Flash Fiction: Free for All
Free for All
Suzette, who was going to teach how to sell lip gloss, eye palettes, body glitter—
(H.E.N. the name of the line, which had underlying meaning, feminist sardonic, and official meaning: Health, Energy, Nature…)
Had a drawing-in-of-the-lips habit. Long, impractical nails. And had laughed, in a tolerant enough way, leafing through registration printouts that she kept 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.
She had not gone ahead and made herself a username.
She smiled at Cara, who shared her table. Cara was logged in, checking her…(okay, Nola thought) “H.E.N. box”…and watching a demo with the sound off.
Nola waited to be told. “I guess I’m dumb with computers. Sorry.”
This, she had supposed friendly and humble. Suzette moved away, saying something under her breath.
Innovation, the first bullet point shining on the white board. Nola typed in Corpse Lily. Her sample GoGel, a plummy black mascara and liner in one double-ended tube, was so called. She scrolled impossible women, their teeth bared…their fingers clutching at turtlenecks… A thing who does? Nola thought. A minute passed, then 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 glance at her, and whispered, not very softly, “It tells you whether you got it right. So just pick something else.”
Suzette sidled onto the school desk where her laptop sat open. “Okay, ladies, what makes H.E.N. cosmetics…”
A man in oxford shirt and khakis, youthful face, thinning hair, came through the door flapping a paper.
The corner of Suzette’s mouth pouched, and she shot him a warding eye. “Sean.”
“Ya better,” he said, dropping it on her skirt.
She muttered, but read. She muttered aloud: “What!” She looked up at Sean. “They can’t do it!”
“Update your resume, Suzette.”
She rose, with hem-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 her colleague said, “Are you touching me?”
Suzette gasped. She made a fist.
Cara jumped to her feet. “Hey!”
“Touch you? You goddamn little freak…”
“Hey! You people! I paid a hundred bucks! What the fuck!”
A woman opened the door, stuck her head in, left the door ajar. 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, pink tissue-filled, 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 into the hall, with three bags of loot.
Free for All
(2018, Stephanie Foster)