They were definitely not pleased to see me at their unofficial private club of hypocrites. I'd never set my foot there if it weren't for the delight to make their cheeks burn with indignation just by showing up. It was hard to suppress my laughter at the sight of all these snobs snuggled in their comfortable little world far away from reality. Proud and full of despise for everyone beneath them. In my view I was supposed to feel a victim of their hypocrisy. But I have reached a point in my life when I have realized that I have no benefit in playing the victim.
That night I enterеd the club as a winner. Sooner or later I'd get out of their grip to search for something better… if there was anything like this… But anyway, I had perspectives in front of me. That little label they had given to me didn't matter. On the contrary, I was growing stronger as it gave me pretty useful lessons from life. Some day these people would be just a faint shade in my biography.
I walked in a slow, elegant and almost seductive manner staring at everyone with slightly lustful and ironic smile. The little sweet wives and girlfriends turned their heads in shame as their unfaithful "soul mates" were glaring with wild anger and unsaid emotions. Oh, boys, is that theatre necessary? We know what is really on your mind when you look at girls like me: bold, daring and different. The girls you despise; the same girls you secretly want. You'd never marry someone who appears so much like the Satan's whore.
I felt especially beautiful that night when I was bathing in their ferocious glares of hidden desires. My flaming crimson red hair (dyed, of course, the color was too strong to be natural) was swinging after me as if it was a stream of fire coming straight from Hell. The porcelain smooth and slightly tanned skin, stretching all over my body like creamy satin sheet accentuated with the revealing black dress, my favorite. It was long enough to cover the essential parts of my anatomy and short enough to emphasize the size of my breasts and my gorgeous legs, my most precious possession. The cloth was tightly wrapped around me as an armor and somehow it was pumping my veins with confidence.
Probably I deserved a big deal of the reproaches and insults I used to get because of my hooker style. I've always been a free spirit and no matter how vain it seemed I was proud with the beauty the nature had given to me. Was there any point in hiding it?
Yes, I was probably selfish, nasty and spoiled little girl who thought too highly of herself. But at least I wasn't covering myself.
With these thoughts in my pretty head I seated myself graciously on one of the tall stools by the bar and winked at the bartender. He greeted me back and leaned against the stand to chat with me.
I ordered him my usual Sex on the beach cocktail and he started working while throwing some spicy comments, which made me snicker. I turned around on the stool in order to watch what was going on while waiting for the drink. My greenish and blue gaze was fixing some familiar faces as I pressed my fingers towards the self-made pendant hanging around my neck. It wasn't really a medallion but a sign I had created from few clips, a sign of my name.
I used to hate it when I was a little girl. It appeared so common, empty and at the same time full of too many promises. Sacred, virgin name which was setting certain expectations from me. It meant that if I ever disappointed someone they'd be even more hurt because they expected something better from me. Now, I don't want to blame my stupid name for my "wrong" life.
I sighed as I took my cocktail from Kit, the bartender, who wouldn't stop talking. He was rarely talkative for a boy. But my thoughts were with someone else; someone whose intense gaze I had caught. He looked just like the rest of them but beside the anger I could read something else in his eyes. Lust. Burning and desperate lust, that was killing him inside. The man from the further table who was sitting with his brunette wife barely noticed her. It seemed that his passion and obsession with me had gotten painful. Ronny looked ready to cross the room and rape me. There was something animalistic in his eyes that night. I knew I had driven him on the verge of madness by teasing him all the time and that sent shivers of pleasure down my spine.
I've known him ever since I was a little girl. He was a very good friend of my father and was often coming for a drink or dinner. Ronny was a psychologist and sociologist with a few best seller books. No one knew why but he had decided to move in here in order to teach History and Social Studies. Probably that was giving him inspiration for his work. Or he simply loved young female students who he could easily charm with his intelligence and sophistication. Considering my experience with him the second option was more probable.
At first he rarely noticed me, I was just a sweet kid he used to give candies or dolls. When I turned twelve, he started talking to me as I showed remarkable brain talents. I loved arguing with him, as Ronny was easy to set on fire, which made our conversations such an entertainment. At first I even liked him because he was the first person ever to treat me like an adult. In a way I was a challenge to him because my logic wasn't slower than his and that competition was turning him on.
But his attitude changed when I started my high school career. My body and beauty were developing faster than these of the girls my age and that made me both object of jealousy and lustful desires. Mr. Thomas who was my teacher wasn't an exception. As I said, he has always loved the young and sweet ones. I wasn't exactly sweet but he thought it could change. All these four years were one slow process of seduction. Unfortunately, they weren't successful for him. Unlike the lasses who had grown up without a father I didn't have an appetite for older men. He was direct; I was introverted. I wouldn't let someone that easy inside my inner world. Ronny wanted it all for himself. Besides, there was something nasty and shining about him that made me sick. And he was married; he had a daughter who could easily be my sister.
I didn't want him as a man but that was hard for him to understand as he was used to have everything he desired. Probably that was the reason why he wanted me so badly. When the decent citizens labeled me as a "whore" it became even easier for him to continue his "courtship". He could just tell that I was hitting on him and no one would believe that I was the tormented one. Well, I wouldn't give up easily so I decided to drive him crazy without letting him inside my world and between my thighs. That long wait wasn't in his style so one day he cornered me at the school library. Probably he had found some job of the woman who worked there. We were alone and my wits were my only weapon.
"Why are you making this so hard, Mary?" He asked me while pressing his hands towards my shoulder. Ronny's breathing was heavy and his eyes were dark with desire. I almost laughed at his stupidity. That man thought himself so attractive and such a gift for the ladies.
"You've watched Dangerous Liaisons too many times." I glared coldly at him and pulled away from his grip. "Couldn't you figure it out that I don't like feeling pushed? And that's what you do all the time. You force me to love you; you force me to open up to you. You want to tie me down. Don't you realize how pathetic that is?" I restrained myself from spitting in his face to emphasize my words.
"Oh, dear baby!" He kept on with the disgusting tune of a caring father. "You need somebody just as everyone else. It's normal, don't try to fight against it. You need someone strong enough to cope with your dynamic personality. Be sweet with me, Mary."
I was so disgusted that I slapped him.
"I expected more than this cheap romantic crap, Ronny!" He looked too shocked that I had dared to do so. "I'm not some of your vulnerable little girls who long for Daddy! Stop bothering me and never dare to put me in a stereotype!"
That made him throw the mask of politeness and he pushed me hard against the wall. The man tried to kiss me but my lips were firmly sealed. It was like kissing a doll so he gave up and hissed.
"Whore! I could give you so much. I would cherish and respect you. Am I worse than all the other bastards you open your legs for?" That fury amused me and I laughed as hard as I could.
"Is that the way you show me your love? By throwing insults at me and agreeing with the social opinion. You think you know me but the truth is that you remain blind in spite of all your intelligence. Don't waste your resource of cliches, please." He pulled away, still glaring at me. "You speak of respect? I have more respect for myself than bedding a married man."
"Is there anything wrong, Mr. Thomas?" The librarian has finally decided to show up and save me. I shot her a smile of relief and slipped away as fast as possible. While going out I overheard Ronny's explanations of how "naughty" I have been.
"Mary girl, don't be merciless. Can't you see he is dying for your love?" Kit's comment sent me back to reality.
At first I thought of Ronny but then I realized he meant the boy on the other stool. He was young, about my age or a year older at best. Intense black eyes, hypnotizing. Messy brown hair and the palest skin I've ever seen. I'd probably never be impressed if I had seen him from the distance. The stranger looked quite common if you don't look at him closely. From that moment I knew I'd be drawn to him. His eyes and body language were revealing a passionate soul and restless nature. I myself was a calm and slightly cold person, so I loved people with qualities I lacked.
"Hadn't your mother taught you it's impolite to stare?" I asked him with an ambiguous smile.
"That's what nature has given me eyes for." He looked a bit embarrassed in spite of his bold answer.
"Some people find it quite offensive." I twisted a curl of my hair around my finger without ceasing to smile. "They get nervous if you watch them. Even violent. Aren't you afraid?"
"So, you are one of them?" He raised his brow suspiciously.
"No…" I uttered lazily. "I love it. I'm probably addicted to people's attention. But…" I winked and my eyes glittered with green flame. "… what if I weren't?"
He came closer and I was able to feel his strong presence. For a moment it appeared as if there was a fire around him.
"You don't dare, you don't win. I've always been an adventurer. When I see someone who impresses me…" The stranger took my fingers and strangely, I didn't feel the urge to pull away. "I love to observe them. And I don't like starting with clichй pick-up lines."
"Oh…" My smile grew devilish. "Both adventurer and non-clichй lover. You may have some chances of winning my heart." My last words were full of irony. "Just take a little advice, stranger. Don't satisfy yourself by just being the observer. Beautiful things tend to slip away if you don't act."
"I'll remember it." He replied through laughter.
"I'm Mary, by the way." I lifted my hand and shook his in an attempt to melt the ice.
"I know." He reached out for my pendant. "My name is Raven Thomas, pleased to meet you.
"Wow, raven. My favorite bird." Then something struck me and I pulled away. "Wait a minute, did you say Thomas? You don't happen to be related to Ron Thomas?"
"He's my uncle. I'm staying with him for some weeks."
I could hardly suppress the burning explosion of laughter in my lungs. It was impossible to control myself and that's why I let it all out in the form of vigorous body convulsions. His bewildered eyes made it even worse.
"So…" he said playful smirk when I finally calmed down. "What was the funny thing?" To my surprise he didn't sound offended which was a good sign.
"It's ironic. The only guy in that hole I feel strangely drawn to…"
"Oh mine!" Raven seemed taken by surprise with my lack of maiden shame. "You're definitely fast woman."
"I don't like wasting my time." I cut him off. "So, that guy turns out to be related to the man who hates me and who I despise. Interesting, huh?"
He started playing with a tress of my hair.
"Does that make us enemies too? I definitely wouldn't want an enemy like you."
"Maybe… who knows… it depends on you. I don't judge people by their relatives. On the other hand, blood is thicker than water."
"All I can say in my defense is that I don't really like my uncle.
"Then why…" I started but someone's rude barking didn't let me finish. I felt some heavy hand on my shoulder.
"You've had enough fun, whore! Now get the fuck out of here unless you want to have your pretty ass kicked."
I turned around and stared with indifference at the strong brunette teenager behind me. Considering his attitude and muscled body he must have been one of the football team. Athletes had never been my passion. But that one seemed familiar.
And now he was playing a man!
"Why, Mikey, how tough you seem now. "I uttered with my usual lustful smile. "If you only had shown it last time when I was with you… probably I wouldn't need to fake orgasm."
"Shut up, you cunt!" He looked so much like a Spanish buffalo.
"We all have freedom of speech, mate." Raven interrupted us quite nonchalantly and out of place. "Besides, she hasn't done anything to you. So, why don't you mind your own business? There's a lot of space in here."
"Not for the likes of her." Mikey snapped. "You'd better shut up too if you don't want to get in trouble."
"Ah, Mikey!" I sighed dramatically. "Is that how you try to compensate some failures of yours, by showing off? I don't understand how Gracie…"
"Don't call her that way because…"
"What're you gonna do, beat me up? Let me tell you about that white trash Mary Randolph. Everybody who can pay fucks her."
"I can see only one whore in here and that's not Mary."
"Boys!" I drawled as lazily as I could in order to show how fed-up I was. I poured the rest of the cocktail down my throat and stood up gracefully. "No matter what you think of me I'm a non-lover of pub fights. Send my greetings to Gracie."
Outside I put my jacket on and headed to my motorcycle. Scenes like that one were something I was too familiar with to let myself be upset.
A noise from the door drew my attention. I saw Raven coming closer. I sighed with relief that the Neanderthal bastard hadn't hurt him.
"Can you tell me what was that about?" Hell, I love direct people.
"Didn't our pretty boy explain it all?"
"He doesn't seem objective enough… He shrugged and went on. "You didn't judge me by my uncle and I won't judge you by your bad fame. But…"
"Simple as that, Raven boy. Everyone's got a role in life and also a label. I'm a "whore". Beautiful women's life isn't as easy as it seems. None of the local idiots could believe that someone with my looks was a virgin at the age of fifteen. I used to be inaccessible, as I wouldn't fuck with the first guy who asked me out. I wanted a choice. But that seemed too strange to them and that's when all stories began. Stories born by horny boys' mind. Stories about me described as "very wild", "the Babylon sex queen." It was all a big fat lie. But it didn't matter because everyone believed in what they wanted to believe. Then I lost my virginity for real and I couldn't prove my innocence anymore. Probably it wasn't smart of me but I was sixteen and I wanted to live. My desires weren't more different than those of the male population. But they were men and I wasn't allowed to reject them. Once I was almost raped by such typos." I spoke calmly and confidently as I didn't want to make a drama. I wasn't a victim! "There was a period when I tried acting like a good girl, living as a nun. Alas, the torment didn't stop. Then it became clear to me that whatever I do, however I live they'll see me as they have labeled me. I admit I have had my fair share of sex but it's more modest than what you may hear. Sometimes I dress too daringly. But they made me what I am. If they want a whore, they'll get one. That's the dirty little story of Mary's life. What's the sentence? Hate me? Despise me?"
He sighed and came closer to reach my shoulder.
"Just don't pity me." I pulled away and stared at him.
"I wouldn't do that." Raven cut me off. "They're the ones to pity if your words are true. I respect brave and proud people… like you."
"Raven, you've known me for less than ten minutes."
"I'm a great believer in intuition and there's something about you that attracted me like a magnet. It wasn't a coincidence that I met you. I want to know you."
"Oh, yeah? My place or your place?" Men were saying such words when they were only after one thing. The thought of bedding Ronny nephew at his house seemed such a perfect revenge.
But his eyes grew dark with my words.
"Don't act that way in front of me, Mary, I know you're not a whore. I meant when I said I respected you."
An idea struck me. I truly hated his uncle and it was obvious he shared my feelings whatever the reason was. Besides, he looked like a darling and I had some sympathy at first sight for him. It wasn't much but it was enough for me to tease the blasted Ronny bastard. I had no clue why I wanted to annoy him so much but it was stronger than me. I leant against him and whispered at his ear.
"Meet me tomorrow at the northern shore of the river. I'll be waiting."
Then I kissed him slightly on the lips and mounted my motor cycle in order to disappear as a night shadow on the road.
I don't believe in romance and the craps from Harlequin novels. So, don't get me wrong but Raven Thomas was one of the purest people I've ever met. I'd probably never encounter anyone like him till the rest of my life. I'm sure I didn't love him, at least not in that whirlwind way described in the above mentioned work of literature but he never failed to fascinate me with his words and ideas. The next two weeks we fulfilled each other's life with our presence. I can't find a proper word to describe our relationship. Who cared about words anyway, I felt happy even if our physical contact was limited.
Raven was rarely naпve for a boy his age. I don't mean that he wasn't intelligent or wild at times but in general he reminded me of an extra terrestrial who had come to visit our cynical world of labels and hypocrisy; completely clueless about life. Sometimes what he was saying seemed so out of reach with reality that I couldn't stop laughing. But that didn't irritate me. I loved listening to his voice when we were lying next to each other by the river.
I wasn't a girl who'd be impressed by talks of moon, stars, night, ocean and poetry. These things have always been too superficial to me as I found the nature the most boring topic on Earth; source of cheap romance. Somehow Raven found the non-clichй words to describe them for me and help me find another eventual point of view for the world. I listened with intense passion, which was untypical for me. Sometimes he composed little poems about me and left them at my rucksack so I could stumble upon them at the most unexpected moment. To be honest, he wouldn't make a grand poet but at least he was sincere.
The only thing that troubled me was that he was seeing me as some ideal. People have that strange habit of qualifying me in extreme categories. To everyone else I was a sinner, to Raven I was a saint. And I knew I wasn't either of these definitions. But it was nice to know that someone thinks of you that way; it increases your hope that one day you may erase the stains from your past. But I wasn't perfect and I knew that one day I'd disappoint him.
No, don't get me wrong. I wasn't in love. That thing between us was too short and unexpected. We didn't have time for more.
If I only knew what would happen I'd keep him out of the lustful monster's sight. I would never show up with him during the light of the day. I would take him to the most distant cave of the night. I would turn him into vampire locked in the coffin of my protection. I would put him in the corner of the darkness so his fate wouldn't get him. Alas, we're weak human beings and things just slip out of our control.
It's been two weeks since I met him and I was graduating from high school the next day. I didn't have clear plans for my adult life and I wasn't sure what Raven had in his mind. We never discussed future when we were together. I wanted to have the best of the moment.
So, it was kind of surprise for me when he brought up the topic while we were at his room that fatal night. I felt wonderful; maybe because my intuition was telling me that was our first and last time together.
"Come with me tomorrow. I know what I want. You wouldn't stay in here any longer. Why don't we get out of here together? It would be great."
I bit my upper lip and thought over his proposal. It sounded tempting but I wasn't sure yet how far I wanted to go with him. I valued my freedom and I didn't want to get involved…
"I don't want you to marry me!" What was he doing, reading my mind? "Just think about it! You don't even have to come as my girlfriend. Please…"
I'd probably accept his proposal the next moment if we hadn't been roughly crossed by someone who broke through his door. It was Ronny, the man I had driven mad with passion. He looked even worse than the time I saw him in the club. Goddamn, things would get ugly, I could feel that.
"Stupid idiot! Of all women in the world, why did it have to be her? Girls like her only spoil you as a person. Why did you have to take her? She is mine, do you hear me!" His eyes had grown red with madness. That was the moment when I really grew to get nervous. I wrapped a sheet around me to cover my naked body.
"Mary doesn't belong to no one." Raven didn't seem to get the danger of that situation and got up to face his uncle. He didn't fear anyone and that's why he never saw what was coming. "I know what you have tried to do. Aren't you ashamed? You've always considered yourself so superior over everyone; how could you let yourself be captured by such low passions?"
"You know nothing of life or passion, silly schoolboy." I knew enough of life, fear and its consequences to prevent what would happen. Raven was too brave to notice the black object in Ronny's hand. "She is my whore though she doesn't know that yet."
"I despise the blood that runs down my veins even if a small part of it belongs to you!" His voice pierced Ronny like a dagger.
"Stop that!" I screamed. "Raven, he isn't worth your…"
"Shut up, bitch! It was all your fault." His voice was like a roar of gorilla.
"Raven, he…" But their screams didn't let me finish. Raven was too consumed with passionate anger to think.
"You have no idea how sick I am of you; of all people like you. She may not be perfect but she's worth much more than you do." Ronny really seemed smaller next to the proud and dignified youth next to him who was shooting him with mere words.
"How dare you…" Obviously he lost touch with reality and didn't care about the consequences.
"NO!" My scream pierced the nocturnal silence like a howl of desperate she-wolf but it was too late. They both were in the middle of a raging fight and before I realized a shot of gun cut all the sounds. What a nasty, sweaty silence! The time had grown still. I, with the crazed look on my face and shaking hands, Ronny, with his bloody mask of madness and Raven… falling.
He fell straight in my arms and I knew the result in the minute I saw the crimson blood on his chest. I couldn't control myself and let out all my loath and helplessness for that world and that man in desperate screams as I hugged the already lifeless body next to my bare skin. I didn't care that his blood was staining me or that I was naked. That was the first moment of my life when I lost my sanity.
My next actions were a blur of events; no more different than the ones you see at all cheap thrillers. The bad guy screams at the frightened girl to shut up, that it was she who made him do it. He would grab her and try to rape her. She somehow would manage to escape and call the police while hiding in the dark house, out of the villain's sight. He is chasing her like a predator and finally gets to her. The police would catch him while he is strangling her and they stop them before it's too late.
It seemed like I had left my body and was watching everything beyond it. Everything was too surreal for me to believe; like part of a play. While Ronny was being put under arrest I ran quickly upstairs to get one last sight of Raven before they had taken him away.
I again pressed him towards me but I couldn't bring back the life. It was all over. For the first time a flood of tears was pouring down from my eyes. It shouldn't have happened that way.
"Miss?" Someone touched my shaking shoulder and I flinched with disgust. I glared at the person behind me; a policeman who was watching me as if I was a scum. Just then I realized it was time to protect a little bit of my dignity. Before I left with a blanket around my shoulders to answer whatever questions they had for me, I threw a last look at Raven. I never saw him again.
This time the perfect Ronny couldn't get away with a murder. As I hadn't gone against the law, there was no reason for charges against me. That's why I decided to leave the town at the night of my graduation. I packed everything I had and didn't say goodbye to anyone. My mother hated me; I had no friends, what was the point?
As I was driving in the surprisingly cold summer night, my whole being was full of some melancholic sadness; I had become a bittersweet sigh. I hadn't got to know Raven enough to feel tearing pain. It was more like the loss of something precious you haven't valued enough. I didn't think whose guilt it was. Did it matter when one young life has been crushed due to hypocrisy and suppressed desires? Maybe it was better for Raven; he would never have understood real life.
I wasn't sure about anything anymore. For the first time I was the confused girl who had no idea where to go. After all, I couldn't control everything and I paid for that. The price was that summer of lost illusions that had turned into autumn's mist before it had the chance to bloom.
I looked at the moonshine over the sea full of red leaves for one last time. But the nature was already dead. The beautiful words had gone and I wasn't a woman of words in order to recover them.