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.)