MELISSA’S CRAFT

Short Story by Sana Shaikh (Entry No. 3)

CONTENT WARNING : MENTION OF BLOOD AND GORE

Walking into her secret room, she always felt at peace, away from the chaos and full of quite, she would just sit there and soak in the silence after a hard day’s work, working as florist meant she had to socialize all day with different kinds of people, which left her so drained at the end, but at the end of it she could just come back and sit in her secret room and forget all about it and work on her hobbies, her secret room was just the attic in her house, it was her parents’ house but they died years ago and she had no siblings so she inherited the home to herself and turned the attic into her workshop where she worked with leather and made beautiful purses , belts ,keychains as it was her father’s trade for his entire life, she had learned this art from her father who used to work as a leather worker at a shop owned by his friend and she wanted to keep his legacy alive, but the workshop wasn’t boring at all, she decorated it with beautiful indoor plants and lots of fairy lights all around the room, the walls were painted pastel pink and had a layer of glitter to them, the wooden floor was painted in a dark shade of pink, she did it all by herself she loved her floral shimmery aesthetic and her room, her workshop, her kitchen depicted her aesthetic, she only loved two things, creating new items with leather and growing new plants.


Melissa was an unusual girl ever since she was a child and everybody made fun of her but she never let it get to her, she kept doing whatever she liked always, she dropped out of college because the college system was too much stress for her to handle and she had no interest in gaining a degree whatsoever, and her parents were okay with her decision as no one in their family had a college degree so it wasn’t new to them and , so they let her pursue her whatever she wanted. Melissa chose her own path, she loved beautiful perfect things, so she started her own flower shop and it was going better than expected, her extensive knowledge in plants made her very good at her job and her warm and welcoming demeanor attracted more and more customers. As a child her father forced her to learn to work with leather as he wanted to keep this legacy alive in his children, “you must learn the art and pass it on to your children, i wanted a son as this is not a girl’s play but I will teach you anyway”, these words were always stuck in melissa’s head, wondering that if she was boy maybe her father would’ve loved her more, being forced to learn at an young age was tough but slowly she took a liking to working with animal hides and rendering it to perfection. her father was strict as a mentor and even more strict as a parent.


But she still wanted to create something so perfect that it would make her an even better leather worker than her father was, melissa did not have a good relationship with her mother and was detached from her since a very young age yet she still remembered her teachings and beatings, as there were still scars on her body. Melissa loved wearing dresses that had flowers on them, bright colorful dresses, high heels and heavy makeup, she dressed up everyday as it made her so happy, the neighbors would talk about her and her eccentric way of life yet she did not care, she wanted to be herself in everyway possible and to create beautiful things, that’s what her motto was and nobody could get in her way.


“Hey mrs.smith, yesterday your mail was delivered to my home, so I came to return it to you”, said melissa with a warm smile, while handing the mail to her neighbor mrs.smith a woman in her late 40s, “thank you melissa, I love your bright yellow dress with giant red flowers and your chunky heels, and offcourse who could miss that giant bag you carry”, said mrs.smith in a demeaning tone, it wasn’t unusual for her neighbors to make fun of the way she dressed, hearing this melissa immediately stopped smiling and walked away, mrs. smith’s taunts always reminded her of her mother, “you will always be a clown, you are stupid, learn to act like a lady”, her mother’s word kept echoing in her ears as she walked towards her flower shop, a tear fell from her eyes but she immediately wiped it off her face and put a bright smile on her face and walked into her shop ready to face the day.


“one day i will act like a lady and one day I will create the best leather item dad has ever seen and prove to them i am so much better” , that’s one thought she had everyday, while she was reminiscing about her mother’s bitter words, Layla walked upto her, Layla was a teenage girl who worked at the flower shop with melissa, “good morning miss melissa, here is an ointment I found yesterday for myself”, she said showing her a tube, “ointment for what, dear?” asked melissa, “for my acne scars, my mom told me I needed to fix my face so I did some googling and bought this, look, you can use it if you want”, said Layla, “Layla honey, why do you want to fix something that is not broken?, you don’t need fixing darling you need to focus on your goals”, she said to Layla patting her on the head, “but people make fun of my scars”, said Layla in a low voice, “and people are going to always find more reasons to make fun of you, but you cannot change a part of yourself, everytime somebody says something, if you want to change something about yourself, do it for you, not your mom, humans cannot be perfect only things can be perfect”, she explained to Layla, melissa was well aware of the challenges that came with being a young girl, often ridiculed by people for not being perfect and their challenges undermined, melissa knew what it felt like when your own mother tore you apart in name of certain perfection that girls are supposed to display she often saw herself in layla. Her mother often hit her when she didn’t act or dress in a certain manner, her mother made her wear neutral colors to not attract any attention, she wasn’t allowed to laugh too loudly or talk too much so ever since their passing she broke free from all those rules and lived loudly.


Everyday she dealt with all sorts of customers but she was always kind, she was always wondering if she should put up her leather products for sale online, but she never had enough confidence to actually go through with it, she just opened the ecommerce website and closed it everyday, Layla tried to tell her to just do it but melissa wouldn’t listen, Layla used a leather purse melissa had gifted her and she assured her that her quality was amazing and there was nothing to be afraid of.


At the end of everyday, melissa would go home and her neighbors would stare at her like an insect but she never let it bother her, the neighbourhood was full of people like her parents who couldn’t bear to see others live how they want, without being confined to the rules and limitations of societal norms.

Melissa started her day by feeding the birds, she fed the sparrows with seeds and the crows with scraps of leftovers meat , every morning and evening she fed them like they were her own never expecting anything in return, truly a woman to take note of.


In the evening sometimes her boyfriend, john would visit her, he was a peculiar man, he did not have a job and his past was questionable, he sometimes sold illegal substances and other times he was in jail, despite being aware of everything melissa still loved him, john was the kind of guy her parents would never approve of, maybe that’s why she loved him, the uncontrollable want of doing the very opposite of what your parents would’ve wanted, maybe melissa just wanted to feel free, maybe the freedom to date anyone was why she thought she loved john.
Their relationship was questionable as john was manipulative but it all felt normal to melissa, she couldn’t tell the difference between nice and manipulative, she was just happy to be able to do whatever she wanted.

“I don’t care about people, john”, said melissa sitting down next to him on the couch, “yea me neither, so what”, replied john while lighting a cigarette, “but I am good at pretending and you’re not”, replied melissa, reclining further on the couch, “yea you’re crazy”, he said taking a puff of his cigarette, “no I am not crazy, I just don’t care about people but I still want them to like me”, she replied, “so you’re saying you don’t care about anyone, not even me?”, asked john, “I don’t know, but if you died somehow I’ll go and find somebody else rather quickly”, she replied with a serious face, john looked at her putting down the cigarette in his hand, “oh I am kidding”, she said loudly while laughing, “offcourse I care for you, I love you”, she continued.


John was a simple guy, he wanted food and sex and melissa provided both without question so their bond was just really built on deeply rooted psychological issues that they called love.


The next day, melissa baked a nice lemon cake with the lemons she grew herself in her home, it was her mother’s recipe and she hoped to give it to mrs.smith as a peace offering, her mother had thought her to always bend in order to keep the peace no matter who it is, her mother had taught her to be liked by others no matter what, so she took it to her, “mrs. smith, I made this for you”, said melissa kindly, “thank you, but I don’t want it”, replied mrs.smith in a cold tone, “this is my mother’s recipe, mrs.smith I am sure you would like this”, mrs.smith took a good look at her cake and decided to accept it as she knew her mother very well, she snatched the dish and closed the door quickly on her face.

She went back home and fed the birds and went about her day as usual, Layla was already at the shop when she reached, “oh hey Layla, how are you today?”, asked melissa walking through the door, “everything is good and after a lot of thought I have decided to love myself, and I am going to stop looking at models too”, she said taking a deep breath, “As you should, you deserve to love yourself”, she replied as she continued to work, melissa had this deep need to be liked by everyone despite constantly feeling this hallow feeling within her she continued to behave in a way that everybody would approve of, she felt no need within herself to be a good person or to be kind, she just felt empty completely, but she would act in a way that made her look like a kind person, her words were rather calculated than kind.

She would often drain herself with physical labor of beating the leather, cutting it, shaping it, rendering it to perfection, “if your work isn’t perfect you might as well set it on fire”, that’s what her father had taught her, he would throw away the entire thing she would make if she happened to make even one mistake, there was no place for mistakes in art, that’s what she knew and that’s what she did, it took her days to complete even the smallest of things, “the want of perfection within art is a mark of genius”, was a quote she lived by, her father never forgave any of her mistakes, for him leather was the holy grail and any mistake would often lead to Melissa being subjected to being punished.

Working in her workshop was the only time the hallow feeling inside of her went away, the thrill of creation was her driving force.

Few days later news came that mrs.smith’s husband had gone missing after his work, she had reported it to the police, most of people of their neighborhood just made jokes about it saying he hated his wife so much that he ran away, only melissa was kind enough to pay her a visit, for the first time ever since her parent’s passing mrs.smith allowed melissa into her home, she was alone and nobody was by her side so she let her in, “mrs.smith I am truly sorry for what happened, I hope the police find him”, she said sitting down on the sofa, “yes melissa, I am worried”, she replied as she broke down in tears sitting next to melissa, melissa hugged her and told her everything is going to be ok, mrs.smith appreciated her support and even asked her to stay with her overnight as she felt scared alone, she kindly accepted.
Melissa stayed by her side the entire night, “maybe she likes me now”, thought melissa to herself as she slept next to mrs.smith.


The next morning police came to mrs.smith’s house, the commotion in the living room woke up melissa from her deep sleep, she walked out to see what’s happening, a police officer was sitting next to mrs.smith, the officer was young and handsome, melissa was instantly attracted to him so she fixed her hair and went into the living room and sat next to mrs.smith who was crying already, “what has happened officer, why is she crying?”, asked melissa in soft voice, “and who are you miss?”, asked the officer suspiciously, “I am her neighbour melissa, I stayed over to give her company”, she replied, “Well mrs.smith are you comfortable with sharing the sensitive information with your neighbour?” he asked looking to mrs.smith, she nodded, “well miss.melissa, somebody found a small piece of meat that fell on him and it happened to be human flesh and after DNA testing, it is confirmed to be mrs.smith’s husband”, he replied, melissa made a disgusted face, “fell on him? what does that mean “, melissa enquired, “a bird happened to drop it on him”, he replied, “ew”, she muttered, “how did that person come to know it was human flesh?, shouldn’t you be questioning him?” asked mrs.smith, “yes he is under custody, but still that’s all we have for now”, he replied as he got up to leave.

Melissa stayed by mrs.smith’s side for a while, she made breakfast for her before leaving, “thank you melissa for being there, I am sorry for the way I treated you before”, apologized mrs.smith as melissa was leaving, “its alright mrs.smith, please take care I’ll come to check in on you after work”, she replied.


When melissa returned home, john was laying on the couch watching TV, “isn’t it too early to watch TV?” asked melissa as she walked in and sat on the chair near the couch, john did not pay attention, “did you atleast feed the birds john?”, she asked in a frustrated tone, “yes I did, you couldn’t even wash the meat properly, that meat still had blood in it like you killed that goddamn animal just a few minutes ago”, he replied in a angry tone, “they’re crows john, they don’t care about the blood okay”, she said as she got up and peeped out of the window, “oh shit, that detective peter gomez is coming towards our house”, she said in a frenzy, peter gomez was their local detective, he had arrested john multiple times, hearing his name made john get up from the couch and freak out, “shit, where do I hide now, he is definitely looking for me”, he replied while freaking out, “what did you do this time, you idiot?”, asked melissa, john didn’t reply anything. Melissa took him upstairs and hid him in her parents room, it was an unused room of their house ever since her parents passed away, she kept it locked but she allowed john to hide there, it was directly below the attic and was the biggest master bedroom in the house.


“this is a nice room, such a shame melissa keeps it locked”, thought john to himself as he looked around the room. while downstairs, melissa was left to face peter Gomez who was growing tired of john’s actions everyday, “melissa you need stop defending that thug and tell me where he is right now”, he asked in a frustrated tone, “I have no idea officer, what did he do?”, she asked casually, melissa was very good at lying and she was used to lying confidently, she made it believable every single time, “he stole a rolex from this one man and john is also accused of illegal drug abuse miss, tell me where he is?”, asked peter, “peter I would’ve told you if I knew okay, he barely visits me anymore, I will bring him to you if I see him”, she said in a sad tone, the expressions on her face made peter feel bad for the poor girl, so peter had no choice but to believe her.


John was checking the cupboards and drawers of the room while he waited for peter to leave, he saw unusual things like hide of a deer, daggers, belts and syringes “her dad was a freak”, he thought to himself but he wasn’t shocked, he had seen worse things, but suddenly he felt something drip on his head, he touches his head and looks up to see, it was blood dripping from the wooden ceiling from the attic, he froze there, just looking at the blood dripping on his head.


In the same moment, melissa walks upstairs once peter had left, angry at john, “why did he steal a rolex, I am going to kill this idiot man”, she said to herself as she walked upstairs, and as she walks into the room, john was just standing there looking at the blood from ceiling as it dripped on him, melissa looked surprised, they both looked at one another in shock, “what the hell melissa?”, enquired john in a low voice, “i- I am sorry, the blood was supposed to be collected in the bucket, the bucket must’ve fell on the floor, all the blood is now wasted, it was to fertilize my plants not your dumb head”, she said with a sad voice and remorse in her eyes, john couldn’t believe his ears, his eyes widened like they were going to fall out from his head while melissa kept looking at the blood and the blood stained ceiling, “what blood?, who’s blood melissa?”, asked john with fear in eyes and crack in his voice, “mr.smith is up there”, she replied with her eyes fixed on the ceiling, john was horrified, “w-why?”, was the only word he could mutter slowly, “leather”, she replied with a frown on her face while still staring at the ceiling as the blood dripped down drop by drop.

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