"No! Get off me."
I woke to the sound of my mother screaming – her shrill cries ricocheted off the four walls of my dirty bedroom and flew straight into my heart. It was so loud that it pierced through my brain and instantly made it begin to throb.
I yanked my favorite fleece blanket over my head as the tears started to roll down my pink, puffy cheeks.
In the room adjacent to mine, I could hear the racket of my drunken parents fighting once again; it was always the same. All that I heard were screams. The sounds blurred until I was numb.
I knew I couldn’t leave my bedroom or else I would end up experiencing the wrath of their anger so instead I sat with my head on my knees, helpless. I pulled the blanket around my shivering frame in the pathetic hope that it would somehow shield me from this miserable existence, although, I knew that it wouldn’t.
"No! Leave her out of this," my mother cried. "It's not her fault!"
I stifled a sob as I clapped my hands against my ears in a desperate attempt to drown out the noise, but I knew that I was being stupid. This agony would never leave me.
The screams were closer now – insistent, outside my bedroom door. My heart pounded against my chest and I felt as if I could vomit at any moment.
I jumped back and hit my head on the filthy cement wall of my private prison as my parents kicked my door open, stumbling inside as I poked my head out from under my blanket.
My unstable father forced my mother onto the wooden floor until she was nearly unconscious, blood seeping from a multitude of open wounds that adorned her frail body.
Then he turned to me and his eyes were so wild, and I screamed and cried, but in the hatred that inhabited his world, my screams were silent. He walked toward me with malice in his step, and I closed my eyes as I anticipated the searing pain that I had grown so accustomed to.
I woke up dripping with sweat. I threw my hands over my face and exhaled in a pointless attempt to calm my racing mind. It had been over one year since I packed my suitcase, moving to Westville, Florida, and yet the nightmares still haunted me every night.
I stepped into the grubby bathroom of my one bedroom apartment and stared into the smudged up mirror at my mascara-streaked face.
After taking a long, hard look at the lost little girl with the big emerald eyes - lost in a mess of thick, sticky lashes - I pulled my tangled black hair out of my eyes and splashed a handful of icy water over my face. "Good morning to me, I guess," I mumbled to myself before heading back to my single bed.
Running my fingers through my messy hair, I pulled my favorite fleece blanket over my lap. I looked at the small desk and glowered at my bright alarm clock. "Shit!" It was already ten o’clock at night - time to head out to work.
I threw the blanket off my bare legs and jumped to my feet, mind racing. Scrambling to the bathroom, I kicked a pair of old jeans out of my way and turned on the steaming hot water. It sputtered out in drips of umber, causing me to squirm.
I stripped out of my favorite black and gray T-shirt and panties and stepped into the stained shower. The steaming water hit my skin and rolled down my body as I tilted my head back and ran my fingers through my hair. I grabbed my old black sponge and scrubbed my sensitive skin roughly in the pathetic hope that it would be able to remove all of the pain that bloomed within me. The pleasure only lasted for a few minutes.
I finished showering in a rush and stepped out before drying my body and wrapping my hair into a tight messy bun in hopes that it would make me look more mature.
It didn’t matter anyway - in my sordid line of business, they liked the women to be young, loose and wild. I threw on a black mini skirt, silver tank top and my favorite silver heels and then grabbed my cell phone and called for a taxi.
"1313 Remington Place. Make it quick, please."
When the gaudy, yellow taxi pulled up outside my apartment, I jumped inside.
The driver looked back at me with beady eyes and gripped the steering wheel, his gray hair falling over his aging face. "Ma’am?" he questioned, with a small smile.
Taste Of Poison" I replied hastily. "Fast please. I'm running late."
He swallowed hard and eyed me from the rear-view mirror, his expression uneasy, as I looked at him impatiently and slammed the door shut. "Yes, ma’am." Sadly, I was starting to get use to that reaction.
We pulled up to ‘Taste of Poison’ and I tossed the man a ten-dollar bill through his open window before he drove away in a cloud of swirling exhaust.
The neon sign flashed above me. ‘Exotic Dancers’ it read in a flamboyant pink text. It made my stomach churn and my eyes water.
I placed my palm over my stomach and started to make my way toward the entrance of the building when suddenly I spotted a drunken man eyeing me – two black pebbles gazing at me with lust. It made me feel so dirty.
"Come here," he slurred. "Damn you look so good." His straggly, blond hair fell over his hairy face as he rubbed a hand over his keg of a stomach.
I took off in a sprint, but to my surprise, he was faster than I expected. He grabbed my arm and yanked me to a halt. I took a deep breath and closed my eyes, silently praying that I would be okay.
"Let go, you dick!" I screamed as I slapped his roaming hands away from my body. I turned around in my silver heels and ran to the door as quickly as possible, almost tripping over my own feet.
I turned around. "Go screw yourself!" Then I swung open the door of the hazy bar and stepped inside, my heart pounding with adrenaline.
The music instantly filled my ears as Trinity – a promiscuous stripper – stepped off the stage in her towering heels and gave the audience a tantalizing smile before disappearing behind the red velvet curtain.
I watched as the crowd went wild. Men of all ages filled the crowded joint, making my stomach ache. I held my breath as I walked through them- their faces were so familiar.
I knew that I had no choice though- the strip bar had been my last resort, but it paid the bills so I had to continue or else I knew that I wouldn’t survive. Every other job that I had applied to had turned me down, insufficient experience, no transportation, not enough qualification; it was all the same. It had come down to one decision in the end: work at the strip joint or stay out on the streets.
I stopped to glance down at the black marble floor when I felt a heavy, plastic object hit my foot. A grimace ran over my face upon the realization that one of the men had thrown their draft beer at me. He laughed - baldhead shining in the subdued lighting - and reached for another beer from across the table. "Hell yeah! I love this place.”