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Whores .11: Ofelia

06/09/12

  06:56:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 2783 words  
Categories: Whores

Whores .11: Ofelia

Lisa was full of energy that night. And fear. She had always liked going to bed early, and getting up around the time the sun did. But it was already long past her preferred bedtime. That was likely because her preferred bed was a smoldering little pile of ash, and even within prodding distance of Mae, she couldn?t feel safe.

She also heard noise, movement. Someone else couldn?t sleep, and it kept her on edge. Lisa wondered if she could fall asleep on the couch downstairs, and threw herself off her mattress angrily, planning to make a go of it. But it made Ofelia start.

She could see it in Lisa?s face, that she was frustrated. ?Sorry,? Ofelia said. ?I?m fidgety. And I can?t sleep. And I know I?m keeping you up. Everybody else has learned to put up with me, but,?

Lisa felt bad for being angry, and worse for letting it show. ?What?s wrong?? she asked, sitting down on the edge of Ofelia?s bed.

?Merril and I were close,? the younger woman said. 

?Like, close?? Lisa asked, nodding towards Mae?s bunk.

?What?? Ofelia asked, then turned red. ?No, not like that. Just friends. She was the closest to my age. And I was the one who first brought her in. I spend time hanging around doctor's offices and clinics, not recruiting, exactly, but letting people know we're here to help, if they need it.?

?But I... I always thought she'd make it out, you know, and that she'd have a life...? she sighed. ?Most of us won?t. I didn?t begrudge her that; but Anna, Mae- they couldn?t go back to the normal world, not even if they wanted to. And I made my choice,? she said, and looked down at the brand on her arm, but there was sadness under her expression, too, that Lisa hadn?t seen before.

?You made your choice?? Lisa asked.

She held out her arm, showing Lisa the ?OFELI? tattoo, that ended in a larger ?A? burnt into her skin. ?I did this myself.?

?I thought maybe it was a Margaret Atwood thing.?

?No. Though you're not the first to think that. My boyfriend at the time was named Ian- though I guess that?s close enough for some people.?

?It started pretty simply, really. He came to live with us because his mom was a terrible meth addict. He nearly got expelled from high school because he was constantly missing classes because he was taking care of her, or filling in when she missed her shifts at the KFC. That still seems ironic to me; forbidding someone from coming to school for not coming to school.?

?But I didn't really know him. I didn?t have any classes with him, or anything, but my dad was a janitor at the school. And Ian ended up helping my dad as punishment for his attendance. A bunch. The principal joked that it was vocational training for him. But one day he begged my dad to let him go early; the manager at the KFC said he'd fire him if he was late for his shift that day- a shift that began 45 minutes before his detention was up.?

?They had talked before about Ian covering for his mom, but it's one thing, covering when she was too sick to show, and another knowing a whole day in advance that he had a shift to work. So my dad asked what had happened to his mom. And Ian told him that his mom was in jail. She got caught tearing the copper out of a house that was being remodeled. Ian had been trying to keep her job, and keep paying her mortgage, and buy food, because he couldn't stand the idea of spending his last few years before adulthood in the foster system. So my dad took him in.?

?That sounds... decent,? Lisa said.

?My dad is, about most things. And so was Ian. But I was young, and gawky, and he was a couple years older, and handsome, and troubled, and sweet. I didn't stand a chance.?

?We snuck around about it for a while; we were really concerned what my dad would think, and, you know, if he had the typical dad reaction, Ian would be out on the street the moment he knew. But one night Ian kind of accidentally slept over in my room. And the next morning my dad was sitting at the breakfast table, with a clear view of my bedroom down the hall.?

?When we woke up we freaked out, and made plans for Ian to sneak back into his room, and then wait twenty minutes before coming to breakfast. But when we saw him there, we knew we were caught.?

?There were two plates with pancakes set for us, and he waited for us to sit down before he said anything. But what he said was what we never would have expected. 'Ian, I've considered you family since the day you moved in. And I'm happy my daughter feels the same way. But family isn't all fun,' he made a dramatic show of picking up his reader to reveal my grandmother's engagement ring, 'it's responsibilities, too.'?

?It was kind of a shotgun engagement. Not that he was holding a gun, or anything. But my dad had that kind of... threatening presence. And to Ian's credit he did not freak the fuck out. But we were both young enough and stupidly in love enough that an engagement seemed like the right thing for two still fucking teenagers to do.?

?But we really fucking loved each other. In slightly different circumstances, we'd probably be married, now. Ian graduated ahead of me, and my dad got him a part-time janitorial job at the elementary school. It was a little eerily like I was dating my dad, but I loved them both, so, you know, it wasn't the worst thing in the world.?

?But then they started talking about babies. And I'm a tiny little thing; the idea of squeezing a watermelon-sized football of a kid out of me scared the crap out of me. In that way, my sex education really worked. My dad loved the idea, said we were going to have the most beautiful grandkids for him. And Ian... well, Ian's family sucked, so he was in a hurry to have a family that didn't. I think because he wanted to prove that it wasn't his fault that his other family sucked.?

?But the more they talked about babies, the less I felt ready to have one. I think part of it was it was always them talking about me having babies; even when I was in the room I was the subject of the conversation, never a participant, and never really allowed to be one.?

?But I wasn't ready, physically, emotionally. And, I mean, I hadn't thought about it too much, but I wanted to have a job, too- a career. I didn't want to be a stay at homer, and even though I cared about Ian, I didn't want to totally depend on him- not financially. And the more I tried to talk to them about it the more apparent it became that my opinion on the matter didn't, um, matter.?

?I felt like a womb on legs- or, in Ian's case, a womb and a vagina. I felt dehumanized, depersonified. And one day, coming home from school, I figured out how to get my, power, I guess, back. I had to do something, for me, something that I didn't ask Ian or my dad about- something they didn't even get to think about until it was done. I feel kind of stupid about it, now, since I know how very clichéd my rebellion was, but I decided to get a tattoo, nothing flashy, just my name down the inside of my left arm- where they'd have to see it and know I wasn't always their obedient little girl. But it was a small enough town where I lived that before it was finished, word of it got back to my dad and Ian and they came and got me.?

?It was Ian who pulled me out of the tattoo parlor. You can't see it, anymore, but there used to be the outline of the 'A' in Ofelia, and just the lightest smudge in the corner of it where the artist had started filling it in. And it was a small enough town that the tattoo artist didn't call the cops when I was dragged out of his shop. My dad was waiting in the car. And they didn't talk to me on the way home.?

?That was where my dad beat the hell out of me. And Ian just watched. He didn't hit me; but he didn't stop my dad, either. My dad was bigger than Ian, and scary, but he didn't even object. Maybe he was pissed, and at the time he wanted to see me hurt; I think he regretted it later. I think Ian was... more evolved than my dad was, so on some level I think he understood what my dad did was wrong- no matter how upset they were.?

?Ian wasn?t? he wasn?t a bad guy. That?s, it was just the way things are in Missouri. My dad was the same, though? him I won?t defend. But Ian, if he?d lived somewhere else, or had a better upbringing? I loved him, is what I?m trying to say. I loved him, and in his own fucked up way, he was just trying to love me.?

?But we didn't have enough money for a tattoo removal, not right away, anyway; one night when I couldn't sleep I overheard them discussing burning it off. It had the desired effect on them. But having that tattoo only partially filled in... it just felt to me like my life was like that, that I wasn't really a whole, complete person. I felt like I had no control, not over my body and not over my life. And I think there's a point in that cycle, where you  either learn to accept victimhood, or you reject it. And for me that was a breaking point.?

?I didn't dare go back to the tattoo parlor. But really the tattoo had been a half-measure, a rebellion designed to take some small amount of control over my body- to claim just one little stretch of territory on my arm. But that wasn't enough, anymore; the evil I was rebelling against was more horrible, and so I thought my rebellion needed to be more full-fledged- and, ultimately, more practical. So I went to a little Planned Parenthood clinic- this was the last one in the state, before it had to close, too. I got checked out, and I got a prescription for birth control.?

?But outside, there was this guy, just staring. He was standing in the direction I needed to go to go home, but he was sinister enough looking that I went the other way. I figured it was worth a few extra blocks to go around him. But he started following me. And I realized he had something in his hand, what looked like a fireplace poker, but it had a glowing red end on it. I'd heard of the brandings- I mean, before that moment I thought they were an urban myth, but I'd heard of them.?

?I ran. I made it several blocks, but he was keeping up with me, so I tried to dodge down an alley. But a big truck was parked in it, blocking my way. I screamed, hoping the driver would hear me, but he wasn't around. No one was.?

?And just as I was starting to dispair, this redneck with the brand shoved me down. I think he was going to rape me, because he started to undo his pants. I kicked him in the balls and he dropped his brand. It had been a poker at one point, so it was thick, and I bashed his fucking skull in with it. He went down, and was bleeding all over- the wound was open, like a bleeding vagina in his temple.?

?But something about that moment, with that poker in my hand, I finally felt like I was in control, like, like I was really me. I wasn?t just who my dad wanted me to be, or even Ian. But there was one thing left, one thing that I?d wanted to do for myself, but been stopped from doing: the tattoo. And that ?A? brand was exactly what I needed.?

?Hurt like fuuuck, and, in retrospect, I should have got toasted, first, or at least been near some antiseptic. But it was worth it. Because now, anytime I feel like I?m not sure what I?m doing with my life, or I feel like I?m losing track of who I am, I just look down. ?Who am I? Ofelia- that?s who the fuck I am.??

?After that, the redneck started moving around, and moaning and I realized he wasn?t dead. And that was when I went from feeling empowered to being pissed off. I got down his trousers and tried to sodomize him with the brand. I didn?t even get it past the cheek- I still kind of regret that- because that was when the nurse from the clinic got there. They'd had trouble with that guy before, so when she saw him follow me off she called the cops, who of course gave her the run around. So she came after me herself. She was already involved with women's movements like the one here at the Shelter, and they underground railroaded me up here all the way from Missouri.?

?I thought I recognized your accent,? Lisa said. ?I had an aunt from there.?

?I suppress it, best I can, but it?s there.?

?Why? I thought your whole girl power 'this is me' thing-?

?I never liked it, though. And the accent makes me feel like the powerless little girl who almost went along with letting two men plan out my whole fucking life. But talking without it... it's just another part of choosing who I'm going to be. If that makes any sense.?

?But smuggling underage girls is a thing we do??

?It?s a pretty regular occurence. Girls- young and old- especially with brands, they encourage them to leave town. It keeps the local cops from harassing them as bad. You know, if you?re in the same town as your family, or whatever, they can get at your roots, and your past. It just gives them more things to hurt you with.?

?And smuggling is the only way we can get medicine, and supplies. Women's health equipment isn't quite contraband, since the upper class still get their care just fine, but it's near-as-damnit illegal. So most of it comes from Canada. Or when we get desperate, Mexico.?

?Why desperate??

Ofelia frowned. ?They watch the border more closely. And there's always a chance one of the cartels is trying to sell phoney or cut medication. The risks are just worse. In Canada we buy from doctors; in Mexico, we usually have to deal with gangs. That's the main difference. If you're careful- and knowledgable- you don't get screwed, because even the shadiest druglord wants repeat customers. But it just... adds to the dangers.?

?I often think about going to Canada. But it always felt like... like it'd be abandoning the country, and all the other women here, to the bastards. And it's our country, too. And I think fighting for our rights, including the right to stay here and be treated right, became an important part of me, too.?

?That's why I'm glad you're here. Anna's cool, but she's so driven, so focused. And Mae is... well, Mae. And Jeanine is old. A lot of the other women here are practically ghosts. But it's nice to have new blood, here. I hate feeling like the baby.?

?I'm quite a bit older than you,? Lisa told her.

?Oh, I know. But having someone new, you have no idea how much that helps stop people from thinking of me as the child this village has come together to raise. It gives them something else to do, someone else to focus on. And it gives me someone I can, well, be friends with. But now that we're friends, you have to just promise me one thing, okay??

?Okay,? Lisa said hesitantly.

?Don't die, okay? Because I,? she choked, ?I don't think I could handle that right now.?

?I won't,? Lisa told her, and hugged her, and hoped it was true.

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