If there was one tradition – and she used the word in the loosest possible sense – that Erin would love to see die a death, it would be the ‘Blackening of the Bride’, as the Scot’s called it. As she sat squirming on a hardback chair, right in the middle of one of the studios in the building that was not needed for their current broadcast, she tried desperately not to think to the awful events of her hen night two years previously. Of course trying not to think of something only made you think of it. It didn’t help that, despite her being not insubstantially drunk at the time, that tiny little voice in her head that was the last of her sobriety, had made a recording of all the evenings ‘festivities’ so that she could constantly relieve it in all its excruciating, painfully embarrassing detail. Perhaps this was her punishment for never listening to that voice; after all, hadn’t it warned her against having anything else to drink on that girl’s night out with Larissa and Hayleigh a few months back, and then – after she’d ignored it the first time – warning her against telling the pair about the blackening? But she’d been having a good time, and even though both she and Hayleigh had been in awe of her ever since first meeting her, nights out on the town with Larissa were… well, they were just fun. When she wanted to, Larissa had a way of putting you at ease (helped, albeit, on this particular occasion by no small intake of rum). She’d been a rapt audience, and indeed a great source of comfort as Erin had talked about the rather uncomfortable subject of her failed marriage, and she’d wanted to hear just everything about it. So of course she couldn’t leave out the first sour note of the blackening… and she’d had every reason to regret it since.
She snapped back to the present as Larson, the handsome security guard who’d been left standing in front of the door, stepped out of the way to let Larissa and Hayleigh into the studio.
“You think it’s a bad idea, don’t you?”
“I’m not saying that,” said Hayleigh smoothly, raising her hands in appeasement. “I’m just saying she’s… an unknown variable. We didn’t plan for her in the preparation. It makes things more difficult, is all. The logistics of the game were already very complex…”
“Innovative, isn’t it?” Larissa beamed.
“… and this girl Claire doesn’t seem at all suited for this kind of show. She’s obviously shy and well, she just looks terrified by the whole thing.”
Larissa clasped her hands together and nestled her check against them, a look of rapt adoration on her face.
“So cute! But I have a way with shy people, you know? I know how to bring them out of their shell. Why, look at you and Erin! The first time we met you could barely bring yourselves to say two words to me, and just look at you now! Although it does seem to me that in Erin’s case there may be such a thing as too much confidence, don’t you think?”
Erin decided this would be a good time to interject.
“Larissa, just let me say…”
Without even looking at her, Larissa’s hand snaked out and covered her mouth.
“Shush! Come on now, Erin. This is hard enough for me as it is. I don’t want to have to punish you; you’re my friend, and nothings ever going to change that. Unfortunately, there’s more to think of in all this than just you and me. I can’t have a member of my staff talk to me that way. We have hundreds of backers helping to fund this show – many of whom are investing huge amounts of money. Now how do you think it would look to an investor if they heard a trusted member of my team speak to me like that? I’m sorry, I truly am, but you don’t respond to subtlety Erin, you never have, and so you’ve really left me with no choice.”
Larissa removed her hand from Erin’s mouth and used it to give her arm a warm, friendly squeeze. Erin felt ashamed; she’d given no thought whatsoever as to how her actions might reflect on her boss. While Larissa’s punishments were… highly unusual, it wasn’t as if she administered them for no reason. Not for the first time, she felt envious of Hayleigh, who never seemed to make any mistakes; Larissa always seemed very appreciative of her efforts. She looked over at the blonde woman, trying to appeal to her for help. Hayleigh quickly averted her gaze.
For fuck’s sake, Hay! You are such a little chicken!
The door opened again as more of Larissa’s security team, two males and one female, arrived along with Erin’s punishment. Like Larson, all of them were extremely attractive looking – Larissa always liked to surround herself with beauty. Most of the rooms in the building, at least the ones that saw regular use, were filled with pretty flowers and decorated in bright, eye-catching colours. Erin and Hayleigh were no exception to this; Larissa made no secret that she wanted only the best looking people to host her shows. The first time she’d met Larissa, the woman had told her that she had no idea how beautiful she really was. Erin had a beautiful waterfall of long brown hair that flowed almost to her waist. Her body was naturally athletic; any woman who really knew how little work she had to put in to keep it looking as good as it did would have been extremely envious of her. Her bewitching bright blue eyes looked uncertainly over at the buckets the trio placed on the studio floor at Larissa’s feet. She was so transfixed on the buckets that contained the literal blackening that was about to befall her that she was startled as the female security guard forced a rope around her ample chest and arms, tying her to the chair. The males grabbed her and tied her own arms to those on the chair. She whimpered, hating herself for showing this kind of weakness, but she hated being manhandled.
“You don’t have to tie me up,” she said between clenched teeth. “At least give me that much.”
“But we’re not even stripping you this time, sweetheart!” cried Larissa gleefully. “I thought you’d be pleased!”
Erin couldn’t hide her fury. Just moments after telling her that she didn’t want to be doing this, now Larissa was practically dancing with joy. The woman was just… was just fucking with her! She’d even felt bad about it all, like it was all her own fault! Somehow, she got her with it every time. Larissa could have thrown a brick through her window, waved cheerfully in at her, and then walked right into her house and sold her double glazing. She seemed able to psychologically confound or dominate her at her own pleasure. The nerve of the woman!
And what did Larissa do in the face of her anger? Just stood there, with her hands clasped coyly behind her back, and smirked at her. There was no point getting angry at Larissa; it was like getting angry at an internet troll. It just seemed to feed her. She revelled in it, and then once she’d finished soaking it all up, she found a way to turn it all back on you.
Larissa picked up a bucket filled with that foul dark liquid, and all of Erin’s defiance vanished into the ether. She screwed her eyes shut tight. She could feel Larissa circle around behind her, and as she did, she began to try to pull her wrists free. It was just as futile as it had been two years ago, when she’d furiously tried to escape the handcuffs that secured her to that lamppost. Back then, it had been that backstabbing little Scottish bitch Siobhan who’d put forward the suggestion, although all of her friends had went along with it. Although Erin herself was English, born in Dorset, her fiancé Scott was from Aberdeen. She’d been living with him there for some time, blissfully unaware that he and Siobhan had been carrying on behind her back for months before the wedding. Her marriage hadn’t lasted six months before she found them out, and that was the end of that.
Erin tensed, waiting for that horrible liquid to get poured all over her, but instead felt only Larissa’s head nuzzling the side of her thick hair gently, enjoying the soft, silky feel of it before she kissed the side of her cheek. Her breath felt like perfumed air. One of Larissa’s pigtails tickled her face.
“Please don’t do this,” Erin sobbed through trembling lips.
“Sorry Erin!” sang Larissa.
A feeling of utter, utter humiliation spread through Erin as the thick, sticky black treacle engulfed her head. Her feet, about the only part of her that could move freely, danced wildly against the studio floor. She was wearing a light blue silk-crepe tank top that helped show off her athletic body and blossoming breasts, along with a matching short skirt. She couldn’t bear the feel of the awful sludge trickling down her neck and bare shoulders before dribbling down the outside and inside of her top. Not that any material could have, but the silk-crepe was not at all designed to withstand such an assault. Her head was a horrible sticky blob; she could see absolutely nothing and with several more buckets still on the floor, and Larissa skulking around her, she felt incredibly vulnerable. Large dollops of thick syrup began to overspill from her head and run down her arms and back. Her beautiful waterfall of hair was now quite contaminated, totally coated black, and the icky cascade flowed onwards down her back.
Without warning, a second bucket of treacle sploshed over her front, the torrent hitting her breasts and spilling down the front of her body. In mere moments there was no more bare flesh showing on her front and no more blue to be seen on her once-lovely top; indeed it was now impossible to tell where her clothes began and ended – all that could be seen was black gunk everywhere. The tortured grimace on Erin’s face was equally impossible to ascertain as the treacle stained its way through to the inside of her top. Erin had replayed her first and second blackenings over and over in her mind and this felt every bit as awful as she remembered. She would never get used to this horrible icky feeling; she couldn’t believe this was happening to her. Yet another bucket was unceremoniously emptied over her lap, causing her to gasp and accidentally gulp down a mouthful of the bitter liquid, although the smell was already so entrenched in her nose that it almost felt like she’d been tasting it all this time. If only her hands had been free so she could at least have tried to plug it and evade as much of that unforgettable scent as possible. This time Larissa moved backwards to let the sticky stream saturate her skirt and then trickle down her legs before turning the last remaining part of her that stood out, her white brogue shoes, as black as the rest of her. The thick treacle quickly inundated the insides, leaving Erin wriggling her sticky toes with disgust.
Erin had a good idea of how beautiful she looked now. The blackening on her hen night had been recorded, and although she had quickly looked away and refused to watch when her friends played it for her, she’d still seen all she needed to. She couldn’t see a thing right now, even if she’d wanted to, but she knew not one part of her body had been missed. Her hair, clothes and skin were all completely saturated with treacle. She could feel her long hair plastered horribly against her neck and back.
It was always her. It didn’t matter if it was with her old friends or the new ones, she was always the one that got made a fool of. As if she didn’t already look ridiculous enough, Larissa emptied a bucket of white feathers over her, laughing prettily as they fluttered down all over her and attached themselves to the sticky goo that was all over her body. Erin couldn’t hold it back any longer. The humiliation of the past and the humiliation of the present all rolled into one and she burst into tears. She yanked at her restraints, just wanting to be free, to get away from all these awful people who were doing this to her and never see them again as long as she lived.
Larissa asked for one of her security team to towel off Erin’s face a little. An thought, as unshakeable as the horrible feathers and gunk that was all over her body, hit Erin in that moment: Larissa knew she was crying. She wanted to see her tears.
You twisted, sadistic little bitch!
As her vision was cleared, Larissa wrinkled her perfect nose at her with distaste. Her perpetual smile was turned down subtly at the corners in a slight grimace of disgust, though her eyes were dancing with undisguised glee. Then she saw Erin’s tears streaking through the blackness of her face.
“Oh, Erin!” gasped Larissa, kneeling down to look at her. “I… I didn’t realise this would upset you so much. Hayleigh, give Erin a hug.”
“Bwwuuuaaaahhhh… b-but Larissa, shouldn’t I be going to do the first host segment right about now? We’ve already skipped out on the introductions thanks to your – our – change of plans. We need something to kill time while we get things ready for Claire at the restaurant,” said Hayleigh quickly. Erin knew full well that the idea of getting messy in any way gave Hay a serious case of the squicks.
Larissa sighed. She nodded over at Larson.
“Larson, give Erin a hug,” said Larissa.
“Uh, I’m not really sure…”
“Larson,” said Larissa, speaking in a soft, quiet tone now. “Will you please do as I ask?”
A military drill sergeant barking an order at the top of their lungs could not have gotten Larson to move faster. In a moment Erin felt a large pair of arms wrap themselves around her and then promptly stick against her.
“You’re mad at me, aren’t you Erin?” asked Larissa, voice still sounding very quiet.
“No,” lied Erin.
“You are too, though! I can tell. I went too far, didn’t I? Untie her, Larson, then go take her to get cleaned up. We’ll talk about all this later.”
Erin didn’t want to talk to Larissa, now or ever again, but she knew she would. She’d always been that way. She remembered every time she argued with her parents when she was younger, she would storm to her room and tell herself that this time she would NEVER apologise, she would run away forever before doing that, and she’d sit and stew in a fit of rage and then ten minutes later she’d slink back downstairs and meekly apologise. She just couldn’t bring herself to fall out with people, even when they were the ones in the wrong (apart from fucking Siobhan, of course). If he’d have had her, she’d even have taken Scott back. Larissa would be nothing but nice to her now, at least if she was nice back. If she wasn’t… well, Larissa would still be nice. But she wouldn’t forget, and it would only make it all the more difficult when Erin came crawling back to her. She always did.
And Larissa knew it.