It was hot in the lounge.

Pick, pick, pick… ah, skin in a strip that exposed flesh on her leg. Amazing, Anna thought, so beautiful.

“I do that too,” called Joel from the worn sofa across the room. “I like it across my wrists.”

“It’s not the same thing,” Anna replied. “I’m not trying to, like, kill myself or anything. It just feels so good.”

Joel considered this. “I guess I’m not either. ‘Why?’ they ask. I just say ‘whatever’. And they put me here.”

Anna started on her upper arm. Mmmmm. Used to be a mosquito bite, now the size of a coaster. Blood started to run.

“Hey, outside of this hellhole, what do you do for a living?”

Anna looked up from her peeling skin reluctantly. “I’m unemployed.”

“Yeah, I guess most of us are,” Joel mused, wiping his dripping forehead. “I was a top exec in a firm, and then started carrying a telephone book around looking for psych wards. I only found psychics. They said, ‘dude, you are having a nervous breakdown.”

Anna tore off another scab, this time on her ankle.

“Well, what did you do?”

The girl looked up, agitated, yet fading a bit. “You really want to know?”

“Yeah, I do!

“Oh my God, what are you doing?” The nurse swept into the lounge and started to mop up the blood that had dripped onto the sofa and the floor. “This is supposed to be a safe place for you, oh my God!

As the nurse called for others, Anna replied to Joel through glazed eyes. “I wasn’t pretty enough to work anymore.”

“Oh,” muttered Joel. “You were a model. Figures. Keeping up the image just made you tear up your body. ”

“No, Joel.”

“What, then?” He was angry.

“I was a prostitute.”

March 19th through the 23rd–the third week of the third month of 2012–is flash fiction week on the Nose. All stories to have three characters and top out at 300 words.

Mara Summer was born in Shaker Heights, Ohio and was raised in the town of Chagrin Falls. She currently lives in Chicago, dividing her energy between a fast-paced corporate environment and her active writing life. In her spare time, she volunteers for animal rescue groups and child abuse centers.


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