Edmund carefully modulated his voice. ‘Tell viewers how this phobia restricts your life, Janice.’
‘Recall the first time you encountered this fear.’
Janice, cheeks streaked with mascara, lips trembling, whispered, ‘Oh, Edward, I feel …’ she covered her mouth, ‘… sick.’ She stumbled out of the shot, returning a minute later hyperventilating. Droplets dripped from her face, soaking into her tracksuit.
‘I’m sweating … I’m dying.’ She clutched her chest. ‘I can’t breathe.’
Edmund’s face melted Dali-esque into abject sorrow as he shared Janice’s emotional pain.
Failing to squeeze her Botoxed brow into a frown, Annabel rustled up a small compassionate smile.
Janice drew a shuddering breath. ‘I remember—’
‘How old were you, Janice?’
‘Picture the scene—’
‘—as if you’re a spectator.’
Janice tugged her hair, moaning.
Annabel slowly held out a box. ‘D’you think—’
‘Let’s see if you can look at one now.’ Edmund snatched the box, thrusting it towards Janice, who jumped as if stung and burst into tears.
Edmund looked sadly into the camera. ‘This phobia affects one in seventy-five thousand people. Janice has tried cognitive behavioural therapy, hypnotherapy, tranquillisers, and beta-blockers.’
‘This coming week, we’ll introduce Janice to Exposure therapy in a safe and controlled way. I’m confident we’ll help her overcome this irrational fear … now … I’ll hand back to you in the studio, Mark.’
‘Stupid cow,’ Edmund yelled at Janice. ‘Talk about overacting … and my bloody name’s NOT Edward, and you,’ turning on Annabel, ‘interact, PLEASE.’
Janice scowled. ‘Geoffrey hurt me.’
Geoffrey sauntered away carrying a sopping wet sponge and a cattle prod. He enjoyed eliciting emotion from the performers.
‘Go. Change,’ Edmund snarled. ‘Both of you.’
He swapped his tie, and after a quick visit to Wardrobe and Make-up, Janice and Annabel sullenly took their positions beside him.
Annabel flashed a beatific smile, and Janice beamed. Edmund, narrowing his eyes, stared intensely into the camera and, in a honeyed tone, said, ‘Today we’ll see if Exposure therapy has helped Janice.’ His gaze remained fixed on the camera. ‘How are you feeling, Janice?’
‘Oh, Edward,’ Janice simpered. ‘This week’s—’
‘You’ve been extraordinarily brave.’
Annabel hugged Janice, ‘She’s—’
‘You’re wearing a blouse, Janice, with lots—’
‘Yes, Edward. No more—’
‘Zips or Velcro, eh? Jan—’
‘EDWARD,’ Janice screamed. ‘LOOK. BUTTONS, you sh—’
Linda Hibbin is retired and lives in Essex, UK. She began writing in 2020 attending online writing courses and her stories and flash fiction have been published on sites including Bourne Green Lockdown Lit, Potato Soup Journal and in Glitterary Literary and Writefluence paperback anthologies. Linda was short-listed in the Wells 2022 festival, also in the Blandford Rotary competition, and landed first prize in the 2022 Eversham Festival, and a poem, Letter to Santa has been published in an anthology published by Buzgaga.
Comical observations of herself and people she knows often creep into her tales, and she gets a kick out of tickling the reader’s fancy or tugging at their heartstrings.
To enter a FFF Competition…https://freeflashfiction.com/current-competition/
Follow FFF on Twitter – @fffict
Join the FFF mailing list – form is on the home page – https://freeflashfiction.com
Free Flash Fiction now offer a Critique Service – https://freeflashfiction.com/critique-service-2/
You donate – we purchase – an author gets a prize, a book gets a little publicity, and the work of a flash fiction author gets read! Go to the Kofi page for more info…https://ko-fi.com/freeflashfiction