Melt #5

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 slouched down beside her as I focused on the titles flashing on the black-and-white screen, shown beneath them a man walking around his suitcase at the train station, one hand dug deep into his pocket while the other holds onto a cigar. His monologue, apparently too long, made Emily sigh, a frown masked as a smile crossing her lips.

“Davey—“ she mimicked his voice, “the boxer!”

“Shut up and let me watch!”

“You don’t think he’s attractive, do you?” she mumbled, raising her eyebrow at the screen — Davey “the boxer” was examining his eyebrows while scrunching his face into what seemed like something between a raisin and an upset baby.

“God, no! He’s too—“ I paused, pondering, “hairy.”

“Oh my, look at that chest hair—“

“I know!”

“I can still see it even though he’s wearing a shirt.”

I felt my heart lurch to the left as her shoulder brushed mine. My body was just as scrunched up as Davey’s face had been on-screen, my muscles seemingly unable to relax. I bit down on my tongue as the movie tiptoed on, slowly, as though it was being rewritten because of the tension stuck inside my cranium.

“Wait, wait, wait,” she said, holding her hand up towards the television. “Who’s the lady?”

“That’s his neighbor, Gloria.” I glanced at Emily. Her face was lit up in an almost mischievous grin, a thin gap between her lips showing the tips of her teeth. I looked at the screen and back at her again. “What?”

“She’s not wearing a bra.”

“Yes she is!” I objected, switching to sitting on my knees, staring at the woman walking around her apartment in a turtleneck sweater and a skirt. I’d always loved her hair the most. I took in a breath, rolling my eyes. “Em, that’s in the fifties, bra’s were different.”

She tilted her head, placing her hand on my knee. “I can see her nipples.”

“Emily!”

“Well, sorry. It’s not my fault they’re jumping out at me like that.”

I laughed, closing my eyes. Her hand was still on my knee. “I’ve always loved her appearance. But I hate her voice,” I said, mostly to myself. “It sounds too artificial.”

“I have a feeling something else about her artificial too,” she said, biting her lips together so as not to burst into laughter like a little, slightly perverted child. I remained silent, cherishing the feel of her hand on me. It was always like this, watching a movie with her: incessant commentary, hysteric laughter and high-pitched cries — the latter only making its appearance during horror films. This sort of physicality, however, was new.

I grabbed my glass of ice tea from the tabletop and took a sip. “Emily?”

She turned around, focusing both eyes on me. “Yes?”

“I—“ I shook my head, biting at my lips.

“What is it?”

Before I could say anything I heard my phone start buzzing in my bag again. “Shit.”

“It’s him, isn’t it?”

“I don’t know,” I said slowly, looking down at her hand.

“Do you want me to answer?”

“I’m not actually sure what sort of difference that would make, if any.”

“What is that supposed to mean?” she said, her voice rising. She lifted my head with her fingertip underneath my chin, staring straight into my eyes, the sudden connection sending waves of fear down my arms. “Tell me what he did and I won’t answer.”

I shook my head, hot tears dripping down my cheeks. She dove for the bag, grabbing my phone. I flinched as she raised it to her ear, smiling sadly at her poor attempt of not sounding angry.

“Hello?”

She turned her back to me, strolling towards the wall. I hugged my knees, shrinking against the couch as I listened to her talk to my stepbrother. I shut it out, examining my toes through my socks. Seven, seven point five, eight…

***

I snap my locker closed. Too much — just too much thinking…

I slip out of my shirt to put on the dress shirt with the logo on it, the logo, which I pretty much despise; a cheesy photo of Mark and Sally with an I-can-instantly-tell-it’s-fake pizza on the counter between them. I’ve told Mark numerous times to switch the logo on the shirts — but my voice seems to be that of a mouse when I talk about business problems.

“Hey, you.”

I turn around to find Olivia behind me. “Hi.”

“Is Mark around?”

I notice my dress shirt is still open so I wrap my arms around myself, tucking it closed. “Um, yeah. He’s in his office half-asleep.” I look her model-like figure up and down, trying not to let my eyes widen at the shortness of her skirt. “As always,” I add.

She grins at me as though in pity. “Thanks.”

I start fidgeting as she lingers in front of me, looking at something near my head.

“Oh, I love your earrings,” she coos, extending her hand to my ear, “where did you get them?” She swipes her finger along the earring, just a normal old-fashioned button I’d glued back together twice already.

“They were my Mom’s,” I mumble, looking down at the ground as I start buttoning up my dress shirt. I watch her feet, waiting for her to exit. We’d had some sort of drunken run-in at the restaurant’s Christmas party a few months ago, a mere few whiskey-tasted kisses and some very badly coordinated fondling at the balcony. If I remember correctly she dropped her shoe down from the thirteenth floor, just to see if the heel would break. She rushed me to the elevator so that we could go see. I grin to myself as I finish buttoning up my shirt, looking up to find her there still.

“Mark is in—“

“His office, you told me.”

I flush, holding my hand to my neck. “Sorry. I should go.” I start for the staff door, straightening the shirt with a few fingers. I hear her heels clip-clap behind me. She grips my wrist, her nails pressing to my skin. What now?

“Haley, I was wondering—“

“What?” I try and paint a smile on my face as the balcony scene flashes by me in Polaroids.

She slips her fingertips up my forearm, giving me chills.

“Liv—“

She puts her finger on my mouth, shushing me. Oh, shit…

“What are you doing tonight?” she murmurs, her fingertips traveling to my shoulder, her nails nipping at my skin.

You?

“Nothing, I think,” I say, a smile curling at the side of my lips.

She grins, her hand drifting down my side, her thumb passing over my breast. “Mark has to go see a friend in hospital so my evening plans are a bit ruined. We were going to watch some foreign films—“

“I’d love to.”

“Do you have his new address?” she says, tilting her head.

“Of course.” What am I doing?!

She smiles, pulling me close by my hip. I smash against her, causing both of us to burst out laughing. “My heel never broke, by the way. I paid ninety dollars for those shoes. Must’ve been worth it,” she murmurs, kissing the corner of my mouth. I breathe in slowly as a hot wave floats down my abdomen, making me crunch my toes together.

“Should I come by when I get off work?”

“Yeah. I’ll let you in.”

She grins, brushing the tip of her tongue up my lips before walking away. I back to the wall, holding my hands to my forehead as I slip down to the floor.

Fuck.

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