The Streetwalker

A short story, written by Kade Hansson

I was surrounded by steam, but my eyes were wide open. I would have to tend my hair, but there was no need to wash it again tonight. The steam soon cleared as I tentatively pushed aside the frosted glass. I caught the reflection of my face across the room as an unwelcome draft chilled my bare skin, and I shivered just as my long limbs touched the bath mat. Perhaps I hestitated slightly at the unexpectedly cool air, but soon enough the rest of me appeared in the wall mirror too.

I felt positive about what I saw, reinforcing my belief that I was ultimately still a desirable creature, even if recently no-one had told me so. I casually grabbed a towel and wrapped it around my significant mammory endowment, then hooked it in place as I had a thousand times before. I paused again before I moved one hand down the towel to my belly and the other to my bum, ostensibly to dry myself, but eventually one hand wandered further. I made a sound which embarassed me slightly, but I smiled despite myself, secure, yet somehow melancholy in the knowledge I was completely alone. The sensations as mind followed body reminded me of lovers past and future. Bluntly, I longed for sex. I wanted a male body so badly that I would have lunged upon any man that entered the room at that moment. Eventually, as I released the towel to actually dry something, I sighed at reality.

All done, I let the towel drop to the floor, fully exposing my form in the mirror now that all the steam had gone. I approached the mirror with a devilish smile. Soon the hair dryer was humming in my hands. As it blew my naturally pale hair in its warm wind, I resumed my wanton and lusty thoughts, this time more specific than before, as I imagined warm hands of a dark-haired stranger I would probably never see again massaging my scalp. I grew bored of my new fantasy much more quickly, so I turned the dryer off and brushed my locks instead, until they were as perfect as my skin. Why had I imagined someone in particular? That always spoiled it.

I picked a carefully chosen spray that I had already sat on the benchtop earlier, and imagined the minuscule droplets in my mind's eye as I felt the cool cloud wrap itself around every curve and crevasse of my body. My skin was tingling and cool as it soaked up the droplets, but the scent was vaguely repugnent to me. It was an offensive odour really at this intensity. But I knew it would not be as intense as this when I left the bathroom. After replacing the crystal bottle on the counter, I playfully placed my hand behind my head, pursed my lips and posed for the mirror as if it were some demented paparazzi. It truly was a ridiculous image, and I made a ridiculous suppressed giggling laugh to go along with it as if to underline it.

There was a stool in the corner, with a towel draped over it, a more dressed-up version of the one now crumpled on the floor. A fresh pack of the most luxuriant hose I could find at my local 24-hour market was soon on the floor, and after some careful work with long but dull-edged ruby nails, I was sitting with the bunched up wad of sheer material in my hands. My knees lifted up to my bosoms, I raised my left foot into an almost invisible hoop, and slowly unrolled the wad surrounding it to the ankle. Then I did the same with my right foot and its similarly invisible hoop.

Feet back flat on the cold tiled floor, I pulled the bunched hose, first left then right, up and around my knees and onto my thighs. The last set of movements to get them up around my waist were much less delicate, as in my experience, the danger of a tear or a run was gone by that point. I was left with a satisfying dark grey sheen and a slightly aroused feeling about the snug fit, although as always the gusset was disappointing. I really should go old school next time, I thought to myself, totally impractically.

I threaded my legs through a black lycra leotard and stretched it over my shoulders, pushing my arms into the sleeves. It was very tight, probably not worn since high school. I was only a little bigger in the chest these days, but I chose it because it followed every contour, exaggerating my breasts just nicely. Finally, I sat back down and finished the whole provocative yet deliberately minimal ensemble with some highly-polished midnight stilettos I had admittedly worn to work more than once. It was probably a bit too early to put on my heels, as it turned out. I wobbled badly as I pulled the stool over to my magnifying mirror.

After a brief cleanse, my routine involved working a large amount of liquid foundation into the skin with my fingers. It always took some time before I would finally take a large brush to some powder, carefully daubing it onto my face. That night was no different. The next layers would put the colour back much more precisely than mother nature. All the while, two rows of brushes would haphazardly line up beside my make-up mirror on the left and my simple all-in-one palette on the right.

Switching from brushes briefly, I drew in the upper lash line in midnight blue. Rarely did I achieve perfection with the troublesome liquid, but I think I may have that night. The pencil I used for the other lines was not as satisfying in that respect. A first-time drag queen could have done those with her pencil, really. But the liquid needed real control that only careful practice at a mirror every day could bring.

Finally, all my brushes revealed, I took the final one to apply some daylight blue tones from my lids to my eyebrow. I blinked and smiled at myself. My eyes no longer belonged to me. I took my boldest lip gloss and painted my lips until they were the sluttiest red, with a lustre that would put precious metal to shame. As I fastened some gaudy gold earrings to my pierced lobes, I once again took time to stare deeply at my reflection. How could a man turn me down, I asked myself. I stood up and swiveled back and forth to judge the entire package with a similar air of satisfaction.

From my long straight golden tresses, down to my polished midnight shoes, I was convinced I was as sexy as any woman could be. I was going to have sex, and I was going to enjoy it. Maybe even make some not insignificant pocket change at the same time. I hooked my purse over my shoulder and stepped out of the room, lightly touching the light switch as I left the room, leaving my brushes and palette behind in total darkness.

It was ice cold on the street, and I had to work very hard to stop myself from shivering. I wasn't alone. Others lined the shadows, likely with much more experience than me. They wore very little, as did I. But they seemed much more resilient to the cold night air.

I put a cigarette to my mouth and inhaled the warmth, hoping it would also make me look more "professional". The taste was reassuring and familiar, in stark contrast to the environment in which I had placed myself that evening. A tall thin woman dressed in a short red dress across the street looked accusingly at me, so I blew smoke in her general direction. She didn't notice, of course, but I felt better having done it. A short stocky man in a grey trenchcoat walked up to her and she smiled a less than genuine smile as she looked down at him. After a short discussion, the man put his arm around the woman and they walked back up the street from where the man had come.

I dragged on my cigarette again, and blew the smoke out my nostrils. The icy wind made my legs feel numb. I touched them with my free hand and it reminded me of the cold shock I got when I touched the metal railing on the stairs outside my apartment building. Another man, a tall guy in a business suit, walked past me, and stopped a little way down from where I was standing. He had found another working girl in the darkness. As they walked back past me, I took one last desperate breath through my almost exhausted cigarette, before dropping it on the ground. I couldn't see the expressions on their faces, as there was much less light on this side of the street. Which is probably why I chose it. I wasn't as sure now as when I had first arrived. But that was clearly a clever bit of a self-delusion, or otherwise I wouldn't be hiding like this, I thought to myself. I had never really been sure.

As I twisted my foot on the butt, another man walked up and stood several metres from me. He looked at me up and down. I managed an uncertain smile. He frowned, turned and walked away in a hasty motion. I knew, of course, in my rational mind that he had caught my uncertainty, and interpreted it. But I still felt personally rejected. Unwanted and ugly. Cold and alone. No more bathroom mirror to convince myself otherwise, I just felt my heart sinking with the harsh reality of the world.

I took another cigarette from my purse and lit it. I began to feel better after I took a long drag through it, the familar aromas once again soothing me, transporting me to a more comfortable place. The alleyway behind the office I worked, the balcony of my apartment. Anywhere but here. Eventually, that fag was too was exhausted, and took its place beside the half-dozen others on the pavement. I was about to begin the cycle again when something warm touched me on the shoulder. I turned quickly and was greeted by the silhouette of a tall man. Probably not that tall, actually, but that was my first impression. Somehow, as I studied him in the dim light, he didn't seem like he belonged to this shady world. Which was a slight comfort to me. But I was still shaking inside.

"Sorry if I startled you," he said, gently.

"It wasn't your fault," I said, as he shifted into the light. I could finally look into his eyes. I stared deeply as if I could somehow see straight into his soul. They were sad eyes. Worried eyes. Suddenly I felt unconfortable. I had stared too long, so I quickly looked to the ground, and we didn't say anything for a few minutes. I took the time to try and think how a "professional" would act. Could I pull it off?

"I... I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do." He was very nervous. Probably not a regular, I said to myself, evaluating the situation dispassionately.

"Why don't you take me to your place, sir." I suggested, resting my head on his chest. He put his arm around me and shook his head.

"I can't. Is there somewhere else we can go?" he asked.

"My place," I replied, leaving his embrace and walking back up the street. The man didn't move for a while. I turned back. He was looking at the ground. Ashamed? He looked up with a troubled face that I couldn't quite read. I smiled somewhat weakly. Without changing expression he walked up beside me and put his arm around me again.

"Lead the way," he said, solemnly. We plodded off into the darkness.

I pushed my apartment door open and walked inside. It was warm, and quite homely. I began to wonder why I had left it that night. Dim green light filtered in from one of the front windows. It was from a large neon sign outside the window. I paused on the way to the bedroom. I turned and saw the man taking off his coat and folding it over the back of a chair. He was a big man, very attractive. Very sexy. I guess that hadn't really been a given, so I sighed more with relief than desire.

I began to remember why I had gone out on the street. I had gone out, not as a lonely girl looking for some company, but simply a whore looking for a man to go to bed with. I felt guilty, but I was ultimately determined to continue to live out my fantasy. After all, I had always secretly wanted to have a one night stand. To simply make love. To forget about the burdens and complexities of a permanent relationship.

Continuing into the dark bedroom, I threw my purse on a chair and pulled my arms out of the sleeves of the leotard. I slid it off my body, kicking off my high-heels. My breasts had escaped their cruel envelope, and I began to feel less constricted and more free to move. As I was carefully removing the pantyhose, the man entered the room. He was unbuttoning his shirt, revealing his chest. I smiled at him and got into bed. I lay there, with my hands folded on the covers as I watched him pull down his trousers. It all seemed to be progressing unbearably slowly. I continued to watch him remove his shoes and socks, and finally pull down his underpants. I grinned broadly and gestured for him to come to me. He reluctantly moved forward. I could see this wasn't going to be easy.

I threw the sheets back and stood up on the bed, and started to sway my hips. I pursed my lips and blew him a kiss. He smiled cautiously and got up on the bed with me. I had no time for his reluctance, so I fell back and pulled him down with me. I clutched his head against my breasts. He groaned. Relief? Happiness? I gasped, more at his cold face than anything else. But as I noticed his penis began to stiffen against my thigh, I started to feel slightly more in the moment. Feelings of true passion were emerging by the time he chose light kissing as his first act of active participation. As he worked from my head and toes, alternately, proceeding slowly inward, I began to feel both loneliness itself and my utter despair of it receding.

He didn't ace the test, as I had expectation of a little more fooling around. But I found myself quite ready for something more when I felt his penis plunge into my cunt. With a powerful stroke, I knew the fantasy was real. This was exactly what I needed. Wonderful beyond any ability I have to describe it. Primal instincts older than either he or I took over, and I felt as if my consciousness had been flung into the furthest reaches of the universe. Our bodies were as one for a time, and while there were screams on my side of the oneness and groans on his side, both of us were, in our own unique voices, expressing the same joy. Sheer delight at the pleasures of carnal knowledge. Finally, at the crescendo of our love-making, his spunk flowed into my undulating body. I closed my eyes, my other senses suddenly intensifying. Time stood still, and we moaned and panted happily until exhaustion would not allow our mutual joy to continue. He slowly withdrew and I began to relax my tired muscles. He rolled onto the bed beside me as the act was now completed. I snuggled up against him and could hear his fast heartbeat and slow breathing clearly with my ear to his warm, modestly hairy chest. We were both breathless, of course, but I couldn't help think I could do it all again in a few minutes even if he could not. He put his arm around me, and we didn't say a word. I didn't know if that was the way of these things or not. There were no rules, just us.

Part of me felt relief. But guilt lingered. The urges that had haunted me for months were beginning to ebb away, but they were overtaken by something else. It's one thing to have a hooker fantasy, quite another to play it out in all its reality and awkwardness. Whatever happened to not imagining specifics, I thought to myself. Not only have you imagined a particular man, you've brought him up from the street with you!

But despite my doubts I lay there, I began to feel happy, really happy, for the first time in ages. I began to wonder whether I was now destined to become a streetwalker for life. Certainly, I had no financial reason to be, although some extra money in life never hurts. Then again, I imagined that I could make more money as a whore than as a mild-mannered doctor's receptionist.

With that thought, I drifted off to sleep.

I awoke to find two hundred dollars on the pillow beside me. The man had gone. The man? I didn't even know his name. Guilt and anger began to rise like a tide. I got up and hastily stuffed the money in my purse and lit a cigarette. As I smoked it, I looked out the window at the street below. It seemed empty and quiet. For a second, I thought that perhaps I was not just alone in the apartment, but the whole world of people had gone away too.

A knock on the door startled me. I swung round and called out, "Just a minute." I quickly slipped into a nightie and wrapped myself in a dressing gown. Moving over to the door, I opened it. It was Michelle, a girlfriend who lived downstairs from me.

"Hi, Angie," she said briskly, coming in and sitting at the dining table. I shut the door behind her.

"Hi, Michelle," I said groggily, puffing on my cigarette. I went over to the bench and turned the kettle on. I got out the cups and shovelled some coffee and sugar into them.

"Who is he?" she asked.

"Who is who?"

"The guy who came out a few minutes ago. Who is he?"

I hesitated. I was to ashamed to tell the truth. Maybe I could dodge it.

"Just a friend," I said coolly, putting the cigarette to my mouth. I watched a grin form on her face.

"Yeah, right. What did you two get up to last night?" asked Michelle. I quickly looked away and took another breath through my cigarette.

"This and that," I replied. The kettle began whistling and I promptly turned it off.

"Oh I see..." said Michelle. I went to get the milk from the refrigerator. "So how was he?"

It was plain that she knew what happened. She could read me like a book. It scared me. Perhaps she knew about the whole affair, but just wanted to hear it from me. I could tell her a partial truth. After all, she was a good friend.

"He was alright," I replied, with a smile. I poured the coffee and brought the cups to the table.

"Alright?" she enquired, raising an eyebrow. She took a sip of her coffee. I took a final puff of my cigarette and butted it in the ashtray.

"Okay. He was terrific," I confessed. There was no keeping feelings from Michelle. I held the coffee cup to my mouth.

"Terrific, eh? So who is he, really?"

"Er... Simon. We're old friends," I replied hastily.

"Old friends, indeed. Tell me the truth, Angela," said Michelle. She was losing her patience. The smile had disappeared from her face. I put both hands around my mug and put it to my face, letting the steam warm it.

"OK," I finally conceded. "I don't even know the guy."

Michelle looked shocked, but she seemed much less shocked than I expected. She must have already guessed. "You're kidding."

"Not at all. A one night stand. I don't even know his name."

There was silence for a few minutes. Michelle stared into her coffee, periodically sipping it. Well, I'd told her most of the truth now. But, she could go deeper yet. I lit another cigarette.

"Your becoming a chain-smoker. You know that?" said Michelle quietly. She didn't look at me. I took a long breath through the cigarette and turned to blow the smoke away from Michelle. She despised smoking.

"Yeah. Things are getting me down." Michelle looked up at me. She stared at me, as if trying to see inside my soul, to what I was really thinking.

"Getting you down enough to turn you into a slut?"

"I am not a slut!" I exclaimed, defensively.

"Whore. Streetwalker. Hooker. Call it what you will. I saw you leave last night, Angie." I finished my coffee and took another puff on my cigarette. I stared at the table.

"You don't understand. I only wanted someone to keep me warm."

"Bullshit. Face it, Angela Harper, you wanted sex so bad you went out on the streets to get it," yelled Michelle, angrily. My guilt began to swell. Tears formed in my eyes and I put the cigarette to my mouth again.

"My life's a bore, Michelle. A fucking bore!" I cried. Michelle got up and walked over to me. She put her arm around me.

"It is not a bore. You just made a mistake, that's all. Things got on top of you," she said softly.

"Was it a mistake, Michelle? You know what?" I asked, puffing on my cigarette. "I enjoyed myself so much, I'm seriously thinking of taking up prostitution full-time."

Michelle stood up and stared accusingly at me. "You've changed, Angie. What happened to the kind and happy girl I used to know?"

"The kind and happy girl got sick and tired of being kind and happy, and boring. There's more to life than being a fucking receptionist."

"And there's more to life than being a fucking whore. At least being a receptionist is respectable. How many respectable prostitutes have you heard of, eh?"

"Alright, Alright! I won't become a prostitute," I sobbed. "But I enjoyed it, Michelle."

"I probably would've too. But it's not... well, it's not right." I butted the cigarette and looked up at Michelle and sighed.

"I know its not. But last night was so... wonderful, I can't help feeling regretful that it was probably the first and last time I'll ever have sex," I said.

"The first time?" asked Michelle. "You mean you haven't been to bed with a guy before. You're almost 28, Angie!"

"I was desperate. I was beginning to think there was something wrong with me. Nobody has ever even asked me out, let alone invited me to bed," I explained. Michelle looked stunned. She sat back in her chair.

"I had no idea," said Michelle. "Why didn't you tell me?"

"Why should I tell you? My private life is really none of your business."

"And it's none of your business either, by the sound of it," she commented. She paused. "Perhaps you should see a shrink."

"What on earth for?"

"Your contemplating being a full-time prostitute."

"I wouldn't really."

"You sounded pretty sure a minute ago."

I looked out the window. "Well, I'm not. I'm confused. I want sex, Michelle. Is that wrong."

"Not at all. Everyone wants sex. But, going to the streets to get it is wrong."

"Why? People have done it for centuries."

"Exactly. People also kept slaves for centuries. We were treated like dirt for centuries. Don't you see?"

"But that doesn't make prostitution wrong, does it?"

"I think your talking yourself back into it."

I turned back to Michelle. "Don't you want sex?"

"Yes. But not for the sake of it. I want someone to be with, not just to have sex with and forget about it."

"Come with me. I'll show you what it's like," I suggested.

Michelle looked appalled. "You've got to be joking. I thought I'd gotten through!"

I slammed my fists on the table. "Your not seeing it from my perspective," I yelled. "Come with me next Saturday, and you'll find out just how wonderful sex without obligation is."

Michelle turned away. What was going through her mind. Would she give me a chance? Perhaps I really was losing my sanity. It was several minutes later that Michelle finally spoke.

"I'll do it," she said, quietly. "But for you. Not for me."

"Oh, there'll be something in it for you. And not only a man either," I said, taking the two hundred dollars and waving it in the air.

"For one night?" she asked.

"For one night," I replied. I smiled and Michelle managed a half-smile.

I admired Michelle as we stood at the mirror. Her long black hair, like my own blonde locks, came down past her shoulders. Her exceedingly short red dress followed every contour of her much more hourglass body as closely as the black one I wore followed my only slightly less curvy lines. Both of us were wearing my favourite red lip gloss with Michelle's choice of purple shades of shadow. So it was we werea matching set. Michelle fastened my faux diamond earrings as I put her string of fake pearls around her neck.

"I'm not sure about this," said Michelle, threading her belt round her waist. I smiled.

"Don't worry, Michelle. I'll be with you," I said, as she buckled the belt. I felt like I was doing the right thing. Maybe. Was I wrong to bring Michelle into my fantasy world?

Michelle smiled at the mirror as she put her hands on her hips. "What do you think?"

"Not bad."

"Not bad? Who could resist me?" laughed Michelle.

"Many people. It's a jungle out there, Michelle."

"Look, Angie. If you can get laid, so can I," she retorted.

"That's the spirit. Now tonight, I'm taking a jacket," I said, walking into my bedroom.

"You better get one for me too," called Michelle. I picked two jackets out of the wardrobe. When I returned, Michelle was shaking at the front door. I put the jacket around her and then put mine on.

"A bit cold is it? Wait 'til were outside."

"But we shouldn't be cold for long should we?" asked Michelle, with a wry grin. I opened the door and Michelle stepped out. I followed and shut the door behind her.

"I don't know. Business may be slow tonight," I chuckled. We made our way down the stairs and into the street. In a few minutes, the cold air had numbed my legs again. The sheer pantyhose offered almost no protection to the cold night air.

"You're n-not wrong about the c-c-cold," commented Michelle as we plodded down the street. "What if someone picks you up first?"

"I'll make him go with you," I replied. We walked several blocks before Michelle spoke again.

"You know what, Angie?"


"I'm a bit excited."

"Really?" I asked, knowingly. We laughed as we walked into the night. I began to feel a little better. Maybe Michelle was beginning to see things my way.

Finally, we reached our destination. Once again, I was amongst professionals. Michelle and I found a wall in the shadows to lean against. I pulled out a cigarette and lit it. As I took the first puff, Michelle gave a sigh. I guessed she was disapproving of my habit again.

"What's it really like?" asked Michelle. I inhaled another breath through my cigarette. The end glowed as the oxygen aided the combustion.

"You'll find out. But, I'll say this- It's addictive," I laughed, blowing smoke over my red lips. Michelle gave a chuckle too. We didn't say anything else for several minutes. I took a last drag on my cigarette and tossed it on the ground, stepping on it with my foot.

"It's not rough is it?" asked Michelle, worriedly.

"We'll it wasn't for me. But, hey. Getting it rough is probably a bit more fun."

"I don't know, Angie."

Michelle was having second thoughts. The sooner a guy showed up, the better. As if answering a prayer, a man walked up to us. He examined us, as if we were a commodity. In a way I suppose we were. He smiled at Michelle, and Michelle smiled back. But her smile seemed somewhat fraudulent, at least to me. But did he buy it?

"How much, babe?" he asked, leaning against a pole. Michelle hesitated.

"Two hundred."

The guy whistled in amazement. "A bit steep. But, I'm sure we can negotiate. What do you say?"

Michelle smiled, for real this time. She snuggled up to him. He put his arm around her and walked off into the darkness. She was gone. I began to feel guilty again. I had turned my best friend into a hooker. I began to question whether I had done the right thing. I lit another cigarette and waited.

I awoke early the next morning, still in the black dress. The night had been miserable. I had stood in the cold until just after 2 AM, before making my way home. Every muscle ached and I felt stiff and nauseous as I lay on my bed, sun shining in my eyes. No-one had taken me home. No-one had made love to me. I sat up and immediately felt worse. An altogether unexpected yet familiar feeling welled up from my stomach, and I quickly ran to the toilet.

I vomited for several minutes, and that awful taste filled in my mouth. You know the one? I flushed the toilet and got shakily to my feet. I wasn't feeling well at all. I changed into my nightie and got back into bed. I was about to light a cigarette when someone bashed on my door.

I moaned, got up and put my dressing gown on. As I walked to the door, I almost felt like collapsing. I managed to stay upright and I collected myself to open the door. It was Michelle. She looked terrible. She stumbled into my apartment and slumped face-down onto the couch. I shut the door and went over too her.

I rolled her limp body over. She still wore her red dress, but it was torn. She had two black-eyes and had deep cuts and dark bruises all over her arms and legs and face. I gaped in amazement for a few minutes, forgetting my own pain. Hurriedly, I went and got a first-aid kit and made some coffee.

I came back and began cleaning up her wounds. After a few minutes she came around. She half-opened her eyes and managed a small smile. She shut her eyes again.

"Hi Angie," she croaked.

"Here. Have some coffee," I said, giving her a mug. She shook her head gently and put it back on the floor.

"What happened?" I asked softly.

"He raped me, Angie," she whispered. I had guessed as much. It horrified me what had happened to her. I felt responsible. It was my fault. I got her into this.

"Who did?" I asked. "Was it the man who took you last night?" She nodded.

"He bashed me. He threw me around. Then he'd play with..." she explained, quietly. She started to cry. I put my arm around her.

"It's alright. He's gone now. I'm here."

"It hurts, Angie. It hurts everywhere. Everywhere!" she sobbed. Tears began to form in my eyes. What had I done? I lifted her up and carried her to my bed. I lay her down on her side and unzipped her dress. As I pulled it off I cried even more. She was right. There were wounds all over her. She was bruised from head to toe. Her dress was soaked in blood. I gulped and tried to find some words.

"I'm sorry," I finally managed to say.

"It's not your fault. I should have known better," she said, weakly. "Get an ambulance." I ran to the phone and dialled emergency.

"Ambulance. My friend's hurt pretty bad," I sobbed. "She's been cut up and bruised and... and raped." I quickly lit a cigarette and took a deep breath through it. The woman at the other end paused before asking where I was. "Apartment 3B, 145 Belle Vue Street," I replied. I hung up and went back to the bedroom.

I sat on the bed beside Michelle and stared at the wall. I didn't want to look at her. I began to feel sick again. I dragged on the cigarette some more, and immediately felt worse.

"You were right," I said. I turned to Michelle and looked at her staring at the ceiling. She was tensed up, as if holding back her pain.

"It was terrible, Angie. He made me do it all night. If I wouldn't do it, he'd throw me around or cut me with his knife," she whispered, staring glassy-eyed at the ceiling. "And when I did give in he poked his finger in and wiggled it. Then he said, 'Let's see if two will fit.' He cut the skin and pushed two in. Then he tried..." sobbed Michelle, shaking. I shuddered as I imagined how it must've felt. I took another breath of cigarette smoke.

"It is my fault, Michelle. I did this to you."

"No you didn't. I wanted sex. It's my fault, and I'm going to pay for it."

"The doctor'll fix you up. I'll help you get over it," I promised, wiping the tears from my eyes and turning to face her.

"You don't understand. I'm finished. I'm ruined. There's no point..." Michelle closed her eyes and relaxed herself. Her abused body looked beyond repair. Her mutilated breasts were stained, and a pool of blood surrounded her genitals. I crawled over to her and lifted her hand and pressed it in mine.

"You can't die Michelle. You can't," I cried. I checked for a pulse. It was still there, but it was faint. I heard sirens in the street below. I ran to the window and looked down into the street. An ambulance was parking at the side of the road. I watched as the attendants lifted a stretcher out of the back and disappear into the building. I took another breath through my cigarette and butted it in the ashtray on the bedside table. I ran to the apartment door and stepped into the corridor. The attendants appeared at the top of the stairs and I called to them. Then everything went black. I had passed out.

I awoke to find myself in a hospital bed. A police officer was sitting on a chair across from me. I sat up and began to feel ill. "I'm afraid I've got some bad news," said the officer, solemnly. Tears welled up in my eyes and my stomach turned.

"She's dead?" I asked quietly. The officer nodded.

"I'm afraid so. Do you know what happened to her?"

Tears ran down my cheeks. I felt guilty. It was all my fault. "She was raped."

"Do you know who did it?"

I gave a description of the man.

"Was she a hooker?"

"No," I quickly replied. I hesitated before adding, "Well, she wasn't before last night. It was all my fault, officer. I took her out..." I broke off and closed my eyes. I still felt sick.

"Maybe I should come back later," he said. I nodded weakly and he got up and left the room. I was about to doze off when the doctor came in.

"Hello Angela. I'm very sorry about your friend," he said solemnly. It was Doctor North, the doctor whom I worked for. He sat in the chair the officer had dragged up.

"I suppose you aren't ready to talk about that, though. So, I've got some good news for you instead." Good news? What could possibly be good about that day?

"Huh?" I grunted, puzzled.

"You're suffering from morning sickness, Angela. You're pregnant." I lay there shocked. I didn't even know the father. I began to feel even more guilt.

"No. There must be a mistake. I don't want a child," I cried. The doctor frowned.

"Well, it's your decision. But, as your friend, I think you should go full-term. There are many people who do want children, but can't have them, you know. Hey, you may even decide to keep it."

It was all too much to take. I closed my eyes and slipped into unconsciousness.

I lay in my bed, staring mindlessly at the ceiling, periodically taking a breath through my cigarette. I had never felt worse in my life. I had killed my best friend. But, she hadn't just been shot in the head. She had been hideously tortured. Piles of ash lay on the sheet around me, and the ashtray beside me was overflowing with cigarette butts. My eyes were sore and bloodshot, and large purple bags had formed under them. My cheeks were tear stained. I wondered whether I'd ever get over Michelle's tragic death.

Then there was that illegitimate child starting to grow in my womb. "Simon's" child. I didn't even know its father. All because of a hot one-night stand. All because I wanted to have sex.

"I'm sorry, Michelle," I sobbed as I butted yet another cigarette in the ashtray. I just kept saying it over and over. I hoped it might do some good. But the more I said it the more meagre my apology seemed. Especially since there was no-one around to hear it but me. Little old hot-to-trot me. Suddenly the phone rang, and I sat up in surprise, throwing the piles of ash onto the floor. I reached over and picked up the receiver, sniffed and held it to my mouth.

"Angela Harper," I said quietly.

"Jeremy Miles."

"I'm sorry. Have we met?" I asked. I started to blink my eyes in an effort to dry them.

"You could say that, Angela. You invited me around to your place Saturday night, week before last," came the reply. "I want to see you again."

"Oh," I said quietly. I paused. The silence lasted for quite a while. "Why?" I finally asked. I had already guessed he wanted another night of unbridled passion. He hesitated too. I read it as fear.

"I really like you, Angela. I'd like to go out with you sometime. Dinner perhaps?"

"You mean like a date?" I asked, surprised. "That's all?"

"Look, if you don't believe in getting romantically involved..." he replied.

"I'd love to."

"Pardon?" he asked, taken aback.

"I said, I'd love to go out with you."

He gave a muted chuckle of delight. "When would be best for you?"

"Tonight," I replied. I smiled briefly, but guilt soon made it vanish. "There's something I need to tell you... Jeremy wasn't it?"

"Yes, that's right. Go right ahead," he said. He sounded so polite and refined. It was hard to believe he was the man I had picked up on the street only a fortnight before. I gulped. How could I tell him?

"I'm pregnant," I finally muttered. I almost cringed as I waited for the reply.

"Are you sure it's mine?" he asked after a long pause. It was a reasonable question. For all he knew, I was a professional prostitute.

"Look, I'm going to level with you. You are the only man I have ever made love to. I'm afraid there's no question."

A slight pause. "I had no idea it was you're first time. You seemed so... experienced."

"Is that a compliment?"

"Of course. Well, I guess we'd better have this date and work things out. How about I pick you up around eight?" he asked. "By the way, I don't think the restaurant finds leotards appropriate dress," he added, managing a small chuckle. But his voice was a little worried.

"Eight would be fine," I told him. I wiped the tears from my eyes with the back of my hand.

"Great. See you then," he said.

"Yeah. See you," I said, hanging up the phone. Part of me was happy, but another part of me was guilty. Very guilty. I sat there for half-an-hour, deciding whether I was doing the right thing. But I had that damned child to think of. I had always wanted children, but not like this. I started to clean up the disgusting mess that filled my apartment.

There came a knock at the door, and I immediately opened it. I had been standing there waiting. It wasn't even eight o'clock, but I had been waiting. Jeremy was surprised by my quick response. I probably seemed overly anxious. He quickly composed himself and presented me with some flowers he was holding behind him.

"Flowers? Thank you," I said, as I took them. I was staring at him, as if I were trying to reinforce the fuzzy image of a face I had been remembering for days. He smiled.

"Roses, actually. Is something wrong?" he asked. I turned away and walked back into my apartment.

"No. Nothing's wrong. Please, come in," I said, gesturing to the couch. I heard his footsteps behind me. I felt his hands touch on my shoulders as I put the flowers in a vase. I shrank away, and the vase fell onto the floor and shattered into a thousand pieces.

"I'm sorry," he said, as I turned back to face him. His face seemed gentle enough; caring. I began to look at it as if it revealed a personality. I managed a small smile.

"No. It's not your fault," I said apologetically. I paused. "I'm just a little tense, that's all."

He frowned, as he knelt on the floor and gathered the pieces of the vase. "I suppose I am too," he said, shyly. I knelt down and helped him. We looked at each other, and stared into each others eyes for a while.

"Why do you like me?" I asked, in a trance. He took my hand and held it gently.

"I don't know. I just do. You seemed so real—not like I imagined a prostitute. But then, you're not. I had suspected... No, I hoped you weren't."

"Then you don't just like me because of my looks?" I asked. Great— now he knew I was immodest. He showed me a half-smile.

"Not now. But still, I don't know much about what's on the inside," he said, gathering the pieces he had found. After he was finished he stood up. I quickly collected together the pieces I had found and I stood up beside him, gently tugging at his shirt to help me get up.

"Where do you want these?" he asked. I walked over to the garbage bin and pushed my foot down on the pedal. The lid sprang up and I realised that it was filled with cigarette butts and ash. I dropped the pieces of the vase in and tried to cover it. But he was right behind me, and must've seen the unsightly refuse. He sighed and dropped his significantly more sizable collection of fragments of porcelain in, and I released the pedal. The lid fell back down and I turned back to face him.

"So, where are we going?" I asked quickly, trying desperately to make sure that he didn't have the chance to say anything about smoking.

"You'll see. It's a surprise," he replied. "Angela, what's making you tense? Look, if you don't want to go out, I'll understand."

"Look, I'm fine," I snapped. A lump formed in my throat as I thought of Michelle. I shuddered and tears began to form in my eyes again. I stepped quickly over to my handbag sitting on the bench. I pulled a cigarette from the packet and held it between my fingers as I fumbled to find my lighter. I found myself looking at Jeremy again. He watched me worriedly.

"Maybe I should go," he said.

"No. Don't go. Please, don't leave," I pleaded, dropping the cigarette on the floor. My hand was shaking.

"Do you want to talk about it?"

"About what?" I snapped, defensively. He walked over to the table and sat down. He sat back in the chair and glanced towards me.

"I'm sorry I got you pregnant. I should've been more careful. But, I'm willing to help," he said.

"It's not that," I said, bending over to pick up the cigarette. I stood back up and looked at him. "Well, it's part of it," I added, dryly. I shakily put the cigarette between my lips and lit it. I closed my eyes as I took a deep breath through it. I opened my eyes and slowly let the smoke filter out of my nostrils. Jeremy looked down at the table.

"Level with me, Angela," he ordered, his voice a little more forceful. "I want to help."

"Do you?" I cried, walking to the table. "You're all the same. All you care about is yourself. You just want to get into bed with me again." I started sobbing as sat at the table.

"I do care, Angela. I really do," he said softly, as he looked up at me and put his hand on mine. I took another puff of my cigarette. I tried to calm myself as I gradually exhaled.

"I had a friend called Michelle. She died on Sunday," I whispered, trying desperately not to breakdown.

"I'm sorry," he said, clasping my hand more tightly. Maybe he did care. But, I wasn't convinced.

"Yeah, so am I. Especially since it was all my fucking fault," I told him. I glared into his kind eyes for a second before looking away.

"How could it have been you're fault?" he asked.

"Because, I took her out on the streets with me. Some bastard picked her up..." I said, but I lost my composure and I clamped my mouth shut as tears rolled down my cheeks. I felt sick. "He raped her. Last Sunday morning she came in here, bleeding all over the place," I rasped, before taking another breath through my cigarette. I looked back at him to see his expression. It was that of horror. We remained silent, as I continued smoking my cigarette.

"It could've happened to anyone," he finally managed to say.

"Bullshit," I yelled. "It could only happen to a fucking whore. It should've been me."

"It shouldn't have been anyone. Have they got this bastard yet?" he asked, quietly.

"No," I said. There was another break in conversation. I finished off my cigarette and butted it in the clean ashtray in the middle of the table.

"You can't keep blaming yourself. If any one is to blame it's the bastard who raped her."

"He could've taken me, you know. If he had, she'd still be alive. If I hadn't talked her into tasting life as a hooker, she'd still be here. It was my fucking fault."

"I've got this friend," he said after a short pause. "He's a psychiatrist."

"I'm not gonna see no shrink," I snapped.

"I think you should. And I'll come too. We've got to work through this," he said, kindly, gripping my hand again. His hand was warm, and so was his voice. I smiled dully at him.

"What the hell was a guy like you doing looking for love on the street?" I asked, looking up into his eyes. How could a man be so kind and understanding? I was beginning to think that I was dreaming.

"A long story... May I use your phone?" he asked.

"Go for your life," I said. "Can you get my handbag for me."

"Another cigarette? They'll kill you, you know," he said, standing up and walking over to the bench.

"Spoken like a true non-smoker. When you're hooked, your hooked." He threw my handbag over to me. I reached in and took another cigarette from the pack and lit it.

As I took the first drag, Jeremy said, "They don't do babies much good either, from what I've heard." He sighed again and picked up the phone and punched in a number.

"You're not pregnant. You're not a smoker," I pointed out.

He gave a half smile as he cancelled a reservation at the restaurant. Then he called for a pizza. He hung up the phone, and I paused to admire him as he walked towards me. My mind flashed back to how good he was in bed, I shook my head and then tried to dismiss the thought. There was no room for pleasure. I had killed my best friend. I took a deep breath through my cigarette and blew the smoke down at the table as Jeremy sat back down.

"I've ordered pizza. I hope you don't mind."

"No," I said quietly, aware that his eyes were watching me smoke my cigarette.

He looked down at the table and scratched his head. "I was a virgin until I met you, you know." I looked up at him, surprised.

"You too?" I finally asked. His eyes looked up into mine. He seemed as bewildered as I.

"So, I had sex with a virgin prostitute, and she got pregnant." he observed. He chuckled.

"Why were you out looking for a whore?" I said, continuing to smoke despite Jeremy's obvious disapproval.

"I told a friend of mine I was a virgin, and he talked me into going looking for a hooker. He said I wouldn't like being in a restrictive long term relationship, and that I was better off with a fling. But, I wasn't so sure. That night with you—well, it was just so wonderful. I fell in love. Well, at least I think it's love."

My mouth was open wide. "That's incredible. I wanted a lover so bad I went on the street to find one. I got sick of everyone going on about their new boyfriends and how good they were in bed. I just had to know what it was like—I had to. And then, that night with you, it just... well, it really hooked me."

"Was it me or the sex?"

"I don't know. But then, we were the sex, weren't we."

"I guess so. Look, I know this rape thing must be really hurting. I really do want to help, you know."

He had reminded me. I became fully aware of what I had done again, and I started to sob. I dropped my cigarette on the floor and hid my face in my arms on the table. I felt Jeremy hug me from behind, but I didn't flinch. I was now convinced that he did care.

"It's alright, Angela. Sh," he whispered quietly in my ear. He pecked me on the cheek and rested his head beside mine. "Come on. We'll go and sit on the couch." I stood up slowly and Jeremy lead me over to the couch. We sat down and he put his arms around me and put his head against mine again. He was just so warm and sweet that I became quiet, although tears still streamed down my cheeks. We rocked gently.

"I killed her," I whispered.

"No you didn't. He did. At any rate, it was ultimately her decision to go out with you," he said quietly in a soothing voice. I felt almost as if I were in my daddy's arms once more, and I was a little girl who just had a terrible nightmare.

"But, I talked her into it."

"It wasn't your fault. That bastard raped her. He killed her. Him and him alone," he said. I began to realise he was right. While it was my fault I was beginning to accept that I was blaming myself to too great an extent. I had played only a very small part in Michelle's death—another man and she might've even had a good time. Now, I was starting to feel loved. Jeremy was incredible. Where had he been all my life?

"I love you," I said. I didn't really plan to say it. It just came out. But, I guess that just made it more truthful.

"I love you too."

We held each other for a long while. It was like our first night and I was almost as contented. I no longer regretted being pregnant. The baby had a father, a father I was certain was not about to dodge his responsibility to it. Then it suddenly dawned on me. I was going to be a mother. I was going to raise a kid into adulthood. Nappies. Primary school. The terrible teenage years. It was then that my mind completely reversed. Guilt to joy in ten seconds?

There was a knock at the door. Jeremy slowly prised himself away from me, giving me a loving kiss before he went to answer it. I could tell it was loving—it really meant something to me.

He returned with a pizza. He put it on the coffee table and turned on the TV. He sat beside me, put his arm around my shoulders and waved a slice of pizza under my nose. I took a bite and looked at him. He had the most beautiful smile. I smiled back as I picked a string of cheese out of my teeth and pushed it into my mouth. He took a bite and we finished the slice in similar fashion.

"Do you have a TV guide?"

"Under your cute butt," I said, pinching it on the side. He chuckled and pulled a small booklet from under the cushion. One of his hands went under my dress and tickled my stomach. I writhed and giggled as I pushed his hand away. He studied the guide briefly and then picked up the remote and changed channel. An old black and white film was on. He watched for a while and then reached for the pizza. He gave me a bite and then took one himself, as he put his feet up on the coffee table.

"It just started. It's a favourite of mine. I hope you don't mind black and white."

"It's romantic."

"More romantic with the lights off," he said, handing me his slice of pizza before rushing away to turn the light out. When he returned we snuggled up to each other and finished the pizza, with a lot of giggling, pinching and tickling. We watched the film for a while. He turned to me and smiled. "You'll like the next scene."

"Oh will I?" I asked, with a grin. I turned back to the TV and crossed my arms.

A line of train carriages reflected the flood lights. A woman dressed in a full length white dress was holding both hands of a man in a suit with an old fashioned bowler hat and a cane.

"You can't go. You can't. I will miss you so, Gerard," said the woman.

"Oh, Phillipa. I shall miss you too. But I must go. I will be back. You must not fret for me," came Gerard's reply.

"I love you," she said, releasing his hands. Her eyes were sad.

"I love you also, my dear. On my return, and I promise that I will return, will you be my wife?" he asked, taking one of her hands and kneeling before her.

She smiled and held his hand with both of hers. She shook it. "Of course. I will. I would love to marry you." He returned her smile and got back up. He held his arms out and she fell into them. They embraced each other and kissed. I felt so warm and happy, almost forgetting that it was a fiction. I smiled and turned to Jeremy. He had been watching my expression. He was smiling. He put his other arm around me and I put mine around him. We pulled close together. Our lips met and we kissed. We kissed for a long time. I felt so glad that I almost completely forgot Michelle.

"Will you marry me?" It took a while to sink in. When I finally realised what he was asking, it was too late.

"Of course. I will. I would love to marry you," I said, reciting Phillipa's line. But I didn't want to retract my acceptance. It was almost as if I couldn't say no to this wonderful man. I had been completely swept off my feet. In ten minutes, no less. A new record for... the world probably.

We hugged and kissed for a while before we went to bed. Then we kissed some more before I drifted off to sleep. It had been a long day and a wonderful night.

I let my teeth sink down into a Tim Tam and allowed the sweet taste to fill my mouth. I lay sprawled out on the couch, rather miserable and still in my T-shirt nightie. My hand rested on my bulging lower abdomen as I digested the plot of a late afternoon soap. I was eight months and two weeks pregnant, and Jeremy hadn't let me do anything strenuous for several months.

Not that I felt like doing anything. Moving around was slow and difficult, and I often had to hold my stiff back as a hobbled around our apartment.

Suddenly I was in agony as a sharp pain ripped through my lower abdomen. It was one of those uterine contractions they had talked about in pre-natal classes. I attempted to regulate my breathing as we had been taught, but it didn't seem as easy now. As I tried to get up I glanced at my watch. Quarter past five. Where was he? I felt another sharp pang and lay on the couch. I was reaching for the phone when I heard the door open. Jeremy came in carrying a bag of groceries.

"It's coming, Jeremy," I said slowly, as I got up and moved over to him. Suddenly another jab and I almost collapsed, but Jeremy caught me.

He said quickly, "We'd better get you to hospital. Can you make it down the stairs, Angie?"

"I hope so," I rasped as he led me to the door. We made our way down the stairs. At the bottom I felt my uterus contract again, and I thought the baby was kicking, but I was starting to pass out. We made it to the car and Jeremy lay me in the back seat. I felt terrible, but somehow I was feeling happy at the same time, though I wasn't smiling. Jeremy pulled out from the kerb and we were on our way.

I was propped up on a bed in the delivery room, and I think I was surrounded by doctors and nurses. Jeremy stood beside me and held my hand. I tried to concentrate on the warmth of his hand as an attempted avoidance of the pain of the birth. I was beginning to regret my refusal at the offering of pain killers as the dreaded word was once more uttered amongst the monotone of the doctor's assurances—"Push."

I closed my eyes, and felt a drop of perspiration roll down a closed lid. I took a deep breath and then a natural reflex movement followed. With it came excruciating pain, as I imagined the baby lodging itself in its tunnel to the outside world. I opened my eyes for a moment, taking another deep breath, before closing my eyes and pushing once more.

I lost count of how many times I went through the whole sequence, but I do remember what came of it all. The final effort released me from the ordeal, as I felt little Michelle's head pass the point of no return. For a brief moment, as I felt the rest of her body exit from mine, I was very disturbed, as though I was losing a part of me. But when I heard her cries and found her in my arms, I was overjoyed.

My daughter, beautiful little Michelle, was a new life—one that Jeremy and I had created. It seemed so amazing. I was mesmerized by the wondrous miracle of life that I was holding. It was only then that I stopped blaming myself for her namesake's death. The life I had created had taught me to tolerate death. Death may be an end, but just the same as new life is a beginning.

Exit: The Alpha Collection; Kasoft Typesetting; Archer

This work is a part of the Kasoft Typesetting storybook The Alpha Collection

Kasoft is a registered trademark of Kasoft Software, owned by Kade Hansson.

Copyright 1994-2012 Kade "Archer" Hansson; e-mail: