The fat black man wore gold chains, silver rings, and he knew how make her feel. "I make us rich. I call you Crystal. You shine for me bright as da night lights of Hollywood girl."
The girls called him Mercedes.
He fed her french-fries at a shotgun diner, and rolled her silk blonde hair between his fingers. As if the stool should be a prop, she dropped her eyes and smiled.
But this new adventure got warped in a hurry, like when a kid gets lost in the mirrors at the funhouse, and wouldn't know whose face to trust, or where to walk without smashing glass.
She was fifteen, but he made her look ready. Mascara, gold nylons, circus rings in her ears, it all made for a theatre of fantasy, and The John's eagerly lined up behind whatever curtain or wall was convenient. She was the trick, the sideshow, stuck beneath the smoke filled mirrors. If only she could jack a window, and find the "Yellow Brick Road."
Clammy hands squeezed her flesh, taking turns, leaving their bourbon breath inside her mouth, suffocating her will.
Her vanilla-white stepfather was no bridge where she came from. She called her home "Demon Iowa," short for "Des Moines."
Sandy was her birth name. She grew up in a trailer park. She never knew her father, and could hardly remember a time when her mom had anything to smile about, until this man came into their life. But to him the little girl was virgin territory--easy prey.
She left one night when her mother was too drunk to care, and the mother laughed like a foolish wench.
She walked under the cover of cornstalks until she climbed the road west, and hitched it to California. "A City of Angels," so she heard, but soon discovered the fallen ones with broken wings turning tricks on a boulevard from hell.
She once turned to leave it behind.
But leaving the pimp was not so easy. She paid the price, her ticket punched in blood.
It was a crimson face mingled in mascara. A gaping wound to her head evenly dispensed the blood until her white blouse was soaked, including her cramped shorts.
She fell forward, blood in her eyes as dark transient figures offered demon glares.
The well-lit rotunda of the emergency entrance was like a reflective pool in the puddles from an earlier down pour. Lights glimmered off the asphalt like a mirror as if her feet could tread water.
The security guard had to blink several times before her ghostly image registered. A gentle black man: early forties, grey stubbles, and soft chestnut eyes. His mouth stuck open.
Flowing white robes splashed through pools of water. Perhaps her life was worth saving? Her body trembled under blankets, as they guided her toward a gurney. The gurney twisted, spinning in its own panicked rhythm.
Mercedes-such a big man, and when he fell into his car you couldn't see the wheel, but you knew he was coming, low to the ground, tires flat.
She expected him soon. A hospital would be no match for his evil. She expected at any moment doors would fly open, and he would claim his property. But her vision collapsed into a dark tunnel.
"Crystal." She heard a distant voice. But this one sounded like the voice of a rock fed spring. If not Mercedes: who else here would know her name? She told the Rescue Mission her name was Crystal, where she prayed "the lost prayer."
No longer shaking, she pulled the cover from her face, realizing only then, to her horror, she was in a room where dead bodies lay. Vacant eyes, blood drained corpses surrounded her! "I don't belong here!!"
"Crystal." She heard the voice again. A light flooded under a gray metal door leading to an unknown stairway.
The door opened, a light so bright it was like a flaming portal.
A bronze figure stood: trimmed beard, white robe, all held in fiery light. He beckoned her with his hands. "Come Crystal. This place is not for you."
She stood up, and was raised above death, drawn to his warmth, drawn to his fiery cocoon of love. "I don't trust men anymore. How do I know I can trust you?"
"But you have."
The light pierced her stained clothes, and magnified all her senses.
Suddenly, she realized who he was, and placed her once cold dead hand into his nail scarred one.
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