"Give me your purse" a voice behind her growled. Shaken up, Karin attempted to explain she had no purse when the stranger grabbed her hair and repeated the request in a low and raspy tone.
Nigel, in the meantime, was carried away in his enthusiastic discussion. His face was towards the sky, and a lit cigarette held high above his head as he gesticulated his plans.
"Karin, it's fantastic like you wouldn't believe." He was saying, "Oh my, where are my manners. You've really got to speak up. I almost smoked your half."
"Shut up, you crazy fag! Who the hell are ya talking to? Homo aint got no friends. Crazy fag!" an old beggar woman screamed in his general direction. Nigel turned to hand Karin the cigarette when it finally dawned on him that he was walking solo.
"Karin?" he asked, scanning for the short girl's dark head of long hair on the sidewalks crowded with people despite the early hours. He retraced his steps, taking in everything before giving up with a shrug and heading back to the loft.
"That was quick" Sophie commented, looking up from her sketchbook and ruffling her pink coif as Nigel reentered looking a bit flustered.
"How far did you walk her?" Jill posed when the boy didn't respond.
"What happened?" Sophie pressed, furrowing her freckled brow after he shrugged. ".Well? Say something."
"Nothing. I walked her up the block and she ran off so I came back." He said with a casual air.
"Ran off? What happened?" she asked again as Nigel continued pacing around the room. "Why would she do that? Stop moving. You're making me dizzy."
"I don't know why she bloody ran. Clearly she wasn't there to ask, was she now?" he replied fiercely, his British accent growing harder as he sank into a stained arm chair and puffed furiously on another cigarette. He didn't have a clue where the girl was and didn't see why everyone else cared so much anyways. They'd just met her, after all. What had she done that merited all this worry? He could feel the accusation in his friends' eyes as they pretended not to look at him. He threw a glance over at the girls sitting Indian style around the glass coffee table and felt guilty about losing track of Karin. This was a big city and she said she was new here. Anything could have happened. No, no. That's silly, he thought to himself. She can handle herself-she did the night before, didn't she? No, the girl was perfectly ok. She probably had gotten tired of his dribble and snuck away, that's all.
He didn't waste more time pondering her whereabouts because at that moment the Donavon stepped into the room again, holding out a handful of cigaweed- marijuana rolled in tobacco wrappers.
"Cheers!" Sophie squealed, hopping up to hug him.
"So where's that little angry chick at?" Donovan asked, looking around the room. "She back in the bathroom?"
"Nope, I took her home" Nigel answered as Sophie rolled her eyes and sat down.
"No, more like he lost her. I think he just left her there, really." Jill said coolly, inspecting the ends of her long golden hair. "Jealous much?" she jabbed at Nigel with a wink.
"Whatever. She can handle herself" Nigel replied, angrily toking the fat blunt. "Not my problem."
"Dude, I thought she just fuckin moved here." Donovan said, suddenly alarmed.
"Yeah, she did. She's from the burbs" Sophie answered slowly, the seriousness dawning on her.
"Well, we need to fuckin find her then, don't we?" he spat, yanking the lighter out of her hand.
"Hey! Since when do you give a flying fuck about anyone? Let the brat figure it out-" Nigel started before being cut off.
"Fuck you. Shit. I don't know about you, but I liked her. Now get off your British 'arse' and see if she got home okay, asshole!" he was screaming now. The room fell silent, all eyes on him as he stood there with his hands on his bony hip bones, his black trench open to show the mesh shirt underneath it. He shot an icy glare around the room, his brows furrowed and lips pursed tight. He flicked at his hair and exhaled loudly, visibly relaxing his face as he sparked up one of the drug filled cigarettes. This wasn't really his problem and he'd be damned if he was going to sprout wrinkles over it. He had his own modeling career to think of, after all. He glanced up at the room and gave a shrug before turning on the stereo. Obscure electronic body music filled the studio flat and he gave a laugh at the tense atmosphere.
~* "Holy fuck, woman! Did you see her face!" a small boy shouted out, spinning in front of the pair with a huge grin. The grip on Karen's long hair loosened, her expression still terrified. She was confused and as stiff as a statue. The little kid continued to dance and shout out a gleeful cheer. She didn't see what was so amusing. The dirty hand on her scalp continued to tug on the fistful. "Damnit Dylan!" a youthful voice coughed and exclaimed, exasperated. "We almost had her." The boy blew a raspberry and skipped merrily out of reach before cracking up with laughter. Karen watched as the stranger ripped her hand from the thick black locks; strands were yanked out when the sticky fingers were withdrawn. "Get back here, you little shit." Karen's captor shouted out, preparing to chase after him. Suddenly she yelled bloody murder. The little boy returned a few moments late, his merriment quickly replaced with shock soon followed by anger when he saw what had happened. "You fucking bitch! Get off of my sister!" he screamed, charging towards Karen who was now sitting on the girls back, yanking on her filthy brown hair with one hand and clawing her face with the other while slamming her whole head against the pavement. "Fuck off, twerp. You don't fuckin' touch me." Karen growled while pressing the girls face into the ground. "Hey! Watch it." A passerby mumbled to the little boy dashing past him. As her brother neared, Karen began to ease up on the girl. She stood and kicked at the ragamuffin, saying with each swing "I. don't. have. a. purse. moron!" The little boy pounced on Karen and she threw him against the building before darting off. She didn't stop running until her throat was dry and her ankle felt sore. She sat down on someone's front stoop to catch her breath before absorbing her surroundings. When she finally looked around, she realized she was now lost. "Damn, how far did I go?" she wondered aloud. The stone skyscrapers had been replaced with brick buildings; the extra wide walkways were now narrow sidewalks; there were no swarms of pigeons, but instead, strategically placed potted trees. There were cars parked on the street as opposed to the perpetually running yellow and white taxis, and she couldn't spot a pay phone anywhere. The sidewalks were practically empty, almost like a ghost town considering the block she'd just been on earlier was flooded with so many people that they seemed almost like roaches scrambling around so early in the morning.
A little further down the street, Karen spotted a man who appeared to be heading off to work. She jogged up to him.
"Excuse me, sir-," she started but he held up his hand and vigorously shook his head. "No thanks, I'm not interested." He said assertively. Karen cocked her head to the side, questioning his comment. ".okay?" she said slowly and turned around, walking back in the direction she came from. She passed a young woman with a toddler. The lady quickly snatched the child up and shot Karen a nasty look.
"What the hell is going on?" Karen asked out loud when she was out of the woman's hearing range. She continued her stroll when a car slowed down net to her. "Hey sweetie. Where you goin''?" a man asked. She smiled and walked over, grateful somebody wasn't snubbing her. "I'm trying to get a ride," she told him. "Oh, I'll help you out," he said, "How much does it cost?" "You're going to pay for a taxi?" Karen asked, surprise. The man frowned and chuckled, "Nah, we can use my car." "Oh, but I don't know where to go from here," Karen sighed. The man grinned, "Damn, baby girl. How old are you? You look like you know a thing or two. Get in the car." He said, slightly irritated and licking his lips.
Karen hesitated, biting her lip. "Never mind. I think I'll just walk. Thanks for the offer though." She tried to smile and backed away from the vehicle. The man sneered at her and muttered, "Bitch" before gunning the car up the street. "What the fuck?!" Karen mouthed. She sat down on the nearest porch, trying now to cry. Everything was unfamiliar. She missed her old neighborhood where people at least said "Good morning, how are you?" when they walked past. She dug a fingernail into her forearm and waited for the smooth sharp pulsating sensation to take effect. She felt better immediately, the pain taking her mind off her current situation. "How's tricks?" an older girl standing over her asked., "Huh?" Karen answered. "I don't know who that is. I don't live here." The girl giggled "It means how's business today? Or last night. you look rough." "Business?" Karen repeated. "I don't know. I barely remember last night." "Yeah, that's the best way: blanking out, as long as you have money in the morning." The girl said. Karen arched an eyebrow, intrigued and clueless. "So where you live at?" Karen started bawling as the story of her mourning tumbled out to this stranger. "It's not funny" Karen sputtered when the girl laughed after she'd finished. "You want to come inside and use the bathroom, Hun? I'll walk you home later if you stick around." The girl offered. "Thank you" Karen blubbered as the girl fumbled with the lock. "My name is Karin, by the way. With an "I"." "Enchanté, Karin-with-an-I" the girl said, holding out a hand of pink acrylic claws. "I'm Fiona, Fi-fi, whatever." "Oh, that's cool. Fi-fi" Karen purred before entering the apartment building, leading the climb up four flights of narrow steps. "The bathroom is straight ahead," Fiona pointed, not that she needed to. The apartment only had two rooms. The bed pulled out of the wall, along with a shelf that served as a desk and kitchen table. She had a case of bottled water, a case of corn chips and a bottle of tequila in the corner of the room. Even when the bed was up, there was barely any space in the room with all the clothes and shopping bags layering the ground. "Oh my god, you have a Murphy bed! That's so awesome!" Karen exclaimed as Fiona put it back into the wall to make space for walking. Karen entered the closet sized bathroom. It was packed with every hair appliance possibly invented: curling irons, straightening comb, crimping iron, triple barrel wave curler, hair dryers, blow dryers and more. Her mouth dropped in awe at the accumulation of body products, hair supplies, makeup and perfumes. There were skimpy, shimmery material, mostly lingerie and scarves, flung all around. To Karen, this bathroom, despite it's small closet-like size, was like being in the ultimate girl's dream shop. She murmured "Wow" and shot Fiona a look of admiration and envy before closing the door. The sink was attached to the back of the toilet and there was only a shower, no bathtub. Karen was looking at the extensive collection of bath gels and wondering why they were there when she caught an unexpected glimpse of herself in the hand mirror taped to the wall. Suddenly the reactions she'd been receiving from everyone made complete sense.
Her hair was a tangled fluffy mess of glittery black curls with random braids here and there, teased accidentally to perfection, thanks to the grubby hair puller she encountered earlier. She was still decked out in her club clothes, which fit in perfectly at the night scene, but in broad daylight, made a different statement. The sequin top, the teeny mini skirt, the knee high boots, the over sized gold jewelry and her generally pouty lips bitten to a bright red tint along with the heavily smudged makeup that had be smeared and sweated all over during her little run not so long ago all added up to one thing. Streetwalker, hooker, prostitute, lady of the night. Karen's screamed like an extra in a horror flick. She immediately tried to washed her face, scrubbing hard at the heavy makeup, but the water alone wasn't working. Spotting eye makeup remover, she opened the door and called out to Fiona "Oh my lord, why didn't you say something about how I looked earlier! I'm a mess. Can I use your shower?" Fiona was sitting on the floor, stacking a pile of money into one of the many shoe boxes scattered around the room. She looked up at Karen with her huge doe eyes and smiled. "Sure, use whatever you want. As a matter of fact, if you find a product you like, you can have it- as long there's at least 2 of them there.. Which shouldn't be a problem." She laughed and continued 'I hardly ever use the same thing twice. They make such amazing new things all the time." "Oh my gosh, thanks! You fuckin' rock, Fi-fi" Karen gushed before shutting the bathroom door again.