The Mandy Complex

Contributor: J. M. Tompkins

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I waited for her next to her black Honda Accord at two in the morning in the damp parking lot. Still, even after my stomach curled watching her strip on stage, I had a thing for her. Tall, lean and confident, she was everything I wanted to be. And everything I hated. With a clanging, the door of the windowless building swung open as Mandy appeared, walking over to me like a runway model.

Passing me without a word, she flung open the driver’s side door and slid in like liquid. I hurried to the passenger side, not wanting her to wait for me. As I clicked my seatbelt, she lit a cigarette and put the car in reverse.

“It was a shitty night making shit for money.” She blew smoke into the windshield and I watched curl in the street light.

“It’s just temporary, like you say.” I looked straight, directly out the window.

“Yeah, it’s just temporary.” She quickly glanced over at me. “I guess I’ll have to put the rent on the card this month.”

My mouth fell open as I turned to look at her, “What about the money your father just gave you? Didn’t he give you five hundred dollars? My last couple of shifts I was able to pull in four hundred, that’s rent.” I tried to drill holes into her skull with my eyes.

“Then groceries. We’ll have to put groceries on the card. Whatever, what does it matter?” She looked disgusted with me. “Money gets spent, cards get used.” Leaning back in her seat, she sped up the car.

“We’ll sit down tomorrow and take a look at the finances. I know we can skim back, save money and quit stripping. We can do this.”

She said nothing. She never said anything when I brought up cutting down expenses.

Ahead was our rental, three bedrooms and two baths. I never imagined in college I would live in a house. In front of it was a black viper, her boyfriend. He leaned against the back of the car, watching us. He looked like a wanna-be rocker, and he was too old to pull it off. What she saw in him, I’d never understand. I turned my head to the right so I could roll my eyes without either of them noticing.

As soon as I unlocked the front door, he picked her up and carried her honeymoon style up the stairs. I already knew I didn’t want to go to my room, they were always loud. The clock blinked two thirty and I yawned. I needed to keep busy, to keep from sleeping on the couch again. I cleaned the dishes in the kitchen and started picking up the soda cans in the living room. As I reached for one on the entertainment center, I noticed there was a new Blu-ray player. Seething with anger, I threw down the trash can and stormed out of the living room straight to my room. I tried to kill myself by holding a pillow against my face and fell sleep.

The next morning I washed our clothes while she slept in. I made her blueberry pancakes, her favorite, and carried them up the stairs on a tray. I knocked softly on her bedroom door.


I balanced the tray on one knee and turned the knob to swing open the door. “I made you pancakes.”

“Oh thanks, put them on the bed.” She was slipping on a robe and didn’t even look at me. I exited the room as quickly as I entered. In the hall, I remembered the blu-ray player and I needed to say something. Retreating, I found her door still slightly cracked.

I saw her back and, in the reflection of the mirror, her front. She danced, pointing her finger at herself and sending a seductive look into the reflection. She wore one of her stage outfits and slowly took it off, piece by piece. She looked happy, happier than I had ever seen her.

But she said she wanted to quit. I shut my eyes, holding back my tears and turning away. “We can make it, she can change.”

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J. M. Tompkins is a southern woman, wife and a lover of the craft of the written word. She writes poetry as well as dystopian fiction that searches for utopia within it's walls. We may not be able to deny the darkness, but we can always find the light.
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