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A single tear ran down my flushed cheek as I stood before him, more naked than I had been when born into the world. My muscles cringed as his hands explored my trembling, but fit body; his fingers dancing along like marionettes. His hands trailed down my arms, causing goose bumps to form and my little hairs to rise. The man held my hands in his own tightly, but with delicacy all the same. He then released them and sent his own back down the slender curves of my body. They floated across my strong, firm thighs making their way to my taught, tight calves. He squeezed them firmly and looked straight into my eyes, but I turned my gaze away. The humiliation was too immense. He could see it in my eyes. This brought a smirk to his face and a sparkle of enjoyment to his eyes.
He shook his head as if to shake off the moment of distraction. Tilting his gaze down, he bent his head over. With a soft touch, his lips touched my toes, warming my frozen skin. In response, my toes arched upward as if trying to avoid a poisonous plant. Smiling softly, he picked himself off the floor slowly and stood before me; confidence and strength within his stance.
“Stand still,” he said to me, no emotion in his voice.
I looked at him and nodded, fear stealing my words away from me.
His gaze fell to my long, slender, white neck. He moved his body to mine and his lips fell upon my chilled neck. I took in a deep breath and closed my eyes, attempting to shut out the world. My shoulder-length auburn hair fell one side as I tilted my neck to the left. The man welcomed my willingness, or so as he perceived it.
“Your hair shimmers in the moonlight,” he whispered softly to my skin.
My soul yearned to scream, but I remained silent.
I could feel him smiling on my skin, but then his focus diverted to his previous action once more. My body gave a tremor as I waited for his teeth to meet my flesh, but my anticipation was misled. His lips pushed on my pale, slender neck and rose again; placing a sweet, tender kiss upon my skin.
I released the breath that I did not know I was holding, but I remained tense. No amount of sweetness could undo the knots my muscles were in. He was aware of this, and it gave him sick pleasure. Not a normal man was he.
“I’ll put you at ease…” he whispered, and to my misfortune, I heard his words.
As soon as I had walked into the room, the smell of vanilla tingled my nostrils. My gaze was drawn to the single candle that sat upon a small table. He appeared from the corner and walked towards the light. In one swift motion, he blew out the candle as if it were just a birthday. I shivered in my fleece sweater and soft, maroon scarf. My Levi’s felt as thin as paper and my belt felt heavier than lead. What did it matter? They wouldn’t stay on long. This much I knew.
I held my chin high, attempting to hold down my fear. But his intense gaze on my body didn’t permit this. He stared me down. His look screamed hunger, but it held patience as well. Time meant nothing to him. In his opinion, time was not of the essence. He could dress me up like a doll, strip me down, and then repeat the process. He could hold fire to my skin, smell it burn, and still wait for it to heal. Time was nothing to him; nothing at all.
The man wore dark, denim jeans and a dark blue, fitted t-shirt. His jeans sat snuggly on his hips and his t-shirt hugged the muscles on his firm chest tightly. His dark hair was cropped to fit his square, hard jaw and his mouth was plain and simple. I noticed these things, but not till after I saw his eyes.
They were brown and warm, but I knew this man was not. They peered at me, stripping me down for his pleasure. His eyes raked over my body, but he was different. His gaze didn’t remain on one central place like most men’s did. Instead, he analyzed my face thoroughly. He walked towards me and placed his hands on my face. They felt the angles and outlined the curve of my nose. I shivered at his touch, but he seemed not to notice. He was focused like a hunter focuses on his prey…I was his prey.
Months ago when my brother had died in Afghanistan, I fell to pieces. Suddenly, what I knew and owned was not enough to sustain me through the dismal life I was leading. I turned to the bottle and the men of the trade. My clothing came off more often than I would have liked and my income flourished. Late nights became my day and bars and bedrooms became my new homes. My newfound lifestyle came with a cost though; a cost that involved my children.
Age eight and eleven, Danny and Eliza knew not what I was doing. They didn’t know I spent hours on end sending my sorrows to the bottom of a Jack Daniel’s bottle. They weren’t aware of the fact that I held sleep over’s frequently, none of which involved Truth or Dare or Spin The Bottle. They were clueless to all of those things. But they could see that I was gone. And this hurt them deeply.
I was unaware of this for a long time. As I drifted farther away from my family, my darlings ached in earnest. Frequently, they cried themselves to sleep, allowing their tears fall upon knitted blankets. Too often they ate peanut butter sandwiches alone as I dreamt on our couch. When at home, they rarely saw me, for I was always sleeping peacefully. Once I came home and found my bed unmade and slept in. I worried at first, but then I figured out that it had just been my children. They had awoken at night, crawled into my large, Victorian bed, and drifted off to sleep. Safety and security must have been what they yearned for.
As I stood before the man, I dwelled on the hurt I had caused my children; the situation I had put them in. At first, I had just left them physically. At first, I had only left them to fight for themselves. At first, I had only caused them sorrow and loneliness. But now, I have brought harm and trouble to them. To do it once more and correct it, I would give almost anything…
I received the letter a few days ago. At first, it just left me confused, but as it sank in, it sent me into a panic. What was I to do? How was I going to help them? Questions swarmed my mind as I searched for answers. But once I calmed down a bit, I thought long and hard. I reread the letter multiple times to confirm the information. I was determined to get everything right and do what the letter told me to do. I would keep my children safe if it was the final act I was to do.
The man that sent me the letter was a new client, but I had heard of him before. My friends told me of his “peculiar” habits. He was notorious by the women of the working world, though no one spoke enough of him to give out any details. Charming. Well-mannered. Handsome: this was how they described the man. Different. Peculiar. Strange: this was how they described his tastes. I said to myself, “I’ve played with his kind before.” But somewhere inside me, I knew he was different. The way no one would share details of their intimate relations with him said something. The way when his “name” was spoken, some ladies in the room would fall silent or divert their gaze told something about him.
He wasn’t type-A: Cautious, gentle, well-paying, and respectful. These types just want some good ‘ole wholesome fun. Maybe they were just divorced or their wife isn’t “supplying the goods”, but nonetheless, they were safe.
He wasn’t type-B either: drunken, loud, smelling of sweat and alcohol. Maybe they had crappy, poor, self-loathing lives. Some just had crazy, ex-wives that married their best friends. These men weren’t terrible, but they could be violent on occasion.
He wasn’t type-C, though he was close: sick, twisted, loves to inflict merciless pain on the women they choose. These men are what they are. No description could be used to tell how they came to that class of enjoyment. These men strike fear in the women that need the money. Desperation drives women to these men. They have to pay well to bribe the women to do the things that make them tingle. I’ve never encountered this type of man, but I know people who have. Many of the women can’t handle the memories, so they blow their brains out and let it splatter against their walls. Others can’t bring themselves to commit suicide, so instead they shut themselves down; mentally and physically. Some move into the padded rooms, while others just lock themselves inside their house. So naïve they are to think that could fix it all with just that.
After memorizing the letter, I knew what I had to do. It wasn’t easy to come to that decision, but love makes people do selfless things. I cherished nothing more than I cherished the safety of my children and their happiness. If I didn’t do as I was told, both would vanish.
Before I came here, I did something I haven’t done in awhile: I stayed home with my children. I cuddled up with them in my bed and told them stories. I watched their innocent yawns and droopy eyelids close peacefully. They were happy in my presence. I could tell. I wish I could redo it over so I could have more time with my children, but my time is up. Decisions were made and no matter how many times I yearn to change them, I cannot. Safety is what I must give my children, and so I will.
As I walked into the room, the man bowed down and smiled.
“Thank you for joining me Ms. Ambridge,” he said with a charming smile upon his face. “I hope you enjoy what I have in store.”
I swallowed hard, my heart beating wildly. “Will they be safe?” I asked him, barely at a volume that one could hear.
He nodded. “Of course,” he smiled again, “I always keep my promises.”
As strange as it seems, I believed him. I knew in my heart that my children would go on. Maybe wounded for a period of time, but they would have a happy life in some respect.
My body still trembled as I removed my coat and unbuttoned my blouse. My heart still raced as my skirt dropped to the floor. Tears still fell while his hands removed the remains of my clothing. But I had all that I could ask for at that moment.
Once he finished kissing my neck, he moved down my body. His tongue peeped out of his mouth for a moment as he slinked across my chest. It trailed across my upper body slowly, as if to savor the taste of my Dove body wash. Saliva shimmered on my chest in the moonlight. I looked away, too ashamed to watch the man enjoy his pleasure. My stomach knotted as his lips met it with tenderness; as a husband would kiss his pregnant wife’s stomach. Unfortunately, he wasn’t my husband. I wasn’t his wife. And the children I had bore were already survivors in the world.
He stopped at my stomach and stood up slowly. His dark, almond brown eyes penetrated my soul as he gazed at my face. He reached up and stroked my cheek softly. In response, I raised my hand and touched his. This made him happy for he smiled at me with care, but I could not smile back.
“Our time has been lovely,” he said with sweet emotion, “If only it could last for eternity.”
I nodded, still unable to speak.
“But unfortunately, it cannot,” he slowly pulled a silver revolver out of his back pocket, “Because I always keep my promises.”
He reached for my hand and rested the gun upon my palm. I put it to my head, let out a deep breath, and pulled the trigger.
My brow was sweating and my heart raced once again. I kept the gun at my temple, but the cold metal was slippery in my hand.
“Calm yourself,” he said sternly.
I nodded jerkily, steadied the gun, and pulled the trigger.