Stripped: Chapter 4a

Start with Chapter 1 here

My tainted reflection stares impassively

Raw, jagged, unsightly

Like the wounds I will not

Cannot acknowledge

One touch, one caress

To heal all, both inside and out

The fall is easier

When taken alone

I will never again

Fill your broken and empty

Holes with my suffering

These scars were made for you

My hand reaches my cheek

My soul cries and bows

Giving in, giving up

To a touch I’ll never embrace

To the things I cannot feel

To the face I cannot face


The next day (I almost said morning – ha!) my eyes mawed open around noon. I loved waking up at noon. My townhome was angled just right so the sun reflected slivers of light through my blinds and onto the edges of my bed. Something about it was so…cozy. I didn’t move a muscle, but enjoyed the feel of my body gulped into the mattress like a vat of mashed potatoes while the sun warmed my arms. That comforting sense of peace after a good night’s rest washed over me. I could have lay there forever.

And I considered it. But around 12:30 I started getting restless. I hopped off the bed and ran to the shower for my morning meditation.

I decided on scrambled eggs and toast for “breakfast” then sat myself judiciously at my desk in the front room, my notes organized, and my laptop awaiting the gentle strokes of my fingers. I opened the laptop and navigated to a file called “A Ringer’s Folly”. After a quick scan of my last few paragraphs of work, I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and let my mind and my emotions combust together, whirling and embracing to create an infinite number of colloquial combinations. And then I waited. I waited for the perfect intersection of words, emotion, and style. My fingers began to move:

“The darkness fell upon her like the stale breath of an old enemy. Her hands clasped fervently the cold hard fingers of his left hand, squeezing in desperation, willing him to move. The light from the street lamp reflected off the shiny gold finish of his wedding ring. The ache and panic in the pits of her belly rose quickly, screaming at her – commanding her – to take action. Her tears decorated his skin as the body began to stiffen. She didn’t have much time. She reached into her purse, pulling free a set of green wire cutters. A few red stains remained splattered on the old and worn tool.

She always eyed the wire cutters fondly when this moment came: the most difficult and the most rewarding act of her assault. It always filled her with the deepest regret followed by feelings of closeness and acceptance she didn’t know in any other context. She aimed the small tool around his ring finger, closing her eyes and bracing herself for the sound of snapping bone – a chink that always made her nauseated. She wrapped her prize fondly in a handmade handkerchief and tucked it lovingly into her bag with the wire cutters. She sat a few minutes longer, feeling the growing absence of the warmth in his skin and imagining it filling her, energizing her, embracing her. When there was no life left to inhale, she stole quietly around the ally corner and disappeared inconspicuously into the winter snow.”

My hands wouldn’t stop for hours. My muse was like a well-oiled machine: pulling fuel from the depths of my soul, siphoning it through the core of my body, and splattering it innocuously all over the screen of my computer. It felt sensual, maybe even spiritual; like conducting electricity. It was the only time I felt more alive than I did on stage. It was the only time it felt like the world aligned perfectly with my body and soul to give me strength and purpose.

It was almost five o’clock when my creative Goddess finally dropped to her knees and surrendered for the evening. She had worked so hard; she deserved a break – and a meal! I hadn’t noticed how hungry I was! I dashed to the fridge and pulled out bread, lunch meat, mustard, and pickles for a decadent sandwich. I can’t believe I’d almost forgotten to eat again. I made that mistake one time before work and paid dearly when I got dizzy and fell into one of the tables at the club, smacking my head on the edge and packing a huge bruise that kept me out of work for three days. The incident was in my amateur days so Randy had considered throwing me out entirely. Once again, I was reminded how lucky I was to have Mia.

I flipped on the TV for a little post-meal news. More in politics – our elections were coming up and the arguments and debates were in full swing. I didn’t follow politics too terribly closely, but there were a few topics about which I was passionate, primarily abortion, gay marriage, gun control and government control. I had built a particularly strong hatred for two political potentials who seemed to be far more popular than I would like. One was a republican, Smith Anderson, who fought for all those conservative social values I despised, and the other was a democrat, Brady Boswell, who came from one of those long familial lines of political power that stretched back generations. He was always touting arguments about gun control and bail-outs, blah, blah, blah. As much as I wanted to support gun control, I worked with a pack of ladies – some of which had shady backgrounds – who all walked into dangerous situations on a daily basis. Few of us didn’t have a concealed weapons permit; it came with the job.

My brain was starting to melt from all the political ridiculousness so I switched to a music channel, wiling away my final hour before work watching the amazing Paul Patson strum away at his guitar, singing decadent phrases that could only be penned by a poet.

Now there’s a man I wouldn’t mind getting my hands AND brain into.

My soul full from the captivity of my novel and my body nourished, I headed off to work around 8. I waved to the boys playing in the street as I pulled out, wondering if I’d have one of those of my own someday. They smiled politely, if impatiently, anxious to return to their game. There were only a few weeks left of summer and the fall always brought shorter days and earlier cut-off times for their play. They were still young enough to take full advantage of every moment at their disposal and I found myself hoping I hadn’t lost that childlike innocence completely. As much as I enjoyed my job, I had a very love/hate relationship with my life; one I wasn’t always so sure how to manage.

And I ached for the singular focus of a child who never has to consider anything outside of right now.

Most of the girls were already in the dressing room getting ready when I arrived. I walked in a daze that was quickly shattered by the gaggle of unique and rambunctious ladies laughing and rushing around to get ready. I loved these girls so much. They were each individuals in their own right and never apologized for their personalities.

Which normally equated to a lot of drama.

I almost made it through the entire night without incident, but stumbled in to the dressing room on one of my breaks to find Mia strangling one of the other girls against the wall. I freaked out, ran over and pulled Mia off her – no easy task. The girl skitted off and I turned to Mia, “What the fuck was that all about?”

She gave me a look that told me to leave her alone about it, but something seemed off. There was sorrow in her eyes, maybe even a touch of…pity? And suddenly I knew what it was.

“Mia…” I warned.

She shook her head. “I took care of it, Ellie.”

“I don’t need your fucking pity. How long have you been doing this? Have you all been fucking talking about me behind my back?”

“I’m protecting you, Ellie. These girls can be brutal. Trust me, you need me.”

“No, I don’t!” I slammed my fist against the door in frustration. “Jesus. You didn’t need to choke her, you know.”

Mia shrugged. “She deserved it.”

She walked out before I could protest any longer. I felt wounded. Lost. The one thing I hated most – the stares and the whispers – had now seeped into my life here too. I couldn’t live this way again. I could handle myself. They needed to know that.

I shut the thoughts from my head and stormed back onto the floor with a newfound determination.

The rest of the evening continued as energetic and sweaty as ever. I took a shift waiting tables and pouring cocktails, sneaking in a few lap dances here and there. Aside from the usual catfight between Crystal and Genevieve over a regular who definitely didn’t deserve to have two girls pulling each other’s hair out over him, everyone seemed to be in a pretty positive mood. I popped a piece of gum and sipped a cool glass of water, trying to ignore the smell of cigarette smoke wafting in through the crack in the door. That was Crystal – she smoked enough to give ten people cancer yet there she stood, alive, and regularly working her cardio like an Olympic gymnast.

Some people get all the good genes.

I closed my eyes for a few minutes, my body sinking slowly into the couch, reveling in the relaxation I knew would be short-lived.

“Ellie! Ellie!” My eyes flew open to a bouncy and ecstatic Candy galloping towards me with a goofy grin on her face.

“What? What?” I asked, surprised and more than a little irritated. What is her deal? She knows how much we value our breaks. Then I sat up as I recalled her excitement when the city mayor came into our establishment for the first time. “Oh my God, there’s a celebrity here, isn’t there?” I cried. “Who is it? Where? I get dibs this time, Mia stole the last one!” I was ready to barrel right over Candy but she stopped me.

“No!” She cried, exasperated as she attempted to keep me in place. “There’s no celebrity! But it’s almost as good.” A sheepish grin crept across her face.

I looked at her, puzzled. What on earth was is talking about? What else could possibly be worth interrupting my rest?

“It’s your boyfriend,” she drawled maniacally, “He’s here”. The confusion on my face persisted. She’d gone mad; everyone knew I didn’t have a boyfriend. In fact, Candy had tried to set me up with a friend of hers just a week before.

“You know,” she prodded, as if I was to guess exactly what vague idea she had rolling lazily around in that head of hers, “The guy who was watching you? With the baseball cap?”

The realization hit me like a train. My hands flew to my mouth. “Oh my god!” I shrieked.

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Still being stubborn? Ellie’s more stubborn – here’s chapter 4b


17 thoughts on “Stripped: Chapter 4a

  1. Pingback: Muddy Heels: Chapter 3c | Writers of the Rain

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