The Lady Wore Red Ch. 01byLycandope©
Another late night surrounded by file boxes, paperwork and twelve different documents labeled with "Important!" sticky-notes. Lily sighed, sitting back in her chair to rub her tired, nearly watery eyes under her glasses. She knew she shouldn't be doing this. She was wearing herself out working late. Twenty-nine years old and she'd found a single gray hair in the mirror this morning. One single gray hair but it stared at her accusingly. She wasn't even really afraid of losing her job if she didn't stay so late - she just didn't want to leave anything at all to chance in this job market. She was a slightly dumpy nearly thirty-something with a fairly good understanding of family law and a nearly anal attentive to detail. And, in any case, she didn't mind the distraction of working late. It was something to take her mind off of an empty, cold apartment.
She could feel a headache coming on. Whether it was the glare from the LCD monitor in the dark office or trying to concentrate on so many cases at once or something else, she was done. After another sigh, she signed off the computer and shut it down. The street lights outside the office let her see well enough to find her purse and keys without having to turn on the overhead lights. Her coworkers never understood why she liked working in the dark and she never planned to admit the truth. In the dark, everything was hidden. All of her many imperfections. All of her faults. She ceased to exist to a small degree and she was fine with that. Plus, having the lights off helped keep the headaches to a minimum when she was up late.
The walk through the office was uneventful and typical as she worked through her internal checklist - doors locked, files put away and computers all turned off. She triple-checked the front door as usual. They'd had two attempted break-ins this year - angry soon-to-be-ex spouses trying to... do whatever angry people do. She tried to keep her thoughts purely to what was written in the files and leave her imagination out of it. No need to speculate on who was right or wrong since, more often than not, the people lied. It was an underfed thing, her imagination. She let others do it for her - reading her stories and watching the few shows she cared about. Going through her life trying to be as comfortable and invisible as possible.
A light drizzling of cold rain greeted her when she stepped from under the overhang. It would snow soon and she looked forward to that - it afforded a certain stillness to the air. Sometimes when it the snow fall was heavy enough, she would go out late at night and sit on the bus bench just listening to the world around her. Feeling the cold and the little pricks of wetness as tiny snowflakes landed on her cheeks. When she closed her eyes she could imagine she was the only one alive. But, for now the rain was here and she opened her small umbrella to cover herself on the walk to the bus stop six blocks away. She hated the way her slightly chunky thighs rubbed together in her skirt. She'd asked once if they were allowed to dress more casually but her normally jolly boss was adamant about their dress code. At least they allowed her the sweater. She wore it even when it was warm outside. Her excuse was that she ran cold more often than not but it would be more correct to say that she wore it as a security blanket and to cover herself more.
Her headache was getting worse - she could feel it in her sinus and behind her eyes. The bar near the bus stop didn't help with all the music and people laughing and yelling at each other. The light from their sign reflected on hundreds of beads of rain on the few round tables left outside. She felt hypnotized watching light dance among the droplets.
"...sed it." The voice said.
Lily turned, dazed. "What?" She asked the young man sitting on the wet bench.
The man had a patchy beard, a ragged pony tail and smelled like he'd bathed in sweat, vomit and alcohol. "I said. I said you missed it." Two of his teeth were gone and it looked like the rest would join them shortly. Teeth yellowed with nicotine and god knows what else. He was leaning back against the glass enclosure, head swaying slowly back and forth as he focused on her.
The man waved around him. "The. Bussss. The busssssss. You missed it. Jusss' here. Wouldn' let me on. Fucker. Says I's too drunk. 'onna freeze to death out here." Lily noted his chipped yellow fingernails as she stepped further out of his reach. She was glad of her caution when he broke out in a hacking fit, spitting a glob of green and yellow and black onto the sidewalk. "Jus' miss' it."
She frowned and turned to look at the schedule. She should still have five minutes before it arrived but the man sounded awfully sure. Specifically sure. She grimaced. It was an hourly schedule this late at night and there was no way she was going to sit at the bus stop with this man for a full hour. Her eyes darted to him and then quickly away when she saw his hands down his pants. He was moaning and she didn't know whether it was because he was drunk, sick or playing with himself.
The bar seemed a safer choice and THAT said something for how much the man unsettled her. Nobody even looked at her as she made her way inside. She wanted a booth but all were full of people and the only spots left were random holes at the bar. She almost went back to the bench outside but decided to sit and have a quick drink. It might, after all, help with her headache and she had brought her book to keep herself company. She found two empty spots under a pale yellow incandescent light and sat, folding her legs and withdrawing into herself. The bartender appeared as if by magic to set a coaster down in front of her.
"What can I get for you?" He asked. His face was empty; his mind a million miles away from the monotony of his job. Lily wondered briefly if he knew how to do anything other than fill a glass of beer but she tried anyway. Her eyes flicked up to his and then away again.
"A Virgin Mary, please. Waiting for the bus." She could feel the rusty gears turning in his head as he processed something other than Miller Lite. It took several seconds for him to unfreeze.
"Right. Got it. Be back with your drink." She wondered at that. If he'd be back. She bet he'd find an excuse to keep himself busy or spend an hour trying to find his books on mixed drinks and puzzle out what she wanted. It'd probably taste like...
"I've read that book."
Lily twitched, feeling her cheeks flare red as she looked over at the man that spoke to her. She hadn't noticed when he sat on the seat next to hers. The man nodded at the hard back she was reading. "It's a good series. The originals, not the new crap they put out." Now she felt like her cheeks were literally on fire. She glanced at him at the corner of her eyes, trying to be as subtle as she could. He was perhaps middle aged or late thirties with a developing beer gut and sagging bags under his eyes. There was a slight growth of a beard on a narrow face that made him look like a villain in some local stage play. The thinning widow's peak hairline didn't help the effect. He had the build of a man that did hard labor but ruined it with an aging metabolism, alcohol and fast food every day.
Wait. Originals? She looked at the dust jacket for her book and almost laughed out loud at herself. "Yes," she told him. "Really good." She angled the book away from him and prayed the bartender would suddenly remember how to make her drink. Or that the man would stop talking. A few years ago, her brief live-in boyfriend had moved out, taking everything except for a few book covers and plants. He had a bad habit of taking the jackets off of his books and then leaving them around. The jacket for Ludlum's The Bourne Identity provided cover for 50 Shades of Grey and kept her from dissolving into a puddle of shame whenever she was reading away from home.
The man gulped his weak beer. "Don't get me wrong, though. The movies were awesome. That whatshisname guy does a really damn good job in it. That fourth one sucked bad. Shouldn't have changed the actor. Never understood why they do that."
"Damon. Matt Damon." She said absently and then immediately regretted it. "Ah, sorry. If you don't mind, I'll just rea..."
"Right! Damon!" The man patted her thigh and then took his beer again. Lily froze. The words on the page kept slipping away from her. Her heart raced and she could feel her palms starting to sweat. She was never good with men. Never good with this kind of thing. "Kicked all kinds of ass even if he looks like a pretty boy. Michael, by the way. Name's Michael."
Lily just nodded. Go away. She told him, mentally. Just go away and let me waste my time here until the last bus runs so I can get home. Please. But her tongue felt fat and useless in her mouth and she just stared at the same sentence over and over in her book. He was still talking at her. Not to her - at her.
"... and I work construction two blocks down. Working on a new high rise and I think I'm gonna put in for a supervisor position tha' just opened up. But 'sfine if I don't get it. I like the physical work. Moving things around with my bare hands. Holding things down and working with my hands. Hah! 'm good at it. Using my hands." The mentioned hand found its way to her thigh again but this time it didn't go back to the drink. He used his left hand for that and his right for holding her thigh. She felt her skin crawl from it.
"I'm just waiting for my bus." She mumbled, unable to look at him.
A large glass full of thick red paste appeared on her coaster. "Your drink, lady. Another one for you, Mike? Startin' to think you had enough." The bartender was looking at Michael's hand on her thigh. Why? She asked herself. Why has he had enough? Because he's making advances on me or because he's making advances on an ugly girl? She hated herself for thinking it but she couldn't help it.
"Naw. Another one, Fred. I'm feelin' good tonight. Me and... and... the lady're just havin' a conversation. She likes books. I like books. We're talkin'." His hand squeezed her thigh. She screwed her eyes shut. Dear Lord, help me. He's an idiot.
"Sure, Mike. Sure. Just go easy. Hey, lady, you said you were waiting for the bus? I heard it pass a couple'a minutes ago."
Lily stood, pushing the stool back suddenly. Michael nearly fell from the sudden movement. She ignored his yelled 'Hey!' and looked at the bartender. "You're sure? You're sure it was the bus?"
The bartender frowned at her. "Lady, I've been workin' here thirteen years and that bus stop is right outside. I dream of that bus every night. I know what it sounds like."
"But... but..." She sputtered.
"You need a ride, girl? I got a car. I'll give you a ride. Heh." Michael's hand patted her sagging ass. "Finish yer drink and I'll bring you home. Safe 'n sound." The bartender made a loud harrumph noise at that.
She lived over four miles away. She couldn't walk there. Did the town even have taxis? She'd never missed her bus. Granted, she'd only been at her new job for less than a year but she'd never missed it. She stared at her drink. Michael's hand was gone from her ass as he talked with the bartender over some stupid sports game. She rubbed her index finger as she tried to figure out what to do. Part of her nail was torn from standing suddenly. She felt the ragged edge of it against her thumb and the feeling of it was reassuring as she tried to think of a solution. She had no choice. She didn't have any friends. None. So, she could take him up on his offer. He'd drop her off and that would be all. Anything else would be rape and he wouldn't go that far, would he? He couldn't right?
"I'll - " She stopped and swallowed. "I'll take you up on that offer." And, with that, she sat and finished off her drink, wishing for a Bloody Mary with every sip. They left when Michael finished another beer and she told herself she was just imagining him staggering as he walked. He led her to an old run-down Chevrolet Camaro. Patches of gray littered the body of the car and the tailpipe hung loosely.
"Isn't she beautiful?" He asked. "I'm fixin' her up. Friend 'o mine gave her to me so I been workin' on her. Finding parts at the junk yard and workin' on the engine." It took Michael three tries to turn the engine over and the car shook like a junkie needing a fix. The smell of oil and gas filled the interior and only somewhat went away when Lily frantically rolled the window down. She let the rain in until they were moving and the smell went mostly away. Her headache was getting worse, driven by the smell of the car. The fumes and the unique smell of an old car with old plastic and vinyl and god knows what else made her head pound and the pit of her stomach twist. The way Michael swerved slightly in the lanes didn't help the nausea, either. She almost said a prayer of thanks when his car choked to a stop outside of her house. A prayer that turned into a curse when he opened his door to get out with her.
"Just walkin' you to your door like a proper gentleman should." He told her, ruining the effect when he sagged against his car. "Jus' - jus' let me catch my breath first. 'mallright." He finished with a wheeze. Lily was out and walking fast to her door, hoping he'd forget and drive off but she smelled his fetid breath as she turned the key in the lock. She hesitated, thinking. Do I go in and lock it behind me? I could. I could just -
Michael pushed the door open and stepped in. Without even looking around he told her it was a nice place. Very well put together. His stench permeated the front room of her small one bedroom home - sweat, piss, alcohol and the general smell of a man not taking care of himself. Lily stood by her door, outside, watching him turn around and around to look at her living room. When he turned to her, she looked down at the ground near his feet.
"Why?" She asked. "Why are you in my home? I didn't invite you in. I didn't say you could come in."
"Aw, come on. I gave you a ride in this shitty weather. Least you could do is invite me in and give me a drink." He sat on her couch with a grunt, legs crossed at the ankles. Lily held her purse, umbrella and book tightly to her side, the slight flab from her arm sticking to the book with a thin layer of cold sweat. She considered calling the police but he did give her a ride. It was only fair to give him a drink, wasn't it?
"I have water or milk. Or juice?" She offered. Her headache stabbed her behind the eyes in little pulses of pain.
"No beer or nothin'?"
"No, I don't drink. I'm sorry." She bit her lip and wriggled her foot on the carpet, as if she were a student called out in front of the class.
He sighed and tossed his head back, massaging his temples. "Fine. Water. It'll help with my headache."
She hurried to the kitchen, grabbed a clean glass from the counter and held it under the water filter. She was so focused on trying to hurry and just make the man leave that she didn't feel him or smell him until his hand was on her arm and his mouth near her neck.
"I got a better idea." He whispered, turning her around to face him. "Let's fuck instead."
The glass shattered when it hit the floor - dropped from her nerveless fingers. She opened her mouth to scream or tell him no but he moved forward suddenly and kissed her. It was a sloppy awkward kiss as if their mouths were completely different shapes. He made little grunting noises as his tongue writhed against her. Her pounding heart added to the nausea she was already feeling. She prayed to be sick. Wished fervently that she would vomit into this man's mouth. She tried to push him away but, despite his pot belly, he was strong enough to hold her in place. She tasted salt at the corner of her mouth and knew it was her tears.
Lily gave no resistance when he dragged her back into her living room and then, with quick a guess, he pulled her towards her bedroom. She didn't feel the normal shame that would come from a man seeing the quilt her grandmother made for her - a slightly tattered thing with unicorns and hearts and trees as a pattern. Her brain was mostly off. Everything came to her in glimpses and basic shapes - rectangle doorway, a bed, street light through the window making the tree in her yard dance on the opposite wall, pushed by wind and rain.
It wasn't her bedroom any more. She wasn't Lily. Her eyes saw and she felt his grip remotely. She moved when he pushed and heard his voice from a million miles away. Her shin caught painfully on the metal bed frame but she didn't feel it. She watched the bed fall towards her in slow motion and closed her eyes before it hit her. When she opened her eyes she was on her back, staring at the ceiling. The man was talking to her. Laughing. Tugging her clothes off.
That crack on the ceiling is still there. Is it longer? I should have the landlord look at it. Huh. Now it looks like a bunny. She barely blinked as the man pulled her shirt off and over her head. He made a half-hearted attempt at getting her bra undone under her but she was a stone. A lump. Unmoving. Not even aware of what the man was doing. Her pants and panties were down around her ankles, pulled down over thighs pitted with cellulite and then over her ankles and completely off. Naked but for her bra. Or maybe it's a cat. A small one, though. I should get a cat. A bl-
She felt him try to push into her with his flaccid penis. It pulled her back enough that she felt the pain in her leg and how much it hurt for him to force his way into her. She turned her head to the side to bury it into her blanket. The soft, homemade quilt she'd had since she was fifteen. She breathed in the smell of it with her eyes screwed shut and her jaw clenched. He wasn't gentle. It hurt badly. It felt like he was tearing at her vagina, pulling on the dry lips and the skin. Pinching and pulling as he worked at entering her. His penis kept bending while he held it, fumbling to find the way in through the little rolls of fat. Drunken fingers fumbling in the near-dark. Finally, he let go of himself and held her legs, rocking against her, his limp dick sliding down her pussy.
"Yeah. You like that, huh? Yeah. Mmmm... you feelin' me? You feel me? All the way in you? You gettin' turned on, girl? Yeah, shit. Fuck. Mmmmm..."
She was shaking with tears that threatened to turn into laughter. Her hands gripped her quilt tightly, the ball of fabric reassuring in her hands like a man biting down on something hard before a painful surgery. Incredibly, she could hear her grandmother singing to her. A fragment of a memory from when she was a child, living with the old woman.
Hush, little baby don't say a word. Grandma's gonna buy you a mockingbird. And if that mockingbird don't sing, Grandma's gonna buy you a d...
Lily screamed into the blanket when the man collapsed onto her. He was mumbling into the blanket incoherently. She couldn't move. She couldn't move and she didn't like it. Not at all. He was too heavy and she couldn't move. Oh God. She prayed. Oh God. I can't move and I have to move but I can't and he's on me and I can't breathe and GET OFF OF ME! She screamed at him at the end, using every bit of sudden rage she had to push with her legs and her hands around his shoulders to flip him over. Now she was on top and still angry. Her headache was slamming into her nose and eyes and the back of her head and she could barely think straight. His non-stop muttering was driving nails into her ears and sending shivers down her spine.
"Shut up! SHUT UP! SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP!" She gripped his neck with her right hand, trying to cut off his air. Trying to stop him talking. The man's glazed eyes swiveled to her, his hands going to hers in a panic. He was too strong. To strong even without panicking. The man peeled her hand off and gasped with a sudden deep breath.