HomeFictionTopic Tag Tuesday

Bumpy Wash

“You and I need to have a talk,” said Pam, rubbing the sleep from her eyes and pulling her night gown closed. Wendy closed the lid to the washer and the banging started again, echoing through the small apartment.

“Sorry,” Wendy said, lifting the lid a crack so it stopped spinning.

“You want to do laundry at two in the morning, switch rooms with me.”

“Sorry. I’ll be done soon.” Wendy opened the door and leaned in, adjusting things left and right. Her wet hair fell in front of her face, and she pushed it back with trembling fingers.

Pam got a drink of water at the sink and sat down at the kitchen table.

“Fun night?” she asked.

Wendy just shrugged, said nothing.

“I wish I could go out with you. Must be getting old. I can’t party on a weekday anymore. Wipes me out for days.”

“Yeah,” agreed Wendy.

“How’s Rick?”

Wendy stiffened suddenly, hit her head on the door to the washer. She turned towards halfway, smiled.

“Didn’t see him today. Girls’ night out.”

“Ah,” Pam nodded. She glanced at her glass, swished it around. “You know, cold water is the wrong choice for a late night snack.”

Wendy wasn’t listening. She was moving laundry in the washer. Pam dumped her water and poured half a glass of soy milk from the blue jug in the fridge. She put it in the microwave and sauntered over next to Wendy.

“Let me take a look,” she said, leaning over.

“It’s okay,” Wendy said.

“The sooner this gets fixed, the sooner I get to sleep. Now push over.”

She reached into the washer and felt around. Heavy water-logged towels were spread across one side, and what felt like hand cloths and underwear on the other. She started shifting stuff around, and then stopped, frowned.

“What the—”

She pulled out a red stiletto.

“You’re kidding me,” she said.

“It… there was…”

“Oh my god, Wendy. You’ve got to be kidding me. These are like six hundred dollar shoes!”

Wendy lowered her gaze, and dropped herself into a chair by the window. Her hands were clasped together, shaking, bright ochre nails pressing into her skin.

Pam reached in and found the second shoe, shook it out and put it on the floor next to the washer. She crouched down next to Wendy, put a hand on her knee.

“Listen, they’re your shoes, so you can do what you want with them… but next time you need something cleaned, ask me first, okay? With a little work, we can sort things out.”

Wendy nodded, but still wouldn’t look up. Pam went back to the washer, spread out the towels and closed the lid. The machine started up again, this time without all the racket.

The microwave beeped loudly, and she hopped across the room and pulled out her glass. She blew on it twice, then took a sip. She almost gagged.

“Did you mix up the milk jugs?” she asked. “This tastes like vanilla.”

Wendy looked up quickly, eyes wide.

“I… I m-might have,” she said.

Pam sighed and dumped the rest of the milk down the drain. Wendy watched it go.

“Let’s try and stick to the system, okay? Vanilla makes me ill. Regular milk in the blue jug, vanilla in the green. If Rick can figure out how to stick to the green, so can you.”

“Sorry,” said Wendy.

“I’ve gotta pee,” Pam said, feeling her stomach shift. She shuffled off to the bathroom, nearly falling into the door as she went. She rubbed more sleep from her eyes, turned on the fan lights and set herself on the toilet. The floor was freezing without the mat there.

It smelled strongly of bleach and air freshener, and the shower curtain was wide open, dripping wet. Pam grumbled to herself and closed it. The tiles were sparkling, but she could tell mildew was on its way.

“It’s like having children,” she sighed, and reached for the toilet paper.

As she was washing her hands, she noticed a watch on the counter, behind the toothbrushes. She picked it up and turned it over with a smile.

“You liar,” she laughed, peering around the corner again. “Rick came over, didn’t he?”

Wendy said nothing. She looked like she might cry. Pam just rolled her eyes.

“He must be a sound sleeper to not hear all this,” she said. “You should get back to bed. He’ll get the wrong idea if he wakes up alone.”

Wendy just stared. Pam shivered.

“It’s freezing tonight. You really should get to bed. You look beat.”

Pam swayed around and headed for her room, but then saw the cold bathroom floor again and a shiver ran up her spine. That floor needed a mat.

She opened the closet door and gasped at the sight. What few towels there were, were all jumbled and tossed like a tornado had gone through, one shelf at a time. She pushed things out of the way to get to the floor mats, but paused.

At the back of the closet was a wet towel, bundled up tightly, but strangely lumpy. She reached in and pulled it out, but it came unravelled at the end and dumped its contents onto the floor.

Bones. Dozens of bones. A meaty, soggy skull. She stumbled back, tripped and landed in the bathroom, the skull staring at her. She wanted to scream, but the noise wouldn’t come. Her throat was so tight she was wheezing.

Behind her, Wendy was scrubbing the bathtub, hair pulled tight and eyes red from the bleach.

“You never wake up when I get home,” she said. “I always worried you might, but you never do. Then you go and drink the milk, and now my day’s gotten longer.”

Pam gasped desperately as her vision faded, and her head hit the tile. All she heard was Wendy, bitter in her cleaning, talking to herself.

“I wasn’t expecting two rounds in one night. But with a little work, we can sort it out.”

@quillsandzebras suggested "dirty shoes in the washing machine";
@Tim_LRR suggested "Poisoned milk jug" and
@kdnewton suggested "Letting one's skeletons out of the closet".

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