I didn’t ask where she went at night. Although, in hindsight, I suppose that I should have. It had been hard enough to lure her home, long black hair, bruised lips, curves that made my head spin, and eyes that tracked me like a cat. Not a housecat, for sure, but something long and slinky, always on the prowl, hiding in the shadows where the green slits sparkled and danced. Misty. That’s what she told me anyway, and I went with it. Wasn’t going to ask her for any ID. I had her digits, and she answered now and then, but it wasn’t my place to tell her anything. I took what I could get.
“Bobby, you’re all out of toilet paper,” she screamed from the bathroom.
“Under the sink, baby, should be a couple rolls left.”
“Thanks, hon,” she said, sticking her head out of the steamy doorway, nothing but a fluffy white towel between her slick, warm flesh and my own scattered heartbeat. The room filled with the sweet scent of currant, the candle burning on the nightstand, the only thing she ever left behind.
It wasn’t much of an apartment, but I wasn’t much of a man. A long series of tragedies and failures trailed me like oily exhaust. I’d given up my hopes and dreams a long time ago. Scars and tattoos dotted my flesh, a series of jobs keeping me in the dark—bouncer and doorman, shipping and delivery—anything that required a bit of muscle and little thought. It was one bedroom that opened into a living room where a beat up green couch sat facing a scarred and worn out table, the flat screen the only bit of technology in the place. A drafty kitchen with dark tile held an ancient stove and refrigerator that were utilitarian at best. Salvation Army, Good Will, these were the places I looked for jeans and sweatshirts, thick wool sweaters and faded leather jackets—it didn’t matter much to me. I saved whatever cash I had for the bottle.
Propped up on my elbows, I watched her get dressed. The black lace panties and push up bra were what I expected, her pale skin like alabaster, her eyes always darting to me, her tongue licking lips that I ached to bite. But I couldn’t show her any weakness. She didn’t respond well to need. It was the nights she wore the plain white cotton panties, the soft t-shirt with no bra on at all, the hints at a previous life, something domestic and safe, those were the moments when I thought I stood a chance of keeping her.
“I won’t be back tonight, Bobby, got things to do,” she said.
I nodded, still under the covers, naked, worn out from bourbon, pool and the aerobics her flesh required. I wanted her to go, but I wanted her to stay.
“Okay, Misty. Do what you gotta do,” I said, a treble of whine under the detachment that got me a set of squinting eyes. “No worries, babe. I understand.”
She exhaled and nodded, pulling on a pair of black combat boots, standing up as she buttoned her skintight jeans, already out the door. I thought maybe she stripped, that wouldn’t be out of the question. She didn’t seem like a dealer, but you never know—a handful of pills, some powders and liquids, it wouldn’t be hard for her to slip in and out of whatever clubs or bars she haunted. She was pretty enough to get away with murder, but rough enough around the edges to keep the predators at a distance.
She walked over to the bed and leaned down, her hands on my chest, her tongue sliding into my mouth. She turned to go without saying a word.
“Be good,” I said.
“Why start now?” she laughed, closing the door behind her with a click.
It didn’t bother me to see her sucking dick in a back alley. The guy looked loaded, and the pile of green he shoved in her pocket was probably her rent for the month. When he went inside, she spit on the ground and pulled a pint out of her pocket, swigging down a few gulps of amber, shoving her boot into a trashcan, the glass shattering on the brick wall. It was a reaction I could understand—respect even. The only way I’d want to see her act.
It didn’t bother me to see her on stage, writhing around, pushing her hips into the air, shoving her crotch into the faces of bearded strangers, working the stage lights, her body electric, arousing me against all rhyme and reason. She wasn’t my girl, that’s for sure, and the scattered bills that covered the ground, she didn’t even stop to pick them up. The frat boys and fading suburban fathers, they crowded around the center stage, the AC/DC blasting, the flashing lights making my heart shudder, as she pinched her nipples with an angry scowl, running her black tipped fingers between her legs—really putting on a show. The troll that scampered around after she left, he picked up the bills into a nice stack and was off behind the curtain and into the darkness before her scent could even fade.
It was the other place she went. The drive north out of the city and towards the cornfields, the metal and glass fading into oblivion as the concrete stretched out into the night. I told myself to go back, to turn around, to keep what we had—our little secret—keep it going, don’t ask for more than what you have. When she pulled off the highway and stopped at a grocery store, I started to get sick to my stomach, the thin plastic bags full of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, a jug of orange juice, and a gallon of milk. I could see the transformation, the way her eyes softened as she flipped the radio dial, her head bobbing along to pop music, hair pulled back into a ponytail, turning into a subdivision of blue siding and white siding and yellow siding, one after another after another.
When she turned into the garage, there was movement behind the curtains, lights blocked by shadows, and then full again, a dull thud of a car door closing, while another opened, the screams and laughter drifting to my open window as I idled in the street by her mailbox, my left eye twitching, stomach contorted into knots.
“Mommy, mommy, she’s home. Mommy’s home.”