Flash Fiction 365 prompt: Candy Apple Red.

(image from polishesandpleasantries.com)

Myra placed the UV light over French Manicure’s hands; The top coat just needed to dry. She was almost done listening to French Manicure’s weekly marathon bitchfest about her husband for the umpteenth week in a row. Some people never learn. If French Manicure was so unhappy with him, why did she stay? She never said that to French Manicure though. Part of her job was to listen to people. That’s why these rich women paid her every week. It’s not like French Manicure really cared about her nails; Myra was just a cheap form of therapy.

If she had known that her job was less about giving manicures than it was about listening to people, she might have become a gardener like her father instead. It’s not like she was a trained psychotherapist or anything; she was a manicurist. Myra realized that she was like a bartender or a barber, paid to listen under the guise of providing another service. All of these trades should form a Listening To Other People’s Crap Union. She thought it would be nice if all the trades that have to listen to people could get together and swap stories and share advice on what to tell them.

She glanced at the clock and interrupted French Manicure mid-whine. “Alright, Sandy, I’m going to have to move you to another station to dry. I have another appointment coming any second now.” French Manicure gave her a look of horror, but she knew her time was up. It was the same every week. She would be shunted to the tiny station in back with no one to talk to. French Manicure hated that part.

Myra let out a discreet sigh as she walked back to her station at the front to set up for Candy Apple Red. She cleaned up all of French Manicure’s debris and pulled the bright red shade out of her bin. Candy Apple Red was late this week. She was never late. Every week, like clockwork, she would arrive before French Manicure was dry, but not today.

Myra glanced at the receptionist and they shared a shrug. Myra stood up to go grab a quick cup of tea as Candy Apple Red barged into the salon. Her normally immaculate hair was a mess. Her hose had a run in them and her skirt was crooked. She slumped down in the seat opposite Mrya.

“What happened? Are you okay?”

Candy Apple Red waved her off. “Nothing a manicure won’t fix,” and she held out her hands to Myra.

Candy Apple Red did not need a weekly manicure. Whenever she came in, Myra took pride in her craft because her nails were always immaculate even after a week of use. It always pained Myra to have to remove her perfect manicure and replace it with another, but that’s what she was paid to do. If it weren’t for repeat business like French Manicure and Candy Apple Red, Myra couldn’t afford to pay for her station at the salon.

Myra took her hands and let out a gasp. Instead of a perfect manicure, she discovered hands covered in scratches. Half the nails were ripped off down to nubs and still bleeding. The blood was almost a perfect match with the remnants of nail color that desperately clung to the battered nails.

“What on earth…?” Myra started, but Candy Apple Red interrupted her. “Please, Myra, get me a cup of tea and a nice soak.”

Myra asked the receptionist to fetch a cup of tea while she went to the faucet and prepared a suitably hot bowl of plain water. She knew that if she went right to soaking in a solution of nail polish remover, given the state of Candy Apple Red’s hands, that would likely kill her with pain. It’s best to start with water.  She brought the steaming bowl back to the station, placed Candy Apple Red’s hands in and covered them with a warm cloth.

“Ah, I feel better already in your capable hands. I’m glad I came here.” The receptionist brought a cup of tea with a straw. “Myra, if I tell you something, will you promise to keep it a secret? At least, until this afternoon?”

“Um, sure, Melissa. But, you don’t have to tell me anything if you don’t want to. Just relax.” She took Candy Apple Red’s right hand from the bowl and started to get to work.

“Myra, I need to tell someone, and well, sadly, you’re as close to a real friend as I’ve got. Please, just listen and don’t say anything?” Myra nodded.

“Did you know that I’m married?” Myra shook her head.

“No, of course you don’t. I don’t wear a ring and I never talk about him, but I am. My husband is gone more than he’s here. Most of the time, even I forget that I’m married. He does something with finance. I don’t know, I never listen when he talks about work.” She took a sip of tea through the straw. “Can I get some honey with this?” Myra asked the receptionist for some honey.

“Anyway, he came back today. I wasn’t expecting him, but then, I never do. He came back when I was sleeping and he, well, he… he raped me. I know it’s weird to talk about a husband raping a wife, but that’s what it was.” Myra gave her a sympathetic squeeze of the hand, but she didn’t say anything.

“I struggled. I tried to fight back. I scratch and bit and kicked, but it was no use. I don’t really want to go into that now, but the end result is that I won. Well, I didn’t win. Nobody wins. But, I… I killed him. He’s dead. My husband is dead. I think. I’m not sure. I ran. I got dressed and ran. I had no idea where and then I remembered it was Tuesday and we had our appointment so I ran here. Silly isn’t it? My husband… did what he did and I did what I did and the first thing I could think of was getting a manicure?”

“Don’t worry, Myra. As soon as we’re done here, I’m going to the police station to turn myself in or whatever it is they call it. I just couldn’t bear going there or to prison or wherever they’re going to send me without a proper manicure.”

The lovely Sofia Leo continued the story over at I Won’t Take It.