Caught Orange Handed
I woke up with my hair stuck to the remnants of my lip gloss from the night before. Long lasting didn’t begin to cover the sticky coating of shimmer over my lips.
“Oh, fuck me.” I hissed while trying to sit up. The cot squeaked underneath my weight as I realized what room I sat in. Shards of the night before trickled back to me, making sure to pierce my skull as they went in.
I buried my face in the blanket and tried to block out the morning light. The sun was too happy; I wanted to die.
Instead of sweet silence, hammering started seconds after I decided to drift into a temporary coma. I peeled my eyes open and glared at the men repairing the window frame. The one I managed to crack on the mission for my personal belongings.
I swallowed the taste of mixed cocktails and lifted my head from the pillow, “Why?”
The man holding the instrument of my torture turned to look at my lifeless body. The blankets swaddled me and my many regrets with warmth.
He stopped the assault on my ears briefly, “Rough night?”
I hoped my groan would be response enough about my night. Diving into the gruesome details would only make the headache behind my eyes stronger. “Can the banging wait a while?”
“Sorry, Jason wants this done by lunch.”
Of course. “What a bastard.”
The man chuckled, “He’s actually alright when you get to know him.”
I made a mental note to revisit his statement when I couldn’t smell colors. My stomach protested as I fumbled out of the cot. I made a silent wish for my Grandmother’s life alert button when my feet hit the icy floor. Shoes, where were my shoes?
“You need any hel-”
I raised my hand to silence him. Noises felt like nails scraping down a chalkboard. I shuffled out the room with a teaspoon of patience and my pumps hanging off my limp fingers. The pounding in my skull gave me flashbacks to eleventh-grade history when we were studying tribal drum circles.
The showroom floor was silent; only a hand full of employees went about stocking shelves and checking their Instagrams. I assumed I looked a lot like a Mogwai that was fed after midnight. My tangled hair barely clung to the hairstyle I left the house with before going to the bar with the girls. I dug a Cheeto out from between my boobs and tried to remember when I ate Cheetos.
When I decided to put the Cheeto mystery to rest, I noticed Jason at the front desk. He was emptying the cash register and placing the money in a pouch. In Kitty’s absence he must have to take over her responsibilities. “Good morning,” His soft voice echoed in my ears.
I groaned, “Morning,”
The glimmer of mischief in his eyes told me that he enjoyed my weakened state, “I’m sorry. You feeling a bit under the weather?” His faux sympathy coincided with the logbook slamming against the counter. I recoiled and a news header appeared in my head in big red leaders, “Hotshot Toy Maker Found Dead With Dildo Stuffed Up His B-”
Jason brushed off my obvious annoyance, “I assume you slept well.”
“There was hammering.”
He smirked, “I’m sorry about that. There was a break in last night and I didn’t want to delay the repairs.”
“Oh, Fuck you,” I said and fought the urge to mention where he could shove his apology.
“Can’t do that.” He said, “I’m the boss man.” Heat rushed to my cheeks as I remembered my drunken collapsing into his bed and declaring him untouchable based on job description.
I turned to march away with what was left of my dignity but he called my name before I could escape.
“What do you want?” My arms hung limply by my side as I waited for more painful quips.
Jason pulled a Cheeto out from under the desk and stuck it in his mouth. A wicked smirk stretched across his lips.
“You didn’t,” I said with my hope quickly slipping away. The trail of orange dust left on my chest was the evidence of his transgression.
He chuckled, “I would be getting ready for rehearsal if I were you.”
“I’m not rehearsing today.” I could barely walk without spilling my guts: Dancing would be a massacre.
“I think you are,” His green eyes twinkled with enthusiasm. I shook my head and dragged myself to the dressing room. I wondered if I could use Jade’s fabrics scraps to create a voodoo doll for the smug man behind the counter.
Hours went by before any of the other girls started showing up. My makeshift sofa cushion bed made me dream of my plush mattress at home. By the time Kitty and the crew showed up t practice was about to start.
Jade curled into the fetal position in front of her vanity while Sarah tuck her arms inside her shirt. They looked almost as good as I did.
“It’s about time,” They greeted me with whimpers and swearing.
Kitty bounded up from behind me and clapped, “Y’all ready to nail the routine?” Sarah and Jade shot her a death glare. “I think we should try adding jazz hands today.”
“I’ll give you a jazz finger,” Jade said as she dragged herself out of the chair.
“That’s the spirit.” Kitty was surprisingly energetic for someone who puked wine all over her white carpet the night before.
We clambered on stage with seconds to spare. Due to our unenthusiastic attitudes, Kitty took pity on us and didn’t turn on the usual stripper music. Instead, we practiced the dance in silence with only Kitty’s commands filling the room. Halfway through practice Jason walked out of his workshop and watched our trainwreck. My body ached with each sidestep and jazzy flare.
I kept a watchful eye on Jason and I forced myself to pretend like my will to live wasn’t disintegrating every moment I remained on the stage. I turned to spin with the other Cherries and when I caught sight of Jason again he had the remote to the speakers in his hand. When he lifted the remote up I nearly swan dived off the stage to tackle him.
The music blasted through the sound system and in seconds we were on our knees.
“Screw off, Jason!” Kitty yelled over the deafening chorus of Cherry Pie.
He made no attempt to turn off the music or discuss his actions with Kitty. Instead, he bore his eyes into me. This was retribution for stumbling into his lair; a pure act of war. After what felt like hours, he muted the chorus. “I wanted to check the sound system before show time.” Jason strolled back the way he came and disappeared into the back.
When Kitty released us I peeled Sarah, Jade, and myself off the floor laminate floor. The backroom, despite smelling like a melting pot of Victoria Secret fragrances, became our safe haven.
“What crawled up Jason’s butt?” Sarah whined while we slumped into our chairs and floor, respectively.
“He needs a spanking or something,” Jade suggested with an uncomfortable amount of seriousness in her voice.
Kitty laughed, “Sarah mentioned riding the rudeness out of him,”
“No way,” She said, “I forfeit.”
“That leaves you.” Jade nudged my side and an ache from sleeping on the cot throbbed.
I rolled my eyes, “I’ll pass.”
“Don’t pretend you don’t want that hot piece of inconsiderate ass.” Sarah thrust her hips forward and regretted the sudden movement.
I shook my head and brushed off the comment.
“I think Tara is smart.” Kitty said, “Nothing good would come from sleeping with the owner of the company.”
“Wrong, I’m sure there would be plenty of orgasms,” Jade said.
I tried to block out the rest of the conversation while I gathered my stuff and grabbed my purse. I could finally hibernate in my bed and watch reruns of Frasier. I checked for my essentials; phone, wallet...where did I leave my keys?
“What’s wrong?” Sarah asked as I frantically dug around the bottom of my bag.
“I can’t find my house keys.”
“You had them with you last night when you went home.”
I swore when I realized where they were. I said my goodbyes to the girls and marched to Jason’s toy room.I promised myself I’d be in and out before he could realize I was there.
The old door groaned as I tried to sneak in unnoticed; I spotted the keys on the table underneath the new window. I tiptoed across the room and had my hand on the prize when Jason’s voice came out of God knows where.
“Are you kidding?” He said.
I swiveled around and tried to ignore the pounding it caused in my head, “I forgot my keys.”
He looked between me and the keys, “Couldn’t even bother to come up with a new excuse?”
“Whatever,” I started toward the door but he stepped in front of me.
I waited for an explanation but he turned and reached for the door handle. He opened the door and stepped aside, “I’ll walk you out.”
I blinked, “Why?”
“Why not?” I could think of a million decent reasons why we shouldn’t be seen together. Kitty for one and Jade’s nudging elbow was another. Still, Jason waited for me to leave the room and then followed me out.
“I enjoyed the rehearsal earlier,” He said before we could enter the sales floor.
I shook my head in annoyance, “That wasn’t funny.” The sales floor was nearly vacant except for a few customers deciding between battery operated and rechargeable toys.
“I thought it was funny,” He replied with a light chuckle, “but all of you were doing good before the sound system malfunctioned.”
Reaching the front door felt as if I finished my journey across treacherous land, “I saw you with the remote.”
“I would never be so cruel,” He winked and turned away. I watched him approach the customers and launch into a sales pitch. I shook off the encounter and headed home to a hot shower.