I couldn’t resist the wordplay, sorrynotsorry.
For those new to the story, please see the Storytime header tab for the Table of Contents.
Remember the Write Like You’re Alive challenge I’m doing this month? I’m failing, y’all. I haven’t felt good physically for about a week, and it shows. I have until the 31st to write six more pieces to fully qualify, and I’m devoid of motivation. I am a limp turtle. I am a watery soda. I am the paper backing of a gold star. Hey! You win some, you lose some. At least I got a bunch of scenes written for the Peasant Christ story I’ve been wanting to write for over a year! (watch this space)
A Hostile Hostel
Jackie insisted Sharna take off her Yellow robe.
“You stick out like a flower.”
It hurt because of Naia’s comment from this morning. She was angry at herself then, for being hurt by the original comment, and for allowing it to bother her later. Would every reference to flowers be forever wedded to Naia? Did she want that smug girl to have that kind of power over her? She grit her teeth and graciously removed the earned robe.
Jackie rolled it up tightly and helped shove it in Sharna’s bag.
“You travel light for someone running away from home.”
Sharna snatched the bag back. “I’m not running away. I’m…well, I thought I was running to home, actually.”
“She told me to go back to the Mansion or my brother might be embarrassed. Something along those lines.”
Jackie didn’t say anything, and Sharna was too shy to ask about the thief’s own story even though she was full of questions. She wasn’t sure why Jackie was interested in her, unless it had to do with the theft at the Mansion.
They walked in silence for a bit until Jackie veered up a set of rickety wooden steps. The building leaned back from the street, the edges of its bricks no longer sharp but worn to round dollops. When Sharna followed her inside, the smell of unwashed bodies and damp rodent made her nose wrinkle.
“Oh, fauh. Really?” she whispered.
Jackie made a hushing motion with her hand as they approached a desk strewn with ashes and debris from Fone herb joints. The attendant had a rolled tail in one hand and her chin in the other. She sat up a bit when Jackie got closer, but didn’t bother to put out the smoking tail. The smoke wreathed around Sharna’s head and compounded the headache she had from lack of food, excess of wine, and stress.
“For two, it’ll be a mark a day. You have to pay each morning when Dee comes to collect. If the mark ain’t in his hand, you and yer gal’l be out in the gutter. No questions. No refunds.” She smirked around Jackie’s shoulder at Sharna. “No maid service. Clean up yer own shit.”
The attendant took the mark, and then inked Jackie’s hand. She raised an eyebrow at Sharna’s smooth hand and clean nails. “Where’d you find this one? She’s practically newborn!” She grinned and Sharna could see gaps where teeth had rotted away from the Fone smoke. “Want to share? I’ll give you a discount. Hell, for a night, I bet Dee would let you stay a few days free.”
Jackie laughed and bantered back. “She’s too fresh for the likes of him. She’s not mine; she’s a special order I’m delivering.”
“Well, I promise to put her back like I found her.”
Sharna snatched her hand back and hid her blushes by examining the ink mark. It was a blue mouse with a long tail that looped a circle around its inquisitive body. She shivered at the thought of a hostel that used rodents for the receipt mark.
“Room five. It’s the one with the green door. It might even lock today, if you’re lucky.”
They headed up the stairs. Each one sagged with their weight, and Sharna wouldn’t have been surprised if one had broken like a rotten tooth. The walls were narrow and stained with smoke oils in a sickly yellow scrawl.
“Was she offering to have sex with me?” Sharna asked.
Jackie didn’t turn to look at her, and Sharna struggled to hear her as they reached the top of the steps. “Yes. It was a good offer. I was serious about Dee, though. He’d ruin you. At least Miss Smokes down there recognized good value.”
Sharna was speechless. What kind of friend suggested you sell yourself? The door pushed open and she was struck by the thought, someone who is desperate.
(Comments and critiques welcome! See you next week.)