Josie’s fingers trembled as she slid the cigarette out of her lips. He looked young.
Josie watched him through the gap in the venetian blinds. He was facing the door, so she could only see him from the side. But she didn’t like what she saw. His hair looked real short and trim underneath his baseball hat. A silver necklace snaked around his tan neck. His v-neck said something like “Fight House,” but it was tough to tell because it was covered in patterns and anyway she was looking more at his muscles. She could see them bubbling underneath his shirt. His neck and arms were thick. She could see large veins on his forearms. He looked like the young guys from her dad’s squad that used to come over for barbecues and it made her nauseous. She tried to look in his eyes for a tell, but he was facing the wrong way. All she knew is he was different from the guys with spare tires under their Polo shirts and white, sickly legs under their khakis who would timidly walk up to the door. He looked like a player. Like he was built for partying and playing touch football with his shirt off. Like he didn’t need to be here.
“Should I open the door?” Layla poked her head around the corner, making her sequined blue dress cling to her curves. Her eyes had gotten real big.
“He looks young.” Josie scowled. She wasn’t going to let Layla see how nervous she was.
“Does he look like a cop?” Layla whispered.
“You got the damn peephole on the door.”
“I don’t wanna look. I’m scared,” Layla giggled. Josie crushed her cigarette into the ashtray on the windowsill. She needed to crush something.
“Well fucking do something,” Josie looked around for a place to hide the ashtray. “He’s been standing there for a fucking minute already.” She hated being the adult. No — she hated being the adult when she was six years younger than Layla.
Layla pressed her face against the peephole. “Fuuuuck. He IS young.” She looked at Josie, her face flushed and giddy. “Imma let him in.”
Josie shrugged. Josie always shrugged. It didn’t matter what she said to Layla, Layla was gonna do what she wanted. She carried the ashtray to the bathroom and dumped it in the sink, running water along its blackened edges.
Layla put her hand on the doorknob. “Imma do it.”
Josie refused to look up from cleaning. “Shit, girl, do it then.”
Layla walked away from the door to ask her, “You gonna be mad if I do?”
Josie reminded herself that Layla had given her a home and a bed. And a job. She didn’t like any of it, but it was more than she had before. “No, I ain’t mad,” she turned to Layla and smiled as much as she could these days. “But making him wait ain’t gonna solve anything.”
“OK.” Layla bobbed her head. “Kiss me, mama,” she leaned forward.
Their lips met for a moment longer than a moment.
“Love you, mama.”
“Love you, too.” Josie watched Layla’s short, tan legs skip across the wall-to-wall carpeting until she was at the front door. Layla took a deep breath and grinned at Josie. Josie closed the bathroom door and turned back to scrubbing the ashtray before she scowled again. She poured some detergent in the ashtray. She was glad she had a project to do. She didn’t want to be there when the guy walked in. She didn’t just wanna be the rail-thin blonde chick standing next to Layla. She knew he would need a second to take in Layla. Most guys did. Especially when she was being a sweetie. So Josie was gonna be at the sink, just finishing up cleaning. She was going to make the guy wait to see her and make him wonder if she was going to be even hotter than Layla. And Layla was gonna have to introduce her.
The faucet drowned out the sound of the front door opening. But Josie heard Layla — “Hi.” It was a long “Hi,” the way you say it when you’re not sure what’s coming next.
Josie couldn’t hear what he said. His words were just a low rumble. But it felt good to Josie to hear a voice besides Layla’s sing-song twang. And this guy’s voice sounded better than Brian’s. Brian sounded like such a fag.
“Sorry, to keep you waiting.” She could hear Layla walking him into the apartment.
“No problem…are you Maggie?”
Josie winced. Layla could never remember the right name.
“So, do you guys just use this place for…work?” Josie didn’t like how he asked that. Every guy asked about the apartment, which made sense since it was totally empty. Well, not totally empty. There was the TV and DVD player, a bunch of movies and the Listerine and perfume and baby wipes in the bathroom. And the bed. But this guy had asked if they used it for work. That just sounded weird. It sounded specific. And not normal. She couldn’t wait on Layla, she was going to need to lay eyes on him, straight up. So she opened the bathroom door.
He smiled and held out his hand.
“Hey, good to meet you.”
“Yeah,” Josie smiled at him. It wasn’t hard. He looked like he had a rocking body. He had real nice eyes — blue and friendly. His hair was short and and his jeans were clean. She felt uneasy. He was good looking. Too good looking. Even worse, he was relaxed. Way too relaxed.
“This is, um, Maggie,” Layla said.
“You’re both named Maggie?”
Josie didn’t let Layla fuck it up more. “Nah, I’m Maggie, she’s Mollie.”
“Oh, I thought you said, ‘Maggie,'” he said to Layla. But he said it nice, like it didn’t bother him.
“Nah, I said, ‘Mollie,'” Layla shook her head. He didn’t argue. Josie wasn’t surprised. Guys usually didn’t argue with Layla.
“You guys got a nice place here,” he looked around the bedroom. “Is there another bedroom…?” He looked up and down the apartment.
“Nah, it’s just one bedroom,” Layla shot a worried look at Josie. Why did he want to know how many rooms were in the place? Even Layla had picked up that this guy wasn’t normal.
“Need some furniture though, huh?” He grinned.
“We just moved in,” Layla said, defensively.
Josie sat down on the edge of the bed and slipped a new cigarette into her mouth. He was a cop. He had to be a cop. So she might as well smoke.
“I saw they got a pool out there for the whole complex,” he grinned at Layla. “Is that where you get your tan?”
Layla stroked her arms like they were underfed kids. “This ain’t a tan.”
“Looks tan to me.”
“Nah, I was way tanner.” Layla sat on the bed, next to Josie. “Remember how tan I was during the summer?”
Josie nodded at him. He grinned at her, like everything was chill in his world. Fuck that. “Are you a cop?” Josie didn’t take her eyes off him.
The guy’s eyebrows jumped a full inch. “What? No! Why?”
“‘Cuz you’re, like, hot.” Layla meant it.
“Can I see your drivers license?” Josie watched to see if he got nervous.
“Well, you don’t have to,” Layla said.
Josie wanted to slap the shit out of her.
Layla must have figured as much. “But, I mean, it’d be real cool if you could. She don’t wanna get your personal information or anything. She just wants to see where you’re from. We gotta be sure, you know.”
He shrugged. “Here,” he pulled it out of a wallet on a chain attached to his belt. “I don’t care.” Yeah, that was weird. Every guy they ever saw would have cared.
She looked over the laminated license. There was a sort of hologram on it. Maybe the cops were getting better at doing fakes.
Layla smiled at him. “Her cousin’s from Cali.”
“I lived there too,” Josie muttered.
“No shit?” He said.
“For, like, six months.” Yeah, she had been places. She wasn’t like Layla — trapped between southern Indiana and Louisville. Back when she was dealing, Josie had been up to Indy and Cincinnati. She’d even spent a few nights in Nashville when Dre was tripping. She kept staring at the license, flexing it in her hand, turning it right and left, waiting for it to tell her something.
“Where’d you live?”
“Did you like it?”
“It’s nice.” His driver’s license said his name was Michael something-starting-with-an-E. He lived in some town Josie had never heard of. It was probably a suburb.
“Whattya think?” Layla was watching Josie close.
“It looks way different than my cousin’s.” She was supposed to be the street-smart one, but she had no idea whether or not the license was real. Sometimes it pissed her off how uneducated she was. She’d been through too much to still be this stupid. She handed the drivers license back to the guy.
He fumbled in his pocket for a second. “Hey, I got the money, by the way.”
Josie froze as he pulled out a wad of bills. She didn’t really know the law that well. But once the money changed hands —
“Uh…” Layla shook her head at him.
“You want it?”
“I don’t want it.” Layla shook her head vigorously. “Put it over there.” Layla pointed to the bathroom. “On the sink.”
“You still scared?” He grinned.
“I’m not taking your money.” Layla stated emphatically.
He placed the bills on the cream-colored sink. “OK. I’m leaving it here.”
Layla shrugged just like Josie would have. “Whatever.”
Josie had enough. She quickly leaned forward, her hand rubbing across his chest.
He flinched, but let her continue. “I’m not wearing a wire.”
She pointed at his shirt. “Can you lift your shirt up?”
He shook his head and stood up. Slowly, he pulled his shirt up over his abs…his chest…”You want me to just take it off?”
Layla shook her head, “See, that’s…you got, like, a hot body.” Josie tried not to look. He looked that good.
Layla hit him on the arm. “You know how scared I am? We’ve only been doing this two weeks,” she lied. “And I’m scared every time. But this time is the worst and you’re not helping!”
“I’m sorry,” he chuckled. “I don’t know what I can say to make you calm down.” If he was a cop, he really enjoyed torturing them, Josie thought.
“What kinda work do you do?” Josie asked him.
“I drive a truck.”
“Like a Chevy?” Layla asked.
“Nah, he means like a 18-wheeler.” Josie fumbled under the pillow for her phone. Layla was being dumb and giggly, but he thought it was cute. Josie didn’t want to bring the mood down with her disgust. So she stared idly at the numbers on the call log. There was Dre. That was from a few days ago. There was CC, which stood for Clint Cahill, who was her dad. That was from this morning. She was gonna have to see him tomorrow. She could feel her stomach knotting up just thinking about it. It made her want to take a shit. God, she was hungry. Brian had left Pop Tarts for her and Layla in the fridge. She’d hid four of them in her purse before Layla had seen the box, but then Layla got pissed that Brian left them an opened box. She had to talk Layla out of making it into an issue. Layla was always so fucking dramatic. But Josie was pissed she wasn’t going to be able to touch the Pop Tarts until Layla wasn’t around. Because Layla was always around. In the meantime, why the fuck did she need to shit? Why couldn’t the food stay in her a little longer? Why did her body always reject food like that?
“So, you got that body driving a truck?” Layla’s eyes wandered over his chest.
“Nah, I get that working out.”
“How do you do that when you’re driving?”
“I’ll work out in a parking lot if I gotta.”
“You work out in parking lots?”
Josie turned back to her phone, impatiently. She just wanted to do this. So what if he was going to flash a badge and take them in. She wanted to get on with the next drama in her life. She was sick with waiting for it to happen. Or…or maybe he was for real. In which case, she just wanted to fuck him and get paid already. And maybe she could make him look at her like he did at Layla.
“You married?” Josie asked without looking up from her phone.
A lot of them said that. If they didn’t, sometimes the girls would drop a hint and the guys would pay more just to keep them quiet. Josie wondered if other girls did that or if she and Layla were just smarter than most.
“Girlfriend?” Layla asked.
He had to be lying. This kind of guy wouldn’t have problems getting a girl. Or keeping her.
“How old are you?” Layla’s eyes wandered up and down his body.
“You look younger than 32.” Layla said. “How old do I look?”
“For real?” Layla blushed.
“How old are you?” The guy looked at Layla. Josie could tell he liked her. Guys always did.
“How old do I look?” Josie looked up. She wanted to play too.
He screwed up his face and examined her. “Same – 23.”
Josie didn’t let it hurt her feelings. “I’m 22.” She was past being butt-hurt. Or she hoped she was, anyway.
“I’m almost 30!” Layla said.
“No shit,” he smiled.
“It’s true, imma be 28 soon.”
“You don’t look it.” Josie hated the way he said it. He said it like he wanted to say a lot more. He said it like he gave a shit.
“Man, Imma be soooo pissed if you’re a cop, you know that?” She could tell Layla was already planning on fucking him. “I can’t go to jail. Look at me,” she pouted. “I’ll never make it.”
Josie had been wrong about guys before, but the way he looked at Layla, he seemed like a good guy. Maybe he was.
Layla must have known what Josie was thinking. She looked at her and smiled. “I don’t know. Should we?”
Josie wanted to feel a guy around her, inside her. Not one of the middle-aged, hairy, respectful guys that timidly knocked on their door. And not a thug like Dre. She had to break that habit. She wanted…this guy. So she looked away from him and her face turned hard and she sucked on the cigarette. She knew she was getting played. She wasn’t no rookie. She knew better than to get her hopes up. So she just shrugged at Layla.
Layla turned to him. “See, we were told, we ain’t gotta see no one. If we feel something’s wrong, we can just ask them to leave.”
“You asking me to leave?”
“No, I’m just saying,” Layla looked at him with begging eyes. “If you’re a cop, I swear to God, Imma be so mad at you. Not that you’ll care. Because you’re a cop.”
“I’m trying not to laugh.” A smile danced across his lips. “But I don’t know what you want me to say.”
“I’m just saying, Imma be pissed if you are.”
“I wouldn’t do that to you, babe,” he said. Josie hoped that went for her as well.
“You better not.” Layla stood up from the bed. “All right, then, might as well sit down.”
He sat down on the end of the bed.
“No,” Layla pointed at the middle of the bed. “Here, in between us.”
He started towards the middle.
“Well, I mean, get your jeans off first.” Layla said. “We gotta get naked, right?”
Josie watched him shuck his shirt. She liked the way his necklace stuck to his perfect chest for a second until he shook it free. She hoped he’d leave it on.
“I need a drink first,” Layla brushed past him. “You want something to drink? We got water, beer, Dr. Pepper.” Brian had left it all in the fridge to make it look like they might actually live there.
He was already in his socks. “I’ll get water, babe, thanks.”
“How about you, mama?”
Josie wanted a joint, if she was being honest. But she figured that if she was going to get arrested in the next minute or two, it would probably be better to keep her stash hidden in her purse for now. “I’m good.”
Josie watched him get naked. He looked at her as he pulled his underwear off and she watched his penis spring free of the elastic. It was a thick penis. Of course. With a thick vein running from top to bottom, like it was just another of his muscles. She looked away as he lay down on the bed next to her. She felt his eyes wander over her body. She felt thin and stringy next to him. She had checked herself out in the mirror enough times to know her ass looked real cute in her heart-patterned panties, but she was always embarrassed how flat she was. Even buying the children’s-sized tank tops, her nipples were just like pebbles on a freeway. She hoped he wouldn’t ask about the hand-tattoos scrawled across her breastbone. She hated that if he was a cop, she’d have to answer his questions sooner or later. And she hated that if he wasn’t a cop, her tats would probably turn him off and he’d have to fuck her from behind instead. There was something warm about him. Friendly. Human. So she took a chance and showed him the screensaver on her phone. “This is my son.”
His eyes softened around the edges. He really looked. “He’s a cutie.”
Josie found herself smiling. Dante always did that to her. Especially the way his face was pressed against hers in the picture. His eyes, focused, like a boss, even though his 4-year old face was pudgy and soft. “He’s a fighter,” she said. “Like me.”
“You’re a fighter?”
She liked the way he looked at her. Even if it was only because Layla wasn’t in the room. In this moment, she didn’t even care if he was a cop. She wanted to keep his mind on her. “I got a felony,” she shrugged.
His brow wrinkled, but she didn’t think he was scared off. “How long were you in for?”
“Whatever.” She ignored the strong urge she felt to drop into his arms. “My lawyer says he can drop it down to a misdemeanor, if I make it past a year.”
“What if you do?”
She nodded at her screensaver. “Then I get him back.”
“You better not fuck up.”
Josie wasn’t sure if it was a warning or advice.
“Where is he now?”
She wasn’t ready to tell him all that. “I got three months more until I get him back.” But she found more words tumbling out of her mouth. “Imma get him back, though. He needs me.”
“I bet he does.” He looked at her the way a social worker did once. But he was way hotter.
“He loves me, too. He starts crying every time I gotta go. And I gotta tell him I can’t stay and I gotta be back later. And I tell him he’s a fucking man and he’s gotta stay strong for mama. And he says it to me. He says, ‘I will Mama. I will.'”
“He looks like a sweet kid.” He smiled at her. It made her want to talk even more, so she shut the fuck up.
“Shit, you’re such a cop,” Layla walked back in with two waters.
“Because I’m having water?” He grinned. Josie felt the sunbeam of his gaze shift onto Layla.
“I’ve had a bad year,” Layla sighed. “I don’t need anymore shit.”
“What’s so bad about your year?” He asked. Josie scowled at her phone. Layla must have heard the way he was talking to her when she was out of the room and now she wanted some for herself.
“My mom killed herself.”
Josie hated that Layla always had to lie. And she really hated that everyone believed her.
“Shit, I’m sorry.”
Layla shrugged like she was used to the hard life. “It’s OK.”
“Nah, it isn’t. That’s fucking hard. I’m real sorry.” He put his hand on her shoulder tenderly. Josie made sure not to look.
“Don’t worry about it.” Layla shook her head.
“Hey, are we gonna do this?” Josie shot a look at Layla.
Layla grinned at him. “Josie wants to get this done quick.”
Josie froze. She looked away, hoping he hadn’t heard her real name.
“He doesn’t need us there until six, you know,” Layla said to Josie. Brian didn’t really have an appointment for them, but he did want them out of the apartment by then.
“You gotta be somewhere?” The guy looked at the girls.
Layla brushed it off. “Nah, we got a lot of time.”
Josie couldn’t contain herself. ”You just said my name,” she said quietly.
“Oh, shit.” Layla winced. She looked at him. “I mean, you knew this ain’t our real names anyway, right?”
“It’s cool,” he smiled.
Josie wasn’t going to let it pass that easily. “But that don’t mean he knew our real names.”
Layla turned to him. “I’ll let you guess mine.”
He grinned at her. Josie hated how easy it was for Layla to flirt her way out of trouble.
“You like classic rock?” Layla asked him.
“‘Cuz that’s what I’m named after.”
“Your name is Classic Rock?” He started laughing.
“Don’t be stupid,” Layla slapped his taut chest.
“Yeah. Is your name Pete Townsend?” He started laughing again. Josie smiled, even though she didn’t really get it. She liked his jokes. They seemed kind of sweet.
Layla slapped him again, this time on the shoulder.
“What’s your name, then?”
“You gotta guess.”
He stared up at the ceiling. Josie glanced at the smile on his face as he rifled through the list of songs in his mind.
Layla unzipped her dress, letting it wad up on the floor. She shot a look at him as she unsnapped her bra. Josie wasn’t surprised he looked at her. “You got me on my knees,'” Layla sang off-key. “Mmm-mm,” she looked at him. “I’m begging darlin’ please, Mmm-mm…Darlin’ won’t you ease my worried —”
He smiled. “Layla.”
“Shiiiiit, you do know classic rock.” She giggled as she sank onto the bed next to him. Her leg wrapped over his and her tan, curvy body pressed against his side. Josie noticed his penis grow. Josie wanted in. She finally yanked her tank top over her head. She pulled her panties down to her ankles. She shot a look at him. He wasn’t watching her. Layla’s mouth was against his. Their tongues danced back and forth and they held each other real close.
Josie sat back down on the bed, next to him and just watched them fall for each other. She hated that she felt left out. She hated he had gotten to her that way.
He turned towards her. Josie tried giving him a look that was seductive and friendly and lustful, but her face felt tight and flat and her eyes couldn’t shed their shell. She hated herself. “Come here,” he whispered. His hand pulled her face toward his and it felt soft and strong. She felt his open lips on hers and she sighed as his tongue entered her mouth. And Layla had to watch.
Josie could see Layla gazing along his body, using her time out of the spotlight to plot her next move. But Josie wasn’t going to lose her opportunity. She held his face and kissed him deeply until she could pull away. Layla took the bait and turned his head back to her. And Josie slid her face down his body to where his cock pulsed, almost totally erect.
She grasped his dick and heard Layla say, “Oh my God.” Josie poised above his mushroom head and drank in the power she had. “She never does this.” And she was telling the truth. She heard Layla start to kiss him again. “I swear to God, if you’re a cop…”
“I guess we’re gonna find out,” Josie said. And she plunged downward, burying his cock inside her mouth. His moan filled her ears, even if it was sort of muffled by Layla’s tongue. And Josie smiled to herself and waited for the door to get kicked in.
TO BE CONTINUED…