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.
Sylvia seemed to derive considerable pleasure having the child use her tongue to clean up the drips, spills and leavings of the many men who traipsed through that house. When she was really angry with the girl, Christina would clean the floors and even the bathroom the same way.
The years that followed were most a blur of men. They tended, by and large, to treat her well. Some of her regular visitors even brought her gifts, though Sylvia would snatch whatever it was for her own use, and Christina began it look forward to her clients. Anything was better than being alone with Sylvia. She even began to find some small pleasures in their attentions. Many of them, when they found out that it was allowed, had her touch herself, rub herself for the camera.
By the time Christina was a teen, her mother’s addiction had stripped her of any semblance of compassion, destroyed what looks she had retained and made her even more bitter, more hardened to the suffering around her. The other whores were long gone and Christina was Sylvia’s only source of income.
Her astronomical asking price for the girl’s virginity went unpaid, adding to Sylvia’s dissatisfaction. She would reach out and pinch Christina in her naughty place, twisting cruelly, always with the same cackling comment. “This here is my retirement.”
Sylvia came to hate the girl, a deep, abiding hate that found an outlet in her treatment of Christina. She would spend hours thinking of ways to make her pay for being younger, prettier, more desirable. Even as she lived off the money Christina earned in that room, she detested being dependant on the girl. As the years passed, Christina’s visitor became fewer and fewer. Her appeal as a little girl started to wane as she got older, and her mother’s refusal to let any of the men touch her meant that they started going elsewhere.
Towards the end, when Sylvia’s addiction had taken its toll and her body was beginning to fail, Sylvia was determined that the girl would not outlive her. She began tying the girl up at night, beating her with whatever was at hand, even putting cigarettes out on her arms, her breasts and her buttocks.
When Sylvia’s heart stopped, early one fall day while she sat in front of the television, Christina was bound and gagged, laying in the hallway closet where she had spent every night she could remember.
She continued to lay there until, three days later, a drunk john, his addled brain not remembering that his old favorite was no longer in business, forced the apartment door. He found Sylvia’s emaciated body in front of the television, shrugged his shoulders, and walked out of the apartment again, television under his arm.
The neighbor, a down and out woman who was, frankly, no better than Sylvia, though less addled by drugs, called the police in a moment of lucidity after finding the door open and Sylvia dead.
The officers, in turn, found Christina.
Christina was almost comatose. Dehydrated, her body wracked with pain and cramps from the position she had been forced into by the confining ropes, was blinded by the sudden opening of the door and the light flooding in. When the strange voices and strange noises got louder, and rough hands pulled her from the closet, she lost all semblance of control and collapsed in on herself, taking refuge in unconsciousness.
The police officers, two middle-aged female officers who had thought they had seen it all, wept at the sight of the bound, bloody and beaten girl. The officers had requested duty in this area, an area known for its prostitution and drug abuse, thinking that they were better suited to dealing with the broken women they found than male officers would be. The department, knowing that historically they were right, was glad to give them what they wanted.
The two ladies, Margaret Hanson and Chloe Zigler, were close friends, both married with children, and both had a lot of compassion for the ladies they dealt with on a daily basis. They had heard the stories, and could sympathize with the plight of the women, and girls, who had been forced into this life. They had been partners for three years, working this high-crime area with pride, knowing they were making a difference.
Then this. Working quickly, Margaret called in to headquarters, requesting an ambulance, a detective and the coroner, in that order, while her partner pulled a pocket knife from her pocket and cut the ropes binding the injured girl.
Chloe eased the girls arms and legs, wincing at the open and suppurating wounds she could see on the arms and even the breasts, and grabbed a blanket from the closest room to put over her. Tears filled the eyes of this seasoned cop as she tucked the blanket in around the unconscious girl, her vivid imagination supplying the source of the various bruises and injuries that she cataloged.
The detective arrived first, a veteran of the Sex Crimes unit and, with an apology to the two female cops, removed the blanket long enough to take a series of photographs, preserving the evidence that the hospital, in treating the wounds, would obscure. He bagged the remains of the rope that Chloe had cut from the victim’s arms and legs, then began his walkthrough of the rest of the house.
Chloe and Margaret, knowing that what the detective was doing was important, didn’t get in his way, but inside they seethed at the further injustice done to the girl, the child, really. They tucked the blanket back around the girl and waited.
The ambulance arrived shortly and the two EMTs were experienced men, both veterans of the business. Chloe was gratified to see that even they turned pale at the sight waiting for them, softly removing the dirty blanket and covering her with a sterile one from the gurney before lifting her and laying her carefully on its padded top.
When they began to strap her to the gurney, to make sure that she would not fall off on the short trip to the ambulance, Christina woke up.
When she felt the belts being applied to her ankles, tying her down again, Christina began to flail, trying to escape by throwing her upper torso off the gurney. Her voice a was a low, guttural moan and her eyes were wide with terror. Chloe and Margaret, trying to calm her down, approached with their hands open and empty, their voices soothing. Christina was not soothed, acting as if they were more horrifying that the thought of being tied down.
She tried her best to get her legs free, scrabbling, pulling herself towards the head of the gurney and away from the female officers, panic clear on her face.
The two women were confused, but they could see her panic and backed off, exchanging glances with the EMTs. Margaret nodded her head towards the dead addict on the couch, then shrugged. It was obvious who the injured girl’s tormentor was, and that probably explained her fear.
When one of the EMTs, a thirty-year old red-head named Tony Melan, stepped into her line of view, Christina wrapped her arms around his waist, her face buried in the front of his trousers.
It took several minutes to calm Christina enough to disengage her, to get her to lay back, and they only got her to relax just a bit by promising they would not bind her arms, explaining that they just didn’t want her to fall off.
Christina spent only two days in the County hospital, long enough for the doctors to be sure that her condition was stable. They treated the wounds they could find and treated her better than she had ever been treated in her life, even if it was done impersonally. The EMTs had made sure her terror of females in general was known to the staff, offering their theories on how she had been treated, and the doctors and nurses assigned to her case were male.
The staff, invariably kind and soft spoken, tried to get the girl to speak, to tell them where she hurt, or what she needed but she remained silent, not saying a word, not responding at all.
Officers Margaret Hanson and Chloe Zigler returned, trying to get a statement from the girl. They got no further than the door to her room before Christina was out of her bed, trying to hide herself in the corner of her room, behind a chair left there for visitors.
Even the detective, a solidly middle-aged man with a soft beside manner and years of experience dealing with traumatized victims, got no further with the girl. She had not spoken a word since she had been found, refusing to even acknowledge their questions, but following instructions to the letter. It was all very confusing.
There were multiple discussions about committing her, it being obvious that she was deeply disturbed and traumatized, but it all came down to funding and availability. They had very little of either. Instead, the doctor on her case contacted a friend of his who ran a woman’s shelter, securing her a bed in the short term. The shelter had a fantastic staff who had a lot of experience in dealing with traumatized women.
When Christina arrived at the shelter, driven in an ambulance just like the one that brought her to the hospital, she wondered if they were taking her back home, back to her mother. The thought terrified her, but she knew that she was powerless to object.
The Women’s Shelter, designed to be a place where battered wives, run-away girls and other, at-risk women could feel safe and secure, was an interesting change of pace. When the EMTs helped her from the ambulance and escorted her inside, Christina looked around with awe. The lobby was furnished with comfortable chairs, lots of plants and the walls were covered by the drawings of the children who often took shelter there with their mothers. It was a very welcoming space, and Christina was beginning to hope that she wasn’t going home after all.
The shelter, dealing with women who had been victimized and marginalized by men, was staffed primarily by women, and it was to those women that the EMTs had handed the silent girl.
When they turned and hustled back outside, climbing into their vehicle, Christina realized that they were leaving her here, leaving her behind. Then she saw the people waiting for her, all smiling, all with their hands out. It was too much. They were all women, they were all her mother, they were...
The staff waited and watched as the diminutive, bandaged and battered girl looked around, letting her take her time. The receptionist, a doctor, a nurse and a therapist, all women, were there to welcome their newest resident. They watched with curiosity as her face clearly showed her fright when the EMTs left, thinking that they knew the why of it.
They were shocked and dismayed when the girl turned and surveyed the waiting, friendly faces, and began to weep, collapsing in on herself and ending up in a fetal position on the ground. They rushed to her, only to find that the slightest touch made the girl flinch violently, her entire demeanor demonstrated her terror.
Jackie, the therapist who volunteered her time several days a week, waved everyone back away from the girl. She had never had a client at the shelter who reacted this way, but one thing was certain, she was terrified and all this fuss was not helping.
Strangely enough, it was a delivery man, the Unified Parcel Service guy on whose route the clinic sat, who gave her the first clue. He was a very nice man, and an understanding one too. He would always wait outside, politely knocking on the door and then backing off, and let the staff come to him. He never came inside, never forced the women who lived there to deal with him, not wanting to intrude into their sanctuary.
When he knocked on the door, his head down over his clipboard, the battered girl on the floor immediately started crawling towards the doors, her hand reaching out for this stranger, this man outside.
Turning to the receptionist, she rapped out an order. “Get Dr. Wallace down here, now.” she said, waving everyone else back. When she noticed the UPS driver looking through the window, his expression shocked and dismayed by the crying, pleading woman who was plastered against the glass window, Jackie stepped forward, waving her arms to get his attention.
She made a patting motion with her hands, urging him to stay where he was. He looked confused, but seemed to be willing to do as asked, his eyes darting from Jackie to the girl and back again.
This tableau lasted for several minutes, broken finally by the sound of hurrying feet and the labored breathing of the diminutive Dr. Wallace.
He was all of five feet tall, and almost that wide. His head was capped by a thick mane of snow white hair, and a generous white beard covered his multiple chins. He wore a set of spectacles with round lenses and, if you caught him in a good mood, he would even admit that he wore that style because it fit the image he was trying to portray ... the man looked like a short Santa.
Doctor Andrew Wallace was sixty years old and had been practicing psychiatry for more than thirty of them. He began his career as a child psychologist, but a female acquaintance, whose lackluster treatment by her own therapist after she had been raped and battered had been the catalyst, had convinced him that he could do the job better.
He began working with at-risk women and, eventually, specialized in trauma victims of all types. He volunteered a considerable amount of time to help the women here, knowing that his appearance did more to reassure them that he was a good guy that the multiple certificates that hung on the wall of his office. He was good at what he did, and he took considerable pride in doing his very best, in helping those who needed him.
A quick conference with the staff told him at least a little of what he was facing, and he took a deep breath, putting on a cheerful face, before approaching the weeping girl.
“Miss? I am Andrew Wallace, and I’m a doctor.” he said, his voice low and soothing.
The girl, huddled against the plate glass window, turned to look at him, her eyes, swollen and red, darted to the women who waited across the room. Her expression was so forlorn, so heartbreaking, that Wallace reached out a hand. He didn’t touch her, he merely held his hand out, giving her the choice, giving her option.
The fat little man with the funny beard spoke to her, his voice soft and kind. Christina had developed a kind of sixth sense about men, having been forced into their company over the years, and this one didn’t scare her. This one, she thought, would be gentle with her. He would probably call her his daughter, or his grand-daughter before he touched her, before he made her do things. She could live with that.
She reached out to him, took his hand and then scuttled closer, wrapping her arm around his legs. She didn’t do any of the usual things though, these older men wanted to pretend they were convincing her, teaching her. She knew to let him make the first move.
That move never came. The fat man with the nice face sat down on the floor near her and just talked.
When Doctor Wallace got the poor girl calmed down, he told her that the staff here were not like the people who hurt her, and they just wanted to help, to be friends. He could tell that his words were falling on deaf ears. Oh, she wasn’t actually deaf, just that his words were meaningless to her. She had been abused by a woman, or several women, and for an extended time, that much was clear. He had seen transference before, a battered woman who would cling to any man who treated her with the slightest kindness, but this wasn’t that, this was different. She wanted nothing to do with any woman, no other theory fit and he was one to trust his instincts.
When she was calm enough, he was able to give her a tranquilizer, get her to rest, to sleep while he made arrangements. He would transfer to her to another shelter, another facility where he could attend to her personally. This girl needed a lot of help.
Jackie, watching the two depart, started for the phones, snatching up the paperwork that the EMTs had left behind. Scanning the report, she picked out the names of the doctors who treated her, the Detective who questioned her and the police officers who had found her. She had some phone calls to make.
When Christina woke again, she was in a big, soft bed, in a room whose walls were clean and white. She was warm, and comfortable, and even the hunger pains didn’t bother her all that much. She lay there, the blanket tucked up under her chin, and wondered if the little fat man would come back, if he would want to play with her. She would be extra nice to him, if only she could stay here for a while, in this nice, clean place.
He did come back, a couple of hours later, and seemed surprised to see her awake. He disappeared for just a minute, returning with a tray full of food and two cans of soda. He urged her to eat, and was silent as Christina wolfed down every scrap of food on the plate, her eyes on him the whole time, as if afraid it would be snatched away before she could finish.
He talked to her then, told her about him, about his life. He told her about why he became a doctor, and how he wanted to help her. When Christina began to remove her gown, cupping her breast suggestively, he simply shook his head. He urged her to put the gown back on, and to get back into bed.
She was confused. He didn’t want her, and if he didn’t want her, then he wouldn’t pay her mother, and her mother would be angry. When she started to cry, the man just waited patiently, telling her that it was okay, that she was safe.
Over the next two weeks, the fat man came every day, most days he came to visit twice, once in the morning and once at night. He never touched her, he never made her pose for a camera, he just talked. It made little sense to Christina, and it wasn’t until he convinced her that her mother was dead, that she could never hurt her again, that she began to believe that she was going to be okay. He asked her a lot of questions, and sometimes she would nod or shake her head, but when he asked her name, she just shrugged.
Her clients had called her a lot of names. Sweetheart, darling, baby, and sometimes even real names, like Anna, and Mary and Kate, but she knew those were the names of other girls, not hers.
Her mother had called her lots of names too. Slut, shitbag, whore, cunt, but they didn’t sound like real names. Mostly she called her those when she was mad, and she was mad a lot. Other times she called her girl, but that wasn’t like a real name either.
The doctor, a funny expression on his face, asked if he could call her Marta. Marta had been a good friend of his who had passed away a long time ago, and he said that she looked a lot like that woman. She nodded at him.
It sounded better than cunt.
She got three whole meals a day, and they let her take showers whenever she wanted. The doctor only got mad one time, and he was mad at one of the men who looked after her. Marta had been masturbating, something she had been taught to do by one of her first clients. She had found it pleasurable, and she had continued to masturbate whenever she had the chance, and the strength. It was the only way she knew to be happy, to have fun, and she spent many hours in her little closet, rubbing her self, even when there were no cameras to capture the act.
The man who brought her meals had walked in when she was touching herself. She had been close, almost ready to get that good feeling when he came in, and he had stopped, his eyes wide, and stared at her as she finished. Seeing his erection, and thinking that the time had finally come, that she was going to be able to pay for her keep and she stripped off her gown.
Marta stood, her body assuming the poses so often asked for. She thrust out her chest, then bent at the waist, her back to the man and her ass proudly presented. Marta reached between her legs, opening her naughty place to his gaze and bit her lip. She tried everything she could think of, but the man just stood there, watching and not saying a word.
Marta was confused, and not a little bit scared. The man didn’t say anything, and he didn’t even have a camera, but she could see his penis, his cock stretching out the material of his pants. Maybe she was too big, too old for this. Maybe if she did the things her mother used to do, that she had seen the whores do to the men who visited, maybe that would please him.
Kneeling in front of the man, she rubbed her palm against the swelling in his pants, looking up to see how he reacted. When she heard him moan, she knew that this was the right thing and she reached for his zipper. She would be a good girl and everything would be allright.
Then the fat Doctor arrived, Dr. Wallace, and he was very, very angry. He grabbed the man, the one whose penis she had been reaching for, and dragged him from the room. Marta could hear them shouting in the hallway outside, and she hid in the bathroom, afraid of what would come next.
When the doctor came back, and when he found her hiding, he explained that he was not angry with her. He was angry with the man. He was mad because it was against the rules, he was not allowed to touch her, not allowed to touch any patient like that. He tried to explain why, but it left Marta confused again.
That evening, and all through the next week, Marta’s meals were brought by an older man who refused to even look at her, placing her tray on a table by the door and leaving as quickly as possible.
Doctor Wallace still came by to talk to her, but he seemed like he was not as happy as before. He began to talk about Marta leaving, and she just knew it was because she wasn’t good enough. If she had managed to make that younger man have his good feeling, then he would have been happy.
He explained that he had given her a bed because she needed it, but that he had to have the space for a new patient. He said that he was looking for a new home, a new place for Marta to live, a place where she would feel safe.
The following day, Doctor Wallace looked happy again! He told her that he had been discussing her with a friend and colleague, one of the ladies from that other place she went after the hospital. They had a new home for her if she wanted. Doctor Wallace was sure that Marta would like it, but he also assured her that after she met the man who would help, she could refuse if it made her uncomfortable.
Marta was still sure that it was because she was not good enough. She couldn’t get Doctor Wallace excited, and she failed with the younger man, so maybe they were giving her away, maybe to someone mean. The thought frightened her, but in an indistinct, distant sort of way. This had been nice, but life wasn’t soft beds and lots of food, life was out there, waiting. She decided that she was going to be a good girl, that she was going to do her best to make this new man happy. Maybe he would keep her, maybe he would be nice like the Doctor.
Doctor Wallace had brought a small suitcase with him, and when he laid it on the bed and opened it, the inside was filled with clothes. He said that they all belonged to Marta, but she had never owned any real clothes of her own, just some panties and bras with holes in them. They seemed like clothes for the men who visited her, rather than for her. They were tiny, and fully of small holes all over, with bigger holes over her nipples and her naughty parts. It never made a lot of sense to her, but it made the men happy.
These clothes were different. There were shirts and pants, solid panties and socks and even some sandals.
The Doctor seemed uncomfortable when he had to show her how to wear them, but he seemed very pleased when she was all dressed, staring at herself in the mirror.
The next day he came for her, very excited, and was waving a piece of paper around. Shoving it into her hands, he kept pointing to something.
“Right there! The police found it in your mother’s papers. Your name is Christina. Christina, how does that sound? Do you like it? It is a very pretty name!”
Marta just shrugged and, after a moment, gave an emphatic shake of her head. She didn’t like it, not at all. She didn’t know who Christina was, and she was just starting to learn who Marta was. She liked Marta.
“But...” he sputtered, looking at her, and at the paper in her hands. “It says Christina, can’t you see that?”
Marta shook her head again, not sure exactly what he meant.
The fat Doctor looked sad, shaking his head. “You can’t read, can you. I am an old fool, and I don’t know why I assumed you could. Forgive me, my dear. You ... you really don’t like Christina?”
Marta shook her head, slowly this time, fearful that she was just making him more upset. She knew he wanted her to be honest, he was constantly telling her so, but she still feared doing the wrong thing.
“You want to be Marta?” He had a strange look on his face, almost a smile, but a sad smile.
Marta nodded emphatically, leaving no doubt what she wanted.
He just smiled, and turned away for a moment. When he turned back, his eyes were a little wet, like he wanted to cry, but men don’t cry so she was sure that she was wrong about that too. Dr. Wallace turned to her bed and showed her how to pack her things in the little suitcase. Then he took her by the hand and led her out of the room, and down some stairs. He took her over to a man who was waiting.
The new man was very tall, at least when compared to Doctor Wallace. He was even taller than the men who brought her food or the man who put that needle in her arm at the hospital. He had a very nice face, but he looked nervous, like some of her clients did the first time they came to play with her.
“Marta, I am Joe, and it’s really nice to meet you. Doctor Wallace told you I was coming to see you?”
He had a very nice voice, very deep. Marta looked first to Wallace, as if seeking permission, then, eyes cast toward the ground, her head bent, slowly nodded at Joe.
“Marta, Doctor Wallace thought that we could be friends, that maybe we could help each other. See, I live all by myself in this big house and it gets a little lonely there. I was told that you need a place to stay, and I was thinking that you might like to come and help keep that big place from feeling so empty.”
Joe waited, but Marta didn’t move. She gave no indication that she had even heard a word he had said. He pressed on anyway.
“You would have your own bedroom, and your own bathroom, and as much space and privacy as you could want. You even get your own TV and your own telephone. Does that sound like something you might like?” Joe was starting to worry that she wouldn’t respond at all, and that his trip here was doomed.
He was immensely gratified to see that Marta had nodded, just once, but it was definite.
“Would you like to come home with me? I won’t make you, you know. It is completely up to you.”
Marta looked at Doctor Wallace again, but his face was placid and unconcerned, evincing neither approval nor disapproval, just polite interest.
Marta seemed to freeze for a moment, then nodded a Joe again before shrinking back a bit, as if she feared she had been too forward.
Wallace stepped forward and, because he still lightly held Marta’s hand, encouraged her to step up as well. He handed Joe the bag he carried, then he placed her thin hand into Joe’s, then stepped aside.
Joe’s hand was warm and soft, but strong, and Marta decided she liked it. He smelled nice too, something she could appreciate. He spoke for a minute longer to Doctor Wallace, and then led her towards the door.
Behind her, she heard the Doctor speak, “We will see each other again soon, my dear. I will ask Joe to bring you to see me in a couple of weeks, after you have settled in. We still have a lot to talk about, you and I.” but she didn’t bother to turn and look, he had given her to this new man, maybe he even sold her like her mother had talked about. She belonged to Joe, and that was all that was important right now.
Joe opened the car door for her and, after she was in place, showed her how to use the seatbelt. The thought of being restrained was a little frightening, but Joe explained that it was for safety, in case of a crash, and she allowed him to fasten it around her.
When Joe stopped his car and ordered food from a funny clown with a speaker in its mouth, she was fascinated. Even more so when he pulled forward and they gave him the bags. The smell made her mouth water and the drink, he called it a shake, was the best thing she had ever tasted. She began to hope, just a little, that Joe would like her, that she might be able to be happy with him.
His house, when they arrived, was not as big as the hospital, but it was a lot bigger than her old apartment. There were so many rooms! There was living room, but it was nothing like her mother’s had looked, and a room where Joe said he worked full of TVs. There was a room just for eating, and another place to sit and eat in the kitchen. The kitchen was very nice, and his refrigerator was full of food! He had a whole other room just for more food. He had a room full of metal things and three bathrooms, and two big bedrooms.