By Eden Baylee
Nadine stepped out of the shower—for the second time that day. Not yet mid-June, the temperature had already hit the 30-degree Celsius mark three times in the past week. London was preparing itself for a sizzler of a summer.
She quickly dabbed her body and gathered her long blonde hair in a towel. Gulping down half a glass of water on her way to the bedroom, she left behind damp footprints on the bare wooden floor. Beads of sweat were already forming on her back. Of all days for the air-conditioner to break down! She needed to feel fresh and cool, which wasn’t going to be easy in this heat.
Nadine set her glass down on the night table next to the old-style desk fan she had retrieved from the attic. Though it weighed a ton and rattled when set at its highest speed, it was better than nothing. They didn’t make them like this anymore—16” hooked metal blades that were almost completely exposed in a web-like cage. Given to her by her grandfather before he passed away, she had kept it for sentimental value, but was grateful for it now as it provided a modicum of relief on this humid night.
Standing in front of the fan, Nadine allowed the air to dry her wispy pubic hair before turning around to enjoy the cool sensation travel up her back. It was a relief to feel dry if only until she put her clothes on. After slipping into a pair of panties, she re-directed the fan toward the vanity table and sat down to apply her make-up. She gazed at her drawn thirty-nine-year-old face, and saw tired, puffy eyes staring back at her. Nadine winced as a pain jabbed her side. She had not eaten all day and was feeling a bit light-headed, but she would need to wait until dinner.
She applied concealer to hide the bags under her eyes before blotting her face with powder to get rid of the shine. Her armpits felt sticky again. Damn! Jake would be over in less than an hour to pick her up. She considered herself fortunate to have found him through one of the many London dating services she had been trolling for the past year. What attracted him to her was his friendly online personality, though he seemed rather shy in person. She would have never looked at him twice if she had seen him on the street. He was shorter than her, balding, and had crooked teeth. These would have been deal breakers when she was in her twenties, but now … Nadine’s own looks were fading, and she had struggled to lose weight most of her life. If she was going to snag herself a husband before she turned forty, she’d have to be less picky.
They had been dating for nearly a month now, and he had not even kissed her, preferring to meet for coffee each time. In a moment of sheer frustration, she e-mailed him to suggest they go out for dinner. She held her breath as she read his response: “Sure, I’d love to.” He was interested, but Nadine knew she’d have to be the aggressor if she wanted things to progress beyond their platonic relationship.
After carefully applying her lipliner and lipstick, she smiled at herself in the mirror and tried to look confident. She grabbed the sundress from the closet and stepped into it—no bra. She couldn’t fathom the thought of strapping one on in this heat.
Removing the towel from her head, she admired her long damp tresses. Her strawberry-blonde hair was the one feature that set her apart and was likely what caught Jake’s attention from her profile picture. Thick and curly, she always posed for the camera with her hair draped in front of her like a mink stole.
Glancing at the clock on her table, she guessed that Jake would be arriving soon, and she still had to dry her hair. In an attempt to stay cool, she stood in front of the fan and allowed the air to hit her, then decided against using the hair dryer altogether. Instead, she bent over and flipped her hair toward the fan, running her fingers through it and tossing it around. The chill against the back of her neck felt wonderful before she suddenly became dizzy and lost her balance.
Nadine’s head jerked forward as the high-speed blades grabbed her hair, yanking out some at the roots before pulling in more. She grabbed for the night table, screaming as her hair became entangled. Disoriented, she tried to extricate herself from the whirling machine, thrashing about as she struggled to find the electric cord, terrified the blades would cut into her scalp. Her hair continued to weave around the fan. Blindly swatting the table, she knocked over her glass and felt the water splash her feet.
“Fuck!” she yelled as she grabbed the cage of the fan to prevent from being pulled in further.
Out of sheer desperation, she forced her head back, intentionally ripping out more of her hair until she was able to see where the plug was.
She reached for it, got sucked back into the fan, and yanked the cord out of the wall. Nadine fell backward with the plug clenched tightly in her hand. She heard the thrumming of blood in her ears as her body hit the ground, surprised at how painless it felt when her head cracked the floor. She tasted blood and realized she had bitten her tongue. She smelled something too—her own burning flesh. Tears streamed down her face as she lay there with her eyes wide open—the blades of the fan coming to a halt inches from her face. Seconds later, her body stopped twitching.
The last sound she heard was a knocking at her door.