The woman in the red dress
| THE SCAR RAN FROM THE TOP OF HER FOREHEAD TO THE SPACE BETWEEN HER EYEBROWS.
Marshall and I headed out for a drink after work, with plans to meet another friend. The bar was just two blocks away making it a quick sprint up the street. With two years under my belt at the factory, I had managed to become the resident wing-man for the chaps I worked among. I was regarded as the little sister to the group, never having to fend off their advances. They considered me useful in their bar hopping shenanigans. With a woman sitting at the booth, overly zealous females were held at bay. Life being the two-way street that it is meant the fellows felt obliged to reciprocate. .Always my protectors, but never considered my prospects.
We entered the smoky pub through the side entrance. There was a good crowd that gave off an upbeat vibe of activity. it was easy to tell the mood of the joint by the music playing on the jukebox. We tossed our order for chicken wings and poppers at the girl behind the bar, and went in search of our friend and a booth, whichever came first. Ted had already found a booth and waved us over. I took a deep breath and blew it out as a quiet whistle into the air. Even from a distance, Ted could take my breath away. His black wavy hair and dark Spanish eyes could make me swoon. This is where the two-way street dead ended. Little sisters weren't swoon-worthy material.
We scooted into the booth with me in the middle. I could smell the gentle scent of his cologne. I tried to keep my facial expression neutral. He patted me on the shoulder as a greeting and I tried to contain the shiver running down my spine. He and Marshall shook hands. Drinks were ordered and the conversation revolved around work. It was our commonality, always the quick-starter to our evening.
The food arrived and we chowed down. I couldn't help but admire how Ted never seemed to tarnish his moustache with food particles. I teased him, like a little sister, about having a neatness complex. He laughed it off by saying his mama raised him right. Marshall called him a mama's boy, but you could see the hint of envy in his eyes, because the closest he had ever come to knowing what a family was like were the people from work.
"Are we doing darts or pool tonight, boys?" I asked, as Marshall ordered another round.
For my answer, they began searching the crowd trying to evaluate their chances with the women in the room. Both men's eyes came to rest on the derriere of a woman in a red dress bent over the pool table. It was the obvious start to some male competition that would leave the little sister to pick up the loser's heartache. I had done it many times before and at times shared the heartache when Ted became the victor of the senseless games.
"Are you thinking what I'm thinking, Marshall my man? Cue ball is the way to go!"
They moved to the pool table, leaving me in the booth. I sat sipping my drink feeling the heat of anger rise on my face. Usually, the guys were at least a little more attentive to my concerns. They had both made it across the room before Marshall turned and gave me a wink with a thumb's up sign. I don't know if it was his way of checking on me or a prediction that the competition would favor him. It didn't matter; little sister would hang out in the corner as she always did.
I could see the rear end to which all the men in the room seem to be appraising. It was quite shapely and adorned in red glitter knit. The rest of the woman was slinky and proportionate. Her hair was long and silky ending just above the buffet of the men's lust. She had yet to turn around to reveal the front side to her admirers. I found myself mesmerized by the woman. There was a confident grace as she moved around the table. All the eyes in the room were on her. She took no notice, as she flipped her hair over her shoulder and took the winning shot of her current match. She rose to her full height and stretched seductively. The bar fell quiet and the men near the table lined up their quarters for the next round of play. Ted was the first in line. Marshall high tailed it back to the booth.
"There is some bad mojo at that table," he said as he slid into the booth with me.
"You're just pissed cause you don't have a shot!" I said
"No, man, I'm telling you I was all in til I saw her face."
Marshall calling me "man" was just another dig at my already deflated ego. I tried to ignore it but came off sounding irritated.
"Right, you're telling me you would kick that woman out of your bed? Sour grapes, I'm hearing."
"MaryAnn, she has a scar that runs from the top of her forehead to the space between her eyebrows."
"Well you were sure interested in the backside a moment ago. Besides, scars are symbols of character. You know, strong enough to overcome the hurt. A sign of lessons learned."
Marshall gazed at the air in front of him, seeming to see nothing but sense everything. His lips parted slowly to spit out the words rolling around in his head. In a deep and grumbling voice he whispered," She is cursed with the mark of Cain on her face. Your luck of the evil will come back sevenfold if you pass trouble her way. I have met others with the shadow of her omen. I do not wish to pass under that bridge."
"What the hell are you drinking in that cup?' You sound like the leader of some voodoo cult. Possessed, even!"
"It's real, MaryAnn. Didn't you see the way every guy is staring at her? She has some bad magic pulling them in."
"Yeah, it's called lust. And Ted is at the front of the line."
"We gotta get him away from her."
"Sorry, but little sister has seen it before. He's too far gone. Surprised that you didn't stick with the group."
Marshall turned his head to face me. There was a desperate fear in his eyes as he said, "It took every ounce of my strength to pull myself away from her. They are all in some kind of trance."
"Fine, wing man to the rescue again!" I said as I scooted out of the booth.
I sidled up next to Ted at the pool table mumbling under my breath about the unfairness of it all. I placed my hand on his shoulder and could feel the coolness of his skin through his shirt. Like a statue, he stared at the cue balls on the table bewitched by the colorful array. The red-dressed woman smiled at me as she glanced lovingly at her captives. The scar on her forehead throbbed with a powerful and pulsating movement. The cue-stick in her hand transformed into a venomous asp. I watched as tiny droplets of blood trickled down Ted's mouth and then his nostrils with particles lingering on his neatly trimmed moustache. He was unaware, held spellbound by the woman's beauty. Enthralled, I watched as Ted's skin turned a sickly gray color. Instantly, as if by the magic of her smile, he turned to stone. The other men around the table waited patiently for their turn at the game.
She winked in my direction with the scar continuing to pulsate on her forehead. She pulled from her pocket the small faceless doll I had given her. The pins in the ragdoll's body were carved of stone. I glanced back at the booth where Marshall sat. His concrete stare warmed my soul. The red-dressed woman gave me the thumbs up sign and continued with her games.
"No more little sister act for this girl," I said as I left the bar. .
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