Authors: L. A. Shorter
L. A. Shorter
©2013 L. A. Shorter
I never thought I'd end up in a place
like this. The rank smell of vomit drifting from a half closed
cubicle. The damp walls, paint cracked and pealing. The heavy thud of
noise from above, pulsing through the floor.
I looked in the mirror in front of me,
stained and chipped, and saw a shadow. A shadow of the girl I once
was, the girl I wanted to be. But it was too late. I'd changed. Life
had changed me. My once bright blue eyes were sullen as I looked at
my reflection, my hair dirty and unkempt. I looked half dead, like
one of those zombies you see on TV, nothing behind my eyes.
only my mother could see me now
. But she couldn't. She never
The door snapped open behind me and a
couple of girls piled in, stumbling over each other. I saw them in
the mirror, girls that I'd once frowned upon, girls I'd once pitied.
Now I was one of them. They walked to the counter beside me and
started cutting lines, snorting down their cocaine with relish. Their
noses were red, their eyes shot to death. Just like mine.
“Fancy a line,” one said to me.
, her name was, she was down here a
lot. I didn't need it, didn't want it, but I did it anyway. That's
what my life had become.
“Sure,” I said, my tone barely
registering any sincere thanks. It seemed generous, but I knew what
they were snorting. I knew how much actual cocaine there was in
there. It was nothing, cheap. Anyway, I'd gone beyond the point where
I'd thank anyone for anything these days.
The usual burning sensation wasn't
there. I was beyond that point; numb. It was one of those nights, one
of those days. There were too many of them now, too many wasted days,
too many days spent wasted. The light at the end of the tunnel had
begun to flicker, a faint glow in the distance. It all seemed so far
“Grace, right?” Krista asked as I
snorted her cheap cocaine. I nodded, wiping my nose. “You looking
for a party?” She smiled as she cocked her head to her friend.
I wasn't really looking for anything.
“Sure, why not,” I answered without thinking.
“Well OK girl, come with me.”
She led me out of the dank toilets
towards the stairs. The rumble from above got louder as we walked,
the world a blur around me. I couldn't hear myself think as we pushed
through a door into the club. Maybe it was a good thing. We shuffled
through the crowd, a pulsing throng vibrating to the heavy bass. On
we went, straight through to the back. A bouncer stood guarding the
door: a monster of a man, all muscles and grunts. Krista led me
further, through a narrow hallway, the sound of the club gradually
thinning in my ears.
“Hey baby, I got you another,”
Krista said as she stepped into the room marked VIP. “She's a good
girl, I've seen her round her before.” A 'shadow', that's what she
called me, lingo for a girl who'd lost it all.
“And your name,” the man asked,
looking at me. He sat in a private booth, two buxom blondes to his
sides, his legs crossed casually. He wore a suit, his hair perfect,
his voice calm.
“Grace,” I said flatly.
“Grace. I like that. Fits you
perfectly.” His eyes were fixed on me, looking me up and down
slowly, methodically. I shuffled under his gaze, a discomfort
settling under my skin. I knew this room, I knew what I was doing
here, I knew what it meant.
“Have you been in here before Grace,”
he asked, noticing the change in me. “Is this your first time?”
I nodded. I'd never been in here,
despite several offers.
I saw his lips move, unable to decipher
his quiet words. The two women to his sides stood up and walked away,
their tight dresses leaving little to the imagination. “Come sit
here with me Grace,” he said, sliding his hand over the now spare
space to his left.
I walked towards him, my body leading
the way, my mind offering little resistance. I didn't care any more,
nothing made any difference. I was walking in a nightmare, one I
couldn't wake up from. I'd hit rock bottom, nowhere else to go but
up. Or so I thought.
I sat at his side, his body angled
towards me. He reached for the table and poured me a glass of
champagne. “Here,” he said, passing me the glass. I drank it up,
the cold bubbles tickling my throat.
“I want you for tonight,” he said
suddenly as I placed my empty glass back onto the table. “You're
just what I'm looking for.”
I shuddered slightly at the thought.
What the fuck am I doing
. No matter how far I'd fallen, no
matter how low I'd gone, this wasn't me. The cocktail of drugs and
alcohol in my blood was betraying me, conquering my senses, taking me
to places I didn't want to go. His hand lightly stroked my leg, a
gentle touch, one that was full of intention. I slid my leg away, his
fingers left dangling over thin air as my legs shut tight.
“You're nervous,” he said calmly.
“That's understandable, it's your first time. Don't worry, it's
natural, I'll be gentle. Perhaps this will help.”
His hand drifted to his right breast
pocket, pulling out a small white packet. “It's not like what
you're given out there,” he gestured with his hand towards the
door. “This is pure. Try it, you look like you'll enjoy it.”
He opened the packet up, pouring the
snow white powder onto the table in front of us and cutting two lines
with a credit card. “Here, I'll go first.” He snorted casually
through a $100 bill, the white dust shooting straight up his nose.
“Your turn,” he said, passing me the rolled note, his dark eyes
flickering with anticipation, like a hunter waiting for the killing
I took the note and sucked up the
poison without thinking, without caring. “Good girl,” he said
with a sleazy smile, “you can keep the note. Call it an advance.”
He stood and took my hand, his skin
cold to my grasp, and pulled me to my feet. My heart started pounding
as he began walking off, his hand clasped to mine, my head spinning
as we walked out through the back door and into the cold ally.
I felt a sudden warmth in my nose, a
wetness dripping down my mouth. I tore my hand from his and palmed my
face. My hand was covered in blood, a trickle turning to a flood down
my nose as my eyes looked up, searching for help.
I saw him look at me, no pity in his
eyes, no caring on his face. He shook his head, disappointed he
didn't get his prize, and casually got into his car and drove away,
leaving me clutching at air. I turned back to the door, pushing at it
with my blood soaked palm. It wouldn't budge. I looked down the ally
and onto the street, my eyes beginning to blur, my heart beating
faster. As I stumbled forward my legs started to fail, giving way
beneath me, and everything turned to black.
2012 – 12 months earlier
The light above was beginning to fade
as I sat ensconced in a book, my mind wrapped around the intricacies
of commercial law. I was studying hard, as I always had done, a habit
that had been ingrained in me since I was a child.
“Don't rely on your looks,” my
mother had told me. “Rely on your brain. It'll take you so much
She'd done quite the opposite, finding
my father in high school and never looking back. To say she didn't
have a hand in his success wouldn't be fair, but she'd never
officially 'worked' herself. They were happy though – my parents –
blissfully so, in fact. Or at least, that's what it seemed like to
I checked the clock on my phone.
Need to get going
. I was meant to be meeting Katie in an hour.
Some 'group hang' she'd arranged to try to hook up with a guy she
I rushed back off to my dorm to get
ready, meeting Katie outside the bar just in the nick of time. She
looked gorgeous as always, a tight dress hugging her slender figure.
She was like a supermodel, perfect features and long legs.
She exhaled as I approached, relieved
that I'd got there on time for once. We headed straight into the bar,
somewhere cheap by the look of things, all tacky ornaments hanging
from the walls and burly bartenders dishing out beer. There were no
complaints from me – my current financial situation didn't really
cater to anywhere nicer than this.
“OK, we know why we're here,” Katie
said as we took our seats in a booth.
I nodded. “Sure. We're here to hook
you up, right?” I laughed through my cocktail.
“Grace,” her tone was moaning, “I
really like this one. I do. I'm not just looking to 'hook up'. This
one could be real.”
I stifled my own laugh. I'd heard it
all before, and been there once or twice as it happened. Katie was
always looking for Mr Perfect, always on the hunt for her Prince
Charming. Unfortunately, she'd been through her fair share of frogs
and wasn't getting any closer to seeing one transform. Her mind was
the opposite to what I'd been fed as a girl – find a man, settle
down, have a family. She wasn't at college like I was so didn't see
her future career prospects as being too wide. For now, some casual
modelling work was enough, although there wasn't a huge amount of
that in West Norton. There weren't a huge amount of guys either,
eligible ones at least.
“So who are actually coming along to
this little 'hang'?” I asked.
“Well, obviously there's Brad.”
Brad was the guy she was after. “And then there's Cain.”
I waited for more. “And?”
She mumbled as she took a sip of her
sex on the beach. “No, that's it.”
Great. Fucking great
. “So this
is a double date. You've set me up on a date?” I can't believe
she'd done it again.
She shrugged her shoulders as if to say
“oops” and took another sip of her drink.
The last time Katie had initiated a
'group hang' was about a month ago and, well, it didn't go well. She
spent the entire evening with her target at the time - Craig I think
he was called – and left me totally alone with Craig's friend, some
weirdo guy from his office who owed him a
Despite telling him 'no' on regular occasions throughout the night,
he continued to hit on me and try to touch me up, his hands invading
my space more and more as he pounded beer after beer. I mean, if that
had sowed the seed for something great for Katie, then OK sure, I'd
take the hit. But, of course, it didn't. It never did.