About Wicked Bride Games
Accompanying Song: “The Demon Dance” by Cliff Martinez
That’s how many are aligned in this room, including me.
Nine girls with perfect hair and nails, their faces hidden under layers of makeup, their bodies dressed like mannequins from a high-end store.
Nine girls inspected and judged like cattle.
That’s how many are standing in front of us.
Three men with the most beautiful faces wearing the most devious smiles.
Three of us will be theirs.
We all signed a contract, knowing full well what it entailed. For three weeks, they can do with us what they want, whenever they want, and in exchange, we will receive fifty million dollars. Each.
We all thought we knew what we wanted.
We were wrong.
These are the Wicked Bride Games.
The ultimate test to see if we’re willing, able, and … greedy enough to want the world.
I want nothing more than to win … And I will win.
Even if it means committing cold-blooded murder.
Accompanying Song: “Anne” by Santigold
“I’m sorry, Naomi, but we have to let you go.” The lips of the man in front of me curl up into a short-lived smile. I clench my dress and fight the need to dig my nails into my skin. Or his.
“The company can’t continue to do business without making cuts, and unfortunately, your position is no longer required, which is why we’ve come to this conclusion.”
“You can’t do this,” I say through gritted teeth.
“Well … I just told you we are,” he scoffs like my retaliation insulted him.
He shifts in his seat, his Adam’s apple moving up and down in his throat as he looks at the sheets of paper in front of him instead of at me. Damn fucker can’t even look me in the eye as he tells me I’m finished.
“I need this job,” I reiterate.
He sighs. “We know you do.”
We. It sounds like he doesn’t feel a thing while he says it. Like he’s not a real person behind this façade.
I wonder what it’s like to be in his position. To have the power to accept and dismiss on a whim without having to look out for yourself. I wonder if he goes home every night and kisses his wife without feeling remorse. If he sleeps well. If he’ll have nightmares of me screaming at him.
“But that’s not possible, unfortunately. I’m so very sorry.”
No, he’s not. He’s just saying that so I’ll have empathy for his situation. As if he’s the victim for having to tell me this horrible news. No.
“If you were sorry, you’d help me get a different job. With the company or somewhere else.”
He leans forward, holding a pen in his hand, which he swivels back and forth maniacally. He clears his throat and frowns. “I’m sorry, but we currently don’t provide such benefits. The only thing I can do is provide you with a letter of recommendation for your next employee.”
“And that’s it?”
“Yes. You’ll receive your final check within three days. I can try to speed it up, but I can’t promise anything.”
I stare at him in disbelief. “There’s got to be something …”
“No, sorry. The boss has already decided.”
The boss. Good excuse not to take any responsibility for the layoff himself, even though I doubt the company really needs his position either. He only barks at his employees, even when they’re doing their job correctly, so he can sit back and watch them sweat. He knows he has the power, and he loves it. I can see it in his eyes.
Sometimes, I wish I had the same power. I’d use it to screw with people like him and make them pay.
His fingers slide some papers my way, but I don’t even look at them as I snatch them off the desk. I get up and straighten my skirt, putting up a front. I’m not about to let this fucker notice my dismay. Not if I can help it. I’ll keep my dignity with grace.
So without looking at him, I turn around and walk out the door, hoping he breaks that pencil of his and shoves it up his ass.
Later that day
Mom grabs my hands and rubs them. “Your hands are so cold, honey. I just drank a cup of coffee, so mine are nice and warm.”
I smile, but the smile doesn’t stay. “Thanks.”
“You look so pale, Naomi. Are you still eating okay?”
“I’m fine, Mom.” I clear my throat, trying not to sound upset. “How’s Dad?”
“Oh, you know, the usual.”
“He’s not smoking anymore, right? Tell me you threw them away.”
“I did; don’t worry,” she says. “Besides, he’s not going anywhere. He can’t even get out of bed anymore, and he’s still coughing up his guts.”
The way she describes it makes me wince.
“Is he still taking the meds? You know you have to watch him take them.”
“Yeah. I hand him the glass of water myself every morning with them.”
“Good.” I nod. “If he won’t put in the effort, then at least you will.”
“Oh, honey … I know your dad can be a … complicated man, but he’s only trying to be less of a burden.”
“When is he going to understand that he’ll never be a burden?” I squeeze her hand.
“I don’t think he ever will.” She briefly chuckles, but it fades away too. “That’s just the way he is. Never accepting any help. Always stubborn.”
“Even when he’s dying …” I mutter.