Barry White and Lisa Stansfield bubbled out of the sound system, the up beat tempo beckoning the grazing flock to graze the commercial manna laid before them. Fancy frocks draped elegantly across impossibly proportioned mannequins. Sparkly, overpriced trinkets behind glass cases. Everything in the tableau designed to encourage wallets to emerge and cash to disappear. Kari smiled.It was no different than any art gallery, look admiringly but don't touch. A place where ideas were birthed and raised. It had been a trying day and this was her therapy. Her pace matched the music and she was ready for a sensory overload.
The Fragrance Bar with its booths of sublet spaces, spanned the wide mall opening. The aisles of the store were laid out so no shoppers could escape the pitches and smells. She shrugged. Perfume wasn't her bag, but it was a good appetizer for spring dresses and hats. Leaning on the counter to her left was a pale, petite woman dressed all in black. Upon seeing her mark, she stepped forward, green liquid in the tiny bottle in her mottled hand.
"Ah, Bonjour, Madame. Com'est ça? Whiskey with a tinge of late night regret surrounded her. "We have the latest scent from the streets of Marseille for you. Eau d'Absinthe! You will smell like the cafes...
Marseille? More like the Cafe D'Escargot. A distinctly foul memory of the place from the summer spent hitch hiking in Europe. Paris, Berlin, Munich, most of it was old buildings, wild parties, and shadowy men. But Marseille was the nastiest dump of all. There cool buildings to look at, with pale stucco and red slate roofs and such. But the streets smelled like dead fish and the men worse. It was the only city on the trip she didn't get laid.
Shaking her head at the Goth, she hurried past only to be accosted by a life sized Weebul in a scarlet smock and equally shaded hair. Rocking on her over sized hips. she pointed toward a large black bottle of elixir that was prominently displayed on a small altar. The large blue company logo shown brightly behind her, as if to support the sales pitch for the entire line. With a step to left, the would be Magenta blocked her path and spoke in a voice was softer and higher pitched, but no less aggressive.
"Oh, my word. Ma'am." "Your hair looks like Frankenstein's in the lab! We have this fabulous new creme rinse..."
Now this one could just fuck right off. She was proud of her hair. Yes, it WAS gray and a little bit messy today, but it brought compliments. Men called her Silver Falls and seemed to enjoy how it washed around as they rolled in the hay. Roll...Roll...She chuckled at that one. Her first time had been in a barn loft with a boy from down the road. She couldn't remember his name, though. It had been that exciting. He never even got it in.
Men, they always claimed they had the sweet mystery of life, but never delivered. when she had one, sighing and moaning happened on cue. Every now an then, one would be worth teaching finer techniques for their next conquest. But never for her to repeat the performance. Women weren't much better. Oh, they went slower, but were more needy and selfish. And frankly, they too just weren't equipped right. Some things just can't be substituted.
She moved on.
It never mattered to Kari who she was with. Just as long as they were gone the next day. A hat with a cornflower ribbon caught her eye. Really, it was better just taking things into her own hands. No fuss, muss and not a lot to clean up afterwards. The thought stopped her. Was she really a man? Or maybe "Abby Normal"? She stopped to look at herself in a mirror. No. She still liked girly things: flowery dresses, jewelry and such. It was just people just turned her off. All of them so flawed and hypocritical. More trouble than they were worth.
Oh, there were exceptions. Randi, the little Drag who died in her arms was one. So damaged and vulnerable he was, an angel with broken wings. And such a mystery, he'd never did get to tell his story in their few hours together. No family connections ever surfaced afterward, either. Like he had fallen from the stars as punishment for existence. Condemned do die in the back of a VW Bus in the arms of a horny, menopausal woman. One, whose job was to escort the unwanted back to the universe.
The simple grave side service was arranged with only Father McKay and herself in attendance. At least it was something for someone who had nothing. It wasn't the first time as a death angel, but it was the one that always had stuck with her. Fallen Angels had become a recurring theme in her jewelry and paintings.
And so it had been today. The call had come, as so many of them do, late at night. A homeless man had been hit by a car on the street not far from her house. Luckily, the girl at the ER desk was a neighbor, getting into the treatment room wasn't a hassle. Kari was introduced to the attending nurse as a cousin and they were left alone. Turning to the bed, she sighed. Black pools had replaced his eyes. It wasn't going to be long. Rhythmic gasping sounds came from the respirator accompanied by gentle beeping from the monitor above.
A few words were spoken. The gentle rub on his shoulder to relax him. Her placed her right arm over the top of his head and the left across the tubes crisscrossing his chest. Placing the silver angel at his heart, she whispered it was time. As the time slowed, a code alarm sounded. Stepping back, she allowed the staff to make the last attempt for life and then let him go. No questions had been asked. But, like the others, it was stressful. The places would be swapped in due time. Would there be someone for her?
But it didn't matter now. As she walked through the valley of vanity, she would fear no ugliness. No matter how hard people fought time, time always won.
Ooh. Look at that lovely Cherokee Rose skirt....
Pic- Christine Wichman
Pic Guesses: Garden Girl, Rose arbor, Flower, Scent of a woman, Primrose Path, Red Robin.