Tania stood next to the bed and looked down at him. She smiled: the way he was lying, dead to the world, his arms and legs splayed out like that, he looked like a starfish.
She reached forward and traced a finger over his stomach, round and round, down, all the way down. Watched him twitch and spring back to life — even now, after everything she’d done to him.
She tiptoed out of the bedroom, not wanting to wake him. He’d need his rest. He’d need all the rest he could get, because she wasn’t finished with him yet.
She met Georgie in the bar half an hour before their shift started. First thing Georgie said was, “So?”
Tania shrugged. She watched Georgie light up: watched her close her eyes, her eyelashes fluttering, as she inhaled. Tania could have killed for a smoke, for one puff, but she looked away, and took in the bar, the spilled beer, the filthy tables, the grimy windows, and immediately wished she hadn’t because all it did was remind her that she was stuck here for the next eight hours, doing a shitty job for shitty money, when he was there, in her bed, waiting for her.
Georgie leaned forward, elbows on the table, and whispered.
“How was it?”
She turned her head to the side, and exhaled slowly, towards the No Smoking sign on the wall. Shitty job, shitty bar, but there were some perks.
Tania shook her head.
The guy had come on to Georgie first, like they all did. Tania was fine with that. You had a friend like Georgie, you had to be fine with that, because they all hit on Georgie first, all the time. Like they were wired that way, like it was in their DNA.
“Nothing happened,” Tania said. “He said he’d walk me home, and we’re not even halfway there and he stops, just like that, and throws up, all over the place.” She shrugged again. “He headed back this way, said he was going home.”
Georgie relaxed, and sat back. “Prick,” she said. “I told you he was trouble.”
Tania didn’t disagree. The guy was a prick. A total prick. Hitting on Georgie, then the others, one by one, before turning to Tania late on, when the place had thinned out and they were getting ready to lock up. Tania had brought him a glass of water from the bar, told him it was on the house, when he grabbed her wrist and pulled her in close. He wasn’t much to look at, all angles and sharp edges, and Tania must have had a good fifty pounds on him, but he squeezed so hard she thought he might snap her wrist in two. Would have, if she hadn’t reached down with her free hand and found his cock. I only live around the corner, she whispered in his ear, stroking him. If you want to walk me home.
“You’re probably right,” Tania said. “Big time prick.”
“Trust me,” Georgie said, blowing smoke across the table. “I know trouble when I see it.”
Tania found him exactly where she’d left him, in her bed, as if she’d never been away. But he was awake now, and he’d shat himself. Sooner or later, most of them shat themselves. It used to bother her, but not now. It was just one of those things: an inevitable consequence, an occupational hazard.
She’d cuffed his wrists and ankles, shackled him to the four corners of the bed, starfish-like. He heard her before he saw her, the squeaky floorboards announcing her arrival, and his head shot up off the mattress when she walked over to the bed, his neck muscles straining, his eyes bulging, screaming out for help.
She did what she always did, and ignored him. She’d found that was the best course of action when they were like that, when they were a little over-excited. Ignore them. Sometimes that set them off even more, and she’d stand there and smile, sometimes laugh at them, her arms folded over her chest.
This one had surprised her. For a skinny little runt he’d put up a pretty good fight when she’d cuffed him, thrashing around like he was having a fit, trying to chew her hand off when she stuffed the socks into his mouth and reached for the heavy duty tape she kept in the top drawer of her bedside table.
She’d had to use all her weight against him, grinding her big backside down against his chest, digging her knees into his scrawny biceps. She hit him in the face a couple of times, to calm him down, short, sharp jabs, and kept hitting him till he stopped thrashing — till his body went limp and the muffled screams subsided and all he could do was bleat like a wounded animal.
She almost pitied him, looking down at him now. But not really. Truth was, she’d never pitied any of them. No pity, no empathy, nothing.
She reached for the table again, the bottom drawer this time, and took out the camcorder.
“We need to talk,” she said, pressing the record button and pointing the camcorder at his face, a close-up, before zooming out slowly. “We need to talk about terms and conditions.”