The man's voice resounds, imperative. The girl looks up from the same place in her paperback, the same half sentence she had been reading and re-reading for the past seven minutes, over and over again, always interrupted, never conclusive. She couldn't yet be sixteen. Everything about her is lithe. She's slender. Her hips are narrow. Her ankles thin, her eyebrows linear, her eyes slits, her chin a point, her...
"Are you saying to me ?" she retorts, words from one language filling the structure of another.
"Yes I'm talking to you. What's your name ?"
"My name is Paula." she says, accentuating each syllable, drawing them out. "Pa-u-la."
Why is she telling this weirdo her name ? "I live here", she continues, undeterred. Something inside her, driven, undeterrable.
"What, in the park ?!" his inquisitive unconvincing, disdainful. Why is he so hostile ? She's just reading a book. Or trying to, at any rate.
She attempts yet again, for the nineteenth time. It's a sentence describing the predicament of the heroine -- technically, the superheroine -- but it rather fails to process. Something to do with setting the scene for yet another installment of essentially the same story. Something very vaguely sexual but insistently suggestive, something like cheap immitation tropical orchid perfume. Vanilla, consummatedly, the basic fare of awakening consciousness on her side of the great divide. Why does she read it, then ? Perhaps because she doesn't know all that. But she intuits it...
"No, not in the park" she enunciates. "In the neighbourhood." She resists the urge to point, "Right there, look. You can see the windows." She looks back to the page, little bugs and ink-drawn ants dancing and prancing meaninglessly before her eyes. She's home alone. The only thing she can think of is that she's home alone. Her parents are away for the occasion of the PTA at the neighbourhood school, which is right there, eighty or so steres away towards the big pine tree and further out. She represses the temptation to point. "Over there!" That's where her mom is, talking to Mrs. Plupken the Math teacher, perhaps. Discussing her grades, discussing her older sister's grades, discussing her younger brothers' grades... They all live, six people, in a four room apartment eight hundred ninety six feet square (including the two tiny balconies, too small really to read comfortably -- but no matter, there's a park right outside the window, look, right there!) where nobody's currently home. Should she make something of it ? She bunks with her sister, because girls of her age should get their space, but her sister's not there. She could pretend she's got the top bunk, even. Who would ever know ?
It's not really what heroines do, is it. Somehow none of the teeny vamps, youthful gunslingers and pubescent galactic somethings-or-the-others ever consider, let alone act on this impulse to simply tell the hostile strange man their name. Just blurt it out. Say "I'm home alone" out of the blue, like that, and point, "look, there", take them by the hand and... It's quite a strange thing, it occurs to Paula. It's quite a strange thing indeed she can't read about the adventures anymore just as the adventures and adventure took such a sharp disjunction. Why is this happening to her ?
But she doesn't quite have the time to consider that conundrum, because the voice is right there, cutting like a blade, cutting right into her somehow.
"Alright kitty. That works just fine, because I wanted to show my slavegirls a local girl."
"I'm sorry ?"
"I grew up around here, see."
"Now be a good girl and show them your kitty."
"I... what ?!"
"Unbuckle your jeans, lift them over your ass to your knees, and let them see between your legs."
Her heart's racing, her lips quivering. She doesn't utter a sound, her chest heaving with imperceptible electricity. Her eyes dart from the sneakers standing by themselves a little ways off to the tips of the ankle socks on her feet. She came here to read, earlier. Laid out her little blanket, took off her shoes, opened a book...
Slowly her hands trace the command through the air. She undoes the metal button, she unclasps the metal teeth, one by one faster and faster they go, apart. Which side is the story and which side is the chaos ? She starts, with the familiarity of the gesture, irrespective of the absurdity of the context. Thumbs under the hems of cotton panties, like she's done it thousands and thousands of times before. You don't shower dressed, do you ? No, what you do is undo the metal button, undo the metal zipper, grab your pants' waist and the hem of the panties and push the whole thing off. One sweep, one quick motion, certainly at the age. Who's got time to waste, who's got spare motions when highschool's just about to start, once summer ends, once time ends, once life itself...
She hesitates for a moment. Something inside her, a little voice screaming for its life, "it'll take everything, it'll be all gone, you'll be..." She looks at him, and there it goes, she clasps the bunched up denim fiercely with her knees, the skin turning bloodless. She hears the women laughing. She can't see them, for some reason, but they're laughing. They're laughing at her, it's unbearable. She can feel the blood rushing to her temples, she can feel her cheeks radiating molten lava, her neck, her chest, everything. Strangely, she can feel her pulse in the now exposed, central bit of flesh. Her kitty, as he said. What a strange thing to say.
"Spread it open."
She looks at him, awestruck, dumbfounded, incomprehending.
"Reach around with your hands and pull your kitty open."
Her hands do as the words bid them do, slithering snakes of... of... of something, on either side of her. She touches the lips daintily with her fingers and pulls.
"All the way."
She pulls and pulls, her nails digging into her flesh by degrees. She can feel the burn of overstretched tenderness, and that feeling is deeply satisfying. Her maidenhead, taut as the skin on a drum, distinctly pounding thrice each two seconds the perpetual tune of life. She can't think, her pounding heart pounding blood into her pounded brain, leaving no space, no crevice. She doesn't remember her name. She doesn't remember...
"Now lift your blouse and show us your tits."
"What... what tits ?" she retorts, coldly, mercilessly. She has no tits, they're not even worth a bra. She pinches the nipples, sometimes, hatefully. They don't deserve any consideration. They've betrayed her. Why should they have betrayed her ?
"Yes, that's kinda the point. Show us where your tits formally should be."
Her hand moves and lifts her tshirt to her chin, indignantly. Look, would you just look! What is this, it's not nice, it's not fair, why didn't they come to her ? She waited, and...
The women jeer, and she jeers with them in her mind. The sheer cruelty of the whole thing wells up tears in her throat, to the corners of her eyes. She's with them, it's laughable, complete and utter BULLSHIT.
She can't see them, but she can hear them, laughing at her. Women. They're there, she can feel them, and their tits are breasts, bosoms, qualified, quality meat, luscious, round, perfect. Especially the one on the left, quite incredible. How can her succulent ripe excellent wonderful... how, how can hers be so great, and why! Is this fair ? Can it ever be fair ?
It can never be fair again.
Paula lowers her head a tone, tiny hot tears rolling off her chin and onto her exposed belly, burning the taut white. They're so much better than hers... they're so much better than her, really. She's nothing. She's less than nothing, she's just garbage, filth, a grease spot. She lifts her tshirt over her head and flings it away in one quick motion. She doesn't deserve a tshirt. She's not good, she's not worth one. She's not worth anything.
She's instantly on all fours, and she crawls, hurriedly, with all the impetuus of a copious if invisible tsunami driving her from behind. She's lost childhood's jeans on the first lunge, but it didn't register. The crumpled up miner's garb, blue weave with a little vanilla white strung through showing here and there lay in the grass, where they fell, motionless. Just as Paula's about to pounce on the closest sandaled foot the voice stops her.
"Ask permission first."
She looks up, but she still can't see anything. There's something there, everything's there, really, she just can't see it for some reason. "May I... may I suck your toes ? Ma'am ? May... may I"
"Check out the little whore."
"Are you a little whore ?"
"I'm trying. Ma'am. I'm trying my best as I can." her tears, returned with a vengeance, lubricating womanly feet.
"Say the words, bitch."
"I'm trying to be a whore ma'am. Whatever you say. I'm trying my best. I'm... I'm... a whore is... I'm a whore ?"
"Not quite yet."
"But you will be."
"Oh yeah, she totally will be."
"Is it... is it bad to be a whore ?"
"Is it... is it hard ?"
"Are you... is it..."
As she's looking up she's beginning to distinguish an outline. It's smiling, a smiling line, separating two... two halves of a... that's their... between the legs. The women notice her gaze and expose themselves, naturally, lifting their skirts and turning slightly, adequately. She can see them now, blurry but ever clearer, their legs, their hips, their hands, they're there. She thinks of how right it is, how correct, how good to be seen like this. Like they are, like she's seeing them. That's what she wants, to be exposed like that. Just like them, bare, ready, undeterred, undeterrable. She kisses the big toe under her nose in a swell of thankfullness. She's never been this thankful her whole life, she heard the adults go on and on about it, always in the presumptive, "should be thankful". She didn't even realise it's something you can actually be, before. She had formed a vague if unspoken impression it's just something that you must forever regret not being. Apparently not. Apparently thankfulness is a thing to be, like hunger. Very, very much like hunger.
She devoured their feet for an insufficient eternity, but the voice eventually came, floating with the sunset.
"Pick up your clothes and fold them neatly. And on top, leave a note. Say Mom and Dad, new line, I have left to be a whore. Love, Paula."
She began to fold her jeans, her ex-jeans, but then stopped, and unfurled her panties, her ex-panties, from within their creases. They really should be exposed. They... everyone... She folded the pants neatly, then went to retrieve the flung tshirt, every step naturally separating her exposed kitty in the most distracting way. Panties in one hand and tshirt in the other she returned, deliberately, thinking of herself. She's making such a spectacle. Like a real whore. Like a super-whore really, she had fugitively seen some local attempts at that reputedly oldest profession but it wasn't anything like this. She held her underwear in her hand, dangling it to and fro like an amulet, like the apotropaion of cunt, feeling her pulse beat so intimately, so demandingly, right between her legs. Every step of the way. She sunk to her knees next to her neatly folded jeans, but then sprang back to her feet again. She turned her back on them and bent all the way down, knees straight as if her life depended on it. Let them see. Let them see clearly. Let everyone see, the park was mostly deserted at that time of day but who knows, maybe everyone's there, behind her, with them. Maybe the whole world's right there, watching. Let them watch. Let them see, clearly as the fading day : Paula from the 2nd floor, Paula from School #10, Paula from her mother's and her father's apartment on that very street over there, Paula the whore.
On top of the folded pile she folded open the book she had no interest in finishing anymore. On the last page, a finger under where it said "The End" in thick font, she wrote thicker still her goodbye, as indicated. She thought of her mother, or rather, the thought of her mother attempted to form itself. It could afford no further purchase than the erstwhile bugs and ink ants, swirling undecisively, meaninglessly, before distracted eyes. Who knew nobody really cares about her mother.
She followed them to the parked car, stark naked in last light's glory, stepping daintily on the assorted gravel offerings once they left the grassy confines of the small neighbourhood park. Undeterred, obedient, unthinking. What was there to think about ? Eventually something arose, and she blankly inquired therewith :
"Will I be able to ever return ?"
"Will you... will you take my sister ?"
And with that, the car took off, leaving the questions behind, to linger. Will she ever return ? Will he take her sister ?
Who knows these things...