You were thirteen when you ran away from home.
It was a Monday afternoon, hot on the inside but outside everything reeked of your mother's whispers. It was Geoffrey who convinced you it was the right thing to do. You listened to him because when you were thirteen you thought he was right. He told you to run, and so you did.
Afternoon turned to evening and you were cold. The moments seemed to slide into each other, intechangeable like Geoffrey's girlfriends. Geoffrey was cold, too, so he put his hand inside your shirt, over your chest, where it felt like a million icy jabs all at once. He sighed because it felt good but your insides felt like a log of wood. At some stage that night you began to hope that he would get hypothermia, that his extremities would go cold and you wouldn't have to feel him on you any more.
You didn't get lucky.
In the morning he suggested you both find jobs.
He didn't tell you that you were applying to be a call girl until nine minutes before the interview. You spent the last paper run money you had at Victoria's Secret buying the prerequisites for the job. When you got to the the interview they raped you with their eyes and then gave it to you.
There were six other candidates but you got the job because you let them touch you.
They tell you to start work tonight. The venue is a place over the hill where the sun seems to hit you weird no matter where you stand. The customer is a stocky man who turns up bare chested. You wonder briefly if someone else has removed his clothes before you.
It's a single bed because admin mailed the order. His anger makes rarefactions on your skin as he rolls you onto the floor. You look at a spot above his head and notice that he has long eyebrows. As the minutes pass your eyes move from the air to the clock but you don't know how much pain he's paid for.
When he's finished he chucks you a mangled kerchief to wipe the blood. You take it but replace it with another when he's not looking. You'd rather not get AIDS your first time. He smokes Marlborough Lights and looks out the window. After you get dressed he offers you one and you take it.
He says it was worth the money although the virgin rates have gone up.
He says it's not every day you get a customer who pays you in cigs as well as money.
True, you say, but it's only commission you get. Rates have gone up.
He almost smiles. True, he says.
When you get back home, Geoffrey wasn't there.
When he finally got in around three in the morning, drunk and half-staggering, you wanted more than anything to hit him across the side of the head, but you didn't because it still hurt and you didn't want to make it worse. Instead, you pretended to be asleep, unmoving while he came in, undressed, and lay on the edge of the bed. You turned over when you were confident he must be asleep, close to four. You liked to watch him sleep. But he was still awake, watching you, eyes glinting like a cat's in the darkness. It was a long time before he turned you onto your back, and began to take your clothes off. He laughed against your neck when he saw. Then he kissed you like he was pulling out your essence.
"I didn't want to be the one to open you," he whispered, and then he began.
The days pass like the windscreen wipers on the new car he bought the day you were booked up for sixteen hours on end. He showed you when you came home, drove you around. You wanted to drive because he was drunk again but he wouldn't let you. He touched the car like he touched you.
You never saw the first customer again but there were so many faces that after a while you forgot what he looked like. You became better at looking them in the eye. The part that scared you about the whole affair is that it became easy, really, once you let it. It bothered you that you were so dispensable in your own eyes.