- 7 -

Red

That stupid cows made the strap too thin now, this is not on. I think I'll send the Director to have a little word. This has been happening too often recently. They don't look that bad, I suppose, but they're not perfect. And I must have perfect, always. These sort of things tend to run through my head at times like these. It helps me to ignore them, helps me to forget about the stares and the whispers. My feet sparkle, my bracelets jangle and I pass through them, fronted and followed by two huge bodyguards. The casino hum is hushed, the seconds tick nervously, breath is held, faces frozen, they all wait anxiously for me to reach the lift. And then I do, and the doors close and I can imagine the collective out breath, the conversations carried on and the casino returning to normal. Within seconds I will be above everyone, in the area marked 'private' able only to watch the beautiful people who inhabit that room, watch them laugh, role the dice, spin the roulette wheel, lose fortunes, make fortunes, live. Whilst I sit up here, a frosty island of solitude, surrounded by people who are paid to be my friends, completely and utterly alone.

They didn't warn me about this, they didn't tell us life would be like this. They didn't say how shit it would be, living as a director's wife. This rich, powerful existence is empty, hateful, devoid of love. Where no-one will ever give me a straight answer, where the only sound that accompanies my passing is the audible sound of indrawn breath.

I like to sit here and watch them, watch them gamble and laugh, imagine what it would be like to be one of them, what it would be like to be part of a crowd. I envy them, and I hate them.

I should have been prepared for this, should have been told.

What is happiness anyway? And will I ever find it?. There is no happiness here, nor was there in the academy. How can there be when you are bred solely for one purpose, objectified merely for your colour. Where I was one of 100 girls who all looked exactly the same. Where every girl with less than a double D breast size was forced to have breast augmentation surgery at the age of sixteen. Where my every move was controlled and watched. Yet I didn't care then, didn't think that's all there was. I still got my kicks. I was the girl who stole the leaders' secret alcohol stash, the girl who forced one of the maids to sell her marijuana, and then teach her how to role, I was the girl who slept with the guards for bets. Consequently I was also the girl who had felt the leaders heat devices more than any other. They always did it to the tops of your legs, or your stomach, or your lower back. Just so that when a director came to pick out a wife, you would still be presentable. I don't know why the directors bothered to actually come and pick. They could have picked a name off the list and got exactly the same girl. We all were the same. Red-heads all of us. Blue eyes. Fair skin. They say you can tell a worker drone at fifty paces just from the colour of their skin. Even a hint of a tan, even the mention of a suns ray and you know that they live downtown in the ghettos. I look below me to the casino room and can see that every person in there has startlingly white skin, powder is used by some of the women but of course I don't need to, having not been outside in the blistering sun for many, many years.

No red-heads down there though. That's how you can mark out a director's wife. Red hair. It almost became wiped out a few years ago, what with hair dye and the fact that many people looked on it as a bad thing. The new government came in and decided to do something about it. Academies were set up and red-headed babies were taken off parents. I wasn't a baby when I was confined to the academy, I must have been six or seven. My parents refused at first to give me up, they ran, hid, they were paramilitaries on the opposing side who had got stuck in the crossfire and had stayed in new-London. I remember reading discarded newspapers to find out what had happened, the two major news corporations the BBC and ITV had merged together and enlisted the help of the major newspapers. This super news group had successfully carried out a coup on the government and had placed itself in charge of the country. Media ruled everything. However, things took a while to settle, guerrilla warfare still took over most of the city centres. I lay at night in abandoned warehouses and listened to my nightly lullaby of the distant boom of bombs, and the rattle of gunfire. It was always hardest to ignore the screams that followed.

I remember when we were found. I remember my parents, the struggle and the defeat. The men dressed all in black, with cold hard eyes and huge black boots.

I hated the academy at first, the other children who had lived there almost since birth looked on me with disgust, and eventually I learned to make my own fun. I should have been good, should have submitted to the governments directions, should have taken extra night classes, but I didn't and now i'm here. The choosing ceremony was possibly my biggest mistake. When I had eventually turned up with dishevelled hair and last nights make-up still smudged under my eyes from oversleeping, the leaders' faces were comical in their fury. Yet in a way he saved me, maybe only to ridicule and damage me, but saved me all the same. The leaders grasped my arms from behind, ready to drag me away to the heat device room, yet a deep voice from behind a wall of bodyguards had said;

'No leave her, I want to look at this girl who thinks she can be late for a Director' I was released and left to stand alone, He moved out from behind the guards and when eventually I looked, I saw that he was director number one, the director. I felt no fear for him, only pity that he should be so involved in our stupid government. Only pity that he had come to choose a wife that would not only fear him but would surely hate him when she found out that he had inevitably killed her family.

So I proudly stood, refusal to drop my eyes and play meek innocent woman cursed through me, and I thought of my murdered parents and their screams as they died trying to protect me. His eyes showed only shock of the lack of fear in me. No, no fear sir, I wanted to scream, only blinding hate, I fear nothing.

We were married within the week.

But that day seems aeons ago now, although it was only a year. I am domesticated, to everyone's eyes a pampered poodle. My only concern is what shoes to wear with what dress. He has won. His goal in marrying me was surely to tame the hatred and the wildness. He looks on me and is smug.

I'm sure my boredom is palpable. I asses my shoes again. As are every pair I wear they are new and they glitter becomingly. They were delivered about half an hour ago to our penthouse, I had a different pair delivered this morning, but the strap was slightly too thick, so I sent them back. Donnatella hates me, but she cannot do anything. For to anger me would be to anger the Director and that would be a very unsmart move. She sent me a new pair back with a new strap, which is now too thin, I am not happy and therefore neither is the Director, yet now they sit on my beautiful feet glittering proudly. In the window I look through I can see a slight reflection of my face, my piled up red hair shines with life, and I surpass everyone with my beauty. But there is no life in me. I am a fake, a Ming vase, beautiful, extraordinary yet empty, and unused.

"hello, my beautiful, having fun?" my husband appears next to me in the reflection, he looks smart, as always, his grey hair combed back along his head, his slight beer gut hidden by the impeccable cut of his suit,

"Oh yes sir, as always, I was thinking I may have a game of roulette in a little while" but he is not listening, his attentions turned elsewhere. He turns and assess me with the look of a proud man assessing his great art collection, a look which also says 'well done to me, I tamed that beautiful beast' and answers,

"Of course you can darling, lose all the money you want, after all it is your casino". With that he takes his leave to play poker with the other Directors and I am left seething. How dare he patronise me so. I turn again and observe my bustling casino. Yet within seconds my anger has dissipated as I see his tall dark shape in the crowd. His hair is jet black and glistens. He turns and looks up at the window. He cannot see me but he knows I am here. He smiles slightly and I remember the touch of his lips. Images, tastes, feelings flash past as I remember our brief time together. How dare the Director consider me to be tamed, how dare him consider me to be weak and pathetic, he shall see. For nothing was I born of the opposing side and am now considered the most powerful woman in this country. The man downstairs, John, works for the opposing government. Inwardly, I chuckle at my inevitable label, I am a mole. And God help me, I shall bring this sham of an establishment down from within.