Genre:  Thriller

Terry tugged at her hair, desperate to get the knots out and get out the door.  She was late again and this time she wouldn’t get away scot-free. Andrew had it in for her.

“I should have just slept with him. Then I could be late as hell and he wouldn’t mind’ she mused.

Pulling on her shoes she ran out the door, throwing a bag over her shoulder.  Hauling ass she made it to work at 30 seconds to 8.  Terry opened the door to Pets N More as quietly as she could and snuck behind the counter. Splashing water from the cooler onto her cheeks she tried to look as though she had been there forever, it worked.  Andrew walked out of the stock room, clipboard clutched to his chest.

‘Oh Terry, I thought you were late.’

She shook her head, keeping her breathing in check and smiling.

‘We have new stock’ pointing behind him and then to the shelves, she knew what he wanted.

‘Got it.’ She squeaked, taking a huge, silent breath as he walked away.

‘I friggin hate unpacking stock’ she confided in her mate, Pat as they headed out for a smoke break. ‘It’s usually covered in rat shit and stinks.’ It never occurred to Terry, or Patsy for that matter, to be grateful to have a job. Their favourite pastime was bitching about it.  Stretching their smoke break, they eventually had to make their way back inside. Terry headed into the stock room and Patsy to the till.

Another boring day.

The grubby container was the same one as always and Terry faced it with a sigh. Clipping in her earbuds, she turned the music up, used the key and swung the door open, holding her breath.  She knew the stink that dog food, hoofs and chews had and had NO desire to breathe that in.

Lifting out the first row of bags didn’t take long, even though she stalled to waste time. Trying her best to find a way to make the unpacking last all day. She stopped… something tiny was swinging from the container, just above the last set of bags. Forgetting her planned waste of time, Terry pulled the last bags out and made her way into the container. ‘

‘Ewwww – this stinks.’

A pretty blue ribbon held a swinging ring. It caught the light and didn’t look particularly expensive but was intricately engraved and spots of light touched her face as the light caught the stones.

‘Amazing.’

Terry turned the ring to face the blue stone to the top, it was glowing and lovely.

‘Why would anyone…”

‘Howzit going there Terry?’ Andy stuck his head in, staring at her chest. Turning so that she obscured the ring, she stepped back indicating the half empty container.

‘Keep at it girl’ he said, scratching his beard as he walked away looking impressed.

Terry turned quickly, pulled the ring and ribbon off and stuck it into her pocket.  She finished unpacking in record time, cleaned up and got the food onto the shelves. Sneaking outside for a smoke break she turned the ring around in the sun.  It shone and twinkled, the blue stone brighter than all the others. Pulling it onto her middle finger, it was a perfect fit. A sigh escaped her lips, instead of feeling happy with her find, Terry felt a little sad.  She finished off her cigarette with another sigh, shivered in the shade and went to face the rest of her day.

By that evening she could barely drag her feet in the front door. Flopping onto the couch she cuddled her pillow and just lay there. Sadness poured over her in waves and she cried herself to sleep.

Waking the next morning her neck was stiff and she tried to stretch it out. It was bright and fresh outside but Terry didn’t notice. A hot shower helped and she followed it with a bite of toast that tasted like cardboard.

‘What’s wrong with me?’ she wondered, turning the pretty ring on her finger. The blue stone seemed to vibrate with energy, but she felt no happiness from it.

The sadness spread slowly, draining the sunshine from her day, the little bit of light from her soul with each second the ring remained on her finger. The ring was not to blame, she had chosen it and chosen the stone that mirrored her heart. She was cold, selfish and mean and the stone amplified it.

Terry’s days merged into one long, dreary nightmare. Her hair dulled, eyes glazed and teeth yellowed from lack of care. Patsy tried desperately to pull her out of it but Terry smoked, staring at the floor. Even Andy couldn’t pull her back. Finally he called her in.

‘Terry I’m sorry but you can’t work here like this.’ He gestured towards her stained shirt and greasy hair.

‘I…I’m sorry Andy …I’ it took too much effort to continue through the waves of physical wretchedness she felt.

‘Look, I will pay you to the end of the month, take some time and sort yourself out. If you want to work here and are capable again, I will take you back but won’t hold your job forever.’

She nodded and stood, Andy, concern showing on his face, gave her a quick hug, hiding his disgust at her body odour.

Terry dragged herself home and flopped on the crumb-ridden couch. Falling asleep instantly on the grubby cushions.

It’s there that Patsy found her body 3 days later. She had died of dehydration, with complications of malnutrition. Her fridge was full of rotten food and the smell was ripe. While Terry waited for the police, tears pooling on her shirt, she noticed Terry’s ring.  She struggled to pull it off Terry’s swollen finger, but it slipped perfectly onto hers.  The yellow stone glowed, and she turned it to the top.

 

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