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by Madeleine Swann

Jesse lived a little way out of the city, so Ellen had told her husband that she was getting a pedicure. He would have denounced the whole thing and checked further into her spending.

The room was so ordinary that Ellen was disappointed. Jesse took her fur coat and mink hat, and hung them up behind the door. He was a handsome young man in a long paisley jacket, a cliché of a painter were it not for the sharpness of his blue eyes. Ellen fluffed her white hair coquettishly.

“Okay, Mrs. Henley, if you could sit.” He indicated a new-looking, grey armchair. “How long have you been having these nightmares?”

“Oh, gosh.” She thought back. “Since forever.” One of her friends had given her Jesse’s card last week, claiming she’d not had a nightmare since.

“OK,” Jesse fetched a paint pallet and sat on a stool opposite her. He dipped a brush in bright yellow and unlocked her forehead, “Lot of muddiness in there, I’ll start by brightening it.” He continued his unintentionally alluring mumbles for the next hour, and if Ellen was 20 years younger she would have pounced. Instead, she sat while he dabbed and rinsed his brush again and again until finally he sat back and appraised the inside of her head. The intensity of his stare made Ellen look down. “It’s done,” he smiled.

He took the bills from her wrinkled fingers and stuffed them into his pocket. Another silly old bag with too much money and time to spend on trivial problems. She’d not felt the extra daub he’d left behind, same as his other clients hadn’t. Two more months and she’d be back. He waved her off and made a cup of tea.

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Madeleine Swann squeezes animals hard in a misguided attempt to show love. Her short story collection, The Filing Cabinet of Doom, was published by Burning Bulb. Marvel at her brain words on her website. Her novella, Rainbows Suck, a surreal journey through the dark side of fame, was released as part of the New Bizarro Author Series with Eraserhead Press.

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