Caring for Alien Arvid’s earth garden was the worst torture I had ever had to endure. Even worse than living with Ye Ye and Nai Nai and their strict Chinese ways. In order to meet our daily quote, Aksel and I had to get up at sunrise and spend the entire day weeding, watering, and harvesting ripe fruit and vegetables. The sun was unbearably hot on our shoulders, and the air was filled with biting, stinging insects that looked a lot like the mosquitoes back on earth, only bigger.
Worst of all, our stomachs rumbled constantly. The small amounts of strange food Arvid brought us every few days was not enough to stave off hunger. Our mouths salivated as we looked at the food we were forced to pick, but we didn’t dare take a bite. Arvid had security cameras everywhere on the property. If we stole his produce, then he would know.
Whenever Arvid arrived to bring us food, he would then squirm to my side. “Come on Phoenix,” he say, stroking my hair the way I used to like. “I may look a little different, but inside, I’m still the same guy you were in love with.”
I whirled on him, burning with fury. “You are not the same guy,” I said through gritted teeth.
“Don’t you get tired of living like this?” he asked. “You were meant for so much more. Say you’ll be mine, and I’ll take good care of you.”
The truth is, I was tired of living in filth and working like a slave. But I could have endured all of that if I had been the only one. However, seeing my friend Aksel at the end of the day, scorched and insect-bitten, stooped over with pain from laboring all day – that was too much to bear.
One day, Arvid tried to put the moves on me, as usual. And, as usual, I refused.
“You don’t have to be such a bitch about it,” he snapped. “Think of what I’m offering you.”
I sighed. I had thought about it. I had thought about it nonstop for days. Would it really be so bad if I pretended to be his girlfriend again, at least until Aksel and I could figure out some way to escape? I was the Phoenix, right? I had toughed my way through plenty of hard situations. Surely I could adapt to this, too.
I stood and took a deep breath. “Okay,” I said to Arvid. “I’ll be your girlfriend.”
Arvid rose and put his arms around me. Repulsed, I had to fight to keep myself from pulling away from his hot breath against my cheek. “Then let’s not waste any time,” he murmured in my ear. And he led me to the bedroom.
Afterward, I hated myself. Although I had managed to elevate myself to a position higher than slave, I felt lower than a slave. What had I done?
Over the next few days, though, Arvid began to leave small tokens of his appreciation, as he put it. Extra food for Aksel and me. Cans of evil-smelling but effective insect spray. A stack of brand new, comfortable clothes for us to wear.
“I wonder why he’s suddenly being so nice to us?” asked Aksel. I pressed my lips together. Some things are better left unsaid.