Wednesday, March 5, 2008

conclusion of serial story, "Losing Deirdre"

Dear readers,

(I have an audience! Bless you!)

Thank you for your patience thus far.

Here is the conclusion of my story, not to be reproduced in any public venue without permission of the author (me). Beware of heavy curses, if not legal consequences.

Losing Deirdre, Part 3

by Jean Roberta, copyright 2008.


“You really going?” she whimpered. I had pulled on my clothes and was slipping my feet into the satin pumps that would look like badges of my profession in the grey light of early morning. All the same, I liked the look of my pale slim legs coming out of sleek black shoes, and I liked the sharp sound they made on the wooden floor, as though my feet meant business.

“Come with me,” I urged. “We have to get out of here, but we don’t have to leave the agency until something happens. Or we could even set up our own.”

“It’s not even light yet, Jackie.”

“My name is Christine,” I reminded her. I ran a comb through my bleached-blonde curls. “If we wait too long, the cops could show up. I’m serious. This has been coming down for a few weeks, and if they got Amanda, they’re likely to come here. You know the cops have everything on computer these days, and Ben and Alexis must have had some reason for splitting Montreal to come to this dump.”

Like a child, Deirdre rolled over and pulled the blankets up to her chin. “I want to sleep,” she muttered. “I’ll call you later.” My stomach lurched as I realized that she really wasn’t coming with me, and I couldn’t make her.

“Sleep tight, baby,” I whispered, squeezing her shoulders through the bedclothes. I kissed her and turned away before my tears could start streaking my mascara.

I got home to my apartment before sunrise. My furniture looked alien to me, as though it belonged to someone else. A part of my life is over, I thought. Much as I always said I hated it, I knew I would miss the excitement of the game. Not to mention the tax-free income.

I told myself I could find an honest job if I looked hard enough. I had done two years at university, and I could type. And if I were lucky, one of the bosses would take an interest in me and then I could make a little on the side. Unless I could find a better gig. I might even be able to support Deirdre.

By late afternoon I was high from lack of sleep and jumpy from lack of news. Jenny had started getting on my nerves as soon as she came home from school, so I parked her in front of the TV and told her to leave me alone. I had been trying to cut down on my smoking, but I was into my second pack of the day when the phone rang.

“Jackie,” breathed a husky voice. It was Charlene, who was christened Carla, one of Ben and Alexis’ other girls. “Ben and Rosie were busted this afternoon.”

“They should have seen it coming,” I told her. My voice sounded too shrill.

“The cops want us all to come down. They got a statement from me.”

“Are you out of your mind?” I screeched. “Unless I’m under arrest, I’m not telling them anything.”

“Jackie, they got the book.”

“Our photos in the album? Those should look good, taped on the walls of the cop shop.” She laughed. “Where’s Deirdre?”

“They’ve got her.”

“Shit. Can they charge her with anything?”

“I don’t know.” She sounded tired and bewildered.

“Thanks for telling me, Carla.” As soon as I hung up, I flipped through my little black book and dialled.

I phoned all the other girls who used to work for Ben and Alexis. Finally I reached Jonelle (Karen), who had been scooped up by the cops along with everyone else in the house at that time. “The cops let us all go,” she said, obviously impressed with their chivalry, “after they asked us questions. I think they want to nail Ben and Alexis. They got Dee’s foster parents to take her home.”

“The Tobaccos?” I asked in dismay. “Those Bible thumpers?”

“They’re not that bad,” she snickered. “They’re really good people and they’ll take care of her.” The same way they did before, I thought, until she moved in with Amanda when she was sixteen.

Karen’s naivete was the last straw. I have always been amazed by the willingness of some whores to believe that the straight world is as squeaky-clean and transparent as the glass in a commercial for window-cleaner, and by the willingness of most johns to believe that wild women never get the blues. The grass, as they say, is always greener on the other side.

“I don’t want you to talk on the phone, Mom,” whined Jenny. I’m not taking care of my girl, I thought. Either of them. Jenny’s naturally-blonde hair caught the light, and the sight almost moved me to tears.

“Be patient, honey,” I told her. There were four Tobaccos listed in the phone book, and my fourth call got results. “You one of them escorts?” The voice was uncouth. I didn’t know how much Deirdre had told them, so I mumbled something under my breath. “You leave Deirdre alone,” growled the man. “You’re the one got her into this whole thing.”

“No. Will you put her on the phone?”

“She’s not a whore like you!” The voice on the other end seemed to be gathering steam. “She’s in a good Christian home now. You leave her alone.” The man hung up.

I made supper for Jenny, feeling numb. I knew Deirdre’s current family would guard her as though she were a novice in a convent. She would try to seduce someone in the household so she could get what she wanted. She wouldn’t need me. I wanted to scream at her: Do I really mean nothing to you? Can’t you distinguish between men and women? Or between johns and lovers?

When I went to bed, I felt as if I were floating near the ceiling. I couldn’t close my eyes. I wanted to be brought back to earth by a warm young body pressed against mine. It’s an addiction, I thought: I need it like a fix. My husband used to call me a born slut before he ever had reason to, which probably wasn’t a sign that he had an uncanny ability to predict the future. Still, he wasn’t completely off. No part of my body seems to hibernate for long.

I consoled myself. I’m still making it with a woman, I thought; I can always have the pleasure of a woman’s touch. When I came, I shuddered all over as though I were cold. Afterwards, I felt feverish.

I made a doctor’s appointment the next day, and had myself thoroughly checked for diseases. I turned out to be clean, and I was not only glad for myself. I lived on welfare for a few weeks until I got the job I have now, waitressing in a nightclub. I still see a few of my old regulars because I need to save money to go back to school. I’m keeping my whoring to a minimum while I’m raising Jenny. I heard from Carla that Ben and Alexis skipped town as soon as they were out of custody.

I got a scrawled postcard from Dee about two weeks after I phoned the Tobaccos. She was writing from the north where her blood relatives live, and said she was planning to go back to school. It was something I had urged her to do. She also said she was pregnant, and looking forward to having the baby. Goddess only knows how much of her message was true, but at least she wrote to me. That’s something. I let her know that if she ever comes back to town, I want to see her.

Saving Deirdre was not the only hopeless mission I’ve ever tried to accomplish, but it’s probably one of the most pathetic. She could seem so innocent when she wasn’t playing a role for an audience, but of course, “young and innocent” was one of the roles she could put on like an outfit requested by a john with a specific taste. We whores are privileged to know from experience that all the world’s a stage.

Listen, Dee, even if I never get to tell you this in person: love exists. It really does. And even though it hurts like hell, it feeds the lover more than it feeds the loved one. For better or worse. Believe it or not.


Tuesday, March 4, 2008

serial story, continued

I got a request to post more of my unpublished story, "Losing Deirdre." Thank you, dear reader!


Continued from last post:

Dee was doing her best to get me in the mood. I almost resented her for waking up my hunger for what I thought of as real sex, after I had spent an evening faking it for a salesman in a bland motel room. I wanted my real feelings to stay well buried; that seemed safer for everyone involved.

Dee was pushing for a response from me. She was like my little Jenny, saying, “Mom, look at this.” With mixed feelings, as usual, I opened to Deirdre and begged her silently to give me the satisfaction I never got any other way. She was kissing my sweaty neck, and almost slurping at my bleached hair. “Did your husband ever turn you on like this?” she whispered.

“No.” I laughed, wondering why my marriage to a drinking man in my straight past seemed so important to her. The thought of him made me uneasy. I knew he would get me arrested if he could, even though he had never supported Jenny, and he had left me with debts to pay. “Men can’t do it, baby,” I told her.

“Women are sweeter, right?”

“Right.” More heartbreaking, actually, I thought.

“Did he ever force you?” She had asked me this before, and the question wasn’t sympathetic. She was into rape fantasies.

“No,” I told her once again. “That’s one thing he didn’t do.”

Her masochism alarmed me. Considering her past, I knew it must be hard for her to think of herself as anything but a toy for others to play with. Not that it was easy for me to feel like a manifestation of the Goddess on earth.

I dug into Deirdre, giving her what she wanted. I remembered singing lullabies to my baby daughter to put her to sleep, and recognized my current activity as something similar. I had wanted Dee fiercely in the past and thought I would do so again, but this time I was too worn down for lust.

Deirdre always came with abandon, howling loudly enough to let everyone else in the house know she was there. Her sex-noises always had a mournful edge to them, like the cry of a coyote, as though she were still calling for help that never came when she was raped at age ten on a northern reserve by her teenage cousin Tom. Or as though she were crying for her son, now four years old, who was being raised by unknown foster parents.

Jesus, Deirdre of the Sorrows. Your life-story is a textbook case for student social workers. But stories like yours are ancient and universal. Anyone who doesn’t know that is a fool.

By the time she subsided into quiet breathing, curled at my side, my sad mood seemed unshakeable. I had reasons, other than my instincts, to suspect that the police were going to close in on us in spite of the ambiguous Canadian laws that made soliciting and “living off the avails” illegal without mentioning prostitution as such. The local cops had left the agencies alone as long as no one complained. Now that the half-dozen honchos who ran all the agencies were feuding with each other and selling dope, I could foresee a bust in my future.

There would probably be a rash of arrests, intended to assure the voting public that our town could never become a center of sin like Montreal or Vancouver. To the themesong of We Won’t Let It Happen Here, the cops could march everyone in this house off to jail on one charge or another, and I could lose Jenny. And when I returned to the streets, all the routes out of this business and into a dignified job would be closed to me.

I couldn’t sleep. I thought of Jenny, spending the night with a friend whose parents knew me through the school parents’ association. But of course they didn’t really know me. If they did, they probably wouldn’t be so willing to let their daughter hang out with mine. I wanted my baby to have a normal life, whatever that was. But if she grew up normal, she would probably think of me as a freak someday.

Someone was pounding on the front door of the house, yelling for Alexis, also known as Rosie. I heard her swearing in the rooms she shared with Ben, then she clicked down the stairs in her silly high-heeled slippers.

“Damn it, Paul,” she screeched, trying to whisper, “it’s four in the morning.” I could picture her long, tousled, dyed-red hair over her mascara-smudged eyes. She unlocked the door to let him in. Paul kept Ben and Alexis supplied with weed and hash. They weren’t into coke, since their tastes seemed to have been formed in the sixties.

“’Manda’s been busted,” Paul slurred for the whole house to hear. “Trafficking.” He sounded drunk rather than stoned.

“Oh, God,” moaned Alexis. Amanda was one of her rivals, but sometimes the kinship of outlaws goes beyond their general desire to wipe each other out. “Did you hear that, Ben?” Alexis quavered.

“Yeah,” growled Ben, who seemed to be right behind her. He was a big bear of a man who had formerly worked as a collection agent and a bouncer in a bar. He always looked sleepy, and he always growled.

“Is Dee upstairs?” Paul demanded. “With that other chick, Jackie?”

“They’re sleeping, Paul,” reproved Alexis. But if he offered enough money, I thought, you’d wake us up.

“Damn whores!” he yelled, bounding up the stairs. “They think they’re too good for men? Nobody turns me down, fuckin’ sluts! Stupid lesbians!”

Paul yanked open the door to Deirdre’s room, but Ben and Alexis were hot on his heels. “Paul!”

“Hey, Paul, you can’t do this in our house,” hissed Alexis, clattering along behind him.

I couldn’t stand it. I jumped out of bed, pulled my dress on, and ran to the landing where Ben and Alexis were hauling Paul toward the stairs. “I worked all day,” I spat in his face. “I don’t owe you a goddamn thing and neither does Deirdre.”

He sneered at me over his shoulder, though the fight was oozing out of him. “You weren’t the one I wanted anyway, you old bitch.” To Ben, who was dragging him downstairs, he mumbled, “I’m goin,’ I’m goin.’ I don’t want to stay in your fuckin’ whorehouse.” When the little party reached the ground floor, Alexis opened the front door and Ben heaved Paul into the night. Alexis pulled the door shut with a crash, and locked it with a loud click.

I stood still in Deirdre’s room, sick with dread. “What’s happening, Jackie?” she muttered sleepily, stretching her legs in bed. For the second time that night, I pulled off my dress and lay beside her.

“It’s Paul,” I sighed. “If the cops weren’t already watching us, he’ll make sure they do. Amanda was busted for trafficking.” Deirdre shot bolt upright. She had worked for Amanda before she had come to Ben and Alexis.

“Shit,” she whispered, her eyes round with a teenager’s fear. I knew she was terrified of having no place to live and no way of making money. Selling sex was all she knew.

I stroked her thick, silky hair. “Honey,” I told her, “I think we should get out of here. When the heat comes down, you won’t want to be found here and Ben and Alexis don’t need to be charged with living off your avails. You could stay with me, at least for awhile.”

Deirdre seemed on the verge of tears. “What did Paul say? Is he coming to see me tomorrow?”

“He wanted you tonight,” I told her. “He wanted to jump in between us, but I wouldn’t let him. Ben and Alexis kicked him out.”

Dee pouted. “Someone should have told me,” she complained. “I like Paul. Just because you don’t like men doesn’t give you the right to send them away mad.”

“Honey,” I told her, “you can screw him all day when I’m not around. But not while I’m in your bed.”

For the umpteenth time, I wondered whether I would have been better off scrubbing floors for a living. That way, I could have avoided caring too much for a messed-up young woman who probably wouldn’t live to be thirty.

(End of Part Two. Stay tuned for Part Three, to be posted in due course.)