty. Thick, wavy fair hair, full lips and a good figure.

Ochre slammed the book shut, threw it to one side and started pacing again.

Distract yourself, distract yourself. Stop thinking about them. Stop it Elaine.

She couldn‘t. She just couldn‘t. What had become of them? She’d lost them all those years ago.

Her door buzzer went, making her jump in shock. Aware that she was only in her night clothes, she paused. Another ring. She walked over and timidly pressed the door release, hoping it wasn’t a man. Seeing her in her current state would be embarrassing.

It was Captain Magenta. He looked her up and down, smirking, one eyebrow raised. ‘Interrupting something, am I?’

‘Yes. I mean no. I mean…why are you here?’

‘I heard from Adam and Paul that you were in a bad mood. I came here to see why.’

‘God, do you have to interfere in everything? Does it matter if I am? I’m not anyway!’ She folded her arms across her chest, and stared at him defiantly, pouting her lips, her brow furrowed. He refrained from answering ‘Yes, you are.’ Instead, he just smiled at her.

‘What’s wrong, eh? I’ll tell you mine if you tell me yours.’

‘You know already. I told you yesterday… reluctantly. You forced me to.’

‘Elaine, please. You know, deep down, that I didn’t force you. And there’s something new anyway. You weren’t all… angry, yesterday. Angsty, yes, but not angry…’

Ochre turned away from him and frowned to herself. She hated to admit that Magenta was right.

He waited for her to make her decision. After a minute, she muttered, ‘Just shut up and get inside.’

Magenta strolled through, smiling, pleased with himself. Ochre rooted around in her wardrobe for a while, then disappeared into the bathroom, her arms full of clothes, to get changed. Magenta stopped himself from going through her CD collection or books, and sat down on the seat next to her bed. As the minutes passed, he wished again and again that women didn’t take about five centuries to get changed.

Finally, at long last, Ochre emerged, dressed in a white v-necked t-shirt and low-cut black jeans. As this was quite plain, she’d added several thin, coloured bangles, and a silver necklace with an inset red stone.

As she sat down on her bed, Magenta studied her. ‘You’ve reapplied make-up, haven’t you?’

Ochre blushed slightly. ‘Well, I’d taken it off before, and I’m gruesome without it.’

‘I’d disagree with that.’

Ochre gave him a hard look as he winked at her.

‘Haven’t changed much, Mario.’

‘Give me a break. Last time I saw you was only yesterday.’

She sighed as he smiled broadly. ‘What were you going to say? You said you’d tell me your problem if I told you mine.’

His smile vanished rapidly, to be replaced by an anxious look. ‘Well… erm…’

‘Go on…’ Ochre teased him, slowly blinking, a small smile on her face.

‘Oh, all right, if it‘ll please you. It’s not really a…problem, as such, it’s more…well… I don’t have much luck with the girls.’

Ochre practically fell off her bed laughing.

When she’d calmed herself down a little, she managed to stutter, ‘You’ve only just noticed? That’s classic!’

‘Elaine, don’t laugh! I can’t help it!’ Magenta pleaded, but he couldn’t help smiling, as he watched her rock backwards and forwards with barely suppressed mirth. At least it cheered her up.

‘Mario… Mario… what do you want me to do?’

‘I don’t know. I just thought I should tell someone, and you seemed perfect.’

Ochre looked at him, giggling. ‘I seemed perfect? You’re warped if you think that!’

‘No, I mean… what’s your problem then?’

He hadn’t meant to say it like that. Ochre stopped laughing right away, sat up straight and gripped her hands together in her lap.

‘I… I still don’t think I should tell you.’

‘Come on, Elaine. It helps to tell someone, even if they can’t make the situation better.’

She knew he was right again, which annoyed her. Hesitantly, she picked the photo album up off the floor. She sat with it clasped to her chest at first, while she spoke.

‘I’ve been thinking about my family. What became of them. The only way I really remember them…when…when things were getting better…is in this picture…’

She opened the book and slowly flicked through it, then realised Magenta couldn‘t see. Ochre got up, and sat by him.

Magenta caught glimpses of different photos as she turned the pages. The lost Elaine. A small child, no older than five, playing with a white plastic horse, her hair tied in bunches. A teenager in a red halter neck top, black trousers and leather boots, posing jokily outside a building whose brightly coloured lights illuminated the surrounding area. A group shot of four men and a woman, all crowded round a motorbike, the woman sitting on it with a man’s tattooed arm wrapped round her, all smiling at the camera…

‘Here.’ Ochre turned the page again. Magenta edged closer to see, but Ochre hurriedly gave the album to him.

He smiled at the photogenic young Ochre, before turning to her real life counterpart. ‘You come from a beautiful family.’

‘Cheers.’ She brushed off his somewhat sickly compliment and pointed to herself in the photo. ‘See? Right little saddo kid, me. Annoyed the hell out of everyone as well. Look at my sister’s arm…’

‘You bit her?’

‘Yeah.’ Ochre laughed slightly. ‘Frosty bitch was bossing me around, she kept grabbing my hair and prodding me. Calling me useless. Weak. So I bit her.’

Magenta looked at her. She smirked. ‘I was a wild child. Minion of Satan. Sort of. And he…’ She pointed to the boy. ‘My dear brother. Only person in the family who seemed to actually really care about me. He was always nicking me stuff, I practically lived on sweets and crisps for a while. I was feeling really put out at a school disco once - don’t bother asking why - and he left all his friends to come and dance with me. It was always me and him against the world, the two Musketeers!’ She thrust her fist in the air and laughed again. Magenta watched her, smiling at the look of joy on her face as good memories came flooding back.

He waited for it to subside, and, eventually, Ochre stopped laughing. Hiccupping slightly, she moved closer, next to him, and grabbed an edge of the album. Without really thinking, she leant her head on Magenta’s shoulder, gazing at the photos. His smile broadened. He’d never known Ochre to do this sort of thing before and he was quite amazed.

‘And that’s my mother. Heard she was gorgeous in her day, but I never saw it. She was always tired-looking… worn out, when I saw her.’ The smile slipped from Ochre’s face, and she tightened her grip on the book, lifting her head up.

‘One time, I remember coming home from school ill, and she was there in the kitchen, just… crying.’ Ochre paused and swallowed, then carried on, her voice breaking up.

‘I didn’t understand why, I was only about seven. She just stood there, crying, and when I put my arms round her she flinched and pushed me off. She never did like people touching her. Makes you wonder how she managed to get pregnant three times.’ Ochre bit her lip, her eyes shining. There was a pause, then she said bitterly, ‘Why was I so stupid? Why didn’t I realise that sick bastard had been hurting her?’

Inside, Magenta was fighting a strong urge to put both arms around her, hold her and tell her everything was okay, but he knew he couldn’t. It wasn’t strictly true, and she’d beat him off anyway, even if he was trying to help.

Instead he sat there, occasionally glancing at her, his mind whirring as to what had happened to Ochre’s mother. Her eyes had welled up and seemed in danger of spilling.

Ochre took a deep breath, her eyes closed. She bit her lip, then, slowly, she turned to Magenta. ‘Mario…’

‘Yes?’ He answered quietly. He couldn’t quite look at her. He was racked with guilt that he hadn’t comforted her.

‘Will you… will you help me please?’ Ochre stuttered. As soon as she realised what she’d said, she bit her tongue. No, don’t get help, don’t do it.

‘I will, don’t worry. I mean it. We’ll have to see the doctor I think. It can’t be too healthy for you to be feeling this bad.’ Magenta smiled sadly at her. He reached for her hand.

‘No! No, leave it! It’s okay! I don’t want help!’ Ochre pushed herself away rapidly. Magenta’s eyes widened. Her mood had changed so quickly.

‘Elaine, Elaine please, calm down, you’re-’

‘I… I… Mario, just go…’ Ochre pulled him to his feet and shoved him, hard, in the direction of the door. He didn’t bother protesting further. He didn’t even understand properly. She’d asked for help, now she was adamant she didn’t get it.

With a final push, he was stumbling out into the corridor. When he’d regained his balance, he turned round to find Ochre, her hand on the door button. She looked at him for a long time, her eyes glassy, before saying ‘I’m sorry.’

With that, she pressed the button, and was blocked from his view.

Magenta stood there, wondering what to do. He dithered about, walking first one way, to the Med Campus, then the other way, to the Lounge. She needed help, she really did. He didn’t know all the details, but whatever it was, it was obviously tormenting her. Why wouldn’t she let him or any of her other friends help?

Inside, Ochre was fighting to stop the tears that were bound to fall. She started whispering to herself.

‘Stop it, stop it, Elaine. You’re stronger than this…’

She made her way through to the bathroom, and stopped before the small mirror over the sink. She saw how unhappy she looked, her eyes shining, her make up smudged, but didn’t really take that it in. Instead, she thought about how she’d inherited His look. The nose, the eyes, the hair colour.  All the same as Him. She loathed that fact.

Ochre leant her forehead against the cold surface of the mirror, closing her eyes. She felt so awful. Not just for herself, but for her colleagues too. If they had to take the brunt of her bad temper much longer, they may start to ask difficult questions, or, worse, ignore her until her mood improved. She couldn’t let that happen. She needed them a lot right now, even if she couldn’t tell them why. She just wanted them to be there for her.

Slowly, she lifted her head from the mirror, and asked herself some questions that she desperately needed the answers to.

‘Why is this happening to me? Why now? What is going on?’











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