Her earer earliest memories were of cold and hunger. She remembered flashes of lucidity, of crouching in a dark, cold place and shivering, hunger knawing at her insides like a living thing. She knew fear, but not much else.
Her memory became clearer as time passed, and she remembered many things she wished that she could forget. She remembered cruel faces, harsh voices, slaps and kicks and curses whenever she made a noise and the beatings when she dared to cry out loud. She remembered being forced into a dark closet, kept there for days, living in her own filth but happier to suffer in silence than to face what waited outside.
Though she didn’t know it, she had been born Christina Maria Barnes, and her mother was listed as a Sylvia, father unknown. Sylvia Barnes was a down and out prostitute, addicted to methamphetamines and had spent what money she could beg, borrow, steal or earn on her back, to buy the drugs that sustained her. How little Christina, and others like her, survived to be born was a question the doctors and nurses often asked themselves.
Sylvia, once a high school cheerleader and an all-American girl, had been introduced to drugs her junior year in school. The man who supplied her was no better and no worse than the other pushers in her town, but he had wanted the dark haired cheerleader for his own. He had wooed her, slipped her a little powdered recreation and then, over time, slowly introduced her to more addictive substances.
When she was hooked, he took her and, when he tired of her, he put her to work. Her life since then had been full of pain, full of anonymous men who used her without regard to who she was, who she might have been. She had been abused, degraded and, ultimately, tossed away like yesterday’s newspaper.
While some found strength in adversity, overcoming their shortcoming to achieve great things, others like Sylvia simply sank deeper into depravity, becoming what they abhorred. When she got too old to attract the more affluent John’s, she used her old pusher’s tactics and recruited a pair of new girls, bending them to her will with drugs and binding them to her through fear. Sylvia eventually had two daughters, one was a still birth, the drugs had found their way into her womb and ended the life before it had even begun. The second was Christina and, by the time Christina was born, Sylvia’s humanity was already a thing of the past.
Sylvia didn’t care much, one way or the other, about the child she had borne. If anything, the welfare paid by the state and some tenuous thoughts of future profits kept her from simply abandoning the girl or even just disposing of the child when it vexed her. Her antipathy towards the child was echoed by her two ‘girls’, the hookers who supplied her with money in exchange for drugs and a roof over their heads.
They saw the way Christina’s mother treated the baby and followed her lead. Sylvia fed the child, or at least she remembered to do so most days, but other than that, she left her to her own devices as long as she was quiet. When the girls, and every now and then Sylvia herself, had a client over, Christina was shoved into a closet with a filthy blanket and beaten if she made a sound.
When Christina was five, a wretched, filthy, half-starved child, one of Sylvia’s clients caught sight of her. He had been eager to begin, wanting his money’s worth, and had been pawing Sylvia, mauling her in the hallway as they moved towards Sylvia’s room.
When he stumbled, drunk and disoriented, his shoulder smashed through the thin closet door and terrified the small girl within. Her short, soft cry of terror was enough to make him pause, then fling the door open.
Inside, crouched in a corner of the small closet, naked and filthy, sat Christina. The man blinked, rubbed his bleary eyes and then smiled down at her.
“What have we here?” he asked softly, crouching down so that he was not towering over the child.
“That’s just my kid, she’s touched in the head. Leave her alone, Barney! Come and give me some loving.” was Sylvia’s response. “You only paid for an hour, you want to waste it on some brat?”
“Why is she in the closet? And why is she naked?” Barney asked, his tone moving from curious to compassionate.
“I told you, she’s touched in the head. Refuses to wear clothes, refuses to bathe, doesn’t talk. Leave her be!” Sylvia huffed, looking cross now.
Christina, crouched on her threadbare blanket, knew that irritated tone and flinched, expecting the inevitable slap or kick that usually followed.
Softly, almost a whisper, Barney replied. “She’s about the age of my granddaughter.”
He stood, his hands on his hips, and glared at Sylvia. For her part, Sylvia was just annoyed, the brat was keeping her from doing business.
“I’ll give you five hundred for the kid.” Barney said, his face serious and his eyes intent on Sylvia.
“What?” Sylvia understood what he said, but her question was more a stall tactic than a request for information. If he was willing to pay $500, then someone else may be willing to pay more. Maybe it was time to earn some money with the brat, there were plenty of pervs in the world.
“I am not selling you my daughter, Barney. What do I look like, a slaver? Either leave her be, get in here and fuck me, or get the hell out. You ain’t getting your money back either way.” Sylvia glared at him, almost daring him to object.
Barney looked a little sick, his face going pale. He bent back down, facing the little girl, and whispered to her. “I ain’t got more than that, sweetie, but I will see what I can do, okay? You just hang in there.”
Christina didn’t have the first clue what he was talking about, but his were the first kind words, the first time an adult ever spoke to her in anything more than a snarl or a curse. His tone was soothing, warm somehow, and it made her feel new things, nice things.
Barney left, but with a promise to Sylvia that he would be back, with twice the amount he promised or the cops, that it would be up to her which one she wanted.
Barney never did come back, but Christina remembered that day for a long, long time. She would wonder, later, if he had simply forgotten or if he had, somehow, been kept from returning. She would never find out the reason, but she kept that hope alive for years, a tiny nugget of light in the darker times to come.
Sylvia, on the other hand, knew exactly what had happened to Barney, and it had cost her fifty bucks and a couple of rocks. Sylvia had been on the wrong side of the tracks for a long, long time. She knew others, like her, who lived in the shadows, and it wasn’t all that hard to find an addict who would waylay the would-be Samaritan.
Sylvia had recalled her amorphous plans for the child, spurred on by Barney’s interest, and she began quietly looking for the right customers. They were not all that hard to find. There is a market for any product, and this product had long been a forbidden fruit, and more valuable because of its rarity.
Christina’s first bath in over a year was a surprise. Sylvia had drug her from the closet, tossed her into a lukewarm tub and scrubbed her from head to toe. Then, spraying her liberally with some of the cheap perfume she kept on hand to hide her own slovenly habits, Sylvia pulled out a little pink dress she had purchased just for this occasion.
“You little to me, you little cunt. A man is coming over to see me and he paying extra to have you in there. You will not say a word, not even a sound, or I will beat you like you have never been beaten, do you understand me?” She glared down at the child, shaking her by the arm until her head bobbed and weaved on her too-thin neck.
“He is maybe going to play with you, take some picture, so you do whatever he says. Don’t worry though, momma is saving that little pussy of yours. It’s going to be my retirement fund, sell it to the highest bidder.” she cackled, looking pleased with herself. “Don’t fuck with me on this, just do what I tell you.”
The man who came that night spent an hour with Christina. He made her do things that she didn’t understand and took a lot of pictures. He had her pose in odd ways, showing her butt and her private place to the camera, even made her touch herself. It was all very uncomfortable but he spoke to her in soft, loving tones and never actually touched her.
Sylvia had chosen her clients with care, explaining the rules to them ahead of time. They could look and take pictures, but they couldn’t touch. They could ask the child to pose however they wanted, but they couldn’t do what they really desired. That act, that treasure, would cost them dearly.
Christina started getting visits from a couple of men a week, and most of them were kind to her, even if their demands made her feel weird. Some of them brought little tiny cameras, some brought big cameras and lots of lights, new dresses and funny underwear. Her mother was always there, watching, warning, threatening, and Christina behaved. She was a good girl.
The one thing that stood out in Christina’s mind about this change in status was that Sylvia was less physically brutal, not wanting to leave marks that would turn off her clients. As if in compensation, she became even more psychologically cruel, punishing Christina for even the smallest imagined slights, making her do repugnant things like pleasuring her at night time and even cleaning up after the whore’s clients left for the night.
.... There is more of this story ...