That's what it was. Holy Shit. Sanctified faeces shat from God's ass into the world, all celestial and repugnant as it was. Just those two words circling around and around in my head when I looked at her looking like that. There she was. My Nikki. Clothes in disarray. Bloody teeth. Downcast smile.
How could someone so beautiful look so haggard?
"Nikki...?" My voice was a mere whisper. "W-what are you doing here?"
She reached through the doorway and grabbed me. Took by the arms and threw me such a look of desperation I thought she might cry right there and then. "Please let me in, okay? Please?"
Aside from the few kids playing in the street, too caught up in their trivial little games to notice the roughed-up prostitute standing at my door, no one was around to spot her. I wasn't sure if she was running from someone or just needed a shoulder to cry on, but I wasn't really thinking when I let her in. Thought went out the window. If John and the kids were here maybe I would've done differently, but they weren't, God didn't love me enough.
I dragged her in and slammed the door. My neighbours were just as nosy and gossip-prone as you'd expect the citizens of a suburban community to be. If I let them see her, uninvolved tongues would wag and eventually disseminate that little nugget of information to my doting husband. As stupid as I was letting her in I wasn't stupid enough to let that happen.
When Nikki was safely inside my attention returned to her. "Are you okay?"
She only said "thank you" and beamed tiredly.
I loved seeing her smile. She had a pretty one. But with that blood in her mouth I found myself resenting it. So in my furthered lack of wisdom I compelled her to follow me up the stairs. We went to the bathroom. With one hand I filled the basin with hot water and with the other I reached for the overhanging cabinet. Through its mirror I watched Nikki as she watched me remove two things, disinfectant and cotton pads. I shut the water off, sank one of the pad into it, then used that so wipe the blood off of her face.
Nikki winced at me, moaned a bit, clearly not expect this of all things, but then what was I supposed to do...? Just let the ugly handiwork of whatever thug that brutalized her go unchecked? No. I cleaned her up. Zealously. Even when she shrieked at the sting of the disinfectant I applied to her cut lip, I paid it no mind. I straightened up her clothes and put a comb through her hair like a child fiddling with her Barbie doll after her annoying little brother managed to get his greasy hands on it. I didn't let up until she was no longer the shadow of the girl who infected my heart that night. I didn't let up until she was my beautiful Nikki again.
Twelve minutes later she was once more close to perfect. The only colours in her mouth were pink and white. Her hair was tidy. Her clothes weren't messy any more, just slutty.
"Thanks," she said, half-smiling. "...I guess."
My thumb pointed the shower out."You can use that if you need to but be quick, okay? My husband and kids will be back soon."
The comfort in her eyes trembled a little when I mentioned my family but she didn't disobey. I left the bathroom after that, returned to my study, threw my face in my palms and heaved the deepest of sighs. Down the hall I heard hot water chipping away at the tiles of my shower compartment. She was in there. Getting undressed. Being naked in my space. The thought alone made me tremble.
It was the convergence of two worlds I'd hoped to keep separate for the rest of my life. I was cleft in two; Elizabeth the homebound novelist and Eliza the secretive, money-touting predator of the youngest women Connecticut's sex industry had to offer. The two worlds were so far apart you might consider a juxtaposition of the two absurd, and rightly so, but here it was, happening inside my homestead and sending chills down my selfish spine.
My mind swam. Ten thousand thoughts did battle in my skull, each one telling or asking me different things about Nikki and John and my kids. I struggled to gain a handle on things so I immediately went downstairs and into my kitchen. My hands were shaking as I found a cup and spoon to use. With the latter I shovelled coffee beans into the former. Cream was added, as was boiling water, eventually, and I stirred then sipped of the brew.
The head chilled.
I don't know what it is about coffee but it had the ability to calm me. Alcohol didn't have that effect, nor Mary Jane (though I hadn't used that since my College days), not even chocolate, a girl's best friend; only coffee. The caffeine did wonders. Slowly, my pressing thoughts became analytical ones, ones more common to me. Safer waters to wade in.
What the fuck was she doing here?
The weird thing about thinking clearly is that you don't really realize you're doing it until it's happening. The minutes rolled on. And when the water stopped running upstairs, when my bathroom door opened, when Nikki came down my stairs with in my unworthy pink bathrobe, my hazy eyes found the light.
She was a real person. I'd built her up in my head so much I could mistake her for some idealized caricature, but that image was a false one. Nikki was a real person. A person with a life outside my purchase of her, with concerns beyond mine and dealings I was unaware of. Somewhere out there she had parents. Maybe friends. Maybe a lover. A real one. So many likely people, each with a share of Nikki's heart. So why oh why did Nikki ever choose me?
I wanted to tell myself sweet lies. That she came to my doorstep because I was as special to her as she was to me. That I gave her pleasures no one else could, like she gave me, but that was a tall order. Reality was a pianist and my fantasies weren't the keys she wanted to tap. No, I knew better. Nikki didn't come here because she wanted me. There was another reason, wasn't there? Another reason.
She pointed at the mug in my hands."...Could I have one of those?"
"Uh, yeah... help yourself."
Her wet feet slapped her way across the kitchen floor to my clearly labelled coffee jar. Nikki paused a moment, then asked me where everything else was, I told her and quickly she whipped herself up a coffee to match my own. Somehow I managed to distract myself from her soft, plump pink lips kissing the rim long enough to acknowledge the clock on my kitchen wall. It told me John would be home soon -- within the hour.
"...Your uh... your house is beautiful."
"How did you find me?" I asked. My tone was maybe a little more brusque than I intended.
Those captivating doe eyes of her glanced elsewhere, if only for a moment, before rolling back to mine, sheepishly."I uh... I... got the address from your Filofax..."
Heh. I was the only woman on Earth who still had one. These days people had Blackberries and cell phones for that sort of thing. Whoa, back up, wait a minute. My Filofax? That's how she got my address? How could she even know I had a-
"That night..." I thought back and put 2 and 2 together. "Did you go through my purse?"
All I got was a guilty nod.
...Son of a bitch.
"Did you take anything?"
She shook her head desperately."No, I swear! I didn't mean to pry or-or-or steal from you or anything like that, I-"
"Then what did you mean?"
I watched Nikki's pretty throat swallow a nervous lump. "I knew, okay? I knew he'd be mad at me this time, and I just... you seemed to like me so much, I just thought... with you and your driver... maybe if something went wrong, I... look, I'm sorry, Elizabeth. I'm really very sorry... I didn't mean it."
Wow. How mighty towers fall. After that night I'd never imagine she'd ever seem this weak and frantic. She was so comfortable back then. So calm. It was almost like she saw through me -- or at least enough of me to know I was as guilty and scared as anybody with a family could be. But I saw through her now. All the coolness and flirtation was a charade, a convincing one, but a charade none the less, and that fragility I first recognized in her, that was now oh so real.
The sad thing was?
Seeing her like this... frightened, earnest, delicate... it made her seem all the sweeter to me. All of a sudden'Elizabeth' was taking a break for the night... and 'Eliza' was coming out of the woodworks to reap the consequences of her mess.
"Give me one good reason why I shouldn't toss your ass out right now." I declared.
Nikki chewed upon her lower lip."...Because I need you."
And she did. I saw it in her eyes. She wasn't lying and she clearly wasn't out to rob me or anything. Nikki needed my help. I paused for a moment and watched. I kept my eyes on her as she anxiously waited for me to reply, to decide her fate, whatever that fate maybe. I like to think that I was dragging her over the coals -- letting her know that despite my heart pounding attraction to her -- I wasn't a chump and I wouldn't let her take advantage of me, but in actuality I was just giving myself time to work out what she just said in my mind.
She mentioned a he. Maybe if I hadn't seen her in that state I would've been threatened by that. Nikki clearly figured out I had money, if that reference to Sean meant anything. I also knew that if I took a step back and really evaluated my circumstances I would've been salivating. I mean, just look at the scenario. The girl of my dreams showing up at my door and I was the only one there for her. It was like the three-and-a-half minute opening to a softcore porno. Too unbelievable to be true. Maybe if I'd had more of my head I would've been able to show myself how darn convenient this all was but no. No. I was too in awe of her and too sold on her plight.
"Look," I began. "I'm flattered that you thought of me... not so much about the searching-through-my-things thing, but... that's neither here nor there. I just don't know what I can do for you, and... you haven't really explained... you know... how you got beaten up like that."
Nikki looked away again. She put the cup down and tenderly rubbed her hand. Although I hadn't noticed it before there were plum-coloured bruises across her left hand`s knuckles. Whoever gave her a licking did not come away unscathed.
"I don't really wanna talk about it," Nikki said to me.
At least she had the sense to run away from whomever it was that hit her. My daughter Angela liked that guy, what's his name, Chris Brown...? I tore his poster off her bedroom wall the second I heard about him hitting his girlfriend, that... Barbadian girl, whatever her name is. I can't keep up with the shit my kids call music these days.
"I don't know what I can do for you."
That was when she came up to me. Threw her puppy-cute eyes at me. Took me by the hand and stood close. Close enough to feel her fast, cool breaths tickle my chin. Close enough to dip my head a little. Close enough to betray my husband again.
"I need a place to stay..." pleaded Nikki. "That's all. Just for a little while."
The one thing I couldn't give her.
"I have a family, Nikki, I can't just-" I would've gone on to explain myself but I noticed her staring blankly at me, like something I said just shocked her. Was it about my family? But why would that shock her -- lots of people did what I did. "What? What is it?"
Her smile was soft."...You remember my name."
Of course I remembered her name. How could I ever forget it after the night she gave me? Then again her'job' probably didn't set itself up for intimacy. It was the oldest and hardest profession on Earth, prostitution that is, but I didn't see or think of her like those other girls I fucked. No. Something about Nikki was different. Different enough to cause me to etch her name in my mind, with or without my consent.
"I'm sorry, Nikki. I want to help you, but-"
Her lips cut me off before I finished my sentence. Her kiss was still as tender and honey-dipped as I recalled it being. I lost myself in Nikki when she curled those thin arms of hers around my willing neck and fastened herself tight to me. A groan escaped my throat. My lusty hand slipped down her lower back. The muscles there were terse as she stretched up on the tips of her cute little toes to kiss the soul out of me.
When we parted and Nikki slowed reacted her tongue from my mouth, my mind was beset with clouds again. All I saw was her standing there, arms around me, pleading with me for sanctuary.
The old cogs in my mental clock started turning. I wracked my brain trying to think up how I could justify having her here, maybe just lie and say she was a distant cousin come to visit? No, that wouldn't work. John would grill me about why I hadn't mentioned her before and eventually see through it. Then I looked up. It hit me.
I sighed, hand to my face."The best I can do is my attic, okay?"
"That'll be fine." Nikki beamed with much more vitality this time around.
"It's just for one night and my family CANNOT know that you're here, alright, they just can't. I think I have a sleeping bag up there you can use and I can bring you something to eat from time to time, but it's just one night, okay? That's it. And... whatever trouble you're in, do I have your word that it won't follow you here?"
Nikki assured me so. Told me it"wasn't like what I thought" and that it was a one-time thing, whatever that meant. She seemed sincere about that. Or maybe I was playing with matches and looking for any excuse to justify doing so -- who knows? What I did know was that in all my selfishness and preoccupation, I couldn't let her go just yet. If I turned her away there was a chance I'd jettison Nikki out of my life for good. I didn't want that. I wanted her and whatever she was willing to give me.
I caught myself backing her up against a wall with a celebratory smile. My hand grabbed her thigh and the other her cheek. Our lips met again. Throaty sobs and wet smacks filled up my kitchen. I didn't know if Nikki was kissing me as some kind of payment or because she was, maybe, on some level attracted to me. I just didn't know and you know what? I didn't really care, because we were kissing again. I had her holding me again, I had her tongue in my mouth again.
The thought and deed of our kiss was like a fine sherry. I'd sipped once from that nectar and was drunk on its pleasure. I needed more. More of her kiss. More of her. So those hands she had at my neck? I took one of them by the wrist and made it cup me all the way down to my waist -- then slipped it underneath the band of my khakis into my warm underwear.
Thank God John stopped for ice cream that afternoon.
* Hm. Not much to say really. Keep reading future chapters! ^_^