I wiped the red lipstick off the edge of my thermos, rubbing my fingertips together to dissolve the rouge. The taste of earl gray in my saliva. The oversized glasses kept sliding down my nose, fighting me as I pushed them back up. I look ridiculous, I thought, I'm gonna kill Prima for involving me in this. Though the reminder of the payday helped push away the regret.
I glanced down at the time that glowed through my skin. "12:18 a.m." Fuck, he's late. I began pacing back and forth darting my eyes across the foggy street, hoping they would land on a dark silhouette. Lateness always made me nervous. I hated waiting around and Prima assured me that this was an error-proof plan.
At 12:36 a.m., my skin flooded with goosebumps at the sound of a car approaching. I exhaled some fear. Finally, I thought, straightening up my posture, and tucking away my thermos. I waited for the car door to open and maybe a tall brutish man would step out, but nothing happened. The doors didn't open and no one stepped out.
A few moments passed and I stood frozen with confusion. Maybe he can't see me? The thought propelled me to take a few nervous steps toward the car, while waving at the blacked out windows. Sure enough, the door to the back seat popped open. I felt relief even though my heart was pounding out of my chest. I can do this, I thought, Prima spent weeks teaching me what to do. I can do this. I repeated in my head over and over again.
I moved to the open door and was preparing to slide inside when a woman's arm reached out. I was overcome with bewilderment. Her graceful, thin arm draped in black lace and jewelry grabbed my wrist quickly and strongly pulling me into the vehicle. Suddenly all confidence drained from my body. Oh god, I thought, here we go.
I heard a scrape and a flare appeared, igniting the woman's cigarette and lighting up the dark for a second. I could see her ruby lips on the end of it, then it went back to black. I hear her breathe out the smoke. Her voice sliced through the silence when she spoke. "What's your name girl?" Her words sounded like music.
"Stella 9," I responded, trying to match her beautiful tone.
"Okay, Miss Nine. How long have you been temping?" She asked from the darkness.
"This is my first time—I'm sorry, what is your name?" I asked with a slight boldness.
Another scrape of the lighter and the inside of the car lit up and faded. With a long exhale of her smoke, she responded by reaching out her hand and slamming it across my cheek. I was completely shocked at first I had no idea what had hit me. "What the fu—"
"Be quiet you idiot." She interrupted me. "You don't get to ask anything, especially to Mr. Farrow, or you are out." She threatened from the obscurity.
"O-okay, I'm sorry." A rush of panic flew through my body. Why didn't Prima tell me this? I was trying not to let the anger of Prima's mistake come out of my mouth.
My nerves made the car ride seem much longer than it was. Fifteen minutes later, the wheels came to a swift stop and all at once I was being dragged out of the car with a silk bag over my head. This is normal, everything is okay, you're okay. I kept telling myself. I didn't scream, I didn't struggle. I just went along with it. The arms holding onto me didn't seem like the thin, graceful arms of the woman. They seemed much heavier and with a tighter grip.
The large man holding onto me led me up the stairs, and into a room. I heard a door shut behind me and then felt those same heavy arms begin to pat me down, from the tops of my shoulders, to underneath my arms, and then between my thighs. The bag was ripped off my head, some of my hair with it, and my eyes darted around the room then fixed themselves upon the tall man standing near his desk whose eyes locked onto mine like I was a target. And I was.
"Miss Nine," His voice made my hands shake. "Let's play."