In a different environment I'd have probably been close friends with Natalie. We were both misfits; ill-suited for careers in sales. We both used what should have been our weaknesses to our advantage; leading our clients to trust us due to our un-salesperson like nature. Though I was a few years older than her, we were in the same general age range. We even had similar tastes in music.
In the environment we were in, though, we were hardly friends. We were rivals at best, bitter enemies at worst. Her name was always right above mine on the leader board, yet she never beat me by much. Every single month we'd finish close to each other, but every single month she'd win by just a little. Despite the fact that her victories were always so narrow she made a point of rubbing my face in them, openly and consistently referring to herself as better than me. She gloated without shame; frequently acting as though I should be grateful to be in the same general area as such a superior salesperson.
Natalie didn't exactly win fair and square, though. She'd use sleazy techniques to eke out her victories -- nothing ethical, but nothing unethical enough to actually get fired. She'd mention things to my customers when no one was watching to sabotage my sales, then she would come in and "save" the deal -- always pocketing the commission. Management looked the other way -- it technically wasn't stealing, and they didn't really care who got paid the commission as long as the deal was closed. At first I cared about the money she was taking out of my paycheck, but after two years I just wanted to see the bitch suffer.
I arrived at work at 8 AM on Wednesday, an hour before we opened. Scanning the parking lot I spotted Natalie's blue sedan, but no other cars. That meant it was likely just her and I for the morning, meaning it was going to be a long day. I didn't exactly enjoy her company, and being close to the end of the month I was stressed out already.
Thursday was the last day of the month. Like every other month, Natalie was ahead of me, though not by too much. I was running out of time to get my numbers over hers before the month's numbers were compiled by management. I needed to close some deals desperately; I couldn't let her beat me again, especially with our numbers being so close.
I'd receive a small bonus if I beat her for being in a better sales rank, but that wasn't what was motivating me. If I beat her, my name would be above hers on the leader board. It might seem petty, but that was huge -- it meant that every time she came to work she'd see visual proof that I was superior to her; and I knew that would gnaw away at her internally. Of course, the inverse was true, too. If I failed to pull ahead it would be her name over mine as usual, and I could trust her to make sure that I never forgot it.
The end of the month wasn't just about selling, though. There was also the matter of checking over the previous months receipts and making sure that everything was in order. Though uncommon, it wasn't unheard of for sales rankings to change over matters of a couple dollars; and I wasn't about to lose my position due to a clerical error. Logging onto one of the ancient computers in the back room, I began the mind-numbingly boring task of reviewing all of the month's receipts to verify that everything was correct.
It was a boring process, but it was one that I had worked into a mechanical routine. I'd scan the receipt, checking the areas that I knew I had to watch carefully. Once I saw that everything was in order, I'd tap F6 to bring up the next receipt and repeat the process all over again. Tuning out the outside world, I scanned receipts for about five minutes before I saw it.
Towards the bottom of the screen the computer listed which salesperson would receive the commission. Although I vividly remembered closing the deal myself, my sales number was not listed in that field -- the number 138 was instead. I didn't even have to look up whose number that was, I knew immediately what had happened. I must have left myself logged in at some point, and Natalie took the opportunity to change the commission and steal my sale. Enraged, I quickly tapped F12 in order to print out a copy.
As I waited for the copy to print, though, I felt my rage melting into joy. Management might have been willing to ignore the occasional underhanded trick to get ahead, but this was outright stealing. For the first time that I was aware of Natalie had actually crossed the line, and I'd soon have evidence of it. The commission she had stolen was tiny, too -- just slightly over six dollars. Even if I lost the money, it would be worth it to be rid of her.
Snatching the printout, I triumphantly walked to the front of the store where I saw Natalie relaxing by the front counter. The air still smelled faintly of bleach from the cleaning crew the night before; that odor quickly overpowered by her perfume when I got close enough. She looked as smug as she always did, obviously unaware that I had found her bullshit. Walking up next to her, I casually placed the printout on the counter and looked her dead in the eye.
"I understand how much pressure you face in making your numbers," I began. "I can imagine how a salesperson with your lack of talent would need to resort to the occasional underhanded trick to make things word. This, however, is not acceptable."
Looking mildly confused, Natalie picked up the printout. Seeing what it was, her expression quickly changed to one of irritation, as if I had wasted her time with such a petty matter. Placing the printout back on the counter, she shot me a condescending grin.
"You leave yourself logged in, bad things happen," she shrugged, demonstrating an intense lack of respect. "I could have sent an e-mail to everyone letting them know you were gay; I figured this would be less embarrassing. I know you've been struggling, but I figured that a lousy six bucks wasn't going to kill you. You ought to be grateful that I taught you such a valuable lesson in such a kind way; I could have just as easily changed larger tickets than that. Really, you ought to think of me as a mentor, Liam -- I'm going out of my way to help you."
"Gee, Natalie, thank you ever so much," I replied sarcastically. "It's so nice having a coworker to look out for me. I almost feel bad turning you in over this."
"Are you fucking joking?" she laughed. "You're going to go crying to management over $6? God, I had no idea you were such a pussy."
"Natalie," I laughed back. "I'd turn you in over six cents. I don't give a flying fuck about the money -- I'm just happy to have something that will get your ass fired. Yeah, maybe it'll make me look petty; but the important thing is that it will make you look unemployed. You do realize that this is outright stealing, don't you? As in, something that they won't just ignore?"
I watched Natalie's face twist about in anger. She obviously didn't expect me to react the way that I had, and I couldn't blame her. I wasn't exactly in the habit of respecting every little rule myself; turning her in over something like this was a bit hypocritical and out of character. I wasn't happy to be doing it -- it did feel incredibly petty and beneath me. The important thing was that I'd never have to see her again, though, and the ends would justify the means.
Natalie reached into her pocket and pulled out a handful of bills. Looking through them, she found a ten and slammed it down on the counter on top of the printout. Looking up at me, she shot me a look of pure hatred.
"Keep the change, you petty cocksucker," she hissed. "Had I known you would be such a little baby about the whole thing, I'd have just sent out the gay e-mail instead."
"You're just not listening, are you?" I sighed. "Kiddo, do you really think I'm going to pass up a chance to get your ass fired over $10? Keep your money -- you'll likely need it more than I. Brian's due in at noon; I suggest you spend the next few hours preparing for your firing. Contact your customers, let them know you're leaving; that kind of stuff."
Having said my piece I put my elbows up on the counter and relaxed. I went out of my way to act nonchalantly, wanting to show her exactly how little concern I had for the situation. This did nothing to calm her down -- if anything it made her more and more angry. Entertaining myself by watching her suffering, I cracked a smile as her face twisted itself in rage, fear, and hatred. I loved her suffering, and wanted to intensify it.
"Aww, is poor widdle Natalie realizing that her ignorant ass is about to get fired?" I mocked. "God, you look so incredibly angry. Tell me, bitch -- what's it like to possess such an intense hatred and know that you're completely and totally unable to do a goddamned thing about it? How does it feel knowing that I'm about to disrupt your entire pathetic life and you can do absolutely nothing to hurt me back? It's true, you know -- you'll be fired, and you have no choice but to just grab your ankles and take it like a bitch. There's absolutely nothing you can do to hurt me back."
My words did the trick. With an almost intimidatingly primal grunt, Natalie balled her hand into a fist and thrust it into my face. After landing the punch she took a step back and glared at me, breathing heavily.
Fortunately, though I'm not exactly muscular I'm hardly a small guy. I was easily a foot taller than her, and probably more than twice her weight. She might have hit me as hard as she could but I barely even felt a thing. Although I was initially instinctually angry that she had hit me, I quickly realized that this was a good thing.
"I am going to fucking murder you," she growled, sounding deadly serious.
"Let's hope you have a weapon of some sort hidden somewhere," I laughed. "I don't think either of us has enough time for you to actually beat me to death with your fists alone. I should thank you, though. Getting you fired would have been fun, but having you arrested will be far more enjoyable."
"What the fuck are you talking about?" she demanded.
"Security cameras, idiot," I reminded her. "We're standing in front of the cash register, so that little spat of yours is now on record. It's funny -- as pathetic as your punch may have been, it still counts as assault. That's two years in a state prison, I believe. I won't get to watch Brian fire you, but I doubt he'll hold your job until you get out."
"You wouldn't dare," she replied, sounding far more nervous than she probably wanted to.
"If you want to believe that, it's fine by me," I shrugged, reaching for my cell phone. "I'm not a lawyer or anything, but you might want to start thinking up a better excuse. I doubt a judge is going to accept 'I thought he wouldn't press charges'."
I hadn't really planned to call the police, of course. Having her fired was already pushing my boundaries; actually having her sent to jail seemed extreme even given how much I hated her. Natalie apparently didn't realize I was bluffing, though -- she jumped at me and tried to grab my cell phone, visibly terrified by the prospect of losing her freedom along with her job.
"If you're going to assault me again," I sighed, easily maintaining the grip on my phone, "at least have the intelligence to take me off camera first. You're not hurting me physically or anything, but this is just embarrassing. Really, I'd feel bad for you if you weren't such a raging cunt."
Realizing that she wasn't going to be able to overpower me, Natalie stopped trying to wrestle the phone out of my hand. Backing off a bit she looked up at me, still noticeably terrified, enraged, and breathing heavily. I almost felt bad for her, but she deserved to suffer and I saw no reason to let her off the hook just yet.
"Okay," she panted, swallowing her pride. "You win. I surrender. I shouldn't have hit you, and I'm sorry. Please don't call the police. I'll reimburse you for what I stole, I'll quit so you'll never have to see me again; hell, I'll do anything you want. Just please, please don't call the police. I know you hate me, and you probably have every right to; but I'm begging you not to send me to jail."
She was clearly terrified. I felt a little guilty for inflicting such intense suffering, but I still wanted to see her squirm. Throughout the years I had known her I had never had power over her, and it seemed almost immoral not to exploit it now that I finally did. Sweating it out a little wasn't going to kill her, anyway. Walking towards the back room, I motioned for her to follow.
The back room of the store was free from security cameras, meaning that I'd be able to exploit my power over her without evidence. We still had about 45 minutes until we were supposed to open the store, and I wanted to make them count. I waited for her to enter behind me, then closed and locked the heavy wooden door behind us just to be safe.
Facing Natalie, I placed my hands on my hips and let out a sigh, doing my best to imply with my body language that I wasn't sure what to do. I already knew that I wasn't going to call the police, of course, but letting her think that I might was just too much fun. Natalie looked back up at me submissively, clearly unsure what to do. Enjoying her fear, I remained silent and let her sweat it out.
"Look, I'm really, really sorry," she spat out after a few moments. "Please don't call the police, Liam?"
"You keep saying you're sorry," I mused. "I don't know why, but I just don't believe it. I think you'd sound more convincing on your knees."
Natalie looked up at me, probably trying to gauge how serious I was. I returned her look with an unyielding stare, hoping to convey that this was not a good time to test me. Tapping my foot, I let her know that she was trying my patience. Realizing that she had no other way out of it, she reluctantly dropped to her knees, noticeably hating the situation.
"As I was saying," she choked out, her voice awash with terror and rage, "I'm very sorry that I hit you. Please tell me that you're not going to call the police?"
"I could tell you that," I admitted, "but I might be lying. I'd like to not have to go to the police, but I'm just so concerned for society in general. If you aren't punished you'll never learn your lesson, and you'd be a threat to the community. I just don't know if I could live with myself, knowing that I was responsible for that. I mean, what happens when you assault someone who actually doesn't deserve it? I'd be partially guilty for having let you believe that you can get away with that shit."
"Oh come the fuck off it," she snapped. "You're practically a fucking anarchist, there's no way that you believe that bullshit."
"Is that what you think of me?" I chuckled, doing my best to sound hurt. "I had no idea my reputation was one of such lawlessness -- now I feel compelled to turn you in just to prove that I'm a decent, law-abiding citizen. Or, you know, maybe I just fucking despise you and I'm willing to do whatever it takes to hurt you. You'll have a couple years in prison to ponder than philosophical question."
"Okay, wait!" she pleaded, remembering our new power dynamic. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to imply that you weren't a law-abiding citizen. Just tell me what to do to earn your forgiveness, and I swear to god I'll do it. I'm already on my knees here, cut me some slack?"
"I've been cutting you slack," I reminded her, "by not calling the police just yet. Show some fucking appreciation, or I might just be compelled to stop cutting you that slack. I'm not sure you can ever truly earn my forgiveness, either -- I mean, you hit me ever so hard, I just don't know if I can get over that. You can start by showing that you understand your place, though. Shine my shoes, bitch -- you're already on your knees, we may as well put that to good use."
Natalie looked up at me in confusion. I'll admit that demanding a shoe shine was a strange request -- I wasn't generally the type of guy that gave a flying fuck about how shiny my shoes were, and it did feel kind of random. Still, it was the first thing to pop into my head, and I saw no reason to take it back.
"How am I supposed to do that?" she asked in earnest. "I don't exactly carry around shoe polish with me, and I doubt you do either."
"Natalie," I sighed. "While I'd certainly prefer a more professional shoe-shine, we can always use your tongue in a pinch. You've been using it all morning to dig yourself a deeper hole, you may as well put it to use for good for a change. Really, you ought to be thanking me -- as long as we keep your tongue occupied you won't be able to say anything regrettable. On the other hand, I can understand if you'd prefer to get it some rest so that you'll be ready to argue that you shouldn't be convicted because you totally didn't think I'd press charges. It's your choice, really."
Natalie looked like she was about to cry. I couldn't blame her -- what I was asking her to do was truly disgusting, and even more degrading. I should have felt bad for putting her in such a dehumanizing position, but I didn't -- she was my enemy, and I had defeated her. I loved her suffering; I only wanted to gloat further.
Seeing that I wasn't about to change my mind and show some mercy, Natalie dropped down to her hands and knees. Placing her mouth right in front of my left shoe, she slowly stuck her tongue out and gave it a gentle lick. She seemed to instantly regret it; it looked like she was about to vomit. I wasn't sure if it was the shame or just the taste of shoe leather and dust, but I didn't really care.
"You're dangerously close to offending me," I warned her. "You should be eager to please -- you're receiving the honor of licking a superior salesperson's shoe. I expect you to show some enthusiasm and appreciation for what I'm permitting you to do; your look of nausea is completely inappropriate."
"I'm sorry," she growled, before going back to work on my shoe.
Natalie didn't manage to convincingly mask her disgust at what I was forcing her to do, but she did seem to try her best. Bathing my shoe in her tongue she forced an awkward smile while making "Mmm" noises. The experience was borderline comical -- no matter how hard she tried, I could still easily tell that she hated it.
"You know, I think we may have found your calling," I laughed. "Who knows, maybe I won't turn you in at all. Just think, we could start every day like this, with you dropping to your knees and licking my shoes clean like the stupid bitch that you are. It's win-win, really -- I get my shoes clean, you get the opportunity to worship at the feet of a real salesman. Maybe someday my talent might actually rub off on you."
Natalie didn't seem to like my idea, but I think that she knew better than to say anything. Choking back her rage, she continued to slather her tongue over my shoes until they were covered in a thin layer of saliva. Looking up at me, I saw tears slowly streaming down her cheeks.
"Is this good enough?" she asked. "I swear to god, Liam, I'm trying as hard as I can -- please don't call the cops."
"Good enough?" I sneered, looking down at my shoes. "I asked you to shine my shoes; you simply drooled all over them. For fuck's sake, I could have gotten better performance off of a stray dog. What the fuck good are you, anyway?"
"But I did what you told me to!" she protested. "I did my best; I don't know what else I can do!"
"Well that's the problem, now isn't it?" I sighed. "You probably did do your 'best'; your 'best' just happens to be shit. I'm sorry, bitch, but it looks like we can add shoe-shining to the list of things that your tongue is worthless for. I just hope it's better at convincing judges to let felony assault slide."
"Please don't turn me in," she cried. "Give me another chance, I'll do anything!"