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The Paths We Take #9: Meet Nikki

Apr 10, 2018







Good things will soon come into your life. That is what the single sliver of prophetic white paper read after I removed it from among the crushed bits of cookie. That was my fortune when I ordered take-out the day before I was abducted. I was curled up on the bed in my cabin bedroom, wrapped in a red fleece blanket, not knowing if I would be murdered, or worse, and I was thinking about fortune cookies. Get your shit together Claire.

Ariel made it a point to come to my room every couple of hours. She had free roam of the entire compound, a luxury not afforded to me. It was only my second day in my wooden prison, I woke to a blinding vanilla sun bursting through the skylight. I could hear the clicking of metal on metal, and I saw Ariel shuffling through the clothes that Donnelly had given me, the metal hangers clanging together as she pulled dresses out of the closet.

She was holding a black lace shirtdress against her, eyeing the fit. I was a head taller than her, but that wasn’t a problem considering that the dress was stripper-length and would still be inappropriate for most occasions no matter who was wearing it.

“Why don’t you get out of bed?” Ariel asked. “You could go to the kitchen and eat something.”

I had only been in the kitchen once since I arrived, and the only thing that I had eaten was a small tub of raspberry Greek yogurt along with a glass of orange juice to drink. The fridge was full of fresh fruits, cuts of deli meats and cheeses, and anything else that a person could want. I wasn’t one of the damsels in fairy tales, chained in a stone tower, waiting on my prince to save me. No one was coming for me.

I had a dream the night before, that the man who watched as they pulled me into the van was looking for me, but in the dream, he was walking down a path with thick lines of trees on both sides; he was walking away from me. He would glance back occasionally, like he heard me scream, but he kept walking until disappearing in the distance, leaving only the dirt and leaves to hear my plea.

“I can get you something if you want,” Ariel said as she sat down. “They would probably blame me if you starved to death, especially Gramps, that creepy bastard.” She leaned down and put her lips close to my ear and whispered “pretty girl” with an eerie similarity to Gramp’s cigarette-scarred voice.

The bedroom door opened, and Bert appeared. Ariel backed away from me, almost tripping as she backpedaled. She grabbed hold of the edge of the dresser to steady herself, every muscle in her body seemed to stiffen as she stood straight up, like an iron rod replaced her spine. I sat up in the bed, wrapping the blanket tighter around me.

“What you two doing?” Bert asked, his black t-shirt drawn tight to his chest as he thrust his shoulders back, as if he had to make himself even taller than he already was. His eyes were focused on Ariel.

Ariel looked at the floor, her tight jaw shaking as she started to hunch over, but then, like an actor snapping into character, the edges of her lips rose, and her eyes widened. “Just girl chat,” she responded as she put both of her hands on the dresser and lifted herself up to sit down. Bert crossed his arms and leaned against the door frame, his eyes wandered from her face to her bare legs, which were now crossed as she sat on the dresser. He opened his mouth to say something to her, but then turned his eyes towards me.

“You’ve got an hour to get ready,” Bert grunted. I could still feel the ache in my side where he had kicked me in the van. “Oh yeah, I almost forgot, don’t use your real name with the clients; use Nikki.”

Nikki… I wondered who had decided on that name. Probably Gramps; probably his ex-wife’s name or an old girlfriend. I liked it well enough. Given the choice, I would have picked Natasha or Michaela,a good three syllable name, something a little more exotic than Nikki.

Bert closed the door and left after advising me of my one-hour deadline once more. Ariel’s eyes widened as she came back over to the bed and sat down beside me. I pictured an older man in khakis and a red polo, sitting down on the bed, his eyes searching my skin for where he would touch me first. My stomach tightened, and I could feel the bile swirling in the back of my throat. Even the sweet smell of Ariel’s perfume was making me nauseous, and I felt faint.

Ariel rubbed my back as I held my head in my hands with my eyes closed trying to settle the nausea. “It’s like this for everyone their first time,” she said. “I can’t make it any easier, but I can say that the clients are nothing like you see in the movies. Most of them are sweet older guys that need some excitement in their lives, and they have plenty of money to pay for it. Most are regulars.”

Ariel gave me a hug, the kind of full embrace that loved ones give when they know they won’t see you for months, and then she shut the door behind her as she left. I locked the door, I am not sure why, they had a key, but I guess it still gave me some sense of security, even though it was a false one.

After I showered, I put on the ruby-red silk dress that I wore the night before for the photo session. I hated myself for enjoying the dress. I thought to myself, what kind of twisted girl enjoys wearing a dress like this when she knows that what she is about to do is revolting. I could hear my mother saying “That’s what whores wear to meet the devil.”

The door handle jiggled, and I remembered that I had locked the door. I hurried over, unlocked it, and the door inched open. Donnelly was standing there, his navy-blue suit with thin pinstripes looked freshly pressed.

“I’ll walk you to the room,” he said as he held out his arm. The whole thing was surreal, like I was Gloria Grahame in a 1950’s Noir film. I took his arm, and we went up the stairs to the third floor. He led me to another stretch of hallway that came to a sitting area, two paintings of nude women looked down on me from the walls. There was a room with the door shut at the far end of the sitting room, an ominous door, the kind the girl tip-toes up to in the horror movies, and then is brutally murdered on the other side.

“I don’t have to tell you what to do. I do, however, want to let you know that I do make sure that the client is one hundred percent satisfied with his visit,” Donnelly warned, giving me his cool smile as he gestured towards to the door with an open hand.

When I opened the door, I found a young man, younger than me, sitting on the edge of the bed, his hands were flat on the plum colored comforter. He looked like he was nineteen or twenty, not the fifty-four-year-old that I had envisioned. His hair was cut close, almost shaved, and his fresh cobalt eyes were looking directly into mine. He was wearing a charcoal gray button up shirt tucked into his blue jeans, the modern frat-boy look.

I shut the door and took a few steps towards the bed. “Oh… sorry,” he said as jumped up and held out his hand as if to shake mine. I took his hand, the cold sweat slipping onto my skin from his. “I’m Michael,” he stammered, in a choppy voice.

“Nikki,” I said as we sat down on the bed. We sat there, like two stone statues waiting to come to life, neither one of us said another word for what seemed like ten minutes. He just stared at me, and I smiled back, not sure if I should start the conversation or just begin undressing. I was in shock that he was so young, and I wondered why he was here, and not some other older man.

“I’m not sure how this is supposed to go,” he said, breaking the silence. I could see his knee jumping as we watched me with sincere eyes.

“It is supposed to go however you want it to go,” I said. I put my hand on his, and I could almost hear his heart pounding away in his chest. I felt in control, which was not what I had anticipated. “You can kiss me if you want,” I said.

“Sure,” he replied, like an anxious boy ready to try out his new toy. He leaned in and put his lips to mine. It wasn’t strange, it felt more natural than I had remembered a first kiss ever being. I imagined myself still in the 50’s Noir film, the dame that the male lead, the Humphrey Bogart type, would inevitably fall for. We kissed for a few seconds, but Michael pulled away from me.

“I know that we have an hour, but I can’t do this, not right now,” he said. “It’s just not right.”

My relief only lasted for a few seconds until I realized that Donnelly would blame me, and that there would be repercussions for letting Michael leave an “unsatisfied” customer.

I leaned in and whispered into his ear, “It’s okay. We can just talk, and then, when the time is up, you can leave.”

“Okay,” he whispered back as he smiled, his thin lips punctuated at the ends by dimples in his cheeks.

“I just need you to do me a favor. If they ask you, tell them we… you know… it will keep me from getting into trouble,” I explained in a soft whisper, teasing his ear with my breath.

“I will,” he said, his eyes still fixated on mine. “Is this the first time… I mean, am I your first client?” he asked.

“Yes,” I whispered back. However, that was a lie.


© Josiah A. Miller 2018. All Rights Reserved.