• Burnt Breakfast

‘Say Nothing’ by Phyllis Ritter

We met in the ladies room of her advertising firm. She was applying mascara in the mirror. I was filling the paper towel dispenser. She offered me fresh grapefruit, a gift from an overseas client. In her office, I stared at a photograph of a woman gliding across the ice, the spotlight caressing her willowy shape and flowing hair. Oh, that was my other life, she said.


A life of packed European stadiums, audiences gasping as she soared into the air, a shimmering blur landing onto a single, sharpened blade. An Italian producer, who weighed each girl before the show. I was his favorite, she said, nibbling a handful of pumpkin seeds.


Lunch hours spent inside designer boutiques. Her gravelly laugh, the way she’d clutch my hand like we were thirteen, the wallflower and the cheerleader. The Gucci gown she pulled over her head as mounds of taffeta and silk tumbled like clouds to the floor, her pale arms covering her skeletal frame.


Evenings seated on her living room couch in my uniform, sipping oolong tea in Royal Albert cups while she fed me tiny sandwiches and rattled off names of symphonies, dancers, Olympic stars, her ringed fingers fluttering in the air as she talked. The long subway ride home, walking swiftly past the 7-Eleven, mace in hand, her cashmere scarf wrapped cozy around my neck.


While she pitched clients in Milan, I lunched alone in the staff room, rehearsing our next conversation, wondering why she chose me. Restless, I took the night shift vacuuming carpets, dozing under desks in offices, dreaming of her lavender-scented sheets, the taste of her upper lip on my tongue.

One evening I spotted her in the conference room, hand-serving her colleagues red velvet cake. There were circles under her eyes, fresh bruises on her wrists. Later she confessed to savage sex with the Italian producer. It was almost like a rape, she giggled.


A week later, mopping the bathroom floor, I heard her voice in the hall. Tripping over my bucket, I reached the door just as she strode past me, elbows linked with a woman, who, basking in her ageless glitter, would, like me, say nothing.


 

Phyllis Rittner writes poetry, flash fiction and creative non-fiction. Her work can be found in the Journal of Expressive Writing, Versification, Friday Flash Fiction, Fairfield Scribes, Six Sentences, Sparks of Calliope and others. She is the winner of the Grub Street Free Press Fiction Contest and a member of The Charles River Writer’s Collective. She can be reached on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/phyllis.rittner

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