Haven’t had that dream in awhile, Carla thought as she awoke with a yawn. The memory of the little gray eyed boy faded to the back of her mind as she got dressed. It was Sunday and she had the morning shift at her job at the animal shelter.
One pair of grey leggings, black combat boots, large knitted cream sweater and a navy blue beanie later, she was ready. She’d brushed out her hair to lie in light brown waves on her shoulders. Her mother was passed out drunk in her room down the hall, snoring heavily so Carla got to escape a morning incident before heading out to work.
One forty minute bus ride later and Carla was standing outside the shelter. It was a cozy looking place with a forest green outside paint job, large open windows so that passer-bys could look in and a large animatronic puppy chasing a cat above the shelter sign. Carla felt at peace here.
Smiling to herself she opened the door. As she entered the shop the door chimes rang out clearly above her head, sending some of the puppies in the back into a barking frenzy. She smiled wider as she inhaled the warm smell of coffee, clean dogs and lavender.
Her boss Mitch had lit a candle. As she walked further into the shelter he rounded the corner from the back room with two fresh mugs of coffee and a smile which she happily returned.
“You know I love you right?” Carla told him as she gleefully accepted the warm mug. Mitch’s light blue eyes sparkled at her words as he smirked.
“You only use me for free coffee and cute puppies,“. His voice was laced with teasing and amusement. She bumped shoulders with him.
“As long as you know,” she joked before rounding the corner herself to where the animals were kept.
“Hi Danny!” she cooed zeroing in on an adorable chocolate lab prancing around in one of the bigger cages whom she’d been caring for for the past couple weeks. He was still a puppy when he’d been abandoned on the street by a family who’s litter was too big.
Carla and Mitch brought him to the shelter and once he was fed and nursed back to health, he turned out to be the friendliest bundle of love ever. Carla would’ve adopted him if her circumstances at home were any different.
She opened his cage and he bounded out licking her arms and face as he gave little excited yelps. His bark hadn’t fully matured yet. She laughed holding her coffee mug in the air with one hand so it didn’t fall while she scratched behind his soft, velvety ears with the other.
“I missed you too buddy,” she cooed. Mitch watched Carla and Danny in amusement and affection.
“Why can’t I get a greeting like that?“. He asked while wiggling his eyebrows suggestively.
“Because you’re a pervert honey,” Carla cooed not taking her eyes off of Danny’s large black ones. “Isn’t that right Danny? Isn’t Mitch a pervert?“. She said in a baby voice as she scratched under his chin.
Danny wagged his tail furiously in what she took to be agreement and she giggles. A light and airy sound. Carla heard Mitch sigh and mutter something under his breath about “might as well date the dog” and “too beautiful for her own good” before walking off to get the food and the leash. Carla was too caught up in cuddling with Danny to really pay attention.
When Mitch comes back Danny is lying by her side, resting his head in her lap. At the sight of the dog food bag he leaped to his feet and yelped excitedly, bouncing on his little paws.
“Woah there boy, just a minute,“. Mitch said as Carla stood to her feet, wiping dog hair off of her leggings to no avail. She laughed at the sight of Mitch trying to dodge Danny, clip his leash and fill the food bowl at the same time. He looked like a spider on rollerblades, limbs flying everywhere.
“You need some help there?” she asked casually as she leaned on the wall, drinking her coffee which was still warm. Mitch spared a glance at her.
“No, no I got it,” he said before finally lunging for Danny and clipping the leash while shoving him away with his foot and filling his food bowl at the same time. In the next moment he sprang back breathing hard as Danny attacked his kibble. Carla eyed her flushed and breathless boss.
“Good work boss man,” she said with a small salute before setting down her empty mug. He gave her a small smile before heading into the storage room to return the rest of the food. When he came back Danny was done and already nosing towards the back door that led out to the yard where they walked and trained the puppies.
“I’ll do it,” Carla said with a laugh as she noticed Mitch’s tired and weary looking eyes. He gave her a grateful nod. Carla returned half an hour later with a tuckered out puppy and some fatigue of her own. Training pups was hard work, especially over active ones like Danny. Half her time was spent chasing him around rather than actually training him.
After he was safely locked back in his cage and sound asleep they got to work doing the same for the rest of the puppies and then running some indoors exercise for the cats in the back Puffy Room as they called it since the entire room from floor to ceiling and wall to wall was covered in puffy pink cushion so that the cats didn’t scratch up the walls or floors.
When all the animal training and feeding was done, the sun had long since set in the sky and Carla was beat. She shrugged on her coat with slow and lethargic movements. She headed towards the front door.
“Leaving now Mitch!” she called out over her shoulder.
“Okay! Come in early next weekend! Something I need to ask you,” he called back from the storage room. A small wave of curiosity washed over Carla as she left the shelter at just what he wanted to speak to her about but fatigue and cold quickly washed that away. She hugged the jacket close to her and began her walk home.
It was Monday.
As soon as she entered the school Carla was grabbed by a hot pink manicured hand and dragged into the girls bathroom where she was thrown against the wall. She slid to the ground with a groan and heard the click of a lock snapping into place. She was trapped. She slowly looked up to see Stephanie standing above her, a triumphant sneer on her face.
“What do you want Stephanie?” Carla muttered out as she massaged the arms that’d slammed into the wall. Stephanie’s usual cronies had about three new members; all from the girls rugby team. Big burly looking things that appeared like they could snap a tree trunk in half with their bare hands. Carla was screwed.
“So I heard you were at Ridian’s party,” Stephanie began looking Carla up and down in disgust. She shrugged.
“Yeah, what of it?” Carla asked trying not to sound as scared as she really was.
“I heard you were in Ridian’s room,” Stephanie spat out between clenched teeth. Carla stared at her blankly.
“Do you literally have spies stalking me outside of school because that’s on some creepy shit-“her sentence was cut short by a sharp slap to the right hand side of her face. Carla tasted blood in her mouth and realized that Stephanie had busted her lip. Her cheek stung and she held it in one hand gingerly.
“Don’t get smart with me,” Stephanie hissed before gesturing to her goons in the back. “You are clearly not in a position where you can speak unless spoken to,“. Carla stared at the ground.
“But you did speak to me dumb ass,” she muttered as she scraped the side of her shoe on the floor. Stephanie started pacing in front of her.
“I think we need to clear some things up,” she began. “Ridian is mine,” she said with a condescending smirk. Carla gave her a blank look.
“So where’s your receipt?” she asked in a dull tone. Stephanie stopped smirking and instead looked at Carla in confusion. Carla rolled her eyes and thrust out on hip cockily as she explained.
“If he’s yours than that means he is an object so you clearly purchased him from somewhere. So show me your receipt; the proof of ownership,” Carla finished in a ‘duh’ tone. Confusion was still apparent on Stephanie’s face and it was starting to seep into Carla’s mind too. She never acted like this.
“Shut up you stupid slut,” Stephanie said. The confusion was gone and instead an evil smirk once again perched proudly upon her heavily made up face. She gestured to one of the goons who smirked and went inside one of the stalls, closing the door. Carla stared at the shut door in confusion.
What is she doing? Isn’t she supposed to be hurting me?
Stephanie inspected her nails as she waited, grim triumph emanating from her stance. After a minute or too the sound of water splashing down onto the inside of the toilet bowl could be heard loud and clear. The girl was peeing. Confusion still clouded Carla’s mind until suddenly, she knew.
“Oh please don’t!” she begged her hands clasped together in a prayer. Her emerald eyes were wide and fearful as they pleaded with Stephanie’s cold, dull, blue ones.
“The time for begging is over. You should have thought about that before you tried to steal from me. This is what I do to thieves,” she spat giving Carla a look of disgust. Carla tried logic.
“But we didn’t even do anything! I got tired from dancing and went upstairs to take a nap; I didn’t even know it was his room!” she cried. Stephanie gave her a blank look.
“Fat chance,” she hissed out. “As if I’d believe anything that comes out of your foul mouth,“. Carla tried flattery next.
“Even so it doesn’t matter because he would never look at me like that! Especially not with you around. I can’t compete with you on any level; anyone can see that. Why would he choose me when he can have someone as wonderful as you,” she said hoping she came off flattering and in awe as opposed to desperate and fake. Stephanie faltered for a moment pondering Carla’s words.
“Well that is true,” she said slowly, tapping one long nailed finger to her chin as her straight blonde hair swished behind her back. “I am so much better than you on every level. God makes miracles,” she gestured to herself. “And he makes mistakes,” she finished casting a sneering glance at Carla. Carla’s spirits lifted slightly at the sign of hope she’d escape this unscathed.
“But I’d rather be safe than sorry,” Stephanie finished crossing her arms over her ridiculously large chest. All the hope that had been in Carla a moment ago vanished into thin air. The girl stepped out from the stall, grinning nastily. Stephanie lifted her hand giving the signal but before the muscled girls could move Carla ran for the exit, shoving Stephanie to the side and darting around the other goons.
She almost made it to the door when a large and calloused hand gripped her arm in an iron grip and slowly dragged her back into the bathroom. Stephanie was standing up from the floor with a furious look on her face. Her boobs had shifted out of position and her hair was mussed giving her an over all frazzled look.
“Do it,” she hissed scathingly to her goons. They gulped and nodded once, not wanting to be in direct line of her wrath and dragged Carla into the stall, one on each side of her pulling her arms back in restraint. The awkward position was making Carla’s shoulder blades burn with pain and she gritted her teeth as they forced her to her knees.
The overwhelmingly acidic smell of urine filled her nose as her face hovered over the toilet seat. Looking in she could see a pool of a burnt umber colored liquid; piss. The goons hesitated and she thought for a moment their conscience was peeking through. Then she heard a shout from Stephanie-probably another order- and she was thrust head first into the toilet bowl.
She had managed to close her eyes and keep her lips sealed tightly but it still burned her nose and the edges of her eyes. Stephanie’s minions began rubbing her head around in the toilet so that her lips were being smashed against the inner walls. She heard a distant voice speak out; Stephanie’s.
“Hold her there until she runs out of breath and her mouth opens. I want her to taste it,” she hissed out. Carla could almost picture the image of fury and evil that was probably Stephanie at that moment. She wriggled and tried to wrestle herself out of the grip of the two girls but only succeeded in increasing the piercing pain in her back.
At last she couldn’t hold her breath any longer-she’d lasted for two minutes- and her mouth opened with a gasp. Immediately the bitter liquid flowed in filling her mouth with the taste of waste and that which should never be discovered by mankind. She sputtered and screamed and they finally lifted her head out of the bowl.
Tears were streaming down her face as she broke into a coughing fit, her body spazzing and shaking as she spit over and over into the bowl. Finally with a lurch her stomach gave way and she vomited, retching out the contents of her stomach until there was nothing left and it was only stomach acid coming up, burning the inside of her throat.
After a good fifteen minutes of this torture she collapsed back onto the floor, her shoulders shaking as she sobbed. Stephanie and her goons had been long gone. They’d left sometime before she started puking, laughing at her pitiful state on the way out. She was utterly alone. After what felt like ages Carla finally calmed down.
I need to get myself cleaned up, she thought numbly as she slowly rose to her feet.
First she washed and conditioned her hair in the sink with the emergency travel kit she always kept in her bag should something happen at school. Once during freshman year there’d been a tomato juice incident in Home Ec that had convinced her an emergency kit was necessary.
She’d never had to use it before as she’d never experienced bullying like this, only the occasional tease about being a stiff. She brushed it and dried underneath the hand dryer. Then she washed her face four times and brushed her teeth ten with emergency facial wash, toothbrush and toothpaste she also kept in her kit.
When her gums were bleeding from being scrubbed so hard she finally stopped and stripped her wet and smelly clothes, dumping them in the waste bin. She would never be able to wear those again, even if she did get the smell out, the memory still remained.
Usually keeping a change of clothes in her bag after an unfortunate mural project gone wrong, Carla searched for them. Digging in her bag she found a spare pair of jeans, her gym shirt and the sweater she’d brought this morning if the cool AC in the chemistry lab became too much.
Slipping into the clothes she zipped the sweater all the way up, hiding the shirt from view. She didn’t want to answer any unnecessary questions. She braided her damp hair into a french on the side and spritzed herself with some body spray. Looking into the mirror she appeared completely normal to the outside world.
But she knew better. If one looked closely they’d see the light red rims around her eyes from tears and that her lips were slightly swollen from the brushing. They’d see her throat pained her from the slight trouble she had with swallowing her own spit and the tense way she held her now sore shoulders. But no one ever looked that closely at her.
She checked the clock; it was noon. She’d missed all her morning classes including Chemistry with Ridian. She hoped he wouldn’t press her too much about it later. She knew the office wouldn’t call home unless she missed all her classes. It was lunchtime now so she hurried off to the nurses to get aspirin for a building headache at the base of her skull.
It would only help her alibi about not feeling well if she was asked questions later. With one last look in the mirror Carla made to leave the bathroom. She paused before she exited the doorway glancing back. Then she hurried into the stall-her stall- and flushed the toilet before shutting the door and quickly walking out the bathroom.