AUTHOR: Simone Bellenoit
TITLE: “Pink-Striped Socks”
GENRE: Short Story (fiction)
SYNOPSIS: When there is light, there is dark. When there is laughter, there is pain. When there is smoke, there is fire. And when there is fire, there’s Olivia.
ISSUES: A friend said there should be more foreshadowing involved in the beginning, and I would absolutely like to know if others agree. Ideas for a catchier title in general would be the bee’s knees, too.
a short story by Simone Bellenoit
It all began with the pair of pink-striped socks. You know, the kind you find on the clearance rack in the department store basement. Under the moth balls, next to the fake and extremely out-dated Gucci bags, right above the rat-chewed Betsy Johnson dresses. We’ve all got a pair of those sinking in our sock drawers, right ladies?
The result of a severe impulse buy, or a saver for special occasions; Halloween parties, fun first dates at the carnival, relaxing by the fire after a long week’s worth of work in a dull cubical.
Our comfort mechanism. A security blanket wrapping seductively around your calves. A reminder of your childhood; nothing could harm you in these knitted foot gloves. Nothing.
I met Olivia in that same basement. Hair astray, tied back in an attempt to control the beast that was her red mane. She was wearing a black pea coat jacket, snugged tightly against her petite figure with a purple paisley scarf just fluttering around her neck, swaying ever so gently from each movement her body made. Men would watch her with caution and intrigue; she was a walking mystery, that Olive.
Our hands tensed as we reached for the same product, hitting fists together, causing a spine-chilling sound of two knuckles colliding.
We both stand surprised and apologetic.
“Sorry!” I yelped, rubbing my hand.
She laughed hesitantly, “No, really, my apologies.”
An awkward silence; God taking advantage to laugh at you.
Olive picked up the pair of striped socks, “Here, you saw them first.” She held out her hand and placed them gently in mine.
I tried to renegotiate, “No, really, they aren’t important. Take-” She held a hand up in the air, signaling a halt.
“Nonsense,” she reassured, and handed me three dollar bills. “Compensation for your wounded hand.”
Her smile was warm, her actions unusually kind.
I stared blankly for a moment looking like a complete idiot, something I had a real knack for.
“It’s the Holidays after all. Pay it forward.”
She reached out her hand, touching mine, folding my fingers around the white and pink wool. I wasn’t sure if she was actually in the rare holiday spirit or making a pass at me; Either way, I thanked her, and we made our departure.
When I pulled the money she gave me out of my coat pocket to pay, a business card fell out. Name and number clear as day, a smile formed on my face. I grabbed the small bag and rushed home, calling her almost instantly. She must have known it was me on the other line, because she teased, letting it ring what seemed like forever until the receiver was finally picked up, and all I heard was that sweet, honey voice of hers.
“What took you so long?”
We got together often. Once a week turned into twice, then three into four. I wasn’t exactly sure what I was getting myself into at the time, but something told me it was not the typical coffee date. Something else was brewing between us and the closer we mentally got the more intimidated I actually was about the whole damn thing.
Olivia read my mind. No, not guessed, but actually read my mind. I was starting to feel like I had to be extra careful with my jumbling thoughts around her, or she may pick up some unwanted frequency on her inner radar. She had me on my toes at all times.
It was exciting, and most of all, different.
She wasn’t a threat, but like a great present you aren’t exactly sure how to react to. Like a diamond encrusted Jesus candle, or a salad spinner. You admire the novelty and appreciate the sentiment behind it, but you don’t necessarily want to do anything with it. That was Olive. Poor and lonely Olive. So much misunderstanding; too much self-loathing.
The first time we made love felt like it was out of an act of desperation; a job we had to do. This was not Olivia’s first time having sex with another woman, but it was clearly mine. The second time was more intimate, and the rest after that was pure fire.
We kept our relationship out of the open. Not for shameless reasons, for we had nothing to be ashamed of other then our terrible obsession with puppy dog calendars; just didn’t see a point in telling our friends or family. It all seemed easier that way. Wouldn’t have to drag our asses to dinner parties or petty gal-pal bar hoppings; just more of us.
And that’s when everything went terribly wrong.
The spying wasn’t even the worst of it, but the constant accusations of cheating were getting far too out of hand.
We fought. So terribly that I’d have scratches all around my neck and wrists. Torn skirts, bruised ribs. Broken glass in my tangled and tired hair. She tore me to shreds, and that was on a good day. Too ashamed to tell anybody and too afraid of Olivia’s wrath, I left. Ran right out the door, in fact. No luggage, with the exception of my purse and battered morality.
By the sixth month of our now rapidly dissolving relationship I officially moved out. Both of us agreed it was for the best, but I knew Olivia was certainly not on the same damn page. She was livid on the inside.
“What happened to your last girlfriend?” I asked, attempting a whim of friendly conversation while wrapping coffee cups in underwear; a real space saver for rushed departures.
Olive said nothing.
I went back to my novelty mugs and Victoria’s Secret suitcase.
“Trisha,” she mumbled finally, “She said I was too intense. Didn’t like the way I looked at her.”
“That’s a strange response,” I turned to Olive, “Don’t you think?”
And there it was; the devil staring back at me.
Trisha did not have to be the sanest person in the world to observe a demonic look like this.
Slowly, I picked up the box and made my way to the door, feeling her eyes on me the entire time. Haunted, I left the rest of my things with her, too afraid to step inside that apartment ever again. My life was starting to feel more important than a couple of Duran Duran albums and a tube of over-priced organic toothpaste.
I unpacked back at my old place with my dignity between my legs. My roommates had been surprisingly welcoming, as if they were as relieved as I was to get out of that diminishing hell hole.
When I emptied the last of my laundry I noticed the pair of pink-striped socks shoved in the bottom of my insufferable duffel bag. I touched them, feeling a terrible overwhelming sensation of loss and regret. Tears were running faster than any marathon down my face as I sat on the edge of my bed, clutching the one fond memory I ever really had of any body in the entire world. And that world was crashing down within seconds. The weight was hitting me and I felt dead. I felt useless.
I felt I made a horrible, horrible mistake.
Like most things in life, everything has a process. You grieve, you breathe, you move forward. You rethink things more than should be mentally aloud. You dramatize scenarios, stage fights and conversations to your liking. You eat a carton of Breyer’s mint chocolate chip in your bath tub blaring Roxette’s “Listen To Your Heart”. You go shoe shopping. You take up tennis lessons. You don’t show up for tennis lessons. You return the shoes you bought in order to pay for the tennis lessons you never went to. You make snide remarks with your friends at clothing boutiques, saying ‘Yes, Sherry, you are too fat to wear that dress.’. You think about calling, then put the phone back on the receiver at the last minute.
You lounge around in her favorite perfume.
You pretend to be fine when you’re really falling apart.
Three months pass and I see Olivia with someone new. A shorter, slimmer, almost stickily version of myself. They sit together at the same coffee shop we used to meet at weekly. They seemed playful, all ready more intimate than I ever was with her.
There was no bad energy left to feel. No, I couldn’t feel anything any more. Not for her, at least, not when I remember her scarring stares and rough hands in bed.
I pitied the new victim. Little did this person know of the mental trauma she was yet to face, and I walked away facing the rest of the day entirely numb with a dull headache.
Two weeks pass and I sit at my office desk, making a botched Bjork cartoon in my complementary paint program brought to you by Bill Gates and Windows 98′. Even through all of the fluorescent lighting I could see commotion around the office. I ditch my art lesson and walked to the conference room where the windows are larger than my own flat.
I ask a co-worker what the problem was.
“There’s a girl on the roof,” one bluntly replied.
“A what?” I ask, not thinking about their answer.
“Yeah!” someone interfered, “They say she’s about to jump!”
My head was in a fog.
Exciting, in a terribly selfish way, we were eager to see the end result. Police and firemen were all around the street, yellow tape blocking off intersections, crowds with worried faces. Because as long as we didn’t have to sit in our cubicles, we didn’t give a shit whether she lived or died. Just give us a reason to pay attention to you. That’s what everybody wants after all, isn’t it?
Like a bottle of terrific red wine, it hit me.
The most gut-wrenching feeling was hurtling like a shit-ton of bricks; I had to get to her. I had to talk to her. So I ran down the hallway, throwing myself out the emergency exit door, dashing like a jack rabbit up five flights of stairs to the roof top of the building where a poor bird was about to fly.
A crowd had all ready been making their round to the girl. I push through, so hard I stumble to get my own balance, then lost it again when I noticed the young disheveled woman’s pink-striped socks.
My jaw fucking drops.
Her face, as if she had lived through the Holocaust, peered over her shoulder to face mine. With her black dress in tatters, she had been covered in bruise with cuts all over her thighs and arms; she was a walking massacre, and she had seen the Devil.
“Don’t.” I pleaded, holding my hand out, walking slowly towards her, “Don’t do this.”
Her eyes did not blink once, “You’ve seen her. You’ve seen it.”
Unsure and sure as hell, I reluctantly nod my head.
“How did you do it? How did you make her stop?”
After everything that happened, after every mid-day pounding, slap across a face, breaking of fine china, I still cannot explained what lead into that horrific relationship, but I did not doubt myself once on how I got out.
A soft smile developed between two rows of dried tears, and falls.
The world stops in those brief four seconds, then my heart pounces as the sound of a crash echoes through the air.
I practically throw myself towards the edge. The riot and summer haze beneath the building is too much and I can’t see clear. Although foggy, a figure starts to come into focus as I squint eagerly at the street corner.
Olivia, smiling at me for the first time in months, throws a gentle wave of acknowledgment.
Back on the ground I push myself through crowds, nearly vomiting at the scene.
Red water trickles down every part of her body as bones and joints exit through her skin; she landed on a police car, and the car was almost as totaled as the girl. I averted my eyes away from the disaster when a reporter caught me.
“You!” she exclaimed, microphone and camera shoved in my face, flashes from on-looker’s miniature Cannons and iPhones momentarily blinding my vision, “You were on the roof with the girl when she jumped- can you explain what happened?”
I take one more glance at Olive before she disappeared from my life completely. I had only the world’s most honest answer to give to the world’s most anxious reporter.