Tatia learns to use her books to escape from reality. But even when she does exactly what Eric tells her to, she can’t escape his wrath.
For the past few weeks I have been sharing sample chapters of Tatia’s Tattoo and will continue through Chapter 20. Links to previous chapters are at the end of this post. Following is Chapter 18. Chapter 19 will be posted on Sunday.
CHAPTER 18: LIMITED OPTIONS
Eric took everyone to dinner at an Italian restaurant – nothing like where he had taken Tatia for her birthday, but the food was good, and it was a nice way to spend another few minutes feeling like a normal teenager. After dinner, Eric allowed Zach to drive down the Strip so they could see all the lights at night, but there was no time to stop. He had a full schedule of clients lined up for each girl, so they left the lights behind and spent the next several hours at the motel.
Tatia had been too tired to pay much attention to her assigned room earlier, but as she glanced around now, she noted that it was almost identical to every room she’d been in since she left Josie’s. As it turned out, it looked like every room on the way back to Texas, too – and like the rooms where Cindy had set up shop back in Cameron.
Tatia read a lot on the return trip, mostly in the car, but sometimes in the few minutes between clients. She had learned to separate herself mentally and emotionally from situations she couldn’t deal with, but she also discovered a new ability to withdraw into the world of her books while with her clients. It was a healthier method of getting through the night than the chemicals used by most of the other girls.
The reality of her new life was all too real, though. One morning shortly after the trip, she was between books, so she accepted Cindy’s invitation to go shoe shopping. Tatia was saving for a leather jacket she had seen at the mall, so she watched as her friend picked out a pair of fancy cross trainers and some evening sandals with spiked heels. As Cindy paid for shoes, Tatia knew they would join the many other pairs in the top of her closet, but she was glad to see Cindy look almost happy for a little while. They left the store, chatting about where to have lunch, when Cindy stopped dead still and stared at Tatia.
“Are you on the pill?” she asked urgently.
“No,” said Tatia, surprised by the sudden subject change. “But after that first night, Eric told me to make sure the guys use a condom. You know that, Cindy. You keep me supplied.”
“I know, but those things don’t always work,” she said, dialing her cell phone. “Yes, I’ll hold,” she said impatiently. Looking back at Tatia, she went on. “Eric usually takes care of this part of it. He’s got a special deal worked out with the doc. I can’t believe he forgot – but he sure throws a fit if one of the girls gets pregnant. Last time it happened I thought he was gonna kill her – like it was her fault. Anyway…” she held up her hand while she listened to someone on the other end of the phone.
“Yes, this is Cindy, Eric Hall’s administrative assistant. I need to talk with the doctor. Yes, I’ll hold.”
Later that afternoon, before Tatia’s first client was scheduled, she stood in the alley behind the doctor’s office as Cindy knocked on the door. A short, pudgy man in a lab coat opened the door, and Cindy introduced him as Dr. Simmons. He shook hands with Tatia, and as his eyes slid slowly down her body, she sighed inwardly as she realized her 8:00 o’clock wasn’t going to be her first client of the day after all.
When Tatia wasn’t working, she shared a room with Cindy in the two-bedroom apartment they both shared with Kaycee and Belinda. In the past, Cindy had an apartment by herself or sometimes with one roommate. However, she managed to incur Eric’s wrath more often lately, and while she was recovering from his expressions of that wrath, she comforted herself with junk food and spiked sodas. The evidence of Eric’s abuse and her overindulgence made her less popular with the clients, and her decreased production meant she lost the privilege of upgraded living quarters.
Tatia felt sorry for Cindy, but she was glad to be her roommate. Cindy had a laptop that she used to keep track of the business, and when she wasn’t busy, she let Tatia use it. Tatia had learned about email at the library, so at first she would check to see if anyone was trying to contact her. She received a few messages from Ms. Dunham asking where she was and if she was okay, but when she didn’t respond, even those emails stopped. Instead of focusing on an empty inbox, she surfed the Internet, looking for new sources for free e-books and reading about different authors on Goodreads and other sites devoted to the written word.
Sometimes she looked over Cindy’s shoulder while she was working, and she asked questions about the word and data processing programs she was using. Cindy didn’t seem to mind, and she even let Tatia do some elementary data entry from time to time.
The other girls were not nearly as companionable. They bickered and whined about real or imaginary violations of their limited personal space, and they argued over who worked the hardest and who Eric loved more. In spite of repeated hints and a few outright requests, they continued to smoke inside and to clutter the apartment with dirty clothes, crumpled fast food wrappers, and empty liquor bottles. Tatia worked harder to stay in Eric’s good graces, hoping he would relent and allow her to have her own place with Cindy as a roommate.
The majority of her time, though, was not spent in the apartment but rather in one of the many sleazy motel rooms where she worked. Since he had taken on a couple of new girls, Eric had expanded his underground advertising and his client base. Now that she was always available, he sometimes booked Tatia for ten to twelve hours straight, often selling her to over a hundred men a month.
At first she thought a lot about the time she spent with Eric before her birthday, and hoped that once he had built his finances back up, things would go back to the way they were. She had been disappointed that their first road trip had been a working one with others along instead of a romantic trip for two, but she still wanted to believe that maybe one day he would take her away. Then, one night after a particularly difficult client, she was washing up when Eric came bursting into the room. As she leaned over the sink, he grabbed her by the hair and flung her back into the room where she hit the edge of the bed and slid down onto the floor.
“Eric, what…” she began, looking up at him in confusion.
“Shut up,” he said, backhanding her across the mouth. “Your last customer was very unhappy with you,” he continued in a threatening voice. “I don’t like unhappy customers.”
“Neither do I, Eric. They don’t tip.”
“And did he tip you?” he asked stepping closer and sliding his belt out of its loops.
“No,” she said, her eyes wide with fear.
“He didn’t pay either,” said Eric.
By the time he left the room, she was so badly beaten that she couldn’t work for several days. Eric took her tips for the next several months to make up for the lost income, but there was no way for her to recover her lost dreams.
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Preface and Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4| Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 |Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12 | Chapter 13 | Chapter 14 | Chapter 15 | Chapter 16 | Chapter 17