My name is Vicki and I have a secret. Had a secret. It’s someone else’s problem now.
Let me start at the beginning, or at least what might be the beginning. I had just been dumped. This has happened a number of times, often enough for me to have developed a little ritual for coping with it. I would buy some lingerie. I could only afford stuff from the Discount Everything store in the local mall. So here I was.
Dumped for being insecure, being needy, being … me, I suppose. So now I was listlessly looking through a rack of bras. No, no, not that one, wrong size, no, not that colour, no …
Buy me, said a female voice.
I jumped. I looked around. There was no-one close by.
I would be good for you, said the voice.
Actually, the voice seemed to be inside my head. I assumed I was experiencing some sort of post-dump breakdown.
You’re not, said the voice. I’m right here.
Okay, I thought. I’ll play along with the delusion.
Where, I said. Or, rather, I thought it as if I was saying it, on the basis that if I was going crazy there was probably no reason to share it with the world.
Here. In your hand.
I looked at the bra I was holding. It was a rather odd colour, a sort of dark blue. Not my thing, really. No, I looked at it again, and it was an interesting pastel teal shade.
But, wouldn’t you know it, the wrong size. Too big in the cups. I am not a well-endowed girl.
I’m perfect for you. Check again.
I did. Huh, it was my size after all. Guess I mis-read it. I looked at the tag again. There was something else written there. COLD WATER HAND WASH ONLY. And a price, a very reasonable price.
Try me on.
I hesitated. Talking bras are … weird.
Try me on, and you’ll never be dumped again.
How do you know about that.
I know a lot about you. I know you need me. I’ll be good for you.
You’re … a bra.
We’ll be great together. Try me on and you’ll see.
I went into the change room, and put it on. It was comfortable. Perfect fit. Then I looked at myself in the mirror … and gasped.
I had … cleavage! How the hell did that happen?
I looked at myself at various angles in the mirror. I did not appear to be any larger than usual in the chest department but somehow the bra, with a decent amount of padding, was making better use of what was there. The result: cleavage. Curvy, eye-catching, fleshy cleavage.
If he could see you now, he would be crying that he dumped you. But you can do better than him. Much better.
I doubt it, I said. I’m pretty ordinary.
But when I looked at my image, I began to think that maybe the Voice was right.
I can give you … what you want. If you buy me. Now.
Well, you know, whether I was going crazy or not, I just had to buy it. Maybe I was imagining the whole thing, but to tell the truth the idea that I might be able to get off the dumping treadmill through the correct choice in underwear was not unappealing.
I took the bra to the counter and handed it to the woman. She looked at the tag. “Odd, I thought I knew all the brands but I’m not familiar with this one,” she said. “WitchyWood, eh? Where did you get it?”
I gestured in a general direction.
The woman shrugged and processed the transaction. I – we – left the store.
We’re going to have so much fun, said Voice.
I should tell you about my life. Except there isn’t much to tell. I live alone in a little apartment, I have a small job in a big company, I have some friends but no-one I am particularly close to. I occasionally go out to see if I can find some appropriate company, with very mixed results. That’s it. I told you there wasn’t much, right?
But none of this addressed the concept of a bra that could talk – talk inside my head, anyway. I was not sure if anyone else could hear Voice and I did not want to try any experiments. Just in case other people couldn’t hear it. And just in case they could.
So what’s your story? I said, sitting on the couch with the bra in my hand.
Voice was silent.
How come you can, er, talk?
How did you end up in a store?
There was a long pause. Then: we should go out.
Huh. Well, that wasn’t a bad idea. So I went to the wardrobe and selected some going-out clothes.
Not that top. That one there. The silky red one.
That’s a halter. I can’t wear that with, er, you.
Sure you can.
I inspected the bra. Somehow, it had changed into a halter-style.
I can be whatever I need to be.
It had also changed colour, ruby red to match the top. Or perhaps I was just imagining the whole thing.
I looked at the halter top. It’s a bit slutty, isn’t it? I said.
It’s just slutty enough.
Actually, it was hard to say no to Voice. Inside my head, she sounded very … convincing. So I put on the bra and the red halter top and a tight skirt and, believe it or not, I thought I looked pretty good. My hair seemed bouncier. Those little glitches on my skin had vanished. I swear that that annoying cellulite had disappeared. Even my eyelashes looked, well, kind of seductive. I looked like I should be in a television commercial for some sort of beauty product. Vicki 2.0.
So, it being Saturday night, I – we – went out to a nightclub. Now, usually, when I go to a place like this, I went with a little group of friends, a sort of safety-in-numbers concept. I would cross my fingers and hope that I wouldn’t be noticed, or that I would be.
But duly armed with killer lingerie, tonight I felt like going solo, leading with the cleavage and the bare shoulders. The bouncers waved me through and, what do you know, people started looking at me as soon as I entered. I took a seat at the bar.
Before a minute had passed a guy came up to me and asked if he could buy me a drink.
No, said Voice. Not him. He’s C-grade.
What, they come in grades? I said to her.
Voice seemed to sigh.
So I say no thanks to him? I said.
You say, definitely not.
“Definitely not,” I said to the guy.
He looked rather hurt.
Good, said Voice.
I saw another guy checking me out.
What about him?
How do you know so much about this?
Voice said nothing.
I looked around. On the other side of the room was a handsome guy. Well-dressed, blond-ish, just the right amount of semi-shaven panache.
Him, said Voice. Go for the stubble.
So I turned towards him, leaned back against the bar a little, gave him a good view of the guns.
He came over. Yes, he was an A, alright.
“I’m Phil,” he said.
“Of course you are,” I said. Or maybe it was Voice doing the work and I was just lip-synching. “As in, Phil-me-up, is it? Buy me an expensive cocktail, Phil.”
He did. He asked me my name.
“Vic – ” I started.
Victoria. It’s sexier.
“ – toria,” I finished.
He smiled. Wow, Voice was right, Victoria was sexier than Vicki. If only I had known.
Things with Phil went from there. Some drinks, some innuendo, an invitation. To make a long story short, I ended up with a bit of stubble-rash on my thighs. Worth it. Totally.
I would not have minded seeing Phil again but Voice was adamant that I should not return his calls. I was not entirely sure why he called me, since I had not really done much in the sex department. Mainly been on the receiving side, which was a nice change and a good place to be. Maybe Voice had got into his head in some way.
Dump him, said Voice.
But he was so pretty, I said.
Dump him, see how he likes it, just like all the times they have dumped you.
I must say that when she put it that way the idea had its attraction. Serves them right. Serves all of them right. Wait, did I actually just think that!?
In any case, when you go to a smorgasbord you don’t have just the one dish. There are plenty of others to try.
Hmm, I said. Well, okay then.
So we tried some more dishes. Alex was next, as I recall. He had a Porsche. Then there was Will. He had his own handcuffs. I forget the name of the next one but I remember that he had a very nice tongue. I have a feeling there was a fellow called Steve in there somewhere. And so on.
Meanwhile, my working life continued to grind away, as I shuffled papers around for reasons that were not entirely clear. Frustrating, because I was capable of doing much more, and I had better qualifications than most people here. But at least my co-shufflers seemed rather more social these days, and the boss of my division seemed to be spending more time than usual hanging around my desk.
One day, the boss said to me: “You know, Victoria, there’s a promotion coming up. Section head. I’ve noticed in these past few months how effective you are in your job, and I feel you should be considered. What assets would you bring to the job?”
Lean forward, said Voice. I did.
Deep breath. I did.
She told me what to say.
“Assets?” I said. “Just the two.”
“Ah,” said the boss. “I see.” He smiled and walked away.
So that’s how you get ahead, I said to Voice.
She giggled. Do you want the job or not? she said.
I thought about it. Eventually, I said: Yes.
A few days later, I was told I had been given the promotion. So the lesson was obvious: all those women who have the good jobs and the handsome boyfriends and the bright prospects … cheat. Maybe they all had talking bras.
The downside of the new job was that I had to take work home sometimes. I was going through a slab of papers when Voice said: I’m bored. We should go out. Meet someone. Bring them back here.
And then dump them? I said. As usual?
That’s the point. You seduce them in order to dump them. Hurt them.
I thought that the point was to have a good time.
You thought wrong. Get dressed. The silver bandeau, I think.
Before I knew it I was in the bedroom, manoeuvring myself into the top. The bra had reconfigured to max the push-up effect.
I don’t really want to go out, I said to Voice. I’m not in the mood.
What you want does not matter much. Now, the black skirt with the slit to the thigh.
I had the skirt in my hand. I looked at it.
No, I said, putting the skirt down.
The bra began to pinch me a little. In a sensitive area. There was the twinge of a headache at the base of my skull. It began to grow into a throb.
And then I was picking up the skirt and pulling it on. A part of my brain was saying, yes, I did want to go out, pick up some guy, do what I was supposed to do. It would be fun. Wouldn’t it?
The pinching stopped and the headache vanished.
Good girl, said Voice.
I’m not sure how but I ended up at a bar called Reboot. I started talking with a guy named Paul, and before I knew it we had been chatting for an hour or so. Voice was impatient, saying that he was just a B. I reminded her that this outing had been her idea, and anyway there were no A-grades in sight.
And he was pleasant company. We had things in common. He made me laugh. I would have been happy to sit and talk with him, and I think he would have been happy to do that too. But Voice was insistent. Anyway, one thing led to another, and a few hours later I was standing by my bed in my underwear, watching Paul sleep. Funny how some guys do that after pretty good sex.
He’s nice, I said to Voice.
He reminds me of someone, said Voice. Someone … someone I used to know … a long time ago … but he left me … after making promises … so many promises …
Is that why you do all this? Because someone broke your heart?
He broke … my soul.
There was a flush of heat in my head. This was some angry lingerie.
They’re evil. All of them.
Be that as it may, I said, I would like to keep this one. For a while, at least. I’m getting pretty sick of one-nighters.
There was a long pause.
Then: Kill him.
Kill him. Take a knife from the kitchen and kill him.
I recoiled in surprise, and then horror. I – I can’t, I said. I – I don’t want to – I won’t –
But now I was in the kitchen and I was taking a large knife from the drawer.
I’ll show you how. It’s easy.
I could see a hand holding the knife. Was it my hand?
There was a throbbing in my head, like a raven’s claw twisting in my brain. The bra was tightening around me, cutting into my flesh.
Stop, I said. Please …
Take the knife and put it on his throat and pull it across and then I’ll stop.
I tried to push Voice away, push her out of my head, but she was holding on with a manic strength. I lifted the knife and tried to get the blade under the strap of the bra, hoping to cut it off. But the fabric had become as strong as iron, and now it was as dark as blood. I began to struggle for breath.
My feet were starting to carry me towards the bedroom. I could see the knife in my hand.
You can’t get away, said Voice. You’re mine now. Now and forever.
“No!” I shouted aloud. With a huge effort, I threw the knife across the room.
You will regret that.
The bra was strangling me, squeezing the air from my lungs. The throbbing in my head had become a roar now, a storm of savage anger. I sagged to my knees.
I will make you regret it. I will make you regret everything.
But something scratched at my memory. What was it … I had seen something on the day we had met … something about the tag … what had it said …
On my hands and knees, gasping, I made it to the bathroom. I managed to get into the shower. My breath almost gone, I groped for the tap. The hot tap. I pulled the lever.
There was a gush of water. Steaming, scalding. It hit the bra. Voice screamed.
Cold water hand wash only, bitch, I said to her.
But she wasn’t giving up. The bra tightened even more.
The water was so hot it was blistering my skin. But if it was bad for me it must have been agony for her. I grit my teeth against the pain, against the boiling water and my cracking ribs and my pounding skull. Hold on, I told myself. Just … a little … longer … one … more … moment …
Enough! shouted Voice.
Then get off me, I said.
The bra loosened sufficiently for me to take a breath. The pain in my head began to recede. I reached up and turned the water off. But I kept my hand on the lever.
If I do that, you will destroy me.
I thought about it. Yes, this was a truly homicidal piece of underwear. But we had been through a lot together, and it had been pretty good, up to the final chapter.
I’ll make you a deal, I said. You get off me, get out of my head, and I’ll let you go on your way.
There was a long silence.
Slowly, I began to pull the lever. A hissing drip came from the tap.
The clasp unfastened and the straps slid from my shoulders. I was free.
And so the story ended where it began, in the Discount Everything store. After making sure the salespeople were not looking my way, I took the bra out of my bag and slipped it onto a spare hanger. I put it in with a row of others.
I was by no means sure that releasing it back into the wild was a good idea. But I had given Voice my word, and that has to count for something.
I looked around. There was a somewhat colourless young woman sorting through stuff on the bargain table. Huh.
I turned to go.
I looked at the bra.
I … I could be good, said Voice. If you would just –
Forget it, I said.
I walked away.
She called after me: Victoria –
It’s Vicki, I said.