Book: The First - Part: One - Chapter: 8 - Installment: i

The strawberry tasted amazing.
Strawberries always tasted amazing to Sylvette. She had loved them as a little girl. But then the invaders arrived. For years she thought of strawberries as the ultimate in luxury. In her child’s mind the symbol of ‘strawberry’ had come to represent so much more than a simple summer treat.
They had been lucky. They had been allowed to stay in their own home. Other families homes had been destroyed, either by the initial shelling, or the invader’s onslaught, or even by the subsequent attacks from their allies on the outside, the free countries who fought for their freedom while they resisted as best they could under the thumb of the brutal occupying force. The provisional government, such as it was, arranged for reassignment of living space.
Before too long there were six families living in her parent’s home. Sylvette was an only child, and it was their home, so they were afforded the relative luxury of the attic apartment. No one walked over their heads, and they had two large rooms for the three of them. Yes, the sloping roof narrowed the usable space, but there was something impalpably warming about the knowledge that technically their family living space did cover the entirety of a single floor. Only one other family in the house could make that claim – but they had the basement. The basement was only five feet high and not unknown to flooding thanks to the foundation being compromised by a near hit when the invaders fought their way into the city. The family, the DesRoches, had six children and the infirm family patriarch who they all called ‘Bigorneau’ as he had once been a painter.
The yard had been divided too. No room left for play. It had become one great muddy garden, divided with string into six un-equal shares, roughly apportioned by head count per family. The string migrated. A stake would get knocked out of the ground by a busy gardener, then pounded back into the soil a little in favour of the person taking the effort to replace it. On occasion things got tense. Sylvette had stood by while her Papa had shouted obscenities at Bigorneau for planting carrots too close to the border between their gardens. The carrots would be leeching nutrients from Sylvette’s family’s side of the string. Sylvette’s father, Marcel, was also irritated by the old man’s attempt to grow snap peas in the larger plot provided the DesRoches family.
“There’s no room for such decadence.”
Marcel, it is a single plant.” Admonished Sylvette’s mother.
“Another single plant could grow there. A more enriching staple. It’s a waste of garden.”
“It is their garden.”
“Constance, we have to fight for every vegetable that comes from that yard. Those pods, growing above the ground are a beacon for thieves. It’s trouble enough, trying to keep them out of the potatoes which hide beneath the surface. But some scavenger sees those peas and they sneak in, trampling everyone’s hard work and making off with our turnips in the process.”
Strawberries would never stand a chance.


This strawberry tasted as good as the first one she’d had after the Liberation. It had actually taken years for her to finally taste a strawberry again, even after they got their freedom.
Constance had not survived the occupation and the home, which had comforted them so well with the knowledge that it was in fact their own, became a cold and inhospitable place. Marcel and Sylvette tried to rediscover their home, but suddenly they found it too big, too empty – too soul-less. Marcel felt a yawning emptiness inside with nothing capable of filling it.
Over the course of months and then years, the world around him changed. The debris that marked their good luck – the homes either side of theirs that were now nearly indistinguishable from the scattered cobbles from the shell-marked boulevard – was gradually cleared away. The cafĂ© on the corner down the street was rebuilt, but beyond that, little remained familiar. The walls of their home, haunted by a preponderance of memories, grew more and more out of place in the strange landscape that built up around them brick by brick.
Then the offer came. It couldn’t have been called generous, but it was enough. Foreign investors looking to preserve surviving structures for historical and educational purposes wanted the house. Marcel took their opening offer without a second thought.
The money wasn’t good, but it was enough to get himself and his daughter across the Atlantic. They settled in Montreal. One of the older cities in the ‘new’ world. Their new world - unsullied by all but the most trivial of wars, comparatively un-populated. It seemed like there was nothing but open space in North America. Their house had a yard, a big one, and it didn’t butt-up against other homes on either side. There were plenty of brownstones in their new city. Nice ones. But they didn’t live in one. To Sylvette, the new yard felt like a field. Marcel kept a garden. It must have been as big as the gardens of all six families that lived in their old home combined. Sylvette made him promise to plant strawberries.
Since the death of Constance, Marcel had found that he could not stop himself from doing anything and everything for his daughter. Planting strawberries was the simplest of demands.
When the first fruit began to ripen, Sylvette begged of her father to let her pluck it. Marcel held out as long as he could. The berries were not ready. They were still waxy and lacking much colour, and the promise of their taste was a lie. Sylvette had not tasted a strawberry since she was four, and the anticipation was worse than Christmas. She pressed and pressed Marcel and before long he could not hold out any longer. He let her pick the biggest and reddest of the new strawberries. It was rather small and still more green than red, but Sylvette could not resist it and Marcel could not resist her will.
Late one mid-June morning they stood together in the garden and made a ritual of it. First a proper picnic meal of cheese sandwiches, milk and celery sticks – they rarely ate carrots anymore, turnips and potatoes were right out. When they finished the main meal, Marcel pulled back the leaves of the strawberry plant for her and she pulled the fruit away from the bush. They brushed away the soil and then she popped the runty thing in her mouth. Marcel expected her to wince from the taste – and make no mistake it was sour – but it didn’t matter to Sylvette. It was a strawberry. Her first strawberry in five years. It was the food of the gods.


This strawberry was of far better quality. Plump and juicy. She squeezed it slightly and let some of the sweet nectar drip onto the skin beneath it. She smiled as the muscles beneath quivered from the sudden coolness. The sight of the taught stomach contracting made her draw her breath as she felt a tropical feeling, warm and damp, blossom in her nethers. She licked the blood-red juice and listened to her lovers tenor moan.
It only gets better from here.
Marcel’s garden produced many better strawberries than the first. Strawberries comparable to the one she was now indulging in - the third partner in her coitus.
How did a citrus lay claim to the title of ‘passion fruit?’
Leaving their home in Montreal – leaving the garden – proved far more difficult than leaving the home where she’d been born. It was many years later. She lived in Montreal longer than anywhere else in her life to that point. Much longer. It was still the case. She didn’t think that she’d ever come to feel as though Vancouver was home the way Montreal had been. It was a beautiful city – just ask a Lower Mainlander, they never shut up about it – but after spending so long in Quebec and it being so much more like where she’d spent her childhood - minus the bombs and streets filled with rubble – Vancouver would never be home.
Vancouver was too young. Too unformed. Too unreliable. Montreal had a history and it was settled into its place in the world and it’s character. Vancouver had barely been on the map until they’d hosted the World Exposition, and from there on out it was changing so fast that it made no lasting imprint. It was schizophrenic. A cookie-cutter metropolis. But it was full of opportunity.
Vancouver became home when Marcel’s pursuits began to show more action on the West Coast. Opportunity abounded in a constantly metamorphing child of a city. That brought the attention of the most opportunistic of creatures and that in turn brought Marcel’s organization, the Lazarus Group to British Columbia. By then Sylvette was a woman and followed in her Father’s footsteps, practically as powerful in the organization as her father.


“Is this allowed?” hummed the tenor.
“Of course it’s allowed. Who do you think makes the rules?” She purred as she let the last of the strawberry slide down her throat.
“But couldn’t it be seen as sexual harassment?”
Simon, my dear, we are above that.” Sylvette firmly informed the man whose life she’d saved not a day before. She kissed the still tender flesh around the silver seal on his neck. “As far as I’m concerned, breaking the new recruits in is one of the perks of the job.”

Chapter 9

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Necropolis by Kennedy Goodkey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada License.
Based on a work at necropolisnovels.blogspot.com.