Salty

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3

S L O A N

“There’s a scuff on this shoe. I get ten percent off for a defect,” a bright red heel was being held up to Sloan’s face, as if she was blind. “How much would that be?”

After a week of retail, Sloan had become used to obnoxious customers. However, this one in particular had been in three times this week. Patience was being tested and today and Sloan was already in a sour mood. Today her bank account officially hit a negative balance.

Sloan gripped the woman’s wrist and lifted it so that she could read the sticker on the bottom. Her first thought was why on earth would this woman need four-inch kitten heels in cherry red? And then she reminded herself not to care.

“They are ten dollars,” Sloan pointed to the newly applied sticker that was labeled $9.99.

“Right. But I get ten percent off because they have a scuff! How much off?”

Was she serious? Sloan looked between the shoe and the customer who was idly waiting for her to answer.

“Move the decimal and subtract it.”

“What decimal?”

The only decimal there is?

Sloan pressed the tips of her fingers to her eyes, drawing a deep breath and talking herself out of laughing and becoming the total fucking bitch that she knew she was.

Yeah, I can’t get a job with a GED. This woman drives a Lexus and can’t move a decimal to the left. A dollar, moron. Ninety-nine fucking cents.

“That’s fifty cents off,” Sloan allowed her inner bitch to win, scanned the shoe, and hit the minus button to deduct fifty cents from the total.

The woman happily paid for her shoes in cash and strutted off with her amazing “deal”.

"I’m going to hell,” Sloan muttered to herself as she slid the dollar bills into her register drawer. She slammed it shut with her hip and began to look for bags to restock the counter.

Her day was nearly complete, thank goodness. She was already exhausted and the email that informed her that her account had bounced didn’t help. She had spent three dollars on Melatonin to help her sleep and now had to pay the thirty-dollar charge for hitting a negative on top of the fact that this would likely cause her to not sleep. It was a complete waste.

“Here,” TJ appeared and slapped an envelope down to the counter. He pushed it forward with one finger and then retreated his hands to the pockets of his navy dress pants.

“What’s that?” Sloan glanced from the white envelope and back to TJ. Other than some minor register training, he had been keeping his distance from her. She liked it that way.

“It’s an advancement on your check,” he exhaled through his nostrils. “Just a week’s worth...”

“TJ, no.” Sloan slid the envelope back towards him, unwilling to take his handout.

Payday was next Friday. She would figure something out until then. She was getting really good at walking around town, maybe she would sell her car.

“Sloan,” he huffed with a shake of his head. “You are humble, always have been. You work hard, don’t like handouts and that’s not what this is. You’ve got no money, right? You would not be standing in this store if you didn’t have to be. How bad is it? You had money saved for school. Where did it all go?”

Tears were pooling in the corners of her eyes as she watched TJ intensely. It was the first time she felt like having a breakdown outside of the house and she wasn’t ready to break that seal yet. Sloan didn’t want to be comfortable crying at work because then she wouldn’t stop.

She didn’t even have to answer his question—he was bobbing his head—because he was clearly understanding where her money had gone.

“I promised not to bring him up and I won’t. Take the check. If you need another week’s worth, tell me. We will figure something out. I’ll find you extra hours somewhere. Inventory is coming up and I’ll need help.”

The envelope was once again extended to her. She told herself not to take it, worried that this was somehow going to come back and bite her in the ass. Good deeds weren’t exactly TJ’s forte and Sloan was the reason for his break from Hallie. Part of her wondered if this was his way of attempting to sneak back into Hallie’s good graces. Little did he know that Sloan still hadn’t mentioned the new employer to her best friend. She was hoping another business would call her back about her resume, but of course, that didn’t happen.

“Take it, Sloan,” he gave his hand a shake.

Her fingers took the paper but surprisingly, he didn’t release it. He gave it a tug instead, causing her to step forward. He stared at the ground at their feet, making her feel uneasy with his own uneasiness.

“What he asked of you wasn’t fair. If you need to talk, I will listen. Don’t put it all on Hal. It’s been almost six months and I can clearly see you are not the same Sloan. He fucked you up good.”

Sloan tore the papers from his hold, now out of spite. Did he not just say moments ago that he wouldn’t bring up Steve?

“It was my choice,” she told him and herself with a bit of confidence. She stood a little taller, running her hand through her long hair. “One that I would do a hundred times over again. You did not stick around and therefor you do not get the details of what you are likely dying to know. I love Steve and made the right decision. You are a shit friend and Hallie understands why I need her.”

“Yeah,” he agreed with a frown tugging at his lips. “That I am.”

Sloan heard the hurt in his voice as he walked strode towards the chiming door, signaling that another customer had entered. She opened the envelope, seeing enough money that she could put a little in her account to get out of the red and buy some groceries. The rest she would give to Hallie, because that part he was totally right about. Her poor friend didn’t make the choice, Sloan did, and Hallie was literally paying for it.

***

“God, just look at him,” Hallie ogled the TV. This was probably the twentieth time she had said this since they had sat down in front of it. “Ugh. Sloan, he’s perfect.”

Sloan looked across the living room—a room covered in pillows and blankets, various snacks, wine glasses and a few plates from their dinner of Acapulco steak tacos with fresh pico de Gallo—to the man on TV who was already prematurely graying in the early nineties. Their girls’ night was in full swing, right down to their favorite movie, Pretty Woman.

“He’s ancient, Hal. He could be your grandpa.”

A pillow was tossed at Sloan’s head from the floor. It just grazed her cheek as it flew too high and landed behind the couch. Sloan knew better than to insult Richard Gere in front of Hallie.

“He’s hot! A goddamn silver fox. I can’t even imagine what he would do with my body beneath his.”

Sloan coughed on her wine, causing it to nearly expel from her nostrils. Appearing completely disgusted, she stared at the back of Hallie’s head, unsure of her friend’s sanity at the moment. Nineties Richard—maybe. Richard today—gross.

Hallie sat like a preschooler on the floor, her legs folded into the shape of a pretzel, elbows resting on her knees with her chin on a closed fist. She was sitting so close to the TV that Sloan had half a mind to tell her that she would ruin her vision. It would be no use though, Richard Gere demanded Hallie’s full attention at close range.

They had loved this movie since they were kids, around the ages of ten or eleven. It was one of the few movies that Hallie’s adopted parents owned on VHS and Sloan had managed to find a working VCR at one of her foster parents’ homes. It was practically an antique, but they made do with what they had. TJ made it function and the movie was basically on repeat from there on out. Of course, they had no clue what the movie was actually about until they were much older.

As teens, Hallie and Sloan worshiped the character played by Julia Roberts—a poor and beautiful woman being chosen by the rich and successful heartthrob to be showered with gifts and perks of his money. Now the concept just pissed Sloan off, knowing life did not work out like that and working hard for money was more rewarding.

Hallie preferred gifts.

“I need that man between my legs. ASAP.”

Sloan was going to need more wine. And possibly a bucket for her vomit.

She stretched herself straight on the couch until her toes hit the armrest before flipping herself to her stomach and reaching to the table beside the couch. With one hand, she held her wine glass, and with the other, she pressed the button of the spout on her box. Her favorite Aldi’s wine flowed freely into her glass and she wasted no time pressing the goblet to her lips and knocking back the sweet red liquid.

Classy wine drinkers they were not, but damn, they loved a good cheap wine.

Sloan was still trying to come up with a way to tell Hallie that TJ had hired her. A slight buzz wouldn’t hurt to assist with this. Knowing her nights with Hallie, this box of wine wasn’t going to make it through the evening.

“Can I ask you something?”

Sloan peered over her wine glass at Hallie and took one final gulp of its contents before setting the empty goblet back down. Her stomach was already churning, wondering if her best friend had already learned the truth.

“Sure?”

Hallie leaned back on her hands, eying Sloan carefully from her spot on the floor. Whatever this question was going to be, it was obviously serious, because Hallie turned away from her favorite sexy piano scene to focus on Sloan.

“When was the last time you had sex?”

Sloan’s eyes widened, unsure of how to answer that question.

“Was it with Steve?”

“Of course it was with Steve!” Sloan scoffed, even though it was a fair question.

“So, obviously more than six months,” Hallie began doing the math. “More than a year?”

“Hal!”

“Why are you getting defensive? We used to talk about our sex lives all the time.”

Sloan sunk herself into the back of the couch. Yeah, that was when she had a sex life to discuss. She had never been shy about sex before Steve. Now it was different. Just because she wasn’t having it, didn’t mean she needed it. She didn’t feel ready for that—not at all.

“Over a year,” Sloan answered truthfully. Her face flushed with embarrassment even though she attempted not to.

Two boxes of wine should have been purchased for tonight.

Hallie turned back to the television. Having realized she missed her favorite part, she crawled her way forward and pressed rewind until Julie Roberts was being lifted to the top of the piano.

“I think a good fucking would do you good. You need some orgasms. No joke.”

“Oh my god, Hallie!”

Hallie giggled and laid her back to the floor behind her. Her long blonde hair pooled itself into a heap on her pink pillow.

“Tell me that’s not hot!” With one hand, Hallie motioned back to their movie. Richard Gere was all over Julia Roberts, dropping her robe and running his hand over her silky, black, negligée.

It was definitely hot, Sloan couldn’t disagree. It made her very aware that her body was lacking attention.

“That’s what you need, Sloan! An older man between your legs, his hands all over you, turning you up to eleven without ever kissing your lips. No love, just a night of hot, steamy, piano sex!”

“I don’t need an older man between my legs. I don’t need anyone between them. And what is your fascination with older men?” Sloan tried to steer the conversation away from her non-existent sex life.

“They know what they’re doing down there. They have experience. They are only second best to your own hand.”

Sloan’s eyes rolled as she sat up and began grabbing all the trash they had accumulated during dinner.

“I’m not kidding!” Hallie reached forward and pressed pause on the VCR. “There are three types of males, Sloan. Boys—those are the ones we fucked in high school. They have no clue what they are doing and couldn’t locate the clit if it had a goddamn beacon landing on it.”

Sloan began to laugh at how ridiculous Hallie was sounding, grabbing her wine glass and standing from the couch.

“Then!” Hallie raised her pointer finger. “There are guys. You know, the college type, the ones our age now. They fuck to fuck. It’s all about them. They think they know everything and are far from it. Cocky, only because we fake it to make them feel better about themselves.”

"Wow,” Sloan giggled.

She’s been giving this a lot of thought.

"Men. Men are the ones who take their time and can get you off with a touch of their strong, experienced, hands. They pay attention to every part of your body and make sure that you orgasm multiple times. Not only can they find the clit, but they have found the magical G-spot.”

“Uh huh,” Sloan nodded her head but was not going to agree. She wouldn’t know. Apparently boys and guys were the extent of her sexual experience and that was fine. Those orgasms seemed acceptable at the time.

“I worry about your intentions for working at that nursing home, Hal. Those poor old men don’t know their CNA’s intentions.”

“Hell no! Too old! You wouldn’t believe how many of those horny old bastards I find wanking themselves.”

Gross.

Wanting to leave any further discussion of men and sex behind for the night, Sloan decided she would focus on the dishes that were piled high in the sink. She pushed the sleeves of her sweatshirt up to her elbows, plugged the sink and began the hot water. Picking up pans that were covered in taco seasoning and grease, she heard Hallie leave her spot by the TV and begin rushing around their duplex. She figured Hallie was picking up what was left of their mess in the living room even though she could have finished her movie.

By the time Sloan had about half of the dishes rinsed and placed into their plastic drying rack, Hallie reappeared with a smile that was much too big for her face. Sloan knew this look well—her friend was up to no good.

“What did you do?” Sloan groaned and tossed her dish towel to the counter.

“Well,” Hallie began talking bombastically with her hands—another sign that she had done something Sloan wasn’t going to like. “I was in the city last week and I decided I was going to help you out. So, I did a little shopping.”

“Help me out?” Sloan’s eyebrows quizzed. “With what exactly?”

Hallie bit at her nail and then forced herself to stop after Sloan lifted her palms. “I thought maybe a date with yourself would help with your depression. Like a spa night for yourself. So, I set one up for you in the bathroom upstairs.”

Sloan dropped her hands into the front pocket of Steve’s sweatshirt, the only piece of clothing of his that was still in her procession, and smiled even though she was on the brink of tears. She loved her best friend for this type of thing. Hallie could be a handful, a little crazy at times, but she always thought of others first. Especially, Sloan.

“You didn’t have to do that, Hal. You’ve spent enough on me...” Sloan stopped herself before she spilled about TJ. Now wasn’t the time to drop that bomb. Waiting until tomorrow to give Hallie some money seemed like a really good plan. “But thank you.”

“No problem!” Hallie giggled and disappeared out of the kitchen again, but something in her tone was still making Sloan uneasy.

With one look back at the dishes, she decided they would still be there in the morning. A self spa treatment sounded really good after working a full week for the first time in months.

Sloan made her way to the upstairs bathroom, passing Hallie who was back on the couch, finishing their movie. As she walked the hall, she could already smell lavender and see the flickering of candle light through the open door. She took a moment to take a deep breath of the soothing scent, knowing that this is just what she needed. There was also a small hint of vanilla, which she knew from experience was Hallie’s favorite bath oil.

On the vanity of the dark room, there were two lit lavender candles, a purple bath bomb, a stack of People Magazines with a pen (for the crosswords that Sloan loved), the boxed wine with a fresh glass, and a mask that was going to make her look like a cheetah.

Sloan exhaled, allowing any worry that her friend’s intentions would be more than what she had expressed downstairs, to go out the window. This was perfect.

She stripped out of her sweatshirt, making sure to fold it and set it on top of the toilet seat neatly and then pulled open the top drawer of the vanity for a rubber band to pull her hair up and out of her face. She bit down on the band as she gripped her hair with one hand and carefully drew the shower curtain to one side.

“Jesus!” she gasped and clutched her chest, startled at the sight of something large protruding off the wall that normally wasn’t there—and it was glowing. The hair tie fell from her lips to the floor.

She knew Hallie couldn’t be trusted.

"HALLIE!” she bellowed, loud enough that her neighbors likely heard on the other side of their wall.

I’m going to kill her! Sloan tugged on the item until it popped free, almost sending her to her ass. With it firmly in her grasp, and feeling ridiculous, she descended the stairs faster than she ever had to find her friend laughing on the couch.

“What the fuck is this thing?” Sloan waved the most absurdly large, glow-in-the-dark, limpest, suction dildo, she had ever seen. She couldn’t even wrap her fingers around it.

“It’s called The Hulk!” she fell back in her seat giggling with a mixture of hiccups. “I found it in the clearance bin at The Back Door! Five bucks and I had a coupon for twenty percent off! Mine is pink and purple! It doesn’t glow, but it’s glittery. It’s called The Unicorn. Not bad for the price. Mine has been fun.”

There was so much said by Hallie in that one breath that Sloan didn’t know where to start.

“The Back Door?” Sloan cringed.

Hallie’s head bobbed with enthusiasm. “The sex shop behind the laundry mat on fifth! I always shop while I wait for our clothes to dry. I’m like their best customer, they like—love me!”

I’m sure, Sloan thought. Sounds really classy.

"You’ve seriously been fucking our shower?”

“Hell yes!” Hallie jumped up from her spot and grabbed the monstrosity of a toy from Sloan. She ran her way back up the steps with Sloan following close behind. “The shower is a good lay, don’t judge!”

The sound Hulk made when being slapped up against the shower wall was just as absurd as the thing itself. Sloan was sure the neighbors could also hear that.

“It’s huge, Hal!” It was back to glowing and all Sloan could do was shake her head at it. “And it’s limp...”

“Bendable!” Hallie clarified with a grin and clutched it firmly in her hand, bending it upwards to demonstrate. “Trust me, that’s a bonus feature right there!”

“Dear god,” Sloan muttered with widened eyes. Men don’t bend like that and neither should the sex toys meant to stand in for them.

“You’re my height and I find lining it up with the middle shelf of the shower is best. He might need some adjusting, but you’re going to love it!” Hallie smacked Sloan’s ass on the way out of the room. “Get you some, girlfriend!”

The door closed, leaving Sloan with a toy that looked like it belonged in her nightmares. She would not be using it, no matter how depressed and sex-deprived she had become. She refused to allow her life to sink to a low where she was screwing her limp, glowing, shower dildo named Hulk.

Focusing on all the other fabulous items that her best friend had left her, Sloan began to enjoy some well deserved ‘me time’. She stripped down, applied her mask, and dipped her body into the warm vanilla water. Her aching muscles immediately thanked her and she couldn’t help but to allow an ahhh to escape her throat. The room was far took dark to read a magazine, so instead, she closed her eyes and tried to shut her brain off for a few minutes. Sleep soon followed.

“What the fuck is THIS?”

Sloan’s eyes opened immediately to the sound of Hallie swinging the bathroom door open and the light turning on. She could tell her friend was holding something in her hand, but the damn mask combined with the fact that she was half awake made everything a blur.

“What’s what?” Sloan asked groggily and wiped her eyes.

The first thing she saw was that her bubbles had disappeared, leaving nothing more than the skim of the suds. She wrapped her arms over her breasts and folded her legs. Nothing Hallie hadn’t seen before but still—boundaries.

“This!” Hallie yelled, waving a small piece of paper. “Why is TJ signing your check?”

Oh shit.

“Because he’s my boss,” Sloan sunk further into her—now cold—bath.

“Excuse me?” Hallie’s voice became louder. “I’m not taking money that you got from that whore-fucker!”

Sloan flinched at the stabbing pain between her eyes. How long had she been out? She was already feeling her wine hangover.

“No one will hire me, Hal. I had no other choice. He’s not paying you. He’s paying me. I need money. If it spends the same, who cares where it comes from? It’s not like I’m friends with him again, and he is very aware of that fact.”

Hallie huffed, slamming down what Sloan could only assume was the stub from her paycheck that she had tossed in the garbage. With one full-body yank, Hallie pulled Hulk from the shower wall, making a sound like the wall was going with it.

“No orgasms for you!” she waved the flaccid neon toy in the air before slamming the door behind her.

Well, that went better than Sloan had hoped.

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