Elna Holst © 2017
All Rights Reserved
There wasn’t even any snow yet. Where she sat waiting for the bus that would take her to her unwished-for destination, Erika studied the grey wet-looking square that spread before her. The large oaks and beech trees, assiduously preserved in the middle of the tarmac and concrete vista, looked spare and suffering in the absence of the lush leaves and jolly sprouts that made them such a cheery sight during the warmer seasons.
It was an in-between time. In between a rock and a hard place, faced with the option of a month in jail or forty hours of community service, the choice of community service had seemed self-evident to Erika. She’d rather thought she was performing a community service when she was arrested. The judge, unfortunately, had thought differently.
Slumping back against the Perspex wall of the bus shelter, Erika moved her focus up to the billboard that crowned the roof of the old bank building on the opposite side of the square. She couldn’t keep the small satisfied smile from crossing her lips. The girls were keeping busy. Good on them.
The billboard had, until just last night, portrayed a scantily-clad glamour model with a wasp-like waist and a rack to rival the most blown-up pair of knockers ever to grace the chest of an up-and-coming porn actress. Officially, it had been put up to sell lingerie during the impending consumerist extravaganza known as the holiday season. In reality, what it was doing was keeping young women fettered to unrealistic bodily ideals, thereby diverting their attention from the prison of patriarchy they willingly submitted to, and effectively turning them into their own enthusiastic jailers.
It was time to fight back. Someone had to. And until she had been caught in the act, as it were, hands red with telltale graffiti paint, Erika had considered herself to be an active and forceful part of that resistance.
If you screwed up your eyes, you could still see, kind of, who it was up there on the billboard. Albeit the addition of a green-and-purple scarf and a big, shapeless woolly jumper made her bedchamber facial expression look oddly out of place. The message sprayed on top of where the chain store’s logo had been was low-key and simple: Stay warm and eat until you’re full this season. Erika’s chest expanded as she read it. Pure brilliance. That had to be Mia’s contribution.
A general commotion among the handful of people present at the bus stop at this hour heralded the arrival of the green city bus. With close to physical aversion, Erika rose from her seat and got on.
Just another ten minutes of freedom, and then she would be on-site to start working off her sentence, which at the moment felt like far worse a punishment than being locked up and out of the way for, say, the month of December. Regrettably, she hadn’t been allowed to go back on her decision. There had been more than a touch of gloating in the smile of her assigned administrative officer when he had given her the details of where exactly she would be doing her bit for society.
“You’re joking!” she’d blurted out, and the very tips of her shock-red Mohican were bristling for good effect.
“I’m a civil servant,” he had informed her evenly, the merest glint in his eye betraying the pleasure he took in the exchange. “We don’t joke.”
“But…but…” Erika had spluttered eloquently.
But nothing. That had been that.
“Honestly, I don’t know why you’re making such a big deal out of it.”
Mia had pulled her washed-out Ramones T-shirt on over her naked torso, removing it too quickly from Erika’s appreciative gaze.
Erika groaned. “It goes against everything we stand for. For fuck’s sake, we sabotaged the Miss Sweden finals only last spring!”
“Yeah.” Mia condescended to give her one of those sexy, lopsided smirks that invariably shot straight to Erika’s groin. “Good times. Look, Rickie, I’m not saying I don’t sympathize. I’m just saying: suck it up. You made your choice. You could have gone for prison like Helena.”
Erika turned her face away. Her hands were balled into fists; she relaxed them and reached for her own ratty once-was-white tee.
“So, will I see you tonight?” She’d meant it to come out as a casual, offhand inquiry, but the question hung in the air, dripping with cloying romantic hopefulness.
Mia got up from the sofa bed where they’d been spending the last two hours and sauntered over to the old 70s-style fridge in the kitchenette. She brought out a can of beer and held up another one, enquiringly, to Erika. Erika shook her head. Her throat felt suddenly too constricted to get anything down it.
Mia opened her own can with a satisfying fizz and took a swig.
“I’m going out with Helle tonight. You know that.”
“Sorry, I forgot to check your busy schedule.” She bit her cheek, swearing inwardly. There went her chances of getting laid again anytime soon.
“You know, Rickie, for all your red Mohican, radical dyke exterior, you can be insufferably bourgeois at times.”
Mia was at the door, donning her second-hand biker’s jacket and stepping into her Docs. She raised her beer can in a goodbye gesture.
“Thanks,” she said, and Erika wasn’t sure if she was thanking her for the beer or the sex. Same thing, really. Whatever Mia wanted at the moment, she took. “I’ll see you around, okay?”
“Sure,” Erika breathed as the door closed behind her pack-leader-cum-intermittent-fuck-buddy, leaving the premises without a backward glance.