Excerpt | A Pound of Flesh by Alex Gray
It wasn’t always easy to see the moon or the stars. This city’s sodium glow rose like yellow fog from its streets, blotting out any chance of star gazing. But she knew it was there. That cold white face dominated her thoughts tonight and she shivered as though it already saw her flesh naked and exposed to its unblinking watchfulness. Perhaps it was because she was trying to be seen that she felt such awareness. The red jersey pencil skirt folded over to create a too-short mini, those agonisingly high-heeled sandals cutting into her bare toes; spread across the bed back in the hotel they had seemed the garb of an adventuress.
Now, revealed in the glare of the street lamp on this corner she felt a sense of…what? Shame? Perhaps. Self-consciousness, certainly. But such feelings must be overcome if her plan was to work.
She had already overcome the blank indifference of the girls down in Waterloo Street, their body language both defiant and compelling. Her hips shifted, one slender foot thrust forwards, as she remembered how they had stood, languidly chewing gum, waiting for their punters. Their desperation drove them to return night after night, the price of a wrap of drugs equating to an hour with some stranger.
Her own need was just as strong, fuelled by a passion that would not be spent until she had fulfilled her desire. It was warm in this Glasgow summer’s night and her black nylon blouse clung to her back, making her uncomfortably aware of her own flesh. The thin cotton coat she’d worn to conceal these trashy clothes as she’d tapped her way across the marble foyer of the hotel was now folded into the black bag at her feet, along with her more sober court shoes. When it was over she would slip them on and return the way she had come, hair clipped in a businesslike pleat. She smiled thinly. Being a woman had some advantages; the facility for disguise was just one of them. Her carefully made-up face was stripped of colour in the unforgiving lamplight, leaving only an impression of dark eyes, darker hair tossed back to reveal a long, determined mouth. She recalled what Tracey- Anne, one of the girls at the drop-in centre, had told her: I get through it by pretending to be someone else for a few hours, then I can be myself again.
Tracey-Anne was lucky, though. After tonight she could never again be the person that she used to be. Glancing at the elegant façades around the square, the dark-haired woman suddenly saw these city streets through different eyes: the shadows seemed blacker, the corners harbouring ill intent. Her chin tilted upwards, defying those inner demons tempting her to turn back.
After tonight things would change for ever. When the car slowed down at the kerb her heart quickened in a moment of anticipation that astonished her. She had expected the thrill of fear, not this rush of excitement sweeping through her blood.
The man behind the wheel had bent his head and she could see his eyes flicking over her hungrily, appraising his choice. He gave a brief nod as if to say he was pleased with his first instinct to stop. Her lip-glossed mouth drawn up in a smile, she stepped forward, willing him to reach across and open the window, ask her price. For a moment he seemed to hesitate and she could see tiny beads of sweat on his upper lip, glistening in the light. Then the door of the big car swung open noiselessly and she lowered herself inside, swinging her legs neatly together to show as much thigh as she could. But the gestures were still ladylike, almost reserved, as if she knew that would quicken his senses.
‘How much?’ he asked. And she told him, one shoulder moving insouciantly as if to declare that she wasn’t bothered whether he could afford her or not: someone else would pay that price if he wouldn’t. She glanced at him briefly, catching sight of the tip of his tongue flicking at his lips like a nervous lizard, then he made a gruff noise of assent, looking at her again, as though to be sure of his purchase, before accelerating into the night.
Excerpt from A Pound of Flesh by Alex Gray. Copyright © 2017 by Alex Gray. Reproduced with permission from Witness Impulse. All rights reserved.