Kain talked to himself as he walked down the hallway of Rolf's house.
"Ah can't wait t'put mah feet up."
He was holding a drink and had a magazine of questionable taste shoved under his arm, and was mentally preparing himself to unwind for the rest of the night. "All ah needs is a stiff drink and a good read," he said as he turned the corner to the bedroom. He grudgingly shared his room with Hugh, who went to bed ridiculously early every night. Kain took a sip of his drink and felt the burn as it slid down his throat.
You'll get dehydrated! He remembered Anna chiding him in the kitchen minutes earlier as he poured himself another drink. She obviously wasn't impressed that he was on his third glass of whiskey for the night, but then most things Kain did displeased Anna. He couldn't recall exactly what he had said in reply to Anna, but whatever it was sent her off in a huff to the bedroom he was now passing in the hallway.
Anna, Shir, Amy and Nei shared one bedroom, Rolf's, who was now sleeping on the sofa bed in the living room. Most nights Kain took a little longer to pass Rolf's old bedroom in hopes of overhearing some juicy "girl talk," but he hadn't been treated with anything more fascinating than Shir loudly singing off-key to her favorite pop music. Tonight, though, he thought he could hear Nei yelping from the other side of the door. He moved in closer for a better listen.
Amy's voice came from inside the room. "Hold still, Nei! If you want to keep your hair long, one of us has to brush it."
"Aw, but it hurts!"
"I'm being gentle! Besides, who would you rather have brush your hair? Anna?"
"Oh, no. No, no, no," said Anna. "I'm not going through that again. She nearly ripped my dress to shreds last time!"
"Correction," said Amy. "You nearly ripped each other to shreds, and Nei had to wear one of my lab coats until Shir got her another leotard."
"Well, it's not my fault. Why did you only have one thing to wear, anyway, Nei?"
"I hate clothes; that's why!" Nei replied.
Amused, Kain smiled a big, stupid grin. He leaned his ear into the door. Well, well, what have we gots here?
"Oh, never mind," said Amy. "I'm almost done brushing, anyway. See? Was that so bad?"
"Well... it still hurt."
Kain thought he heard Amy groan. Just then another voice joined in with the rest of the group.
"Hey, Amy? Is this yours?" Shir asked.
"Um... yes... Could you please put it down?"
"Aha! So this is why you bounce so much while we're out wandering around!"
Kain's eyes widened. Oh boy, this is gettin' good now!
"I don't know what you're talking about," said Amy, "so please, just put it down!"
Shir laughed. "You really ought to wear a sports bra, you know. This offers no support, and we've all noticed. Right, Anna?"
No! Shut up, Shir! thought Kain. That's one o' the highlights of mah day!
"Gotta say, I'm actually with Shir for once," said Anna.
"What? Oh no! So you think the guys..." Amy's voice broke off.
"C'mon, they'd have to be dead not to notice," Shir said.
"Notice what?" Nei asked. "I haven't noticed anything. I think you look pretty, Ms. Amy. Always!"
"Thanks for the vote of confidence, Nei. I can't wear sports bras, anyway."
Someone let out a laugh.
"It's not funny, Anna. I can't get those things on! I get all twisted and confused in them!"
"Let me get this straight. You can set major bone fractures, something 99% of the population can't do, but you can't put a bra on over your head?" asked Anna.
"They're hard, okay? They're just too tight and they get scrunched up, and I can't pull them down over my... you know."
"You don't have to say it like that, Anna."
"You're right. Let's pretend you don't have a chest at all," said Anna. "I can't believe a doctor can't say the word 'breasts.'"
Shir chimed in. "Hey, sports bras aren't that complicated. Why don't you try one of mine? I think we're about the same size."
"I'm not really in the mood. I'm already dressed for the night and I don't want to get undressed again."
"Aw, c'mon! It won't take long. I'll show you a trick for getting them on and off."
Oh, please do, a very delighted Kain thought as he nipped at his drink.
Hugh suddenly appeared at the doorway of his bedroom; he squinted his eyes from the bright hall light.
Hugh yawned and scratched his back. "What are you doing, Kain?"
Kain gestured for Hugh to keep his voice down. "Hush. Ah'm gonna mist the best part!"
What are you talk-" Hugh began to ask, but was grabbed in the upper arm by Kain and dragged over to the other bedroom door.
"Jus' listen, boy!"
Hugh followed Kain's orders and stood silently.
"Ow!" Amy's voice uttered. "You're digging your nails into me!"
Shir grunted. "Ugh! I can't believe you got this so jumbled up! It's stuck in your armpits!"
"I told you I can't wear sports bras! Now I'm going to have this one wrapped around my upper torso like a harness. Forever!"
Hugh's jaw hung open. "Is that... Amy?"
Kain let out a dopey chuckle as he nodded at Hugh. The usually modest Hugh practically smashed his ear up against the door.
"Oh, don't be so dramatic," Shir told Amy. "I'll just pull it off over your head the same way you got it on."
"Ow! Please, watch your nails!"
Kain and Hugh listened intently as sounds of struggling came from inside the room. They elbowed each other and made goofy gestures like teenagers.
Shir groaned. "I can't do it! Anna, I need your help!"
Anna sighed. "Oh, for crying out loud! And for the record, Shir, Amy's bigger than you."
"Hey, I'm not fat!"
"You know what I mean," Anna said. "All right, now I'll pull from the back and Shir, you pull from the front."
"Now that's what ah'm talkin' about!" Kain mumbled to Hugh as they high-fived each other. Suddenly a third voice from their side of the door cleared its throat. The two men froze, looking at each other in confusion.
"That ain't yer voice," Kain said to Hugh. Hugh shook his head and gulped. They slowly turned to face the hallway and saw Rudo standing over them with his arms crossed and a scowl across his face.
"Having a good time, gentlemen?" Rudo asked, raising an eyebrow and rapping his fingers on his arm.
"I was just, uh, going to the bathroom. Goodnight!" Hugh replied while making a quick retreat to the hall bath.
"Jus' headin' to mah quarters, my ol' pal Rudy! See ya in th-"
"Not so fast." Rudo grabbed Kain by the back of his shirt before he could get away. Rudo hauled Kain over and looked him in the eye. "Now listen up. We're going to spend a lot of time with these women, so you better start treating them with some respect, got it?"
Kain nodded nervously. "Sh-sure thing there, Rudy ol' pal."
"The name's Rudo, and you can stop calling me your pal." Rudo looked back at the bathroom door and grunted. "I'll deal with Hugh tomorrow; I have a feeling he was encouraged to do this by someone else. I wonder who that could be, hm?"
"Hey, hey, let's not go pointin' no fingers here. If you knew what was goin' on in that room you'd have yerself a listen, too. In fact-"
"The women of this group are not here to provide cheap thrills," interrupted Rudo, wrenching Kain by his shirt. He eyed the magazine under Kain's arm and yanked it out for a closer look. He read the cover and frowned. "Stick to your magazines, Kain, because if I ever catch you so much as sniffing around this door again, I'll-"
The door whooshed open before Rudo could finish, and the two men turned in surprised. Amy appeared in the doorway and startled at the sight of Rudo and Kain.
"What are you all doing out here?" Her face was red and puffy from crying, and there was something strange wrapped around her chest that her night shirt couldn't completely cover.
"I was helping Kain to his room, since he tends to get distracted easily," Rudo said, giving Kain a dirty look. He glanced back at Amy. "Are you okay? There's something around your-"
Amy gasped and made a futile attempt to cover herself with her arms. "Oh, Rudo! You were listening, weren't you!"
"What? No! I was keeping Kain from-"
"I can't believe you! I might expect this kind of behavior from Kain, but really, of all the men in this group you should know better!" Her outburst attracted the attention of the other three women in the room, who were now standing in the doorway.
Rudo tried to explain himself. "But-"
"Rolf!" Amy cried out as she quickly ran off toward the living room.
Back at the doorway, Anna and Shir glared at the two men. Nei only looked confused. Anna closed the gap between herself and Rudo and narrowed her gaze. She made a fist.
"How dare you... you... pervert!" Anna punched Rudo in the stomach and storming off.
Rudo doubled over in pain. He wheezed. "It wasn't me! Kain was-"
"Oh right, keep blaming Kain," said Shir as she rolled her eyes. "Who's the one with the smut?" She pointed at the magazine Rudo was still holding.
"It's Kain's! I swear! I was trying-"
"Just give it up, Rudo. Come on, Nei, let's find a pair of scissors for Amy."
"Okay, but why are we mad at Rudo?"
"Because he...well... I'll explain later. We're just mad, okay? Look mad," Shir told Nei, who nodded then contorted her face into an unnatural grimace. "That's, um... good enough, Nei. Let's go." Shir led Nei down the hallway, looking at the two men out of the corner of her eye as she left.
Rudo turned to Kain and pulled him up to his face. "Get a good night's sleep, Kain. You'll need it for tomorrow," he said through his teeth. Rudo took the magazine and smashed it into Kain's face. "These are the last women you'll ever get to gawk at. Enjoy." He pushed Kain away and walked off with his fists tightly clenched, leaving Kain to wonder which of Rudo's sadistic boot camp punishments he'd have to endure in the morning.