Soon the woman will buy passage away on one of the ships. Free Australia takes in refugees, she has heard, though one has to get past the Japanese infesting the northern coasts. New Zealand, too, the last of the English nations unbowed by the tide of war. A sailor once drew her a map on the back of a napkin. Sometimes she takes it out and dreams of open seas and days when her body will be her own to give or withhold as she wishes.
Here in Porto Oblivio, there is so little to do and so much time to do it in. She thinks they will all live forever in this place, trapped in a web of indifferent boredom until Ichiro's men shoot them one by one.
The woman's fingers drift to a book when she hears the sound of someone on her stairs. A man's tread, of course. Only one woman has ever called on her in the red-lit evening. She was a morose American named Stein, very elderly with a big nose and heavy face who claimed to have been a writer living in Paris until the War. Her stomach hurt, she said, and she'd feared to die before she made it to Australia. She'd wanted the intimacy of a woman one more time.
Men mostly want the intimacy of a woman over and over again. Unlike Stein, they never give it in return.
She checks the ties on the mosquito netting. She stalls so that the knock on the door will not be answered too eagerly. There is art to even the commercial imitation of love.
When the rapping comes, the woman knows it to be Lieutenant Ichiro. The angel of death has been discharged or he would not be here now. She lets go of the last of her fear from that morning before she steps lightly across the room to admit him.
The Japanese officer is shaking. He holds a tempest in his heart, the woman thinks. She takes his hand and pulls him into her room. She places his helmet on her lacquered table. She kneels before him and unbuckles the belt which holds his sword and pistol. He sits like a ghost on the edge of her bed so she can remove his boots.
You will see that there is blood on his shirt. It is dried almost black. He has set his hand to killing today.
The woman wraps herself around him and croons a lullaby in her poor Japanese. He begins to cry, sobbing in earnest. She pulls him close, strokes his ears, and tells him how brave he is. She can almost feel sorry for him, who holds such pain close to his heart.