Dahlia picked up the snake, cradled it in one arm and watched it ineffectively bite her. She had its poison glands removed, so the bite didn’t do much more than hurt. Carefully she squeezed along its jaw, forcing it to open. She pulled it out of the top of her arm and wrapped it carefully around her neck, nestling it close. It was a game they often played. Dahlia believed that at some point the snake had probably become trained to bite her when it wanted food. It was simple, the snake bit her, Dahlia put it around her neck, the snake sniffed out the mouse that was hiding in Dahlia’s pocket and ate it. Even still, the chill in the air made Dahlia want to hold the snake more: warmth from her body would help the snake stay warm. It was a calculated affection, somehow suitable for this animal.
She walked into the kitchen with the snake resting peacefully on her shoulders, flicking its tongue around. Unlike constrictors, it wouldn’t wrap, just rest comfortably wherever she placed it. Once it got warmer, it would start moving around more, exploring more. The kettle started whistling as soon as Dahlia entered the kitchen. She turned off the stove, carefully keeping her shoulders from any sudden source of heat. Doing that kept the snake from getting interested in anything other than her body heat, keeping it from going towards the searing hot stove.
Easing her shoulders up towards the tea cabinet, she pulled down an Echinacea blend, placed into her mug and poured hot water over the tea. She watched the water seep into the smaller pieces, lifting them up. The hibiscus let out its characteristic blood-red ink-swirl, staining the water. Dahlia watched the various pieces of plant matter drift in the water, the cells taking water in and releasing their long held oils and flavors. She picked out the red clover, orange peel, and licorice root. The hibiscus was easy of course, and the other pieces were too similar and small to be identifiable. The only reason the red clover wasn’t unidentifiable was because it stayed bright green no matter how dried out it got.
She looked down into the cup from directly above, inhaling the fragrant steam coming off of it; the snake did the same. Dahlia heard the door unlocking as her husbands walked in. They laughed, probably at something that had happened during the workday. Her husbands worked near each other, so they only took one car and left the other with her. Didn’t do her much good though. Dahlia did not have the inclination to go hunting for employment, despite its necessity. She watched them walk in, detached from everything. She was feeling that more and more, but it was a standard point in her long-shifting moods, so she didn’t pay it any mind. Ivan leaned in for a kiss, moving on towards the shower, but John stayed back. He busied himself with putting down his briefcase and hanging up his jacket.
John did not like the snake. It was not that John did not like that they had it (although it did bother him), merely he didn’t want it near him. John said it was not from fear. Dahlia acquiesced to his concerns when she needed to. She understood, to a degree, his hesitation of the snake. Dahlia could not stand touching things that had once belonged to a dead creature. There was no reason or rationale to it, those things simply acted to her as nails on a chalkboard did to others. She gained nothing from contradicting John, or believing it to be other than as he said, so she accepted his reality on this matter.
She dunked her tea bag while John finished what he was doing, and then walked back over to the cage and put the snake back inside. She turned on the sun lamp for it, since they did not use the central heating. John and Ivan both did enough exercise that they produced copious amounts of their own body heat; should Dahlia ever get cold, she had her choice of who to cuddle with. Now that the snake was secure, she turned to find John behind her. He wrapped her close to him, breathed in the scent of her hair, and kissed her lips passionately. She returned his ardor, as there was no one else in the room to receive what little passion was left within her reserves. He murmured sweet nothings to Dahlia, how he had missed her, spent most of the day thinking about her. She giggled as appropriate, murmured some comforting remark and pulled him closer to her again. After a few seconds, and another passionate kiss, he made suggestive mention of joining Ivan in the shower, and scampered off.
John was the young one, the firebrand, full of passions and delusions about how the world worked and what acceptable behavior was. In this matter Dahlia was irrational: she acknowledged that his behavior had to be considered acceptable somewhere, but refused to acknowledge that such behavior was acceptable in her own world. His was such a care-free nature, such disregard for consequence… It simply could not be. This was not to say that she loved him less, or even that she loved Ivan more for understanding her world. It was just a difference, and one that like so many others, she tolerated.
While the men enjoyed themselves in the shower, she looked once more into the cage to find the snake looking at her. Its eyes, a glassy yellow complementing the “base” color of its scales, were glued on her as she moved into the kitchen to retrieve her tea and back to the living room, where the snake’s terrarium was kept. Its tongue flicked out as she sipped on the hot beverage, warming herself with tea and trying to decide what they would do tonight.