It had been four years. Laura had been gone that long and it still seemed like yesterday to me. I am Bill. I was married to Laura for twelve years. Twelve wonderful and happy years. Then in one terrible blow it had ended. Laura had been taken from me by a stupid accident.
She had gone to the convenience store for a few things to finish off dinner. She would just be gone a few minutes. The next thing I knew a policeman was knocking at our door with our local minister. There had been an accident. Laura was gone. I can't remember much after that. She had pulled out in front of a semi-truck. He couldn't stop in time. Killed instantly they said.
Numbness gripped me for over a year. Friends tried to get me out and about. I just sat at home and brooded. Insurance money sat unspent in an account. I went to work still... each day quietly hoping that I was having a bad nightmare. One day I woke up and realized that Laura was gone. She was not coming back.
It was a Friday, I called into work and took a sick day. I sat around and cried, suffering a rude awakening. I had been angry and lost for so long it seemed. I determined that from that day on I would live. Live as best I could because life was too short.
Still the emptiness in me haunted and tormented as I went forth living. Two years later, I had dated a few women. Nothing. I felt nothing and acted like I felt. Cold and alone. I could see it was me, not them. I wasn't going to find anyone else to replace my Laura. I guess deep inside I couldn't let go of her at all.
One day, I just gave up trying to find someone else. It wasn't working out and I hated making others feel miserable on our 'dates'. I spent more and more time just walking around the city. I would visit the museums, the parks, libraries, anything to occupy my time.
I noticed that I had been pushing my walks to go on the fringes of 'safe' and gone to the parts of town that most people would not travel on foot by themselves. Nobody bothered me. Nobody came near me or threatened me. I was left alone.
On one walk I noticed a young girl in cut-off jeans and a very skimpy top hanging around the stairs to a rundown tenement building. She just looked like she didn't belong there. White skinned, blonde hair, nice body with a very nice chest. A large black man came out and started to talk to her. She looked afraid of him, yet she stood close to him. Handing him some cash he gave her a small packet and turned and left.
She glanced at me with the look of a ghost afraid of it's own shadow. Putting the packet in her pocket she started to walk near me as I went on my way. Just behind me and to one side I could catch sight of her from time to time. We got to the park and she kept close to me. There were some bad apples hanging around there, so I knew why she was closer to me. I was her protection of sorts.
We walked around the park and on the other side she caught up to me.
"Hey mister. Would you like some company? Uh... Your not a cop or anything are you?" I was a bit taken aback for a second. At first I wasn't sure she was talking to me. Then as realization dawned on her 'offer' I was a bit speechless.
"I'm not sure I know what you want."
"Well mister, I think I know what you would like. I am worth it too. I can show you a real good time... if you know what I mean."
"Young lady, you should be in school not out here... propositioning strangers."
"Hey, you aren't my dad. I just offered to help make you feel good for a bit not be lectured about how I live."
She turned away and left me standing there. I had just been propositioned by a girl young enough to have been my daughter, if I had one. Did I look so alone that she could see something in me that I couldn't see myself? Or had I just looked like some easy money for her to score?
That encounter stuck in my mind all that weekend. I was a bit stunned that someone as young as her would be turning tricks for a pimp. I found myself wondering about her and her past. What had made her go this way? What had caused her to begin selling her body for cash? Drugs?
The following week I became engrossed with work and getting some contracts signed. After each work day I would go home and work on the details, then go to bed. I didn't walk around at all being so busy trying to get everything done. That weekend the contracts were signed. I took the clients out for dinner. We went to a nice restaurant and as we ate I saw her. She walked by on the street, dressed in a very tight, short skirt, low-cut skin tight top with no bra. She looked like a cheap hooker on the prowl.
She was only in my sight for a short time. After dinner and a few drinks I saw my clients to their hotel and then I headed home. On my drive I went out of my way a bit and drove down the street where I had first seen her with her pimp. There she was, standing on the street corner, looking like a little girl trying to look like an adult.
I pulled over, a reflexive action on my part. I didn't know what to say, what I was doing. I was lost as she looked. She came over to the passenger window. I rolled it down as she leaned in.
"What'cha looking for mister... Oh, it's you. What do you want man?"
"Um... I don't know. Talk? Can you talk to me?"
"Hafta charge ya, ya know mister? I charge by the hour... or half hour. Fifty will getcha half an hour."
"Never mind. Sorry to have bothered you."
"What the fuck's you're problem man? Fuck off fucker!"
She stood up and angrily walked away from the car. I was stunned at her speech and her reaction. Then I remembered that she was a hooker, and to her time was money.
I rolled up my window and drove away. I was troubled with my actions. Why had I felt a need to pull over to talk to her? What was I trying to do? I went home and sat around wondering if I had become so desperate that I was about to resort to hookers for my sexual pleasure. Searching deep inside myself I realized that was not why.
I slept the troubled sleep of old the next few nights. I couldn't get her out of my mind. One day at work as I opened my desk drawer it hit me. She looked an awful lot like Laura had at that age. Same hair, same breasts, same body. How had I been so blind to have not realized this right away?
I didn't see her around after that for quite some time. Then, one night as I took a walk I came across a huddled mass in the park sitting on a bench. Cuts and bruises all over her face and shoulders. Crying into dirty clothing and looking like hell.
I sat next to her, not touching, but close. She looked at me with a mixture of fear and suspicion. I didn't say a word. Sitting there I began to feel like a fool. What was I doing? I didn't know. She continued crying and then sobbing a bit she began to get up. I held out my hand, offering her my hanky.
"You look hurt. Can I take you to the hospital?"
"FUCK YOU! I can take care of myself. Go away. Leave me alone."
"I was just trying to help."
"Yeah, sure, just like Alphonse. I'll help you little girl, then next thing you know here I am a whore on drugs getting beat up for fun by my johns."
"That's not what I meant. I want to help you. What can I do for you?"
"Just leave me alone. You are all alike. Men use women like me and give us nothing but pain. Go away and leave me alone!"
"Look, you're hurt and obviously without a roof over your head. I have some money... not a lot with me, but take it. At least get a motel room and something to eat."
Grabbing the money out of my hand she looked at me, then turned and ran into the night. I sat there for a bit thinking. I questioned my motives and then my actions. I was lost in thought when a shadow fell over me. Looking up I saw a large man standing in front of me.
"Hey man... you seen a sweet young thing around here? Blonde, short skirt, nice tits?"
"No I haven't. Is she someone important to you?"
"Ha hah hah... no man, not important. She's just one'o my whores ya know? Alphonse has the best white whores in town."
"So, you're her pimp then?"
"Yeah, that's what I am. Lil bitch ran out on me earlier tonight. I needs to teach her some manners. Can't be leaving the johns ya know what I mean?"
"Perhaps she doesn't want to work for you anymore... Alphonse."
"Oh, you don't get it do ya? She has to work for me or she ain't working at all. That's the rule ya know? My turf, my girls, my whores. Them's the rules."
He left me sitting there. I was sure that if he found her she would get hurt even more. I had to find her before Alphonse did. I got up and headed off in the direction I had seen her running to. I walked for an hour, never seeing her at all. Giving up I turned and started to head home. I decided to take a short cut and go down a street I had never been on. As I walked along in the darkness I heard something in the shadows near a dumpster. Listening I realized it was someone crying. A girl.
I went over and in the dim light I saw it was her. Crouched on her knees in the corner of the building. I reached down and took her by an arm.
"You are coming with me. To my place. You need a bath and some sleep in a nice warm bed."
"Why are you doing this? Don't you know what I am? What do you want from me? What, are you some kind of kinky bastard?"
"Look, even I don't know why I am offering to help you. Lord knows you haven't been very friendly to me. I just can't leave you on the street for Alphonse to find later. Come on. In the morning you can think about what you want. Right now you need a bath and some rest. Also something on those bruises."
.... There is more of this story ...