Greenwater Gates had been an exclusive neighbourhood before The Event, or The Happening, or The Reckoning; again, pick your favourite title for it. The kind of place where a Home Owner’s Association dickwad would come along with a ruler and measure how long your grass was and God help you if you wanted to change the colour of your exterior siding. People moved there for the feeling of supposed security, because gates at the mouth of your cul-de-sac and a five-foot-high brick-and-wrought-iron fence at the back of everyone’s yard meant no one could get robbed.
Now these two-and-three storey monstrosities of stucco and fake stone trim housed a few “families” per level. And that only went for the ones they’d been able to hook up to a well system that fed off a natural underground aquifer. The which also house a lagoon-style septic system. This was outside of a major city and people hadn’t wanted to wait for all that infrastructure to catch up with their dreams of country living.
The thought made her snort. The houses were no more than six feet apart, and every window had a view of the houses around it. The windows off the back of the development somewhat took advantage of the pastoral landscape surrounding them, but they were too small to make it seem worth it to live there.
Living there back in the day would have really given her the scratch. She would have preferred sleeping in a tree.
As she pulled up to the fortified gates on the autumn-foliage scattered street they were already parting, the seven-foot-high chain-link halves separating on rollers that squeaked. She barely had to brake; she already had room for her handlebars to glide through and the gates paused, then lurched back towards each other again.
“Oakley!” She heard a familiar voice shout her name, and she grinned, throwing a wave at the guard tower. She knew that voice belonged to Matty, short for Matilda.
She rode the Softail up to a home that hadn’t been able to be hooked up to the well system. Homes like this one were used for industry instead of living in. And this one belonged to Tink.
She flipped open a saddlebag, grabbing a carton of Marlboros and two tubes of flip gloss. The sound of her footsteps on the porch were met by a thirteen-year-old girl who ripped the door open so eagerly Oakley grimaced on behalf of the hinges. Then Jess was in her arms, hugging her tight. “Oakley! You’re finally back!”
She smiled and gave Jess a light kiss on top of her crop of dirty-blonde curls. “Jess,” she exclaimed, stepping back. “What the hell is Tink feeding you? How’d you grow a whole foot in a week and half?”
Jess just rolled her eyes. “I only grew two inches, Oakley. Stop with the hyperboles.”
Oakley raised an eyebrow. “Get to the H’s in the dictionary?”
Jess shook her head. “Enough making fun of me. What’d you bring me?”
“Why should I bring you anything? You’re so smart, go get your own shit,” she joked, then held out her hand. Jess cupped her underneath immediately and Oakley dropped the lip gloss into her waiting palms.
“Lip gloss!” she shrieked. “Awesome! I’m all out.”
“I know, honey. Where’s your sister?”
“In the back. she’s still messing around with that battery cell for the Harley.”
“Cool. Let’s go see her.”
Jess bounced off ahead of her, hair springing and swaying the whole way. Oakley had to laugh; she’d been about Jess’s age when The Happening, The Event, The Reckoning, whatever, had taken place. She had gotten over this innocence of youth thing pretty fast in the days that followed the downfall of civilization. Jess had only been a toddler. Thank God she didn’t remember any of it.
“Oakley’s back!” Jess shouted, flinging open the screen door a the back of the house and racing across the storey-high deck to the stairs. “And she brought me lip gloss!”
Oakley followed down the wooden steps, thanking whoever had invented rot-resistant lumber. It would be a while before they had to get a sawmill up and running.
Tink was in the sunshine, bent over a sheet of plywood spread out over whatever weeds passed for grass these days. She had a motorcycle engine sitting on the plywood, a bunch of wires and contraptions running out of it to various things with dials and meters. None of it made sense to Oakley, other than the large flat solar panel Tink positioned on the grass next to it.
As she approached Tink looked up, smiling. “Hey,” she greeting casually, like Oakley hadn’t been gone for almost two weeks. “Lookit what I did.”
Oakley nodded slowly. “Yeah, that’s something all right.”
Tink laughed, pushing her sunglasses to the top of her head. Her hair was thick and curly like Jess’s, and it held the sunglasses without effort. “I’ve got the charging system for the battery hooked up. And I’m so close to having it drive the engine. I just need to see a working one again.”
Oakley nodded. “Bike’s out front. I should remember to grab a manual on my next trip, hey?”
Tink shrugged. “It would be handy. I just keep forgetting what’s electrical and what’s running on fuel. And where everything’s located on that thing.”
Gasoline and oil close to Greenwater was getting sparse. There was an emergency reserve at the compound, but plenty of times Oakley had been damn near empty before finding a pump or an abandoned vehicle with a few drops to get her home. If Tink could get the Harley running electrically, charged with a solar panel, she’d be golden.
Tink squinted up at the sun. “Well, I can’t hook it up to show you until nighttime, not without frying myself. So let’s leave it charging for now.” Her eyes ran down to what Oakley was holding, just seeing it now. “Hot damn, I hope those are for me.”
Oakley chuckled, tossing them to her as she straightened up. Tink clutched the smokes to her chest. “I had two left, Oakley. I was saving them for your funeral.”
Oakley always told her that if she didn’t come back one of these times, just burn her stuff, have a funeral and move on.
“You need to ration better,” Oakley quipped. “Those things will give you cancer.”
“I’d love to make it long enough to die of cancer,” Tink snapped back with a grin. “Oh, and you better go see the Dragon Lady. She was pretty pissed when she found out you were gone again.”
Oakley sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose. Mention of the Dragon Lady always brought on a headache. “Bullshit,” she muttered. “I told Rainbow I was leaving.”
“Rainbow denied hearing it then,” Tink answered apologetically. “You know Rainbow’s terrified of her.”
No she’s not,” Oakley sighed. “But I am.”
“Bullshit,” Tink exclaimed. “If you were scared of her you’d hide her like the rest of us.”
“Well, I better go do that first then,” Oakley muttered as she turned. “Don’t suppose you wanna come with me?”
“Hell no,” was the cheerful reply.
The Dragon Lady resided at the house in the centre of a curving cul de sac that had been called Willow Way. All the streets had been given tree names, which was funny since this had been farmland not forest.
It was the house one was forced to stare at driving down the short lane, one of only six houses built along this street. These were the biggest houses in the development, and since the Dragon Lady had somehow been crowned their leader, she resided in the top floor of the nicest house. But don’t think for one second that this was the kind of arrangement where she sat around on silk pillows and ate candy all day. The Dragon Lady worked just as hard as the rest of them and took her turn on patrols as well. She just had the nicest view from her pad.
Oakley parked in front of the house, her stomach like a lead weight in her gut. She didn’t want a headache from the Dragon Lady, not when she’d just made it back. At least give me a day to rest up, she thought wryly as she made her way up the walkway.
The main level of the house belonged to two women who Oakley like immensely; Ty-Ty and Maine. They cooked and cleaned for the residents of his street, and their food was flipping spectacular. They put up with the Dragon Lady because the kitchen on her main level was absolutely divine and they liked using it for their own meals, too. Having the Dragon Lady sit down with them most of the time was a sacrifice they were okay with making.
When Oakley reached the step of the house’s wide, gorgeous wrap-around porch she could hear them in the kitchen, singing songs and cooking. The smell hit her and made her stomach rumble. She smiled to herself and clutched her gift for them with both hands.
By now you might be noticing something peculiar about Greenwater Gates. Something missing in the grand scheme of evolution and survival.
There were none here. They weren’t allowed and they weren’t welcome, save for a few select people who had been enlisted to help with the manual labour required to get Greenwater Gates up and going.
The Dragon Lady knew men weren’t to be trusted once law and order was thrown to the wind. Not all were bad, true. But many were only well-behaved for the fear of getting caught and put in jail. Once that was gone … those men weren’t to be trusted.
The ones that were trusted had trenched in the lines for the well, hefted solar panels to roofs, and helped beef up the security fence. In exchange they were fed and offered … comforts. In that case the women who didn’t want to take part didn’t have to, the ones that did were expected to step forward to volunteer.
Of course, at that time, no one wanted to be the one branded a slut, panting to have a helpful male rut her like an overzealous ape. But as time had gone on, a few here and there had sought them out.
Oakley had been one of them, Ty-Ty and Maine two more. it was no secret the Dragon Lady preferred women, and had obvious disdain even to this day to the women who had made good on the deal that bitch herself had brokered. Oakley suspected that the Dragon Lady honestly believed the women living in her house were lesbians by choice not necessity.
When she knocked on the door the singing stopped and she heard footsteps approaching, a melodic “Coming!” sounding out as a greeting. Like they were still living in Mayberry or something.
Maine answered the door, so named because that was where she was born and raised. She was a tall, slim, African American beauty with a giant smile and a smart ass mouth. Oakley had always gotten along with Maine. She had no idea how old the woman was, but she had to guess that Maine was coming up on 40. She’d been a doctor when the world went to shit, and a few years past med school to boot.
“Oakley – well shit. It’s about time you got back.”
“I know. I’m sorry, but I had to travel an extra day further out to get your requested supplies,” she explained with a meaningful tone.
Maine set her jaw and crossed her arms, instant sass. “Well then you better be about to hand me some double-Ds because you know that triple-A shit won’t cut it with me.”
Oakley burst out laughing, handing over four two-packs of double-D batteries. “Will this get me supper tonight?” she asked through her grin.
Maine beamed back. “Hell yeah it will. My poor vibrator’s just been sitting there looking at me all sad. And I need something moving, honey.”
“I understand. I’ve got some for Ty-Ty, too.”
“Good, because that bitch is getting cranky without her little pink bullet on duty.”
Oakley just shook her head, shutting herself in and following Maine to the kitchen. It was a white-cupboard and stainless steel mecca, a museum to what home magazines had wanted to buy. In the center Ty-Ty was flitting around like a butterfly, humming to herself and using that domestic magic she had to create something that smelled flipping fantastic.
“Ty-Ty, look who’s brought you a present,” Maine interrupted her culinary ministrations.
Ty-Ty broke into a warm smile, coming forward to hug Oakley like the mother she’d been back in the day. Two women couldn’t be more different than Maine and Ty-Ty; where Maine was sleek and dark like a runway model Ty-Ty was only about five-three, round in all the good places, with blonde hair cut pixie-short, still sporting the freckles of her youth along with her very agreeable laugh lines. They’d been on the run together before finding Greenwater, and Oakley was never entirely sure the nature of their relationship. She only knew that they were incredibly open about everything with each other, despite of the fact they still required battery-operated companionship.
Oakley handed over triple-A battery packs to Ty-Ty, raising her eyes upward. “Off to meet the Dragon Lady,” she mumbled. “Apparently Rainbow threw me to the wolves; never told her I was leaving.”
Maine shook her head. “That bitch always has some kind of bullshit agenda. Watch your back around her; Dragon Lady may be scary but she’s still fair. Rainbow’s the one that causes the shit.”
Oakley sighed, making her very slow way to the stairs leading upwards. “If I’m not back in two hours, say nice things at my funeral, okay?”
Ty-Ty laughed and Maine told her, all too seriously, “I will, girl. I promise.”
Okay, the Dragon Lady isn’t that mad, but trouble’s certainly brewing. Next chapter: Saturday, August 17th.