The cold North wind blew down the leaf strewn street causing Leah to shiver. The black mini and fishnets she wore were almost like nothing against the late November weather. A light rain had begun an hour before. She pulled her coat closer around her throat against the water that run from her hair and down her neck. Jimbo would be mad if he saw her. The coat covered the cleavage exposed by her low-cut blouse.
"Fuck it," she thought. "It's cold. It's wet. And there aren't any Johns on this part of MLK Boulevard at 2 AM anyway."
A police prowl car passed her, the face of a cop eyeing her closely. She waved and gave him a cheery smile. He waved back and moved on.
Leah turned and walked north towards Ainsworth hoping to find some shelter under the awning at the Popeye's Chicken. "That's a good spot," she said aloud to herself. "It's right on the street, well lit and dry." She often stood there and occasionally picked up a "date" not long after Popeye's closed at 2.
The traffic at that corner was usually good, even this late. The corner was not far from the intersection of Columbia Boulevard and Ainsworth. It was a sort of main drag for those going towards the east Portland neighborhoods. Besides, the bars around the Lloyd Center were closing and the traffic heading north would pick up on MLK soon.
Leah stood under the lighted awning at Popeye's. The traffic had picked up a bit. Cars would slow as the potential Johns considered then moved on. She still did not have much to show for freezing her ass off tonight.
A red Imperial cruised to a stop at the curb. Leah quickly turned and opened her coat to show her deep cleavage as the car door opened and Jimbo got out. He shouted at her, "How you doing, bitch? What you got for Jimbo tonight?"
Leah dug in her coat pocket and pulled out a pitifully small wad of bills and handed them to Jimbo. "Dis all you got, bitch? What you been doing? Giving it away?" he said.
"Sorry, Jimbo. There just isn't much traffic tonight." Jimbo was her second pimp in two years. Generally he was a pretty good guy but she knew he could be a mean bastard too.
"I toll you bitch. You gotta do better," he shouted. A slap stung Leah's white cheek; Jimbo's ring left a mark.
"Look at the street, Jimbo. There just isn't any traffic out her. And the cops are cruising by about every fifteen minutes tonight. What am I supposed to do?" Tears streamed down Leah's face.
Jimbo growled something under his breath as he stuffed the cash in his pocket. "I be back in the morning. You better have $500 by the time I get back here. Or else..." Jimbo climbed back in the Imperial and drove off towards the Lloyd Center.
Drying her eyes, Leah tried to think of how to turn enough tricks to make that kind of cash on a dead night like this. She wanted to go back to the crib Jimbo kept for his girls and just sleep for once, but that was not an option. It was almost 2:30 AM now and the streets were becoming dangerous. The traffic was slacking off again. The prospect of finding a few Johns was looking more and more bleak.
Leah wondered if there was any traffic over on Interstate Avenue. That was only a few blocks away. She could stand under the drive through at the U.S. Bank near Going Street. The shift might be changing down on Swan Island. The ship fitters were always up for a good time.
She walked east towards the Lloyd Center then South towards the river. She came out on Interstate Avenue directly across the street from the Bel-Aire Motel. She could see several men milling around the parking lot. She waited.
In only a few minutes, one of the men waved at her. Leah hurried across the street. The man met her at the curb. "What you doing out here so late, woman?" he asked.
"Oh. Just out for a walk. And what brings you out on a cold night? You look like you could use something to warm you up," she responded with a smile.
"Now that sounds just dandy. And how much would that set me back?"
"That depends. You ain't a cop are you?"
"Me? No. I just came in from The Dalles yesterday looking for work. I'm supposed to start down at Gunderson's on Monday."
"I suppose you have the cash ready? I get paid in advance."
"Depends on how much, baby."
"What do you want?"
"How much for all night?"
Leah thought for a moment. This might be an opportunity to help bail herself out with Jimbo.
"Hey, what you doing, Harold?" yelled another man from a balcony on the second floor of the Motel.
"Making a deal here," Harold yelled back. "Wait a minute." Then to Leah he said, "And what about my friend. He's cold too, you know."
"Two of you, eh? Let's make it $500 for all night. But no golden showers or any of that shit. Just straight fucking."
Harold tuned to his friend, "Hey you got two-fifty?" His friend nodded. Harold took Leah by the arm and together they climbed the stairs to the motel room.
Leah met Jimbo on MLK at 9:30 the next morning. The rain would not let up and the wind blew colder than ever off the Columbia River. She handed over $500. "That's my girl," he said with a smile. "This is Thanksgiving, so I don't expect you'll be turning much tonight. So take the night off."
She rolled her eyes, "You got a heart the size of all outdoors, Jimbo." Jimbo drove off leaving Leah on the street alone. She turned towards Columbia Boulevard and walked. All she could think about was sleep.
Leah finally saw the shabby neon sign on Jimbo's crib, "Weekly - Monthly" in the distance. She hurried her pace. She smiled to herself as she thought of the $200 she had stashed in the lining of her coat.
The two guys at the Bel-Aire had not been bad guys. A couple of blow jobs and fucked them both twice. Then they fell asleep. She had gotten out of there by 4 AM and picked up another John around 6 for a blow job. But she knew she had to stash the money before she saw Jimbo again. He would search everywhere to see if she was holding out. If he caught her it would mean a savage beating. That would mean she would have a tough time picking up Johns for a few days. Guys did not like hookers with black eyes and bruises. Hopefully that would be the worst that would happen to her.
At the 7-11 store a block from the crib. She bought a money order and tucked it into an envelope, addressed it to her sister, placed a stamp in the corner and dropped it in the letter box on the corner. Leah knew her sister, Sarah, would put it in her account. She should have a small nest egg built up by now. She had been sending three or four hundred a week for what seemed like a very long time. This was her way out of "the business" and the time was coming for her to disappear.
As she fumbled with her door key she dreamed. She thought of a small house someplace far away with a white picket fence and a garden. Maybe there would be a nice guy to take care of her and a kid and a dog. Leah shook her head. "No. She thought. "That's not for me. Who would want an old whore? And could I even live that life?"
Inside her room, she quickly stripped off her wet clothes and turned the water on in the shower. The water was warm even thought the pipes rattled and groaned. The water refreshed her. She almost felt alive standing there with the water running over her body. Then, she dried herself and crawled into her bed. As her eyes closed she fell dreaming again of the small white house with the picket fence and...
Leah opened her eyes. The phone next to the bed rang and rang. She picked up the receiver. "Yeah. Whatizzit?" she said still half asleep.
"Leah? Where the hell are you?" asked Sarah, her sister.
Leah looked at her watch. It read 2:30. "Oh, shit. I'm late. I've been sleeping. I had a late night." She had always told her sister she worked at an all night diner. Did her sister believe that? Leah did not know, but the little lie was better than explaining the truth.
Leah said into the phone, "Ok. I'll be there in...umm. Give me 45 minutes." She hung up the phone, got out of bed and began to dress. "Jeans and sweat shirt," she thought. "And sandals. That will work."
She tied her hair in a pony tail and pulled her jeans on, then a sweat shirt. She picked up the phone and dialed the number for Broadway Cab.
The black and white cab pulled up in front of the motel 20 minutes later. Leah climbed in the cab and gave the driver the address. The cab sped away. Leah arrived at her sister's house a few minutes later.
"Hey, Sarah," she said smiling as the door opened. Sarah's husband, Tom, came to her and gave her a hug too.
"Come in. Things are almost ready. I just pulled the turkey out of the oven," Sarah said cheerfully. "And we have someone we want you to meet."
As Leah stepped into the living room, the smell of roast turkey seemed to drift everywhere. She could see the table was already set piled high with cranberries, mash potatoes and three kinds of salad.
Tom took Leah's hand and led her into the living room. "I want you to meet my good friend, Brian." Leah took Brian's hand. He was tall with those chiseled features you would expect from a Hollywood actor. His smile showed even white teeth. But it was the smile that was captivating. It seemed to cover his entire face and the joy in it was almost contagious. Seeing that smile, Leah almost felt weak at the knees.
"Hi," she stammered not wanting to let go of Brian's hand.
"I'm so glad to meet you. Tom and Sarah have told me all about you." Again that smile.
"Jesus! I must look like a school girl staring at her first date," she thought. After a flash vision of the previous, night this thought almost made her laugh.
Tom left and returned shortly with cups. "And a Thanksgiving toast," he said.
Leah looked into the cup - eggnog. "I haven't had this in years," she thought as she raised the cup to her lips. The strong bite of whiskey stung her tongue as she sipped. "You trying to get me drunk, Tom?" she laughed.
"No. But by the way Brian is looking at you, I'm sure he wouldn't mind," Tom chuckled.
Brian laughed at that, but noticed he was still holding Leah's hand. "Uh. Would you like to sit down?"
Leah felt embarrassed. "Yes. That would be nice," she stammered.
As they sat on the couch, Brian said, "So, Sarah says you work at a diner. That sounds...um...interesting."
"No it's not really," Leah said as she tried to think of something to say. Then, "What do you do, Brian?"
"Me? Oh, I'm a foreman down at Terminal 2. It's not really very interesting. Ships come in. We get them off loaded then loaded. The leave and another arrives. It's all very boring really."
"Then you must work for the longshoreman?"
"No. I work for the Port of Portland. The longshoremen have to work too hard," he grinned. God that smile again.
"What do you do for fun then, Brian?"
"Fun? I've done a lot over the years. But that was with my wife. But she passed away last year. Now I just vegetate, I'm afraid. What about you?"
"Not much. Work most nights and sleep most days. But one day soon, I'm thinking of moving on and doing something different. This is way too hard on me, you know."
Brian regarded Leah for a moment. "From where I'm sitting you look...um...well," he said.
Leah blushed. Again she felt that school girl feeling come over her. "Well, I find you...um...quite attractive, Brian. I'm so glad you came."
Brian started to say something, but thought better of it. Instead he said, "And I'm glad I came too. Just meeting you is more than worth it."
Leah noticed that Brian's face seemed to redden at those words. Internally she smiled an oddly satisfying smile.
"Ok, you two. Dinner's on. Get in here," called Tom from the dining room.
Tentatively, Brian again took Leah's hand as they walked into the dining room.
Standing at the sink washing the dishes Sarah said, "You have quite a bit of money put away now, Leah. What are you going to do with it?"
"I do? How much do you think?"
"Last time I looked it was about $35,000. That's a lot to put away in a couple of years. You should be proud of yourself."
Leah was thunderstruck. "That much? I didn't know."
"Why yes. I can show you the passbook."
"No. I believe you," Leah said.
"Oh. And what about Brian? He seems pretty interested in you," Sarah grinned.
"He's nice, isn't he?"
"Yes. Tom and I have known him for some time. His wife was just a sweetheart. It was tragic when she died."
"Oh," was all Leah could say.
"Usually he doesn't say much. But you seem to have drawn him out," Sarah laughed.
"Come on, Sarah. I don't go out with guys much. And he's so...normal."
"And that's bad, Leah?"
For a moment a little white house with a picket fence floated before Leah's eyes. "No. That's not so bad, I guess," she said with an inward laugh.
When the dishes were done Leah and Sarah joined Tom and Brian in the party room. Tom and Brian were engaged in a cut throat game of pool.
"Ok, I have stripes," announced Tom as he lined up on his next shot. The balls made a sharp clack as they were struck by the cue ball. The 11 ball struck the corner cushion and rebounded away from the pocket. "Damn. I was robbed."
"Yeah. Yeah. Now watch how it's done," said Tom as he lined up on the 3 ball. Again the balls clacked followed by a "Plunk" sound as the 3 ball dropped into the pocket.
"Who's up for more eggnog?" asked Sarah.
Sarah went to the kitchen and returned with four cups. By the time Sarah returned, game was over and everyone stopped to toast the holiday with their cups. "How about a game?" Brian asked Leah.
"Game? You mean pool? I don't think I know how," she said although she was very good and had made a lot of money playing for dollars and sex in the corner bars of Northeast Portland.
"It's easy. I'll show you," smiled Brian.
Tom racked the 10 balls at one end of the table while Leah fussed over selecting a cue stick. Finally, she took one from the wall holder and approached the table.
"You break," said Tom.
Leah bent over the table and drew back her cue stick. On purpose, she miscued and missed the cue ball entirely.
"Here. Let me help you," smiled Brian moving around behind Leah. Brian lean over her and took her hand to position her fingers to cradle the stick. Then his other hand took hers on the butt end.
Leah could feel Brian's breath against her neck. For the first time in years she began to feel almost giddy between her legs. With Brian's guidance, the cue ball was struck and the balls clacked and clattered. The 7 ball dropped in the side pocket with a plunk.
"Wow. That's how it's done?" Leah exclaimed.
"Yes. You have solids. So let's line up on the 5 ball."
The game went on. Shot after shot, Brian leaned over Leah guiding her. But the end of the game Leah could definitely feel something hard pressing against her ass each time she took a shot. With a cheer and applause, Leah sunk the 8 ball to win the game.
By then, it was already past five O'clock and getting dark. "Well, I really have to be going," Leah said. I have to work tomorrow night and I have so much to do."
Leah went to the phone to call a cab. "No. Save your money. I'll give you a life, Leah," Brian told her. She did not know how to react. It had been fun, but the shabby crib she lived in was embarrassing and what if Jimbo was there waiting for her?"
"Oh yes. Great idea," said Tom and Sarah together.
"Well. Okay, I guess," Leah said in assent thinking she would have him drop her a few blocks away from the motel.
Brian held the car door for Leah as she got into his Range Rover Discovery. Leah lazed against the leather seat in wonder. Brian got in the drivers side and started the car.
"And how about a coffee. There's a Starbuck just over on Hawthorne," he suggested.
Leah was torn between escaping and wanting to remain in Brian's company. "Yes. That would be wonderful," she said before she even knew it.
Brian left Leah at a small table in the corner at Starbucks and went to the counter. In a few minutes he returned with steaming Latte Grande's. They sat. They talked about nothing, about everything. Brian touched Leah's hand. Leah touched his. Brian's knee found hers. Leah opened her legs to trap his knee between hers. Then he leaned over the table. His lips brushed hers.
It was almost electric. Leah took Brian's arm and returned his kiss only longer, deeper.
Not knowing what she was saying, Leah said, "I don't have to go home, Brian." "What am I doing?" she asked herself. "It's all a lie. But it seems so right," was all she could think.
Brian smiled and took her arm. Together they walked out to the Range Rover.
"No," thought Leah. "I will never have to go home to that shabby crib or to Jimbo or to the Johns or to anything else. Tomorrow will be a new life. I'll go to the bank and start over." Before her eyes danced a little white house with a picket fence, a flower garden and 2.3 average kids and 0.2 average dogs...