Marta collapsed against the wall, cringing from Darren’s blow. He grunted, sure he’d made his point, and left.
Marta would be back on the streets in a few minutes, as soon as she could pick herself up. Otherwise, Darren would be angry again. And, she had just had another taste of Darren angry.
It had sounded like a good deal at the time: some steady work, and Jeana had needed some medicine which they couldn’t aﬀord, so they had agreed.
But Darren had just turned into an abusive creep, and Marta couldn’t even get out of it. Where was she to go? She didn’t even have any money. Darren took it, to pay for rent, and food, and other stuﬀ…
They weren’t on drugs yet. Though Marta wondered how long it would be before Darren managed to get them hooked on something only he could provide.
She needed a way out.
She picked herself up oﬀ the ground where she’d fallen, and started scooping stuﬀ back into her purse. One item caught her eye: A printed business card, with the name ‘Brian’ and a phone number.
It had been a long time since she’d thought about him.
She had considered it, for a while, when he’d asked, almost a year ago now. Winter nights walking the streets were not the most comfortable place to be. Still, she’d valued her independence, and wasn’t ready to give it up. She had mentioned him to a couple of her friends though, semi-joking, but willing to give them his number if they’d been interested. He hadn’t been a creep. He might be a weirdo, but he was upfront about it, and willing to say what he was. Marta had believed him, when he’d said he didn’t want to abuse her. Use her, yes, but that was nothing new.
The card was still in her hand when she walked out the door and saw Jeana. She was looking sick again: that had been why Marta had stood up to Darren in the ﬁrst place. Jeana needed a night oﬀ, and Marta had told him that. It wasn’t going to happen though.
Jeana’s cough decided Marta. She dug out her cellphone (paid for by Darren, and only allowed because it meant he could reach her) and dialed the number.
“Brian? This is Marta. You made me an oﬀer about a year ago?” Please let him remember her.
“Yes. I remember. We had a nice dinner together.”
“Right. Is the oﬀer still open?”
“Of course. If you are interested.”
“I… Me and a friend are in some trouble, and I’d like to use your oﬀer as a way out. For both of us, if possible.” Marta looked over at where Jeana was shivering. She knew she had no right to choose a life for Jeana, but Darren would kill her soon enough treating her like this.
And Brian had admitted that night that he would like more than one girl, given the chance. “Trouble? Ok. I will see what I can do. I have some family in town at the moment, so I can’t just start right now, but I should be able to get you out of the trouble at least. Give me a few hours, and I’ll meet you. Where should I ﬁnd you?”
Marta looked around. She didn’t want to hang around right in front of Darren’s place, but she couldn’t aﬀord to wander too far either. A couple of blocks… “11th and R. Two hours?”
“Better make it two and a half, if you could. Two of you, right?”
“Ok. I’ll see you there. And… Thank you.”
Marta just closed her eyes and hung up the cell phone. Then she walked over to Jeana, and started herding her to their meeting point. “Come on Jeana, I’ve got an old client who’s said he would meet us a few blocks over, and he’ll keep us warm for tonight…”