“Guess how many different kinds of handshakes Stephen Colbert has for his guests,” she asked him, her words only slightly slurred. These past weeks she’d been working diligently on drinking every bottle of alcohol she’d accumulated in the last decade and had never consumed. Years ago she’d claimed she was saving them for a nuclear winter, or Armageddon, or some such calamitous event. He only thought of it in passing, because all he wanted to do was fall asleep. He was resting comfortably on her chest, right between her breasts, where it was warm. Not calm, given the strength and proximity of her heartbeat, but after all these years he could virtually sleep through all her quakes. Well, most of them.
Only tonight she’d been drinking from a bottle of sickeningly sweet blood orange liquor, and the scent of citrus permeated the air. His air. His atmosphere. He didn’t want to play games or guess things. He was so relaxed he was practically purring. She’d allowed him to rest a surprising amount of nights lately, and his bruises and cuts had almost healed. Every part of his body looked nearly the same color. He was glad about the new sleeping hours and happy he was not being brought to the brink of death every night by her constant sexual needs. Her fingertip was running down his back, caressing him from neck to calves, only dragging him in the slightest by friction.
“Four? I don’t know. One,” he ventured, knowing she’d see he was only throwing numbers in her direction, not interested in giving her question some thought. That was something he knew irritated her, his lack of enthusiasm, but he was too comfortable to care at the moment. Still, he regurgitated another number, half drunk from inhaling the alcohol in her breath.
“Unbelievable. You’re not even trying to guess, Toy. Look. Just look! You’re not looking.” He could feel her heartbeat speed up under her skin, and he made a half-hearted effort to look over his shoulder at the TV screen that blinked and shone at them from blocks (to him) away. Stephen Colbert was talking to some British man he vaguely recognized. Some kind of funny man. “What am I waiting for, Owner? They are just talking, and I’m this close to falling asleep…”
“Count them in your head: He has one handshake for people he loves and respects, like Michelle Obama. He shakes their hand very gently, and then lets go by spreading his hand flat… not completely flat, but almost like a concave wall of fingers. I don’t know what to call it yet, but it’s quite different a shake from the one he gives the people with whom he can go love-nuts. He goes in for the shake, and keeps holding their hand, and then covers both hands with his free hand. I call that one Moving In Together-“
“Kill me now,” he interrupted disrespectfully, turning away from the TV and burrowing into her skin again, making that warm fingertip on his back stop and press down onto him a little too hard. “Ow, Owner! Stop, I’m sorry. I mean, Kill Me Now is the handshake he reserves for people he despises! That’s what I meant. I really-“ She pressed her finger down on him again, forcing the air out of his lungs and effectively shutting him up.
“You need to be quiet now. I’m tired of your lies and your disrespect. But yes, he has a special handshake for people he doesn’t like, like that guy… what’s his name? The really rich guy that wants to go to space or sell space in space or some shit like that… Elon Musk. Yeah, let’s call it Kill You Now. He gives them the briefest of handshakes, and then he disengages his hand as though the other person is a leper.” She tucked her chin into her chest to look at him and saw he had turned a reddish blue. She unpinned his body and massaged it gently until his breathing normalized, and his face turned pink, and then an angry red.
“Or maybe you’re just imagining the whole thing, Owner. He doesn’t really know most of the people he interviews. He probably doesn’t have any definite opinions about any of them. Can I go to sleep now?” He didn’t wait for her answer, and curled his shape into a fetal position, breathing deeply and closing his eyes determinedly.
“Understand something, Toy; I wanted to keep you forever, but I’ve decided I’ve changed my mind. This arrangement no longer suits my needs. When I saw you and chose you to shrink, I thought you were the one I wanted. I mean, you were. I wanted you, so I took you. I made you mine and I didn’t care what you thought. I endured your constant complaining even as I made you the center of my universe. You tried my patience endlessly with your ill temper even as I moved heaven and earth to give you my every attention. You had no worries. I had all of them. Your only concern was my happiness, while I had to deal with family, friends, work, chores, your health, and your constant emotional absence.”
“Run that by me again?” he asked, lifting his head and looking at the outline of her jaw. “I really don’t want to fight. It sounds like you want to fight. Why can’t we just have peace?” As small as he was, she could feel his body tense up. She had wanted a little man that had a modicum of patience, of fortitude, of love. But this man had none. The world revolved around him, and he took no notice of anyone’s needs but his own. She wondered what in the world she ever saw in him.
“Soon you’ll feel an intense pain in your joints, Toy. It will spread inexorably all throughout your body. That signifies the beginning of your regrowth. It should start tonight, at some point. I mixed the formulation in your food, and you had enough of it to return you to your original size. Probably a couple of extra inches, which I’m sure your girlfriend will like. I contacted her… anonymously of course. She’s waiting for you at the airport. She moved on after you, but she seemed nice enough to want to see you and let you stay with her, at least until you get back some semblance of a normal life.”
“Excuse me? What the fuck? What did you do to me? You’re growing me back now? Without my permission? Who do you think you are? No! I don’t want to go back! This is my life now, with you. This is what I want. This is what I’ve always wanted! Why are you sending me away? You said you’d keep me forever! That you’d never give me up! Why are you doing this?”
“Love, my little Toy. I’m doing it for love. I gave you everything, and you gave me next to nothing. I want love. I deserve much better than what I have. I deserve everything. All you gave me were lies and betrayal. I need a tiny man that stands on his own two feet and does what’s necessary to make me happy. You either never moved a finger, or only pretended that you did. I see you’re upset, but I know you have no understanding of how this feels for me. It feels I’m losing everything after realizing I had nothing. You are losing everything after having everything, and you never knew it, or appreciated it, or cared.”
Feeling pain begin to radiate from every joint in his body, he tried to respond with obscenities as was his habit, but instead he gasped and began to tremble. She pinched his body between her thumb and finger and deposited it in her other palm. Slowly, she left her couch and called a car service. By the time he’d finish regrowing he’d be unconscious and she’d be able to dress him and leave him somewhere she could observe his coming to. Whether he found his way back to his girlfriend with the information, phone and money she’d placed in his pockets was his business. He was no longer her problem.