Ouch! stories by Cinch


Something Wicked
Loose Strings

by Cinch

She could just reach out and fix it for her.

Fingers moving with barely restrained impulse, she listened. The other woman’s roundness jiggled to the tune on the radio strapped to the side of her cart.

“And how was that meeting today, hon?†Maggie asked, warm eyes focused on her young employer.

Jessica looked up from the elevator lights. The pleasure she felt at the other’s interest touched her voice.

“Wonderful, thank you. I’ll be out tonight, in fact, we’re reviewing the next portion of the project. Things could still fall apart.â€

“No, not for you, hon.†Maggie greeted the change in music by adding the occasional cha cha cha to her wiggle.

“Ohh…†Jessica stood wide-eyed. “My friends and I loved this one back in school. It was wild, Maggie. We had this routine. We’d all clutch our chests and do this little shimmy on the ‘My heart, heart, heart’ line…â€

She had started to demonstrate before the wave of shame hit. Guilty fingers twisted, picking imagined dust from her jacket.

“We were so ridiculous.â€

Maggie grinned, her eyes all but disappearing. A gleam of delight from behind her cheeks and wrinkles was all that remained. The deep, well-worn lines seemed to point out the engorged blemish on the side of Maggie’s chin.

Jessica reached toward her cleaning woman’s hair. She’d almost stopped. Disgusting. Fingers swept over dark curls before brushing a phantom from the follicles.

“You had a bit of lint.†The last light lit and the two stepped onto Jessica’s floor.

“Fuzzies. Everything sticks in this humidity. But not you, no, like you stepped out of a magazine. I don’t know how you manage those long sleeves in this heat.â€

“Simple. It is in the job description.â€

“I’ll likely see you around seven, dear. Peg’s already got a start.â€

“Just let yourself in. Likely I’ll be out by then.â€

“Hon…†Maggie paused then beamed. “I bet you’re still wild when you see those friends.â€

“Good god, they’re all gone now.†She let the energy slip back into her voice. “Bigger and better things, Maggie.â€


Jessica sagged back against the entry door, breathing the silence. The air conditioning had left the surface cool against her palms. She slipped off her heels and lined them up by the others.

The path was so immediate it was as if she were an automaton on rails. Kettle plugged in, teabag waiting in the chipped smiley face mug. Clothing shed and dropped until she padded her way back dressed in only a simple black lace bra and panty. Scalding water poured, she let her tea steep while she went to wash and lay out her few supplies.

“Three today. We’ve had a good day,†she said, happily.

Cup in hand, she headed back into the master bath. The scent of ginger tea and slight citrus of her cleanser mingled in the air. She placed the mug on the counter then hopped up herself. Bottom to the left, feet in the sink, she wiggled her toes eagerly over the drain.

Fingers traced like pilgrims over her skin. They moved smoothly from collar bone down, over the swell of her breast, trailing just under the lace before her arms crossed, each hand gliding up, searching over the opposite shoulder.

With a satisfied tremble Jessica reached for the rubbing alcohol and cotton swab. The shoulders were always tough. Long slant tipped tweezers gave the extra leverage. She closed her eyes and breathed deeply as she felt the lump of congealed filth driven grudgingly out of her body. There was the slightest flinch when the tweezers slipped. Alcohol, cool and burning, melted into her, dissolving the drop of blood that had fallen over old scars.

“Two more,†she said, grinning back at her mug. She savoured the warmth, letting the vapours from the tea fill her before taking another sip. But her mouth collapsed as she remembered what Maggie had said. All four of them had had their Cheshire mugs. They went into the overnight bag with the makeup and the books they weren’t supposed to have. How often had she sipped from this mug while discussing the latest music or love dilemma? How much had been spilled while laughing? She swivelled and slid down from the counter.

There weren’t many left. Temper tantrums had taken their toll on the souvenirs. With each photo and ticket stub now tucked securely under the frame of the bathroom mirror the wall looked like the one in her old bedroom. The one they would lip sync in while getting ready for a dance. All that was missing was the rose decals. And them. She remembered, mourned, and swept it away with a cotton swab.

“One more,†she said.

Over her left breast she found a satisfying swell with a darkened rot at its centre. She squeezed, bruising flesh on bone, before she felt her filth begin to slide. It held stubbornly and she reached for the tweezers. There was a delicious searing just before it came loose of its moorings. She pulled and pulled and pulled, wanting it entirely out. All of it.


The evening show played on Maggie’s radio. She and Peg kept time with the beat and each other as they started.

“Can you open the balcony doors there, hon? It’ll do that girl good to let the outside in.â€

Peg opened the doors, the sheer curtains billowing in the breeze. “That Jessica’s an odd one, don’t you think?â€

“Peg! And no, I don’t. She’s just lonely. I do wish the girl would smile more.â€

Maggie emptied the mug of half finished tea then started sweeping the bath. The heap of translucent, red-splotched thread started on the counter and pooled down onto the floor. Sweeping to the tune, Maggie flicked the mass of floss out toward the next room. Without a second of slowing, Jessica’s thread drifted over the wrought iron balcony and off into the wind like a last forgotten bit of party string.