Cajoled

Cajoled
by Brontë Pearson

 

I awoke to a sore back, planked across a freezing metal table. My hands and feet were bound by what felt like bungee cords, and I could feel the cool fingers of the air around me drift over most parts of my skin.

I screamed. The sound seemed to only make it about ten feet in diameter before ricocheting back at me. The room around me was dark, but as my eyes adjusted, I could just barely make out the form of a tool bench to my right.

I screamed again, but it seemed to get lost in the walls. My eyes flooded and my breathing quickened as I panicked beneath my restraints. My tears uncomfortably pooled around my mouth, and all I could taste was salt.

I reminded myself that crying and panicking was not going to get me out of here. I tried to train my breathing to slow into a steady pace and blinked my tears away. Once my eyes were clear, I looked down at my cold, shaking body and realized I was dressed in the schoolgirl lingerie I had bought from Spencer’s.

I started convulsing. I couldn’t control myself. I had no choice but to panic. The longer I struggled, the more my forehead pulsated and stung. I thought of Jordan. I wondered what he was doing right now. I wondered if anyone would tell him I was missing. I imagined he would shrug it off and think I was being overly emotional and had taken off. To him, my sensitivity was my greatest fault. But, perhaps, he would feel differently. Perhaps, he would be the one who found me. My stomach churned at the thought.

I heard a door open in the distance, following by a low but powerful hum that echoed through the walls. I recognized the voice behind the hum, and everything became clearer. I held my breath until I couldn’t any longer. I pictured my last breaths floating through the air and circulating around the world. I thought about how they would, someday, find themselves conveniently brushing Jordan’s cheek on some breezy afternoon, and a piece of me would touch him one last time, even if he never knew.

The world around me began to pixelate into clouded figures, and my eyes began to slouch, until a white suit cuff brushed my cheek and snapped everything into focus.

***

I should have known better than to go into Spencer’s. Deadpool merchandise was fucking everywhere. Jordan loved Deadpool. It was the last thing in the world I needed, but I ventured into the dim storefront anyway. I realized I was turning into my mother, shopping as a means of therapy. “Money can’t fix everything” was a load of bullshit, and I was willing to do whatever it took to get my mind off him.

Deadpool’s face taunted me in various forms from the fronts of shirts, coffee mugs, socks, belts, hats, and the like. I spotted a Deadpool wallet similar to the one I had gotten him just a few weeks ago for his birthday. He had smiled but didn’t thank me. He called off our engagement the next day.

“How’s it going? Is there anything I can help you find today?” the cashier shouted over the music. Her hair stood in peaks on her pink head. It perfectly depicted the rise and fall of the roaring heavy metal.

“I’m good. Thanks,” I replied.

“Let me know if you need anything,” she said, her nose ring jiggling between her nostrils as she smiled her fake I-have-to-smile-because-I-work-here grin. I nodded.

The further I walked into the store, the less Deadpool haunted me. T-shirts with desperate attempts at shock appeal hung in pleated lines, its letters in garish colors and fonts. I tried to picture someone who wasn’t a total douchebag wearing them, but it was impossible. Almost as if on cue, a kid with a black-dyed Mohawk rounded the corner and stopped in front of a shirt that had its text turned sideways which read, “IF YOU TURN YOUR HEAD TO READ THIS YOU OWE ME A BLOW JOB.” He thought it was hilarious and pulled it from the rack. I rolled my eyes and continued walking.

Pink lights illuminated the back of the store where the “adult” items were housed. I felt slightly repulsed by some of the items along the shelves, but a part of me wanted to splurge on lingerie and sex toys just for the fact that it was totally out of my character.

The pain from our breakup had made me want to rebel in every way possible. The day he moved out, I cried until no tears were left, then spontaneously drove to the nearest tattoo parlor at 9:00 that night. I now have a random lighthouse on my ribcage. It hurt like hell.

I let my fingers graze over the lacy panties and eyed the sexy schoolgirl lingerie set near me. I pictured myself in it, my sides poking out a bit too far and my butt sagging a little too low for it to look as good as it did on the model in the cover photo. I could buy it and take seductive pictures of myself in it, posing in angles that made me look sexier than I really was, and then post them on a blogging site like Tumblr under a sexy pseudonym.

I grabbed a size nine from the shelf.

I continued to walk through the maze of naughty toys. I even stopped to sniff the Sweet Licks warming red velvet cupcake flavored massage lotion. It didn’t smell much like red velvet cupcakes.

The longer I waded through the pink-lit cavern, the more I started to feel disgusted with myself. I also thought about how Jordan would probably have wanted to keep me longer if I’d shopped here more. I drifted over to the girl with the screaming hair and laid my schoolgirl outfit on the counter. She looked at me, surveying my blotchy skin and greasy hair. I hadn’t worn a drop of makeup or bothered to shower in days.

She gave me the total, and I silently paid her, and then stuffed the sack into the large JC Penney’s bag I had been lugging around with me.

The florescent lights stung my eyes as they adjusted to the real world, and a melting pot of voices erupted around me as I exited the store. One voice piled on another, and it sounded as if every person in Oklahoma City was in this one part of the mall. I suddenly felt overwhelmed and couldn’t wait to leave.

I strolled past blurs of families, couples, and teenaged cliques. I kept my eyes fixed on the linoleum and tried to watch out for nearby feet and wheels. I could just see the exit doors when a man in a suit stepped out from behind an island in the aisle.

“Good afternoon, ma’am! Would you like to try Billotrix’s new long-lasting 24-hour perfume?”

“Oh, no, thank you.” I tried not to make eye contact as I continued to walk, but he cut in front of me.

“You don’t have to buy any today. Just try a spray and notice how long our fabulous formula lasts. I promise, it will have you coming back for a bottle! We have a deal going on right now for 25% off. If you’ll try it for me today and decide you like it, I will give you an extra 10% off. How does that sound?” He flashed his best salesman smile, his teeth in straight, immaculate rows that sparkled under the intense mall lighting.

His persistence was frustrating, and his charisma reminded me of Jordan, which only frustrated me more. I was eager to get out of the mall. I stood for a second then nodded. “Okay, alright. Go ahead.”

“Excellent!” He pulled a cylindrical glass bottle from his suit jacket’s pocket and demonstrated how I should hold out my wrist.

I held my wrist out, still attempting to avoid eye contact. The man spritzed my wrist twice.

“Now rub your wrists together and take a whiff! Notice the blend of floral scents. It’s made with real essential oils that persist all day long.”

I sniffed my wrists. I had to admit, the perfume was rather pleasing. “This is really nice,” I said. “I may just be back.”

“Fabulous! I hope to see you back here soon! Have a wonderful rest of the afternoon.” He bowed in my direction as if I was worthy of the utmost praise for actually liking his product. Mall salespeople were always a bit too over the top for my taste, but it made me feel kind of nice.

I finally escaped the mall and embraced the warm gust that cuddled against my skin in contrast to the chilliness I had endured for the past hour and a half I’d spent shopping.

I slithered through the maze of cars that sprinkled the parking lot. I couldn’t remember exactly which row I had parked in, but I figured I would get there eventually. After a few moments, my head started to pound, so I knew I had to think harder about where the car was parked. Finally, I saw the red Hyundai a few rows down. I powerwalked in its direction until my vision began to blur, and I felt a sudden pang of nausea. I realized I hadn’t eaten in several hours and figured I could have been experiencing a low blood sugar episode, as I did on occasion.

I finally reached the car. I fumbled in my purse for the keys, but I found my dexterity was off. My hands felt like they had been caked in plaster and hardened into a cast. My vision continued to blur, and my head continued to roar. I stumbled into the trunk of the car to maintain my balance, but it wasn’t enough to resist the force of gravity. I felt the asphalt bite my face, and then everything disappeared.

***

His hands were soft and strong, just as they had been when I had shaken his hand earlier in the day. As his skin skated along my face, my body felt as if it was sprouting inward-facing spines, piercing every inch of my body. Suddenly, his hands slapped over my mouth, pushing my head harshly into the metal beneath me, and he smothered my nose with a damp washcloth. I became overwhelmed by the floral undertones of the perfume I had enjoyed so well merely hours ago. My body relaxed, and the screeching of an electric drill was the last thing I heard as I melted into the blackness.

 

About the Author
Brontë Pearson is a Science Writing Master’s student at Johns Hopkins University, and a recent graduate of the University of Arkansas at Monticello in Creative Writing. Brontë enjoys writing both fiction and poetry and has previously published both genres in journals such as Black Mirror Magazine, Linden Avenue Literary Journal, 805 Lit + Art Magazine, and others. Brontë’s electronic portfolio can be found at http://bronteelise.wix.com/brontepearson.
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