Free for All: Flash Fiction
Free for All
Suzette, who was going to teach her how to sell lip gloss, nail polish, body cream—H.E.N., the name of the line (it had a meaning, feminist sardonic, and then it had another meaning: Health, Energy, Nature)—had a drawing-in-of-the-lips habit. She had long, impractical fingernails. She’d laughed, in a tolerant enough way, leafing through registration forms that she kept, for some reason, on a clipboard.
“Nola. Yeah, I got you. You’re not one of our Fierce girls.”
No. Nola, budget member, sat down before the keyboard, expectant, with what felt to her the right attentiveness for a woman older and fatter than the others.
And she had not gone ahead and made herself a user name.
She glanced at Cara, sharing her table. Cara had logged in, started checking her…(okay, Nola thought) “H.E.N. box”, and was looking at a demo with the sound off.
Nola had waited to be told.
“I guess I’m dumb. Sorry.”
This, she’d supposed friendly and humble. Suzette moved away, saying something under her breath.
Innovation. The first bullet point on the slide that shined on the white board. The computer screen dimmed, and the slide dimmed. Nola typed in Corpse Lily. Her sample GoGel, a plummy black mascara and liner in one, was so called. A minute passed, and flashing on her screen from slideshow to text, something new appeared.
“Do you all have your quiz up?”
Cara seemed to smirk. She had finished the quiz. She saw Nola looking at her, and whispered, not very softly, “It tells you whether you got it right. You just pick something else.”
Suzette sidled onto the school desk where her laptop sat open. She went on, “What makes H.E.N. cosmetics…”
A man in oxford shirt and khakis, youthful face, thinning hair, came through the door, flapping a paper.
“…different…” Suzette said. The corner of her mouth pouched, and she shot him a warding eye. He showed her the paper.
“What! They can’t do it!”
“Update your resume, Suzette.”
She rose, with skirt-tugging awkwardness, and clutched his arm. “Sean, it’s such a lie. How could a company go into receivership overnight?”
She had more to say, but Sean, whose “Suzette” had been tinged a little nasty, now said, “Are you touching me?”
Suzette gasped. She made a fist.
Cara jumped to her feet, and said, “Hey!”
“Touch you? You freaking little…”
“Hey! You people! I paid a hundred bucks! What the fuck!”
A woman opened the door, stuck her head in, and closed it. A man stuck his in, and said, “Get that stuff!” About a dozen of the places were unoccupied, but welcome bags, yellow and white striped, tissue-filled, still rested on the chairs of each.
“C’mon, get that stuff,” Cara said. Nola got her purse, managed to block with her backside the groping arms of Sean, and burst at length into the hall, with three bags of loot.
Free for All
(2017, Stephanie Foster)