The heels didn’t bother Kate. She loved those shoes—they were the same ones that she had worn to her prom. Her problem was the shiny pink skirt that barely reached her legs. The air was cold and the wind gave her chills. She held her arms across her chest and covered the skin on her partly bare breasts. Shaking back and forth, she tried to get warm.
“Stop lookin pathetic like that,” Jerome told her from inside his fur coat. His gold chain swung wildly as he bobbed from side to side. “You look like a crack-head or suntin. Ain’t no man gonna pick your ass up lookin like that, unless he’s smokin crack too. And you don’t need to be fuckin round with no crack-heads.” He snapped his fingers at Missy, who strolled over to him. Her hips collided with his. “Make sure she gets picked up first,” he told her softly. “And show her how to act.” Missy nodded, accepting the task. A sharp slap to Kate’s bottom wished her luck as Jerome hurried off to his car.
Regret had struck her with a heavy hand. Dismayed, Kate turned to Missy, whose eyes were now hidden in a nearly empty pack of cigarettes. Shaking the pack she asked, “Got any cigs, hun?”
Luis turned onto a dark street where all the cats roamed. Vicious creatures wearing leopard skins and fake claws hissed at him as he drove by, their eyes stalking him all the while. Neon lights flickered overhead—VACANCY. Maybe, he thought, but quickly dismissed the notion.
He continued down the street, considering the women curiously. Their short skirts and fishnet leggings shamefully roused him. He tried to ignore them. He scanned the radio, but he could only find love songs—aggravating reminders of his inadequacy. Lowering the volume enough that the words were no longer discernible, he looked back to the street’s sidewalks. A pair of women stood at the next corner. One wore tight leather and smoked a cigarette. The other had fierce, long legs. A traffic light ahead of him turned yellow.
A blue Cavalier stopped at their corner. From inside a man glanced at them apprehensively. Missy blew him a kiss and his head swung back to the red light. She laughed salaciously and said, “There’s a mark. Hurry hun, before he takes off.”
Kate studied him. He seemed meek enough. His face was cleanly shaven and the buttons on his shirt were fastened up to his collar. His appearance had a sort of primness that made her think maybe he wouldn’t follow through. She still hesitated, though.
“Come on, hun. The light’ll turn green in a sec.”
“I don’t know if I can,” Kate confessed.
“Ya better do it, or else Jerome’ll be pissed. Besides, it’s got to be warm in that car.”
Warmth was a nice thought. Her legs were frozen stiff. Then she thought of the groceries in her fridge and the rent for her apartment, both of which Jerome had paid for. She had little choice in the matter—Jerome had already fulfilled his half of the bargain. She moved to the car reluctantly and opened the door. The man inside turned to her, ready to object, but her skirt rose as she stepped in. His eyes were still fixed on her when the light turned green.
“Somewhere with clean sheets,” she insisted when she got in the car.
Luis stared at her from the doorway, unsure what to say. She sat on the corner of the bed, shuffling through her purse. The dim light of the bedroom reflected off of the golden hair that fell before her face. Her legs were pressed against each other, as if refusing to commit the inevitable. “Do I pay you now?” he asked. He sat down beside her, pretending to watch the television while he waited for a response.
Kate pulled a condom out of her purse and handed it to him. “Put this on.” She rose from the bed, turned off the television and disrobed. She crawled back onto the bed and positioned herself behind him. Reaching around, she unbuttoned his shirt and pulled it off. Her fingers ran down his sides and across his waist to his belt, which she tore away and let fall to the floor. Luis rose and did the rest. He stood before her, staring at her nakedness. She did not hide herself, nor did she flaunt. She looked at him indifferently, not caring that his eyes were fixed on her breasts.
“Lie to me,” she said. “Tell me you love me.”
“I love you.”
She pulled him atop and he plunged inside of her. Kate winced—she wasn’t ready for him, nor would she be. She lay there, completely submissive while he took her. It didn’t feel normal, though. It hurt her—much more than it ever had. She locked her eyes shut and clenched her teeth, bracing herself for the repeated blows. Her assailant continued more hastily.
Luis couldn’t look at her. The painful looks of her face sent surges of guilt through him, but he had already committed himself. He closed his eyes and imagined she was someone else. That waitress from the pub, the one with the pierced navel. He worked faster. The secretary from work. He ignored Kate’s gasps as his thrusts became harsher. His sister-in-law. A burst of sensation erupted, freezing him like a rift of ice. He opened his eyes to Kate. Hers were still shut, her lips bound together. He left her instantly.
She gathered her clothes and quickly dressed, dreading what she knew was to come next. Luis sought for his pants, not remembering where they had been thrown. He found them near the dresser. He took out the wallet and handed it to Kate. “Take what you want,” he told her. Kate sobbed as she looked inside. She wanted comfort, but she only found 20-dollar bills.