“No matter what happens, wait for the light to turn green before putting anything in there.” Charles’ warning came in his deep, careful, slow voice, at once both soothing and serious.
“Or else?” I asked impatiently as he stared back. “Charles!” I snapped. He had suddenly regressed back into
one of his fugue states, his eyes blank and flat. I could smell the guilt seeping out of his all-black Canali Milano suit, but I didn't care.
“I’m sorry Maremilia, I can’t help but think about”—Charles started again.
“I know. But Jude is gone now, and all I want," I said, trying to restrain the frustration burbling inside me, like water in a bright blue kettle, "is to put my strawberries in the fridge so I can have something to...eat…later. I’m starving, can’t you see that?”
“Yes, Maremilia - but it’d be better if you waited.”
‘They said it was company policy not to explain… but they’ve had some complaints from clients who have been.. impatient.”
“It’s just a god-dammed fridge Charles! What harm could it do?”
“I think it would just be better if you didn’t try.” He sighed.
“Just go,” I said, walking across the open expanse. opening the door for him.
The silence between us was now huge and ferocious. I wanted my life back. I wanted to lay naked again upon my favourite Maude Sienna carpet and rub handfuls of cool strawberries and melted chocolate firmly across my chest and thighs.
But all I could do was wait for Charles to wake from his inertia. I knew he was replaying Jude’s overwrought performance on the balcony of our former Manhattan apartment several months ago. “This obsession with strawberries is driving us apart Maremilia!” he yelled in-between deep sobs while Charles had remained sitting half dressed inside. “Can’t you fucking see that? You seem to have more pleasure from having them in bed than me. What’s worse is you even had Charles go along with it when I wouldn’t. Your assistant! If you do this you’ll be sorry.”
“How can you be so stolid about this M?” He sighed, stepping outside as the day slowly slurred into night. I could have placated him, could have stroked his thickly matted hair, and cooed gentle reminders that what we shared that night hadn’t destroyed the relationship that Jude and I built-in obsolescence, but I was exhausted from an overdrawn procession of courtrooms and attorneys.
“Call me if you -” he added as he reluctantly began walking to his car.
“I’d rather not” I replied curtly , then closed the door behind him .
The house was nothing more than a series of glass cubes, preceding a long driveway that switchbacked through a small forest just outside of Sydney. I was alone now. As the hours passed on, waiting for the fridge’s internal temperature to settle, I busied myself lighting an eclectic collection of coconut and sandalwood candles and placing them into carefully designed slots in the walls.
Had I been wrong? Some part of me wondered. “You’re sick M, your fetish with fruit isn’t normal.” I could hear
Jude’s memory hiss staunchly across the polished white oak floors. Was he right? I had made this decision consciously, but was it truly what I wanted? I lay back across my sofa and turned on the six-foot Bazillion rose-wood speakers across the room, closing my eyes to the rise and fall of Liszt’s Aeolian Harp.
“Stop being ridiculous Maremilia,” another voice suddenly interjected , resounding off the walls . “It’s been almost two weeks and you deserve it. The strawberries miss you. They miss your warm, soft lips.”
“Who said that?” I called out, startled.
‘ Open me and indulge yourself’ the voice continued — ‘open me up wide and put them inside me.’
I looked around, confused, the candles now painting strange contortions across the expanse of my living room.
“Do it!” the voice whispered again. “You don’t need to wait for the green light!” it taunted, as I rose steadily onto my feet and followed it’s cold metallic ring over to the kitchen, quickly realising that it was coming from somewhere within the fridge itself.
“What’s a few more minutes?” the voice sung out again.
“Charles warned me not to—”
“Charlie, Charlie, Charlie. Could hardly get it up with you, and now you’re suddenly bending to anything he says. Maybe strawberries are too good for you after all.”
“Shut up!” I yelled, wrapping my hand around its thick handle and yanking the door open. The fridge moaned an ecstatic “ooohhh”, as its fluorescent light splashed across my torso. I placed the pennant on the middle shelf and slowly started to undress.
Half an hour had passed since I placed the strawberries inside until I walked back, pulling the door open. But no sooner than I felt it’s cool breath blow onto me did bright spangled drops of light burst into confetti behind my eyes before blinking out into oily smears. I looked back down upon the strawberries, horrifically realising I had lost all understanding of what to do with them, a panic slowly rising in my chest. I frantically dialled Charles’ number.
“I told you not to do this” He mumbled groggily into the receiver, not bothering to ask what was wrong.
“Why didn’t you try harder! What’s happening?” I was hysterical now, on the verge of tears.
“Listen M,” his tone gradually rising, “it’s as simple as picking them up in your hand and rubbing them…down there.”
“I don’t know what kind of sick joke this is but none of what you’re saying is making sense. Is this some revenge stunt you and Jude are playing on me?”
There was silence on the other line.
“Is it?” I asked more firmly.
“I tried to warn you…
“Oh god, how?”
“When I said -
“No I mean how has Jude done this?”
“You really broke his heart when he found out that you enjoyed fantasying with fruit more than him… and so went the extreme of hiring a witchdoctor.”
“A witchdoctor! Are you fu-“
“Can you let me finish? He knew how much you admired the brand’s sleek design. How many…and I can’t believe I’m saying this—strawberries you’d be able to fit inside of it’s compartments. So he hired a witchdoctor to curse your new fridge making you forget what to do with the first item you used it for. In your case it was pretty obvious.”
“And this is happening to others as well?”
“It might be.”
“Well what then?
“I’ve already called around and…after a withdrawal period, people like you have seem to be getting along fine with blueberries and raspberries.”
“Listen, Charles I don’t care what it is. I’ll leave you with two choices - either bring me an alternative or I’ll be closing the fridge door on myself.”
“Don’t be ridiculous, I’m already on the way with a few of the other things you enjoy…playing with as well.”
“Thank you Charles.”
“It’ll take some adjustment but you’ll get used to it. In the meantime just sit tight and don’t do anything else with the fridge.
“Fine” I said, putting the receiver down as I huddled the strawberries into my chest, the wide aluminium door slowly swinging shut, a cool, empty laughter ringing throughout the house.