The Arrangement Ch. 01byOsiram©
I stood on the corner of the street, smelling of fear and stripper perfume. Sweat mixed with the saccharine scent I had applied to my wrists and neck. My eyelids were smeared with blue glitter and false eyelashes brushed the tops of my cheeks every time I blinked. Calf-high, shining black boots with devilish pink tongues tapped nervously on the asphalt, gradually warming as the day wore on, and above my knees rested a red, pleated tartan skirt. A tight black shirt stretched over my breasts and clung to my stomach with some uncertainty.
The tree-lined suburban road extended for three-quarters of a mile straight ahead of me, peppered with modest homes. I simmered in the mid-morning sun at the top of the hill just a few yards from where I lived. This was where they would pick me up and take me away for a while.
After about fifteen minutes of waiting, my stomach flipped at the sight of a clean, jet-black car approaching. An anxious burn crept into my throat as it stopped. The window on the driver's side rolled down and a liquid baritone voice shot straight into my gut: "Get in." I complied without a word; I sat down in the backseat behind the voice that commanded me.
The man sitting to my right folded his hands in his lap. "You look fucking ridiculous," he commented without looking at me. I didn't dare move my eyes from the back of the driver's seat. "I don't even know how you could look in the mirror without turning red." His voice was noncommittal, but I thought I sensed a smirk.
My thighs clenched and my hands moved awkwardly here and there as I tried to relax. Lying in the bed the night before, I had created a violent scene for that day: a bag pulled over my head, phantom hands groping me, tearing off my clothes and eventually binding me helpless and gasping. Yet there I remained untouched and anticipating beside a middle-aged man in a black business suit and leather gloves. Unconsciously I ran my right hand over the supple leather of the seat.
His hand leapt from his lap to grab my wrist and twist the skin there. I barely contained a wince. "Don't touch it. Neither the driver nor I want your dirty hands all over the interior. For God's sake, try to restrain yourself." My breath caught in my throat; the disgust and condescension in his voice were palpable, dissolving any dignity I might have had. However, after he released me, I found myself yearning for his touch.
"How do you feel?" He asked, producing a silver cigarette case from his jacket pocket. A similarly silver lighter followed; hearing its metallic click made me turn my head. The man appeared to be in his early forties, with dark brown hair and a neatly trimmed beard. His head was turned toward the window, his gaze following a slender trail of smoke leaving his full lips. Rough hands smoothed his black silk tie as he took another long drag.
My eyes fixed themselves on the ember glowing at the end of cigarette. "I don't know, nervous, I guess," I answered quietly, an uncomfortable laugh escaping. Almost imperceptibly, he smiled. Wrinkles gathered at the corners of his eyes.
"That's a start, I guess," he remarked, mocking my anxiety. The smile grew. He watched the scenery pass with some interest, his view slightly impaired by the tinted windows. "What do you think, driver?"
The driver chuckled. "Just bait for dirty old men like us, right? A pretty baby asking for it."
We stopped at a red light. The man in the suit leaned my way and slid my skirt up to expose a pale thigh. He didn't touch my skin at all, but tapped his cigarette and let the ashes fall onto the flesh there. I started and grimaced with a sharp intake of breath. The cooling ashes felt like dozens of pinpricks.
"Leave your skirt like that and keep your leg still. I don't want any ashes on the leather; if you move, next time they'll go on your tongue," instructed the man. His voice never wavered, as smooth and cold as the surface of a frozen lake; his eyes never left the window.
Once more, the car lurched forward as the driver picked up speed. Mortified, I noticed the ashes shifting on the top of my thigh. I swallowed hard and tried to freeze my muscles in place, the image of the orange end of his cigarette approaching my tongue flashing in my mind. The ashes seemed to stop moving, yet I kept myself stone. As I clutched the fabric of my skirt, I dreaded what would happen once he finished his cigarette.
Keeping my eyes straight ahead, I heard him inhale again, the crackling of the cigarette almost sending a shudder through me. I knew better and steeled myself, unwilling to let a single ash touch the seat. Resolution set my mouth in a hard line.
"Look at the girl, a proper porcelain statue. I don't know why you bother. I could just shove you and then have reason to stub out my cigarette right there on your thigh." Delight laced the delicate malice in his voice. "I don't want you marked up just yet. You have to look your best for all my friends."
We continued for a while in silence after that. It was useless to speculate on anything regarding the present situation, so I focused on the task at hand. I couldn't tell how much time passed; it felt as though I only breathed every five minutes.
The car finally came to a full stop, the engine powering down. Silence enveloped the three of us, punctuated only by my small bursts of breath as I tried to remain still. The driver looked back at the suited man, smiled and said: "We're here."