The Allegra Product
Jen dialled the Allegra Homeware helpline, left her mobile on the granite kitchen counter top, put it on loud speaker and opened her briefcase – unsheathing a pack of midrange Allegra cutlery. She held up the stainless-steel dinner knives close to Fiona, a two-and-a-half-year-old toddler, who was minding her own business, perched in her highchair, tackling a cheese string. Her mother, Christine, was slightly less casual as she was tied up and trapped in the cupboard under the stairs, snot and tears soiling her blouse. She called out to Jen, “You can’t get away with this, my husband will be back at six.”
“That’s all I’ll need to change your lives. Now please be quiet, I’m only keeping your gag off so your squeals don’t scare Fiona, but I won’t hesitate to use it if you misbehave.”
Christine blubbered some more as an operator came on the line and in an inane sing song voice, said, “Allegra Homeware helpline, how can I help you?”
“I’d like to speak to Alan Blackburn please,” said Jen, in an equally asinine voice.
“You know exactly who. I’m Jen Martins – I’ve contacted him on every media platform and we go way back. Now, put me through to your boss or I’ll slice up my friend’s baby I’ve kidnapped. I think I’ll use an Allegra Gourmet steak knife, then I’ll feed her to the foxes. Ok?”
After a beat, the operator said in a sober voice, “Please hold.”
Jen scooped out the existing cutlery from its drawer and carefully replaced it with Allegra custom made products – shining the odd spoon with a cloth.
“You see Fiona, isn’t that better?”
Then Jen gathered Fiona up in her arms and said, “Now shall we transform mummy and daddy’s bedroom? You lead the way.”
Fiona stroked her pudgy fingers across Jen’s face with a playful smile.
“I could just eat you up,” Jen said as they passed the cupboard under the stairs. Christine became aware of Jen and her daughter’s proximity, she did all she could to repress her need to shriek Fiona’s name.
“Listen, Jen, listen,” said Christine peeking through the slats of the cupboard door. “We’ve been friends for years and I don’t know what went wrong but just because we fell out, don’t take that out on a defenceless little child.”
“I’ll tell you what went wrong, you think you’re better than me because I’m a top Allegra sales person.”
“No, Jen it’s because you’re obsessed. It’s all you talk about, Allegra this, Allegra that – constantly – and it’s just unbearable.”
“You know what’s unbearable? Being dirt poor when all your friends are holidaying in the Algarve, driving SUVs and scoffing smoked salmon. My crime is that I tried to better myself and what do I get? Everyone turning against me. Now I have a couple of hours to metamorphose your bedroom. Trust me, when I’m done you and your husband will thank me.”
Jen locked the master bedroom door behind her and propped Fiona up against a plump pillow next to a pile of Allegra bedroom products Jen had collected from the boot of her car. She swayed to the muzak that played on loop from the phone, clicking her fingers. She swapped the blinds, exchanged the rugs and replaced the nick nacks, peppered across the chest of drawers.
“Miss Martins?” said a voice, filled with terror. Fiona had snatched the phone and was chewing on it – covering it with drool.
“Ah, Alan,” said Jen, “finally. You owe me money; I’ve been working my butt off and all I get from you and your company is false promises.”
“Miss Martins, you know that’s not true, we released you from our contract months ago because you were untrustworthy and, frankly, deranged. Please tell me you were joking about the baby?”
“Alan, you said we were a team.”
Jen felt lightheaded so she lay down on the king-size bed next to Fiona. She stared at the painting of Baron Rothschild opposite and it began to speak. “Jennifer,” it purred, “you’re the finest saleswoman in all of North East Finchley and some sections of Barnet too.”
A shriek emanated from downstairs as Christine’s husband had returned and released his wife. “There’s blood, there’s blood on the carpet,” Christine cried. “My baby!”
Christine grabbed her husband by the hand and followed the trail of blood that led to their bedroom. The couple could hear Jen talking to herself. There was no sound from the child. Christine’s husband struggled to knock the door down with his shoulder.
Jen trembled and then her body lifted off the bed as she levitated a yard in the air.
Fiona squeaked, “You’ve convinced me, I want a month’s supply of exfoliating facial wet wipes, please.”
Jen’s head lolled back and she gave a dreamy smile.
Christine’s husband knocked the door down and the couple dashed over to Fiona who was drenched in globs of blood. However, they found no cuts or bruises on her body. Then they noticed the room. Their usual decor had gone and what replaced it was horrifying. There was blood on the Allegra curtains, blood on the Allegra tasselled Persian rug, blood on the Allegra tap fittings, blood on the Allegra his and her towel set, blood on the Allegra lamp shades, and blood squirting from Jen’s wrists who had collapsed in the centre of the bed. Pools of blood had collected in the folds of the duvet where Jen happily slipped out of consciousness and into a better world. Everything would be Allegra there. She would be its shining light.