Abbie’s book found a new home in my wardrobe. Aside from clothes, and the dainties that came with my boudoir, it was my only possession. The fact that I couldn’t read it meant nothing. It was as precious as the little wooden horse I’d never see again, a treasure I could call my own. Until I had money, it was likely to remain my only possession, and until I had customers, well, Abbie never promised me any money…
My first customer was a fellow named Karl. I’d never seen him before, but he had a reputation. Times he came, he rode quite a distance, and when he stopped by the Inn, it was with intent on seeing Marie. Marie had family near Willow Bend, the explanation for her frequent disappearances. She was the most popular among the men, so the times she was gone brought a sour mood sometimes. When Karl rode in this time to find her gone, he was several different flavors of sour.
Abbie was determined to sell me as a virgin to someone. How Daddy had ever convinced her that was a good idea, I don’t know, but he had. The amount of money she bilked from William Andruss only convinced her all the more. At least this time, I was in on the pretense. Unfortunately, so was sour Karl.
Discomfort isn’t a strong enough word. He was an unpleasant fellow to look at and even more unpleasant to smell. Both were a treat compared to his manners. He took one look and marched straight over to me. His eyes fell on my bruise. Without a word, he reached down into my panties and started poking around a bit. It was becoming clear no two men were the same. Karl grunted and marched back out of my room.
I sat there on the cushioned stool in my boudoir, staring wide-eyed at my reflection, listening to the two of them argue outside my door. I had on only my matching camisole and panties of light blue lace. They were simply the prettiest things I’d ever worn and I loved them. Alice had helped me with my hair that morning. My blonde curls were tied in a cute bun over the top of my head, with curled strands hanging down from my bangs and the sides of my face. My cheeks were painted with a complexion, white as parched bone, and I patted on a little more light rouge to hide the bruise better.
Satisfied, I set down the powder and stood up to look myself over. I was more beautiful than I’d ever imagined I could be with my hair done up like that, but I felt the charlatan. Not because of the toiletry, but because of Abbie’s pretense. I pushed my own fingers down and ran them between my legs. I was getting good with the straight razor. I pinched my nipples a little to make them stand out more, walked into the bedroom, and sat on the edge of the bed to listen.
Abbie was threatening to have Leon throw Karl out if he didn’t calm down.
“God damn it! I was promised a God-damned virgin and she ain’t no God-damned virgin!” Karl’s voice was raised.
“You think you’re gonna find a legal virgin within a hundred miles of here, you’re dumber than a gunny sack full of whiskey,” Abbie snapped back. “You want a God-damned virgin, Kate’s the best you’re gonna get. You best shut your mouth and get your ass in there and start treatin her like one.”
“How in the Hell am I supposed to treat her like one if she ain’t got no God-damned flower?” he demanded.
“God damn it, lots of women are still virgins and ain’t got their flowers no more,” her voice got even louder. “If she can pretend to like your smelly ass, you can believe she’s a God-damned virgin.
That made him hopping mad. I jumped when I heard him pound the wall with his fist, and then he stomped around some.
“I can’t pretend,” he complained. “How am I supposed to pretend knowin she’s been had before?”
“Leon!” Abbie hollered out.
“All right, all right, God damn it, I don’t need Leon.”
The door opened and Karl came back in, slamming it again behind him so hard it shook the walls.
I smiled at him from the edge of the bed, as pretty as I could. Mr. Andruss, he was not. His face hadn’t been shaved in a couple of days, and I don’t think he’d bathed in considerably longer. Suspenders held his trousers up over a dirty white undergarment with big yellow stains under his arms. Tufts of thick, curly hair, all stuck together, poked out from his collarless shirt. He took off a tattered hat and threw it down on my table along with a handful of crumpled bills he’d been holding, and headed toward me for a second time.
I stood up to greet him. The smell of rotten tobacco on his breath added itself to his already unpleasant scent.
“You really are my first, Sugar,” I said, putting my hand on his chest, and trying my best to sound like Abbie. “My flower’s just torn on account of riding a horse when I was little.”
He looked at my tiny frame, pulled open my panties, and pinched one of my breasts, probably to make sure it was actually there. I winced, but tried to pretend it didn’t hurt, and I smiled at him again.
“All right God damn it.” He unbuckled his suspenders, dropped his trousers, and hit me in the chest knocking me backwards onto the bed. “But you’d better scream like it hurts.” He never even took his boots off.
I did my best for him. I screamed like he said, quiet though, so as not to summon Leon again. I even cried a little too, which wasn’t really pretending. Fresh cut onions couldn’t sting any worse then the smell of him.
Karl went on forever. He kept having problems staying firm. Reputation was he always had problems and that’s why Marie insisted Abbie charge him extra. He kept having to stop and then start again. I allowed myself to fear it was on account of me in spite of what I heard, but I kept my mouth shut and pretended I didn’t know there was anything wrong.
Most of the way, he just made noises while I tried not to. Abbie’s advice was, “If your mouth has any business bein open, it knows what to say.” I didn’t know what to say.
It was Karl whose words shocked me proper.
“Call me Daddy,” he said.
“Pretend I’m your God-damned Daddy,” he said.
For a minute, I was in some other place, like another world. I was six again and it really was my first time. My thoughts, everything just spun around me like to make me dizzy. Saying Daddy, and pretending Karl was, were two different things. He wasn’t anything like Daddy. He was ugly, he smelled worse than Daddy’s worst days and he didn’t feel the same at all. I didn’t know what to do.
“Daddy,” I finally squeaked in confusion.
It seemed I didn’t offend him, so I said it again. And again. Karl’s problem went away and after a few minutes, I finally felt him finish. No sooner than he was done, he was up.
There is no way to explain what I felt. It was like someone sucked all of my life out of me and my skin was just an empty sack, all wrinkled and useless, left laying there on my bed. Marie’s words from my first night at the Inn kept running through my head. “It just ain’t natural.”
Karl got up and pulled his trousers back up. “Stupid whore ain’t no God-damned virgin,” he muttered to himself, fastening his suspenders back up.
The money stayed on the table when he picked up his hat and left my room. I heard him bark it again at Abbie still waiting nervously outside my door. She followed his heavy feet down the hall and then I heard them clomp, clomp, clomp, down the stairs.
I got up from the bed and walked over to the money. I thumbed my fingers through the meaningless denominations and tossed it back down. Karl’s stench clung to my body like a spray from a polecat. I went back to the boudoir, and sprayed on a little perfume to help erase it.
Abbie came into my room. “That’s it for today,” she said. She picked up the money from the table, counted it, and started back out, but then she stopped. “Sorry bout him, Kate,” she said, without looking at me. She peeled off a couple of bills and tossed them back on the table again. “A little extra for the abuse,” she glanced half in my direction.
“Thank you, Abbie,” I smiled.
She left without another word. I sat back down on the cushioned stool and turned to look in my mirror. I leaned forward, brushing my finger over the black eye hiding under my cosmetics and quietly mouthed the words Karl had grumbled on his way out.
“Stupid whore ain’t no God damned virgin…”
© 2012 Anne Schilde