“Sharp, Julia Sharp.”
“Here,” I say as if I’m still in sixth grade and the teacher is taking attendance.
“Hey, Rich Bitch,” the guard calls. I instantly recognize her as the woman from last time and it’s pretty clear she remembers me too. “Back again, eh? You becoming a career criminal or what?”
“It wasn’t my fault,” I uselessly try to tell her as she grabs my upper arm and walks me to my cell. “He told me to see him. He asked me to come. I didn’t purposely violate the protection order. Hell, if anyone needed protection it was me!”
“Uh-huh. All a big mistake. He really loves you. You’re back together. You just forgot to tell the judge,” she responds in a sing-song voice. “Heard it all before. Only usually with restraining orders, it’s the guys who jump the wire.”
“He conned me,” I say with a sigh filled with equal parts honesty, acceptance, and profound regret.
“Hey! My phone call. Hey! I gotta go. Hey! That man is going to hurt somebody! Hey! Hey! Hey!” The familiar chorus begins before I can even see the bars of the holding cells. They see me as soon as I turn the corner.
“Blonde baby,” one of the men whistles. “Come sit near me sugar and give me your honey.”
“You’d better check yourself, Ray,” the guard says. “I’d leave this one alone before she kills you too.”
I try not to look shocked by her comment but I see it already has the intended effect. The men pull back against the wall of their cell and the women in mine give me a wide berth to walk. I try to make eye contact with her and show her I’m oddly grateful but she turns before I am even fully in the cell.
The chorus of voices start again as soon as the door closes and I make my way to an empty spot on a back bench beside the wall.
“He conned me,” I say again to no one.
I sit in silence for a few minutes, the eyes of everyone in both the male and female cells glancing my direction. It’s clear that most of them realize that the guard’s comment was pure bullshit, but a few are not so sure. A young woman with a group of streetwalkers cautiously approaches and sits just outside of arm’s reach. She looks at me with the world weary eyes of an eighty year old though she can’t be more than twenty-two.
“You really kill somebody?” she asks. I’m tempted to act like it’s true, but the last thing either of us probably need in our lives right now is another lie.
“No,” I say quietly. “But I’ve thought about it.”
“Me too!” She laughs with a big broad smile. Her friends watching the conversation relax and go back to talking amongst themselves. “That pimp on 23rd, Stomper, I’d like to take him down. You here like us? You know, working for a livin’?”
My mind flashes back to Sandstone Ventures and presents a vivid image of me on my knees, Blake’s grotesque hand pulling me toward him. I think of the pictures of Valerie James in various positions with interview subjects. I think of every assignment the members of my journalism class begged for and made promises to get. I realize, in some way, everyone in media is “working for a livin.”
“Something like that,” I say, trying to sound more streetwise than I am.
“You a pretty girl,” the young woman says. “You should try Lexington and Dale. They’d probably find a spot for you since you’re an uptown girl.”
“Um, well, after this experience I think I’m going to stop.” I say in a non-committal hush. If I was going to lie anyway I should have stuck with the murder–it would be more believable.
“Duh. That’s what I mean.” She gives me the eye roll that proves I’ve already said something stupid. “You know, Walden House on Lexington? They have those classes to get you certified as assistants and shit. Off the streets and in the doctor’s office or whatever. I wanted to do that but they only have the money to take three or four at a time. But you being uptown and new? They could get you in school.”
“Thanks,” I say and look toward the wall hoping she reads body language well enough to know I’m done. She does. I try to make a mental note to check out this place she’s telling me about because there might be a story there, and then laugh at myself. Here I am thinking like a magazine owner when at this very moment some judge is handing my magazine to Blake Stone and Valerie James.
There’s no clock in sight from the holding cell and of course none of us have a watch or any other personal belongings. It makes sense. If we could actually see the hours of our life ticking away while we wait for our destiny, we would riot, or at least go insane. Insanity is what I’m trying to hold off as I obsess over what Mark must be doing now. I know he needs my verified signature and I know I am as far from being able to sign those forms as humanly possible. Tick, tock. Tick, tock. The clock on the wall may be absent, but the one in my head just keeps counting down–like a time bomb.
I lean back and try to calm myself with thoughts of soothing blue oceans and Enya music, but a timeline of events keeps interrupting the peace. I remember the confusion of walking in and seeing that sleazy lawyer, Kenneth Allen in my office, the twisting burning knot in the pit of my stomach when I realized I was being displaced, the searing anger as I drove over to Sandstone Ventures, and the wet, primal desire when Mark bent me over his desk.
From there my mental train switches tracks and the scenery stops showcasing Blake or Valerie or Lynx. All I see is Mark and me.
I’m swept up in the whirlwind of the last thirty days. It began with Mark, his heavy body pushing me over the desk, the feeling of him behind me, his strength, his lust, creating a powerful longing in me I thought was long since dead. My ears burn when I remember his hot breath on my ear as he said to me, “This is what you need.” That was the door that opened a whole new world to me.
After that, I went from the frigid and bitter woman, dedicating what was left of my life and energy to words that could be printed on a page to a woman pressed up against an Escalade in a parking lot, my skirt hiked up around my hips as Mark’s hardness pushed into me, thrusting himself into my body over and over until all I could do was wrap my arms around him and hang on as my body spasmed to his rhythm and my mouth fell open in unbridled pleasure.
“You will submit every part of your body, your mind and your soul to my will,” Mark said at the beginning. I agreed having no idea how much truth that statement would hold. I remember doubting him at the time, even as I dropped to my knees before him, wrapping my mouth around his thick cock, taking him as far into me as possible. My head bobbing up and down as I felt his hand guiding me, encouraging me, filling me with his seed. My mouth waters now, just wanting his taste and girth filling it.