Melt #3

Prompt by: Nathan Pralle

Take any one genre of popular fiction literature — Action-adventure, Crime, Detective, Fantasy, Horror, Mystery, Romance, Science fiction, Western, Inspirational, etc. — and write a (short) story in that genre, but make all aspects of the story grossly stereotypical for that genre to the point of over-the-top.

***

I step out the door and into the foggy street. It’s as though the night is still lingering in the air, weighing it down, making it impossible to see clearly. It’s still early so the whole street is empty except for me, and an elderly lady walking her two dogs, just like every other morning. I tug at the seam of my dress shirt, feeling a tad bit too naked with the thin line of skin visible between my shirt and my pants.

“Aren’t you that young lady who served me coffee yesterday morning?”

I turn around to find the elderly woman standing behind me, her dogs, a pair of Chow Chow’s too cute for their own good, staring at me with their eyes almost crossed, their heads tilted. I offer my hand while greeting her, holding my bag with the other.

“I’m sorry, ma’am, I don’t think I was. I live down the street from you. I leave for work around the time you walk your dogs.” I smile, pointing at the two cuties. “I work at that Italian restaurant a few blocks from here.”

“Oh,” she says, her face falling a little.

I find myself still holding onto her hand, as her eyes seem to turn into glass. “I’m Haley Bellman.”

She raises an eyebrow at me. “Bellman?”

“Yeah, my father was Swedish,” I stammer, shaking her hand around. She isn’t letting go.

“Oh, right. That explains it.”

Her dogs start barking in unison, making my head throb. I try and wriggle my hand out of hers. “I’m sorry, ma’am, but I should be going. I have work—“

“Yes, right. Of course. Sorry,” she says, finally letting go of my hand, leaving it cold and sweaty. I step aside to let her pass, waving at her even though she doesn’t even see me anymore. I laugh to myself for a moment before continuing on, my toes already half dead in my heels.

I arrive at the restaurant a glorious 20 minutes early, tiptoeing my way to Mark’s office after letting myself in. He’s snoring, leaning back on his chair, his legs on his table on top of the newspaper.

“Knock, knock.”

He stirs, almost falling back. “Wha—“

“Morning, Mark.”

He wipes at his eyes like a little boy awoken from his nap. “Morning, Hales. What are you doing here at,” he checks his watch, “seven-thirty-nine in the morning?”

I laugh, hanging my jacket by the wall. “My shift starts in twenty minutes.”
“Does it? What day is it?”

“Monday.”

“Oh, right! You have the morning shift! I forgot. Sally made me start up on the breakfast buffet thing weeks ago and I still don’t remember—“

“Well, I’m here to do some cleaning up, actually. Sarah said you’d been painting?”

“Yes, yes, the south wall. Sally hated it.”

Sally, the lovely wife, was pretty much Mark’s not-really-paid-for assistant. Her opinion was always, and I mean always the law. She had suggested we start a breakfast buffet to get more customers in, and of course, three days after, Mark had us filling out forms for new tables and chairs for the designated “breakfast area”. I speak in the past tense because Sally had caught Mark cheating on her with Olivia under one of the designated breakfast tables.

“How is she, by the way?” I say almost sarcastically, sitting down on the armchair at the corner of the room to get my heels off for a moment.

“How the hell should I know?”

“But you’re still painting the south wall because she thought it was hideous?”

“Yes, precisely.”

I shake my head, blowing on my toes. They’re a little red. “Does she have the twins now?”

He takes the newspaper from beneath his feet, opening it. “Mmhmm, half the month there, half the month here.” He sighs, peeking at me from over the paper. “Since Sally’s gone, though, I could let you girls wear some more comfortable shoes,” he says with a chuckle, looking me up and down.

I crunch my toes together, my mouth falling open from the pain. “Yes, Mark. I would appreciate that very much. My feet are not made for six inch heels.”

“Good. Then it’s settled. Though,” he trails off, setting the paper down on his thighs.

“What?”

“Nothing, never mind. Go on,” he says, ushering me away. I grab my heels, holding them with my fingers as I walk out into the hall barefoot, thinking of someone whose feet (and legs) were made for wearing heels.

***

Emily and I were classmates since first grade. Our school had us seated in alphabetical order and, since her last name came just after mine, we were always seated close to one another. I never minded sitting behind her: her red hair had me mesmerized since day one. It reminded me first of a mermaid and later on of another, rather different barely-clothed character.

No matter the circumstance I would drag my lazy ass to school every morning, hoping to switch lunches with her. The day she started wearing heels to school only added more superglue to my gaze.  They (black with purple soles) made her hair look even more mermaid-like. Her back was bare in her dress, sending a series of hot waves across my limbs as I held her books while she put on her coat. She had just turned eighteen the week before and I was jealous since I had another seven months of waiting.

“Haley?”

I shook myself awake from my trance, handing over her books.

“Do you need me to give you a ride home? It’s raining.”

“Yeah, sure. It would be nice to avoid getting,” I breathed in, swallowing air, “wet.”

She smiled at me as my face turned a shade of purple. “Are you coming over on Saturday?”

“Saturday?”

She tilted her head, looking almost hurt. “Sarah’s birthday.”

Her sister was turning sixteen that weekend. We used to be pals what seemed like a decade ago. “Yeah—“ I stammered. “Of course. Of course I’m coming.”

I put my bag on the floor while putting on my denim jacket. She picked it up, handing it over to me. I took it, my hand almost shaking. She raised her eyebrows at me, leaning over to her side to catch my eye. “Is everything alright?”

“Yeah—“ I trailed off, walking towards the doors. “It stopped raining.”

“Doesn’t matter.”

“I can walk—“

“No, no,” she said, grabbing my shoulder. “Come home with me. I’ll help you with your Spanish.”

“French.”

“Oh, right,” she murmured, holding her hand to her collarbone. “Please, come.”

“Well, if it’s okay with your—“

“It is. Mom’s busy writing anyway,” she said, waving her hands around. I could have fallen through the floor right there. She kept her hand at my shoulder as she walked me to her car, my toes squirming around inside my shoes. “It’s beautiful,” she murmured as she looked at the clearing sky.

I kept my eyes on the wet ground. “Yeah, straight from a romance novel. I think I saw a rainbow right above those trees.”

She stuck her index finger into my ribcage, laughing softly as she unlocked the doors. “Someone’s a bit cynical,” she slurred into my ear, or at least it seemed like it as she opened the door for me, leaning her head on my shoulder, her hand lingering at my ribcage.

“Sorry.” I stepped inside the car, dumping my bag on the floor.

She walked around the front, tracing her fingertips along the hood of the car. She stepped inside, droplets of water shaking on the window as she pulled it closed. “Well, my cynical little friend. There is one positive thing in my little romanticized moment.”

“And what is that?” I turned to look at her, biting down on my tongue.

She leaned in, so close I could feel the tip of her nose at my cheek. “You didn’t get wet.”

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