This is week 2 of an ongoing story that’s taking us on a trip that I’m unsure about taking. Week 1: Playground Joy is here. It ended with:
“Miss, it’s really not safe for you to be here,” George said.
“I know,” the girl said between gasps. “Just drive.”
– Start of part 2 –
“My apologies for the mess. It’s a working vehicle. I’ll make you some wiggle room.” George dragged the canvas bag clear of the girl’s lap and pushed it over the back of the front seat. A wad of chains and locks rattled inside the bag as it landed.
The girl shrugged. She slouched until her bare knees were wedged against the dashboard. Her back was flat in the seat, and her chin pressed against her chest. “Now can we go?”
“Safety first,” George said. “A seat belt isn’t just an idea whose time has come; it’s the law.”
The girl reached as far as her zip-tied wrists allowed without rising from her slouched position. She tugged on anything loose along the passenger side, but only found sticky surfaces.
“This model predates the shoulder strap. Allow me.” George scooted next to the girl and reached across her bare body. She raised her wrists over her head to give George room. He slid his hand along the contour of her right side. His hairy forearm grazed the girl’s lower stomach and they both flinched, as if touching a bare spot in an active electrical cord.
George wished for time to become lost in the exploration of tactile contrast between the spongy delicate flesh of youth and his car’s life-stained upholstery. Time seemed to never be in abundance for George. His time inside had ticked to an end but he saw no timepiece to engage on the outside.
He leaned farther over her. He felt between the seat cushion and the passenger door. He found the metal clasp of the passenger seat belt, but he also found the rhythm of the girl’s breathing. With each inhale, her chest pressed against his. He was convinced he detected the sensation of her racing heart beating in rhythm with his own.
George wished for time enough to ask the girl if it was her heart or his, and if she would have answered maybe both, then he wanted the extra time to mention how nice it is that two strangers have in common something so intimate as internal organs pumping blood at mirrored rates. It was something that shed dwellers would never notice, even if given all the time to do so, because they were not striving to be gentlemen.
George, remember the list.
His prison therapist spoke in a soft but authoritative manner. Dr. Sayers-Smith had forced George to memorize a list of life tips. Tip 31 seemed to apply to George’s current situation.
Tip Number 31: It’s nice to be reassured, but it’s nicer to reassure. People like reassurance, George, especially vulnerable women, and especially in times of extreme stress.
What if the reassurance is not true?
He imagined Dr. Sayers-Smith inhaling her last long draw on her cigarette before answering his thought. Especially if it’s not true. George, a genuine gentlemen understands that a kernel of truth exists in every lie. George saw the slender, arched, double-jointed thumb of Dr. Sayers-Smith flatten her cigarette butt in the ash tray he held for her.
George whispered reassurance in the girl’s ear.
“You smell nice.”
If he had spoken the truth, he would have said that she smelled like cheap cologne and sweat. When she didn’t answer, George attempted to add more reassurance.
“I feel your heart,” he whispered. “Can you feel mine? Because if you can –”
A stream of warm urine ran down the inside of the girl’s thighs and between her knees. It dripped onto the fast food wrappers around her feet with a tapping sound.
“Sorry,” she whispered.
“Forgiven,” George whispered back. He laughed loudly in her ear. “Trust me, this old thing has seen far worse.”
“Ah, here it is.” George raised the end of the seat belt to her face. He yanked on it for extra slack, then pulled the strap across where her lap should be, only it was across her small chest, because the girl was in full-slouch. He pressed the latch into the buckle, then tugged on the strap until it released and slapped tight.
Blurs of running people streaked by the passenger window, first one way then the other.
“Can we go now?”
“As you wish.” George climbed off of the girl and crawled under the steering wheel. He inserted the flap of his seat belt into the buckle with a click.
“Where to, my dear?”
The girl shrugged. “Nowhere. Anywhere. Just not here.”
George waited for an opening in traffic and pulled out, careful to do the speed limit in the school zone. He checked his mirrors. In them, he saw the diminutive figures of Officer Howells and his partners exchanging exaggerated gestures of what George could only surmise as fury. Apparently, they had not found the shed escapee.
George and the girl drove without speaking for exactly twelve miles. The girl rode with her wrists pressed tightly between her knees, and George rode with his as ten and two. They pulled into a narrow driveway of a small brick rambler. He dragged the broken gear shift lever from D to P, then turned off the car.
“Quick! What’s the best way for a registered violent child molester to get a naked girl into his house without being noticed?”
George spoke at a nearly inaudible sweet-spot volume he’d mastered in prison. The low volume allowed hours of intense conversations with his inner thoughts without his cellmates overhearing, and thinking him crazy for talking to himself or ghosts. The volume level was at the onset of where exhaled air becomes formed words. A listener’s ear would need to be a fraction of an inch from George’s mouth to detect actual speech. In prison, that happened only occasionally.
George waited for a Dr. Sayers-Smith answer.
The girl slid up in the seat a little and tried to look out. “Where are we?”
“Shhh! I’m waiting for advice.”
“Advice from who?”
“It’s from whom. You should know that. You’re in school. And the whom is my therapist.Doc, are you there? Help me. Please.”
The girl looked around the car as if an apparition were to appear at any second. After some silence, Dr. Sayers-Smith appeared in George’s head. What seems to be the problem?
“I need to know how a someone like me can get someone like her into my house without being noticed.” Dr. Sayers-Smith uncrossed her legs, brushed the wrinkles from her skirt and stood inside George’s head. She always composed her thoughts before speaking. She put a cigarette in her mouth and leaned toward George. He imagined himself lighting it.
Own a house with a garage, she said in a cloudy breath of smoke and wisdom. George unbuckled his seat belt and opened the door slightly. He glanced around the development to see who might be home in the middle of the day.
Honestly, George, Dr. Sayers-Smith said in his head, call 911. Get the girl medical attention. Drive her to an emergency room and demand a rape kit and some stitches. Notify her parents. Contact the school. Short if that, give her something to wear. Ask if she’s hungry or thirsty. Ask her. Better yet, don’t ask, just take care of her. Give her back some lost decency for crying out loud. If you do nothing else, reassure her.
“I tried that. It made her pee.”
There was no further response from Dr. Sayers-Smith on the subject, other than the yelling from the other side of the slamming door. Whatever you do, remember the list!
“We’ve got no choice but to go inside.”
“But, I’m naked, and it’s broad daylight.”
“That doesn’t matter. You look beautiful.”
The girl sat there, slouched and slumped.
“You’re beautiful,” George repeated. “You had an ugly day. We all have those, but your beauty remains untouched. That’s what’s important.” The girl sat upright a little. For the first time since she climbed into his car, she looked at George for more than a glance.
George opened his door and walked around to the passenger side. He opened the passenger door and kneeled next to the girl. He reached across her lap and undid the buckle. He pulled out a pocket knife and inserted the blade between her wrists and pulled. The zip-tie fell.
“There.” The girl worked her wrists at her new freedom. “I must admit, I’m a fan. I guess I’m old school with such things.” George fondled the cut zip-tie. “That reminds me.” George got the canvas bag from the back.
“Who are you?”
“I’m your guardian gentleman,” George said.
He threw the bag over one shoulder, then bowed and held out a hand. “My lady…” The girl let George assist her out of his car. The girl cried when her open wounds that had dried in the fabric pulled free from the upholstery. “No biggie,” George said.
“Just walk like nothing’s wrong,” George said, “even if we both know a lot is.” He interlocked his thick fingers between her small ones. They walked to the front door holding hands, a fully dressed man a an undressed girl, both squinting into the bright sun.
“It’s going to be okay,” he said. He unlocked the door and motioned for her to enter first. George shut and locked the door behind them.
“I want you to go upstairs and take a nice long hot shower. I’ll have dinner ready when you get done.”
“But,” the girl didn’t know what else to say. “But, look at me.”
“As you wish.” George slowly spun her around by the shoulders. “You’re beautiful, from all angles, even with blemishes. I’ve got bandages in the second shelf of the bathroom closet. I’ll fix up your oozing spots after we eat.”
“But, my clothes…”
“You’ll find pretty things to wear in the upstairs hall closet. I’ve got plenty of clothes for girls your age, and some younger. Feel free to plunder. What’s mine is yours.”
The girl found no other words.
“You’re beautiful,” George said, “no buts. Shoes off. Up you go.” He winked. The girl pushed her shoes off by the heels. She wiggled her toes. “You’re perfect,” George said in his low prison volume.
“Whatever.” The girl turned and climbed the stairs. George watched until she disappeared into the bathroom.
“You’re perfect, whoever you are.” He stared at the unoccupied stairs. As soon as he heard water running, he pulled all of the shades, one by one.
“Dr. Sayers-Smith, is it okay to serve dessert before a meal, if your dinner guest is underage?”
The door to Dr. Sayers-Smith’s office opened slightly. Yes, George. Smoke crept out and rose to form a lazy haze. In fact, a soft but authoritative voice said, it’s preferred.
“What wine goes with double-chocolate cupcakes with rainbow sprinkles?”
Champagne, George. Always serve champagne with chocolate.
The image of the girl’s upstairs walk repeated as a loop inside George’s head, as he prepared a special meal for a special girl.
(– end of part 2 –)