Chapter 43: The Audition Begins
Lenora stared at herself in the full-length mirrors that surrounded her like soldiers. She faced her own scantily clad body with her mouth dry and her eyes wide.
She was terrified.
The corset was made of faux-leather, patched with ribbon at the garters and shoulder straps. The plastic boning was uncomfortable, and so tight that she felt that even her modest endowments would burst free at any second. Thankfully, the suggestive patches of black lace seemed to keep everything in place enough for what she had to do.
The stockings were fishnet and ended in a pair of borrowed spike heels. It felt like one of them (her right foot) was too tight, and she knew that would hurt later. There was a black choker around her neck like a collar with shining red rhinestones winking at her from the mirrors.
It was a miracle that she had no visible scars. Everyone said so. Lenora had never thought to be grateful for that before.
She had dainty black lace covering her hands and hooked on her thumbs, keeping her fingers free and bare like the rest of her limbs.
“Hey sweetheart, we’re ready for you!” Someone called.
Lenora jumped, instantly flaring red all through her cheeks and her neck.
“Breathe, Lenora. Just keep breathing.”
Lenora fixed herself with a stare, and tried to stop her body from trembling.
She felt like she was going into a den of wolves, patiently waiting to tear her apart. She had no armor, no protection; she was bare and alone here. She didn’t even have her mace; where would she put it? The lingerie was so tight she couldn’t even fit her couple of Cred Notes in the corset.
“We’ll start the music when you get to center stage, all right?” That same someone called.
Lenora nodded to herself. She reached out to touch the desperate hand of her reflection, and weakly smiled. “You’ll be fine. It will be fine.”
Breathing in deeply through her nose, and slowly out her mouth, she turned away from herself, and straightened her back. Past the curtains she now faced was her enemy. She was the only thing that could save her. She was her only weapon, her only shield. She had to do this.
She had to do this.
Lenora pushed aside the curtains and strode to the center of the small stage.
The heat of lights greeted her, and blinded her for a second from the presences she felt in the audience.
I can’t see them. I can’t see them.
She repeated it like a mantra as she strode to the center and struck a pose she had practiced in front of the mirrors. She threw out her left leg and cocked her hip, one hand on the right side crook of her waist, and the other flat against her left leg. She flipped her now free lengths of pin straight hair over her shoulder, and gave the blinding lights an unexpected glare of surprising intensity.
Someone in the audience let out a low whistle.
Somewhere, music began to play.
And then her eyes adjusted to the lights, and the shapes began to form in the darkness past her sphere of illumination.
I can see them.
Lenora shut her eyes.
I can’t do this. I can’t do this.
In those moments, she felt her body freezing up. Her legs were steel, and her back was ramrod straight, the terror taking root in her mind like a poison.
The audience waited in silence as a tremble began to shake her bottom lip.
I can’t do this.
X heard the door close.
There was nothing else.
Except of course, for the sound of his own laughter.
When The Big Guy opened the door, X tumbled forward, curling over on his side in a fit of uncontrollable giggles. He barely registered the bewilderment on Useless’s face.
She thinks she can stop you?
“That’s good… that’s so good…” X gasped, eyes clouding with whimsical tears.
Eventually, The Big Guy’s shadow distracted him, and he pried open his eyes to gaze up at the mountain standing over him.
“…Uh…” The Big Guy started.
“You loom. You loom very well.” X stated, shuffling himself to a kneeling position just outside the bathroom door. The Big Guy took a few steps back, fidgeting with his hands as X composed himself.
“…Sorry…” The Big Guy murmured.
X tsked at him, and scowled crookedly at The Big Guy through the haze of receding hysteria. “Why? It was a fucking compliment.”
Talk about esteem issues…
“Yeah, really…” X muttered, pulling himself up by the door frame.
“She … wants to find you.” The Big Guy looked over at his front door.
X shrugged, sucking in a deep breath. “She won’t.”
The Big Guy furrowed his brow.
Brown Brow. Big Brown Brow. Alliteration.
X’s left eyelid twitched, and he lunged forward, having to get on his tiptoes to grip both sides of the Big Guy’s face.
The Big Guy froze, eyes widening.
“Stop it, stop it.” X chastised, using the heel of one palm to push flat the wrinkles on his forehead. “You’re such a big fucking guy, act like one.”
X released him and started prowling around The Big Guy’s living space. “Fuck…”
What’s the problem? Let her find you. THEN you can throttle her all you want. Maybe she knows something.
“I know that.”
Or you could follow her.
“Took a car.”
Ask The Big Guy where she is.
“Pfft. The Big Guy won’t tell me.”
“Useless.” The Big Guy interjected.
X and himself stopped pacing and shot The Big Guy a glare. “What did you call me?”
The Big Guy gulped, and held up both hands, shaking his head. “N-no, that’s me.”
X rolled his eyes. “You’re right. Self esteem issues.”
I know, right?
“No. That’s my name.” The Big Guy corrected, wringing his hands again.
X blinked at him a few times in his momentary lapse in comprehension.
The Big Guy nodded. “…My Dad named me.”
X gave him a thorough once-over and smirked. “What kind of idiot names his kid Useless?”
Useless surrendered the tiniest of smiles – In fact, X might have missed it if the worry-wrinkles hadn’t disappeared when he smiled.
X laughed out loud, shaking his head. He ran his hands through his hair and held it all on the sides of his head as he regarded Useless again.
“Hi. I’m X.”
X thrust out a hand to Useless. Useless flinched. X quirked an eyebrow. The Chef’s knife was still on the floor by the bathroom. X even looked pointedly at it as he held his hand out.
When X was done implying that he was unarmed and attempting civility, Useless enveloped his hand with his own and shook.
That is a damn firm handshake.
“Fuck. You are one strong Useless.” X chuckled.
Useless smiled. “Yep.”
X pulled his hand free of the grip and then shifted his weight.
They stood there for a minute.
I don’t think you ever had people skills. Maybe that’s why they wanted to experiment on you. You probably didn’t have many friends, did you?
“I don’t doubt it.”
“Who… who are you talking to?” Useless fumbled his hands into his pockets, and examined his feet.
X shrugged the comment off with a flippant wave of his hand. “That – some guy – no one. Me. Whatever.”
They stood there for another minute.
“What are you going to do?” Useless asked.
His feet must be really interesting. X looked at them too. Maybe Useless saw something X couldn’t.
Yay, another crazy.
“Birds of a feather.” X chuckled.
“What?” Useless glanced up at him.
X caught his eye. “I’m going to kill her, I think.”
Useless held his gaze for only a moment before nodding solemnly.
“That doesn’t bother you?” X’s head tilted to the side.
He wondered if it would keep tilting around and around if he didn’t stop himself.
X stopped himself. He wasn’t sure he wanted to find out.
“No.” Useless answered.
Useless fidgeted some more and then shrugged his massive shoulders.
X groaned. “Talk, talk, talk.” He took a quick step towards Useless. When Useless flinched away, X raised his hands and waggled his fingers playfully. He grinned. “Why not?”
Useless took a deep breath. X pondered for a second; This guy was so big X would probably be able to fit right inside his chest.
Duly noted. Let’s put that thought in our ‘contingency plan’ folder.
Useless released the breath. “My mother said that bad people get what they deserve in the end.”
X thought about it a second and nodded with some finality. “If I kill her that would be her end I guess.”
X’s face broke into a grin and he slapped Useless on his monstrous forearm before box-stepping to his door. “I like your mom.”
Useless smiled, but X couldn’t see it. He was already out of the building in a mood fit for a mad man.
If this woman was so hell bent on finding him, he wouldn’t disappoint.
So where does she think you are, anyway?
“Fuck if I know.” X shrugged, half-skipping down the streets.
Oh yeah you do.
His step faltered, and the smile quickly vanished.
Did you think she was invisible too?
No doubt someone saw her, figured out where she lived, told someone who told someone who told someone…
X gripped both sides of his head and clenched his teeth in a snarl. “Shut up.”
Yeah, now isn’t the time to ignore me, genius.
X slapped himself in the forehead twice before quickening his step. “Fine. Fine.”
X walked in silence. He took a few deep breaths as a stoplight flickered and changed prematurely to his left. He tried to clear his head. It was… difficult.
“Let her find me.”
Pssht, works for me.
“Let’s do it. But first –“ X changed direction. “Let’s say hi to Westy. We’ve got time.”
Peaches. I want peaches.