Little Mayeng was awakened in the early morning hour, just passed midnight, to the skriech and squeaks of rats in the ally near by. Her mother spoke soft yet commanding as she handed over a slightly less soiled dress to be put on in the near darkness.
She dressed woodenly, then took an offered cup and sipped, the taste of the stale water she drank did nothing to remove the dust of the day before, nor the dry, scratchy feel in her throat.
The long walk from the small Cambodian village she and her mother lived in was hard, and the noise of traffic in the still bustling city of Phnom Penh was frightening to the girl. Now, woken after so slight a rest, eyes still blurry from lost sleep, she moved to her mothers directions in a drunken, reflex actions.
As a cold bowl of watery porridge was placed in Mayeng’s hand, she drank, most found its way into her tiny mouth. The scolding from her mother was the only notice of the few drops that had spilled down the front of her ragged dress. No more had she finished than her mother was pulling her quickly through the dark alleys and dimly lit streets.
Even at that late hour, crowds filled the road side markets and alley shops, those out fulfilling their nightly business. Traffic seemed endless to the mind of the ten-year-old girl from a country village. Had her mother let go for even an instant, she would be lost in the crowd of leering, dark faced men.
Her fears changed to confusion in moments. She saw the dimly lit front of a mission run church-house, yet hopes of stopping for shelter were dashed in seconds as her mother continued on. Her mind was assaulted with the things around her. Rats scurried over piled garbage left to rot at the sides of buildings. The strong smell of human waste came from the open sewer drain that ran through the center of each alley they passed. The sight of other children, barely clothed, standing in front of open shops, even at that late hour. The profane shouts and laughter of unknown men that stood in the shadows as they walked by.
Mayeng glanced over her shoulder and saw the light of the church haven no more than a couple streets back when they finally came to halt near the entrance of an alleyway. Her mother stopped and spoke with another slightly younger female, making many gestures in Mayeng's direction as she told of her daughter's good health. The woman nodded, though clearly not pleased, and handed her mother a few crumpled bills.
Mayeng’s confusion changed to utter despair as her once loving mother turned, grabbed her roughly by the arm, and shoved her toward the strange woman.
“You go with her now,” the flat emotionless tone as she left, broke what was left of the child’s heart. Darkness descended, as the brothel doors closed on her life forever.
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