The frantic shuffling of feet sounded through the apartment. Two young girls ran back and forth, getting dressed for the day. The short, brunette, AJ, pulled the puffy petticoat under the cute blue and white dress she wore. The dark poofy blonde, JC, slipped on her blue slip-on shoes.
"You go the keys?" AJ asked as she pulled her small purse across her chest. JC clutched the small collection of keys and looked back.
"Did you clean up breakfast?" JC asked, slinging her purse against her shoulder. AJ pushed two empty bowls into the sink, rattling and clanking making the room echo. They ran to each other, looking themselves over to check their uniforms, when a sudden repetitive banging against the wall distracted them.
"You girls better quiet down in there before I have to come in there!" An old woman barked in a heavy southern accent. Both of the girls eyes widened in terror.
"Oh god, Mistress Tofu!" JC whispered harshly.
"Run!" AJ exclaimed, running out the door. After JC locked the door, both girls shuffled down the stairs, out the door of the complex, and onto the city sidewalk.
As they ran, people stared and watched their dress clad bodies sail down the sidewalks. Men seemed more enamored. Their "well-endowed-ness" attracted the bouncing eyes of spectators.
The out-of-breath girls stopped before the glass doors of a store. They slipped into the doors and bent over to catch their breath.
"Boss! We're here!" JC called as she walked to the brightly colored counter. From the back room, a tall, light skinned man with perfect combed back hair and work attire stepped out to meet them with a kind, yet firm expression.
"'bout time, girls. You were almost late. Straighten yourselves up and get ready. I'm turning the lights on." He said slipping back into the back room.
As the girls set their purses underneath the register, AJ looked to her taller cohort to find deep though behind her bright green eyes. She prodded her lightly.
"What's up with you?" She asked. JC looked to her as she put her long, fluffy hair into a tight bun.
ya know how I've been saying I've been dying to get something but I didn't know what I wanted?" She said. AJ nodded.
"Yeah, you've been buggin' me the last couple days about it." She said. The green eyed girl snickered a little as she realized her friend was right about her being a slight pest.
"Yeah I kinda have
" She muttered, almost to herself, "Anyway, I finally figure it out! I want a hat!" She exclaimed with a bright smile. AJ stared at her with a questioning and skeptical look.
"A hat?" She repeated. JC nodded eagerly.
"Yep!" She exclaimed happily. Just as she exclaimed, the lights of the store came on and shined off of everything. The white tile floors bounced the light onto the white shelves. Jars and containers of brightly colored candies spread all over the store. Large lollipops went across the tops of each shelf. Big framed pictures of close-ups of cutely wrapped bubble gum were on the left and right walls. Against the glass storefront sat two potted trees to add a welcoming look to the windows. The bright candy store, the Double Mint Candy Store, was open for another day of business.
JC stayed behind the counter, ringing up the few people that came in. AJ helped the customers choose their candies, bag them, and get to JC. As time went on, they simply cleaned up the small messes and fidgeted with their dresses.
Suddenly, at the strike of noon, a group of ten children and their chaperones exploded into the store. Both AJ and JC's faces went pale white and they looked to each other in terror. The rambunctious screamers ransacked the jars and plastic boxes, leaving pieces of candy all over the place. They crowded around AJ, like a swarm of bees. She looked to JC and waved.
"We forgot our lunches!" She yelled to her. JC blinked.
do you want me to go get them, or what?" She yelled over the kids. AJ waved her hands to the glass doors, yelling 'go!' JC snatched the keys from her purse and trotted out the door, looking back only once to check on her friend.
She ran down the street, avoiding as much eye contact as she could. She did as she was told: she ran into the apartment, grabbed their bag lunches, and trotted back out of the apartment. As she slowly returned, her eyes caught a glimpse inside a dark lit store. Her feet slowed until she stood directly in front of the store window. Inside, there wasn't much light, but it was easy to see something in the back. JC's eyes lit up as she pressed her face into the glass.
A hat in a glass case, that seemed to be wrapped in ribbons, stood behind the counter on the right side of the store. She eagerly bounced slight as she wanted to go in, but the crinkling of bags in her hands held her back.
I want to look so badly" She groaned pressing harder into the glass. She moved back from the glass and trotted quickly down the sidewalk, back to Double Mint. She stepped into the bright lit candy store, seeing AJ behind the counter with her face in her hand as she rested on the counter top. The brown eyed girl glanced up and rose from her slouched position.
"'bout time. I was beginning to think Mistress Tofu had gotten to you." She said. JC grinned and walked back to her friend. Just as she planted herself on the stool, Boss slid his head out from the back room.
"You girls can take your lunch break. Remember: It's only twenty minutes." He reminded them, as he did every day. JC shot off the stool, grabbed her lunch bag, and jammed her hand inside. AJ stood up and stared at JC as if she was possessed.
"Dude, what the hell are you doing?" She asked, watching JC take a large bite out of her peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The frantic girl put her bag on the counter, grabbed her purse, and pointed outside.
"Hat!" She exclaimed with a mouthful of sandwich. AJ rolled her eyes and started toward the back room.
"Whatever. Just be back here before break's over." She muttered. JC ran back out of the store and back toward the gloomy hat shop. She grabbed the doorknob of the black door and opened it inward. The smell of dust hit her, choking her for a moment.
"Hello? Anyone here?" She called as she walked toward the counter. The glass box she had spotted from the outside wasn't wrapped in ribbons; it was wrapped in caution tape. She called for someone again, checking the back room for anybody. She grumbled a little and went back to the hat. The hat made her smile. The plush looking hat had a big black wraparound and it was adorned with big, dark red kitty ears. The kitty ears had three silver bands, like ear piercings. JC looked around again, seeing only boring, dusty hats around the rest of the store.
"Caution tape or not, this hat is perfect for me!" She said happily. She opened the vacuum sealed case and brushed the yellow tape away. Her fingers pulled the hat up by its ear, squishing them to feel their softness. She squealed and put the soft hat down on her head. Her happiness faded to dread in seconds. Suddenly, a harsh pain shot into the back of her skull. She screamed, her hands flying to the hat. She tried to push the hat off, screaming more as the pain didn't stop. Slowly, something seeped into her minds. She unleashed a blood curdling scream and ran.
AJ drummed her fingers against the counter, anxious and irritated. She waited on her last string of patience for her partner to come back. She picked through the jellybean jar, popping jellybean after jellybean into her mouth. As she popped a darker looking bean into her mouth, a scream shattered the persistent silence within the store. She choked a little as the bean went down wrong and looked to the door. JC pushed herself into the store, crying and frantic.
"JC, what's wrong? What happened?" AJ asked as she went up to her. JC stood in the middle of the store for a minute as she sniveled. She looked around and then into the questioning brown eyes in front of her.
"I-I don't remember
" She muttered. AJ's face changed from inquisitive and worried to skeptical in an instant.
"You come in here, screaming and crying, and you can't remember? Only you, JC, only you
" AJ said smacking her palm into her forehead. JC frowned.
" She muttered. Boss walked into the room, hearing the commotion.
"You girls okay?" He asked, glancing over the jars of candy. The girls nodded, AJ continuously glancing to JC's kitty hat. Boss didn't seem to notice the dark red hat, and if he had, he didn't seem to mind. "Well you've got a couple minutes before your breaks over." He said, disappearing once again. AJ looked back to the hat once she knew he was gone.
"So I see you finally got yourself a hat." She said examining it thoroughly for the first time. JC cocked her head.
"Hat?" She put her hand against the plush black edge. She smiled brightly. "Hey, I have a hat!" She cheered. AJ stared at her in disbelief and then simply rolled her eyes.
The girls worked their last couple hours without much incident. Customers came in and out, coming in with normal expressions and then leaving with a smile as they ate their chosen sweets. AJ's work face of happiness started to slowly fade as closing time got closer. Her body slouched against the counter. Growing pain in her spine started crippling her to a near stop.
Boss came out of the back and stepped behind the corner.
"Alrighty, girls. Another good day. AJ, are you alright?" He asked, looking to his employee as she lay over the counter. His hand touched her back and she looked up quickly.
"Yes, I'm-I'm fine. I'm just ready to go home, is all." She said, grinning a little. Boss nodded and started shutting off the lights.
"The store looks clean enough to let you go. You girls have a good night." He called, the girls taking their purses, waving goodbye, and exiting the store.
"AJ, you don't look fine. What's wrong?" JC asked as they walked home. AJ groaned and stretched her back.
"I just need to get in the hammock and go to sleep. My back is killing me." She muttered. JC nodded and quietly thought to herself.
They made their way into the apartment complex and into their hallway. Just as JC put her key in the door, a little white haired, scrunch faced woman appeared next to them.
"Y'all haven't paid y'all's rent." She said, sounding like a crow. Both girls yelped and turned to the old woman. JC put on a half-grin and clasped her hands.
"We get paid tomorrow, Mistress Tofu. I promise we'll pat you the moment we get back." She said as pleasantly and as calmly as she could. Tofu glared up at the green eyed girl and snorted back the phlegm in her throat.
"Y'all better. I'll hog tie ya and throw y'all out so fast, y'all's heads'll spin." She grumbled pointing a pretty nail on a tree limb like finger up at her. JC tried to smile more, trying to get the old lady to go away. Tofu pulled her hand away and started slowly down to her office down the hall, grumbling to herself the whole way.
Quickly, JC opened the door and both girls scurried in. AJ sighed.
"Man, I hate that woman." She muttered. JC threw her purse onto her beanbag chair, suddenly giggling to herself. "What' so funny?" AJ asked, feeling like she missed a joke. JC shook her, dismissing the question. She pulled two cans of chicken noodle soup out of the cabinets over the stove and put their dinner in a pot. As she let the soup sit, she decided it was time to start getting into her comfy pjs and settle in for the night. She put her hand to her head to take the hat off, but as she pushed the hat, it didn't budge. She kept pushing, grunting.
it won't come off." She grumbled. AJ huffed and walked up to her friend.
"Here. Like this!" She said putting her finer under the edges of the hat and prying it upward. JC screamed in pain, instinctively pulling away from AJ's hands.
"Stop, stop! It hurts!" She cried. A small drop of blood dripped down her forehead as AJ pulled away.
"What the hell kinda hat did you get?" The bewildered brunette muttered. JC rubbed her hand over the hat.
"Don't let her touch me again." A voice growled in her head. She smiled and went back to the stove.
"Okay, Betty." She said happily. AJ was starting to wonder if she had been staring in confusion at her friend all day or if it had just been her.
"Who's Betty?" She asked.
"You named your hat?"
"No, he named himself." JC spouted in his defense. AJ went silent, not knowing what to say anymore. JC served the soup and handed a bowl to AJ.
"Before you sit down, can you get some Tylenol or something? It feels like there's something sitting on my spine." She groaned. JC went to the bathroom and opened the mirrored cabinet.
"What'd you do to hurt your back?" JC asked, coming back and handing AJ a couple pills.
"I don't know, but it feels like I'm about to break in half." AJ said eating some soup and popping the pills in her mouth. JC shrugged and yawned.
"We should hurry up and get to bed. One more day until the weekend." She said, downing her soup quickly. AJ nodded and kept eating.
just a question. 'Betty' talks to you in your head?" AJ asked. JC nodded.
"Yep! He doesn't really like you. He's kinda mean
" She muttered. She suddenly giggled. "He said he doesn't want your grubby hands on him again. He says you're dirty. See? I told you he was mean." She said. AJ growled a little.
"I'll rip his little ears off if he'd like that instead." She mumbled under her breath as she slowly got up. She put her bowl in the sink and walked to her hammock. She carefully teetered herself into it and threw her blanket over herself.
"Night, JC." She said. JC got into her hammock and lay down.
"Good night, AJ! Good night, Betty!"