tagNovels and NovellasMaragana Girl Ch. 23

Maragana Girl Ch. 23


Chapter 23 -- "Willow"

Kim's homecoming turned out to be every bit as painful as her sister had feared. She did not bother to bring up staying at her old room in her parents' house; she instinctively knew it would be better to stay at Cindy's apartment.

Now that her sentence was over, the older issues poisoning Kim's relationship with her parents resurfaced, especially the endless deceptions she had inflicted on her family throughout her adolescence to spend time with two friends who turned out to be totally worthless. The Lees did not feel comfortable lecturing her or treating her in a condescending manner, however. Their wayward daughter obviously had matured in Upper Danubia. She thought and spoke like a person much older than her current age of 20. What most surprised them was how determined she was about details of her life; her marriage, her music, and the odd idea that she wanted to become a Danubian defense attorney.

Kim's parents instead treated her with a cold tolerance, none too happy about the fact she only planned to stay in the US for two weeks before going back to Upper Danubia. Kim's braided hair and foreign appearance bothered them, as did her radically changed personality and constant use of Danubian expressions such as "the path of my life", "it is a question of honor", "proper protocol", "damaged soul", and "the Ancients have guided me". To the elder Lees, their daughter had become a complete stranger, and on top of everything else, just plain weird.


Besides her strained and tense get-togethers with her parents, Kim spent much of her time trying to readjust to the United States. She was very uneasy during her trip and a bit dismayed at the fast pace of life and the over-all appearance of a society completely oriented around consumerism and automobiles. The crowded smoky streets bothered her, as did the enormous dirty parking lots, ever-present fluorescent lighting, the public's constant rushing, and overwhelming amount of cheaply-made products in stores and people's houses.

What bothered Kim the most, however, was the constant noise. Noise was everywhere, as though the entire nation was afraid of a few minutes of silence. Kim, after having been out of the US for two years, winced at the ever-present assault on her ears.

The three interviews went well. Kimberly Lee tried to set the record straight over who was the real inspiration for most of her group's music by trying to give as much credit to Eloisa as possible. Many US fans of "Socrates' Mistresses" had assumed Kim was the band's lead singer, because she was the band's English voice. Kim used the interviews to give US viewers a much more accurate idea of what her group really was all about.


Cindy accompanied her sister around her hometown as she confronted the ghosts of her past. Kim understood that her life in the US was truly over. As Cindy had warned the previous year, all of Kim's old friends from high school were scattered. The luckier ones had gone out of state to college, but most had drifted into obscurity. Two friends from her past, including an ex-boyfriend, were in jail. Kim's first week back in the US ended with a painful jailhouse visit to her former high school boyfriend, and a visit to the parents of another friend who overdosed about two months after she left for Europe. Everyone Kim talked to mentioned her how great she looked.

Kim's hardest encounter with her past came at the beginning of her second week, when she decided to visit to her old high school with Cindy. She talked to a couple of her teachers who happened to be giving school classes, and gave much needed apologies for some of her behavior. Kim then went around to a spot behind the gym where she had spent endless hours with Tiffany and Susan. Cindy stood in nervous silence as her sister sat down in her favorite old hang-out spot, just staring at the pavement and not saying anything.

As Kim silently sat contemplating her past, a tall, lanky teenager with a rather punkish appearance and reeking of cigarette smoke showed up. She jumped to her feet and hugged him. It was Joe Walker, Tiffany's younger brother. He heaved a sigh of relief.

"Hey, Kimmie, real glad to see ya...The guys said you were back...and fuckin' Jones just told me you were here at school...just got out of class...glad I got ya while you're still here."

Kim smiled slightly. "You're in summer school?"

"Yeah...fucked up the year again. What else is new?"

Cindy, who never really liked either Joe or his sister, excused herself, claiming she had to go to the bathroom. Cindy's departure left Kim alone with her former best friend's younger brother. She felt very uncomfortable, but at least one huge question in her life was about to be answered, what happened to Tiffany? She gathered from Joe's comments that he actually had been looking for her, which struck her as rather odd.

Kim decided to give her companion an update on her life with a very abbreviated and censored version of her sentence in Upper Danubia. She informed Joe she had just been released, and pointed to the tan-line from her collar that still was visible around her neck. She didn't mention the fact she had been nude during her entire sentence, hoping Joe was ignorant enough about foreign places that he didn't know that detail about Upper Danubia. It turned out he didn't know anything about Upper Danubia, nor had Tiffany been eager to share any details about her disastrous trip to Europe when she returned home.

"Ya know, when she got back, she didn't talk. People said a lot of shit to Tiff because of you and Susie...ya know...how she took two friends to Europe and came back solo...I don't know...She's pretty fucked right now...has been for two years...I think the trip did it."

"When you say Tiff's 'fucked', what do you mean by that? What's she actually doing?"

"What ain't she doin', Kimmie? She's doin' just about everything...weed, smack, 'K', blow, crank...I think now it's mostly crank, 'cause of her boyfriend."

"That's it? Just drugs?"

"That's it, Kimmie. Drugs. That's all she's doin'. Says she ain't no good for anything else."

"Where's she getting the money?"

"How do you think she's gettin' it? She's dancin' over at Dirty Grampy's. Strippin' and, well...ya know...gettin' paid..."

"Shit. And it's all going for drugs?"

"All of it, Kimmie. Drugs and that fuck, Raymond. That's her boyfriend. She ain't got shit for anything else."

"And that's why you were looking for me? To tell me this?"

"Kimmie, I was lookin' for ya...'cause...I don't know... I thought maybe you could talk to her...make her feel better...maybe tell her you're not mad or something...you know...about Europe."

"Joe, I can't tell her I'm not mad, because I am. I'm fucking furious at her. Do you know what it felt like, when I was in that courtroom on trial, and my defense attorney told me what Tiff told the police, that the pot she bought was all mine and that she didn't know about it? That she lied to ditch me? Do you have any idea how that felt? Because of what Tiff told them, they were gonna hit me with a 20-year sentence, and it was Spokesman Dukov who talked them out of it. No, Joe...I'm mad, and Tiff's gonna know it. But...then...I guess I'll try to talk to her, and I suppose maybe I can do something for her."

Joe was a bit stunned at Kim's last statement. "20 years? For what?"

"For dealing. The Danubians don't like drugs. You want to piss-off their government, the best way to do it is have drugs on you. I had a full pound of pot on me, and they thought I was dealing."

Kim decided to have Joe take her to Dirty Grampy's that night, along with Cindy. She called Cindy on her cell phone and told her to come back. An hour later the two women and Tiffany's brother made their way to the strip bar.

Dirty Grampy's was a juice bar, which allowed Kim, who was 20, and Joe, who had just turned 18, to go in. Cindy already was 23, so there was no problem for her. Joe was a bit reluctant having Kim see Tiffany at her current job. Kim, however, went in with the confidence that she knew exactly what she needed to do. She still was furious at Tiffany, but now she also was mulling over ideas with the hope of salvaging her life.

They entered as several scruffy middle-aged patrons turned around to see the two women's fresh faces. Kim and Cindy obviously were not dancers, nor did either seem a likely partner for Joe. The European-style braids made Kim really look out of place in Dirty Grampy's. Cindy obviously was out of her environment as well, with the clean-cut look of a serious graduate student.

Kim handed Joe two 20-dollar bills.

"Get me some singles."


"I want singles. That's what you tip the dancers with, isn't it?"

Joe returned with a stack of one-dollar bills. Kim took them and sat at a barstool right next to the stage while the other two ordered smoothies and sat at a table a little further away. She watched the routine of a rather wasted-looking young Asian, who she thought looked eerily like herself. The girl ended her routine completely nude. Kim passed the dancer a few dollars to get her to do a sexual routine close up, to learn what the dancers actually had to do for their tips. Kim's companions were surprised to see her tip a stripper for a dance, but what she did next would shock them much more.

It turned out Tiffany was the next performer. Her stage name was "Willow", because she was so tall and thin. Kim watched in anger and disgust as Tiffany moved about the stage and peeled off her clothes. Once Tiffany had stripped down to a loose blouse and G-string, Kim pulled out two dollars and held them up. The flash of money drew Tiffany's attention, but as her glance met the face of the young woman holding up the cash, the dancer froze in horror.

Kim's dark, angry eyes bore into Tiffany. She waved the cash.

"Willow, it's a tip. Please show me what you do for tips. I tip very well, but I expect value for my money."

Tiffany went white, but the club DJ and several patrons were looking at her, expecting her to put out the usual reward for hard cash. She had no choice. The dancer got on her knees and began waving her bottom in Kim's face. Kim slipped the money into Tiffany's G-string and then held up two more dollars. Once again the cold stare of Kim's dark eyes confronted Tiffany.

"Show me what you got...Willow."

Reluctantly Tiffany peeled off her blouse and flashed her breasts in front of her former friend. Kim took a look the dancer's arms, noting the needle-tracks. Kim held out yet more dollar bills, touching them to Tiffany's scarred arms. Yet again, Kim's cold, hostile stare tore into Tiffany as their eyes met.

The dancer reluctantly pulled down her G-string and slipped it over her feet. Kim showed her no mercy. She held up five dollars as the other patrons and the club DJ stared intently, wondering why a young woman was shelling out so much just to catch a few close up glances of Willow's body. With tears flowing down her cheeks, Tiffany spread her legs and waved her bare vagina in Kim's face. Her spectator's next comment was sarcasm in its purist form.

"Willow, you are so hot. I wish you could dance like this for me all night."

"Willow" couldn't see how she could be any more humiliated, but she was forced to face yet another indignity when the third song of her routine was played. The song was a slow piece by "Socrates' Mistresses" from the soundtrack of the recently released Gaul movie. As Kim listened to her own voice singing along with Eloisa, her lips tightened and her eyes flashed with anger. She held up dollar after dollar as she forced Tiffany to completely degrade herself throughout the final song.

Joe sat next to Kim's sister, silently looking into his glass. He was very afraid of meeting his sister's gaze or having her realize he was sitting in the audience. Cindy stared hard at the young woman on the stage, very curious to watch the infamous false friend who had landed Kim into so much trouble in Danube City.

The Danubian song ended and Tiffany, holding 30 of Kim's dollars in her hand, sadly collected her clothing and left the dance stage. There were a few whistles, sex-whoops, and some half-hearted clapping from the guys in the room.

Kim's moment of revenge had passed. There was no way, none whatsoever, that she could have found a better way to completely stun and humiliate Tiffany. Kim's idea was to first break her former friend, and then get her to talk. Once Tiffany was talking, she could try to figure out what to do next, with the ultimate hope to find some way to help her. The dance-floor encounter had its place in that plan. Kim could tell Tiffany was indeed broken and had nothing left to hide. Also, she now felt completely in control of the relationship.

Tiffany retreated to the dancers' changing room in shock over what had just happened. She had not known Kim even had been released, let alone that she was back in the US. Tiffany was as amazed seeing her as she would have been seeing someone she thought was dead. Finally, the drugs in her body, combined with the horrible experience she had just endured on the dance stage, made her sick enough to throw up in the bathroom. Once she finished, Tiffany tossed Kim's money all over the floor and began crying.

As soon as Tiffany left the stage, Kim got up to join the others at their table. Cindy was stunned at her treatment of Tiffany, while Joe was incensed.

"You fuckin' bitch! What the fuck...what'd you do that for!?"

Kim stared at Joe with a cold calmness that somewhat disarmed him.

"Joe, you will not call me a 'bitch' if you want me to do anything for Tiffany. I did that for a reason, so that when I talk to her she won't try to bullshit me. And besides, what did I actually do? I paid her to do her job, Joe; that's all I did! I just paid her to do her fucking job!"

Before Joe had a chance to respond, Kim stopped a waitress and passed her a five-dollar bill. She told the waitress she wanted to buy a drink for "Willow". She passed the waitress some more money for the club's very over-priced smoothies. The waitress took off to bring the smoothies and summon her co-worker. Kim then turned to her two companions.

"OK, I'm going to try to talk to Tiffany. I need you guys out of here. Go next door and get something to eat. I'll catch up as soon as I'm done."

Joe quickly got up, eager to leave before Tiffany had a chance to see him. Kim's sister also got up quickly, having no desire to stay in this awful place any longer than she needed to.

As Kim's companions vanished through the door, the waitress came back with Tiffany and the drinks. Kim handed the waitress another five-dollar bill, mainly to make sure the waitress stayed on her side if there were any problems.

Tiffany was dressed in her G-string and skimpy top. She looked wasted, but still was rather attractive. Her breath smelled of toothpaste and a hint of vomit. This was not the first time she had cried and thrown up but still had to face a customer.

The last thing Tiffany wanted to do was to see or sit with Kim. However, the drink on the table signaled that her high school friend had purchased 10 minutes of her time. Over the last year she had sat with plenty of unsavory people and with some of them negotiated an hour in the cheap motel across the street. In this place the only real language was money, and Kimberly Lee spoke that language quite well.

As soon as Tiffany was seated, Kim's temper rose up in her. Suddenly the memory of that moment, in the middle of her trial when Dukov told her "...the most important witnesses are missing, your two friends. It is quite unfair you should go on trial and they should not." Unfair. For a second her emotions took over and she forgot the main reason why she had Tiffany sitting with her. She angrily leaned forward, tilted her head to the side, and pointed at her neck. The tan-line from her collar had darkened a bit, but still was somewhat visible. Again her dark eyes bore into Tiffany.

"OK, Willow. Ask me what this is! Ask me why I have a white stripe around my neck! Ask me where I've been and what I've been doing over the last two years! Come-on...Willow...ask me! Then I've got some questions for you!"

"I...I know the answer...I don't have to ask you...'cause I know. You were in Danube City all this time. They busted you because of me."

Kim calmed down slightly, a bit ashamed of her outburst. She took a deep breath and tried to focus. "Tiff, what I want you to understand is that I'm not mad about the conviction itself. That would have happened no matter what. What really hurt me was what you told the police. And I'm going to tell you how I found out about it. It was in the middle of my trial, when I asked my Spokesman what was going on, you know, 'cause I didn't understand anything that was happening. And that's when he told me...that you two had been released and gone to Prague. Then he told me why."

Tiffany sat silent, staring into her smoothie. Kim continued with a question.

"Tiff, I want to know, for real, whose idea it was for you two to play dumb about our stash."

"It was my idea. At first Susan felt bad about doing that to you, but I talked her into it. I mean, we were scared, Kim, both of us. We panicked."

"You panicked. And how scared do you think I was, standing there by myself in court the next day, naked, up on the prisoner's stand, facing the judge with my arms behind my head and four spotlights shining on me? How scared do you think I was when Spokesman Dukov told me you two had left and that I was facing 20 years...20 years, Tiff...for marijuana dealing? How scared do you think I was?"

"I'm sorry Kim. I don't know what else to say. I'm sorry."

Tiffany reluctantly sipped her smoothie. She looked like she was going to be sick again, but she forced herself to talk.

"If I could go back and take your place I would...and maybe I'd be better off. Maybe that's what should have happened, and if I'd told the truth, it would've been me in that courtroom and you and Susan would have left and come home. And...Susan would have come back. It was because of me she didn't. Maybe life is punishing me 'cause of what I did. Maybe..."

"OK, that's my other question. What happened to Susan?"

"When we got to Prague, she just wanted to get on a plane and come home, and maybe try to get you some help. I...I don't know Kim. I knew you were fucked, and I...just...didn't give a shit. So, I hooked up with some local guys, and we partied while Susan sat in the hostel by herself. The next day she told me to go fuck myself and that she was going home, and we had a big fight. Then I...grabbed her plane ticket and told her she wasn't going anywhere unless she partied with me one more night, you know, 'cause I didn't want to be alone with those guys. So she came with me, and we shot up...and then we all got sick."

"I know about that part. Spokesman Dukov told me about it in his office, after my mom sent him Susan's obituary. Hepatitis?"


The waitress came by, looking at Tiffany and tapping her watch. Before Tiffany could say anything, Kim handed the waitress a 20-dollar bill to shut her up.

"Tiff, I gotta talk to you after you get off work. We gotta sit down some place quiet and we gotta talk."

"I can't."

"Why not?"

"Raymond wouldn't let me. As soon as I get off work he's here to pick me up and he doesn't let me out of his sight unless I'm here or across the street with a customer."

"Yeah, your brother mentioned Raymond. You really did fuck up your life, didn't you?"

Kim shook her head at the thought of Tiffany's abusive boyfriend. Obviously Raymond wanted to prevent precisely what was happening right now, the possibility that someone could enter Tiffany's life, get her to talk about herself, and get her to think about her alternatives. Kim realized it was vital to keep Tiffany talking. She decided to purchase some more of Tiffany's time.

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