The 9 year old prostitute
This is one of those stories that I've started and stopped a half dozen times. This time I'm going to finish it no matter how much it hurts.
My best friend had some cousins who lived over on the next block. The older two were both glue heads, the youngest was a prostitute. Her father had been selling her off to friends since she was a toddler. When she was 9, she decided it was time to go into business for herself. After all, why should her father get all the money?
On the outside, she was the perfect All-American girl. She had long blonde hair, lovely blue eyes, and a slender little girl body. On the inside she was hard as nails. She worried a lot about maturing. She thought she would lose a lot of business when she grew breasts. She also worried about getting caught. She only went home when she thought her dad was passed out drunk. If he was awake, he would beat her and take her money. To solve the problem, she carried a certain amount of cash at all times. She had hiding places for the rest.
She had learned the hard way, that her money was never safe in the house; and she hid her earnings in some truly creative places. There were several garages that could be broken into easily, and for a while she hid her cash there. When her brothers caught on and stole it all to buy drugs, she resorted to hiding it in the hubcaps of the neighborhood cars. It was risky; sometimes the money would be discovered, but she saw it as an acceptable risk. At least the money wouldn't be going to her dad.
She spent very little on clothes or make up. She had plans for her earnings. She wanted to go to college (didn't we all!), and be the president of her own corporation. I hope she made it. She was so damned hard. I think she would do well in the corporate world.
I only saw her break down once.
I was out wandering the night, like I sometimes did. It was winter, and it was supposed to drop below freezing that night. As I walked past the Notre Dame school yard, something had me detour. Instead of simply walking past, I entered the school yard and went over by the steps.
She was huddled up in the shadows, wearing nothing warmer than a cardigan. The whole right side of her face was bruised, and there was blood in her very messed up hair.
At first, she wouldn't let me come near her. She kept trying to hide her head. She didn't want me to look at her. She didn't want to be touched. I had no problem with that. Girls weren't allowed to hug each other in my neighborhood.
I thought one of her customers had beaten her up; so I said, "Which guy was it? I'll find him and beat the shit out of him."
She laughed bitterly and said, "It wasn't the customers. I can handle them." And she started to cry. Great, heaving sobs came pouring out of her. I sat down near her, to try and shield her from the wind. I just sat, not knowing what to do; while she cried.
She didn't cry for long, nobody ever did back then. Pretty soon she was telling me the story. I'd like to say my blood ran cold, but it isn't so. It would make for a great story. You know, how I became shocked and horrified; aghast at the cruelty of my fellow human beings. But I too, had grown up here. At 15 years old, her story didn't scare me, it angered me.
When she told me her dad had once again beaten her and taken her earnings, I felt a hard lump of anger in my stomach. When she told me her brothers had held her down while her dad had beaten, and then raped her, I simply added them to my "to-do" list. When she told me they had first pulled out big patches of her hair, and then cut what was left; I put those bastards near the top of my list. And when she told me they had made her get the $600 or so dollars she had hidden, I made their misery my life's work.
She wouldn't go home, but she couldn't stay in the school yard. They would find her there, easily. I told her to come home with me, but she wouldn't. She knew my mom would call the police, and then everyone would know. I suggested that I could walk her to her cousins house. We could sneak her in through the basement window, and nobody would know; but she wouldn't do that either. So I did the only thing I could do. I showed her a warmer, safer place to hide, and loaned her my coat.
I never did get around to killing her family. I suppose it's just as well. I don't think I truly have the stomach for murder. They got some karmic payback anyway. She ran away from home, and was gone for more than a year. During that time, one of the brothers died from drug use. The other one just kind of dropped off the face of the earth. Her father had a stroke, and finally, their home caught fire.
When she came back to the neighborhood, the house was nothing but a brick exterior; sheltering the homeless.
She wasn't very surprised.