Friday, January 9, 2015

Dirty Angel

      I opened my eyes slowly and looked at the ceiling. It was late, maybe around midnight or one in the morning. The room was mostly dark, with only a sliver of light from the outside streetlamp finding it's way around the tightly drawn blinds. I rolled over pulling the thin holey blanket up around my neck. I wished I'd had socks, my toes were like ice. I stretched my legs out and moaned. My back was stiff from sleeping on the floor for the past several weeks, and I'd had a hard time adjusting to sleeping all day so I could stay up nights. As a knee-jerk reaction I said a silent prayer. I knew I should have been grateful I had a roof over my head and a blanket; some didn't. I closed my eyes again to try and get more sleep. I hoped I'd been forgotten. Then the door creaked open and I heard voices in the background.
     "Christa? Get up." It was the gravely cigarette ravaged voice of a boy two years younger than myself; Davin. He'd helped me get set up here; introduced me to his friends, and made sure I'd stayed mostly sober. His program seemed to be working this time. I hadn't had a drink in four days, but I still craved it; I wanted one now. No, I needed it. Of course I could get it if I really wanted it. Liquor was cheap and easy to come by here. But if I got caught with alcohol this time, I'd lose more than blanket privileges. I wasn't afraid of Davin, but his older friends were hardcore. I'd learned my lesson the last time; my wounds had healed, and I'd missed a nights work. But now I knew how to behave. They were nothing if not effective.
     I held my breath and didn't move. I wanted him to think I was still asleep. I'd brought him over $200 the day before. He could give me a break.
     "Hey... I know you're awake. Come on, we got shit to do okay? This place ain't free you know. Don't forget who got you off the street and brought you here. You owe me."
     Yeah, I did know it wasn't free. And he was right, I owed him. Only the jury was still out on exactly what his repayment should be. Reluctantly I rolled back over. I could see his dark silhouette outlined against the bright lights coming from the hallway. He looked like an angel. A dark, dirty, smoking angel. My hero. In another life I think he might have been my baby brother, but in this one, he was my pimp. He had kept me sober all right, and given me food and a place to sleep. All of the other girls said it was more than I deserved; and they would know, they'd been at this longer than me. I was the new kid on the block. Six months ago I had a nice bed to sleep in, inside a warm house, with hot food and nice clothes and a mom and dad that loved me. Only I didn't love them, or at least I thought I didn't. All I wanted was to get away, to have my freedom from them telling me what to do. Now I cried myself to sleep every morning, sleeping on a cold hard floor in a broken down abandoned house, after performing unspeakable acts in the middle of the night. I hadn't gained much freedom after all.
     I sat up and pulled a cigarette pack out of my jeans that were rolled up as my pillow.
     "Got a light?" I asked in my now usual monotone. Soon my voice would sound like his.
     He extended his hand and tossed a lighter to me. I lit the cigarette and sat smoking it with the blanket pulled around my naked legs. He kept standing there. Waiting.
     "Well I'm not gonna get up with you just watching me. Go on. Lemme get dressed. I'll be out in a minute. Jeez."
     "That's my girl." He took a long drag on his own cigarette and laughed as he closed the door behind him.
     I put my jeans on and gathered what few items were my own; a comb, a lipstick, ten dollars and a fake id. I shoved the pieces in my pockets and slipped on my filthy sneakers. Then I took the blanket and laid the cigarette down on it and watched it until it began smoldering and finally caught fire. It was an old house, it wouldn't take it long. I went to the window and pried off the last two boards I'd been loosening every chance I got. I scraped my arm as I climbed out, and the fall jammed my right ankle. But I walked away. I limped across the street, and slowly made my way up the hill heading towards the main highway. When I felt I was at a safe distance, I turned to watch as the entire house was engulfed in flames. I could see a few of the girls in the yard, and I think a couple of the older men escaped. But I never saw my dirty angel emerge from the house.
     I didn't wait any longer. As I heard sirens blasting their way through town, I turned and painfully started on the long journey back to the home I'd mistakenly ran away from six months ago. And I never looked back again.
     Sometimes I wonder what happened to Davin. Is he alive today or did he burn to death in that decrepit shack that had been nothing more than my prison. I felt no remorse for anything I had done; I wondered if he ever had.

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