To Paris and Back

He closed his eyes, but couldn't keep out the images of six years ago and an era much earlier. Nor the smells that were Paris. The Luxembourg Gardens both times. Sitting on a bench at thirteen the first time, too old to cry, waiting for his parents to come back and collect him, hoping they would remember where they lost him.

He took a small sip from his café au lait, now cold.

Voices broke into his thoughts. The Orbital was so much noisier inside and less Parisian than it had been six years before. An Internet café now. Outside, though, among the round tables and the leaf-strewn Gardens opposite, it all seemed unchanged. She had been sitting at the table next to his at the time, now and then their eyes meeting. No illusions as to what she was – he wasn't thirteen that time round. And no real reason to even look. Married with sex on tap, why would he need to pay?

She with her top on – white t-shirt after taking everything else off – he with nothing. A narrow room on the third floor, curtained off from the rest by a white sheet that hung down from the ceiling. A bed, bigger than a single but not quite a double, and next to it a table lamp letting off an orange hue to it all. Sparse, functional. Slight smell of coffee from somewhere and sounds of the street. Perhaps even a baby from somewhere beyond the white separation. Payment: top off extra, not necessary; rates for hand job, blow job, full screw, positions, all shown by her through gestures. Simple, though, that's what he wanted. To be spent, give himself, all of him in one go.

Numb, with the urge to apologize. But he'd paid, so why should he? Still it lay there, against her moss, her feet under her buttocks, her thighs ending at her knees like stumps on each side of him.

Nothing, no sign of life. Not looking at her, he lifted himself up from between her, and fell back heavily to lie on his back, glancing at himself for a second, somehow hoping that blood would pump into it as always, with her now lying next to him. Her exertions over, she was a body, thick thighs but a woman's thighs.

"eere," was what he heard in his numbness as she took his hand to her. Nothing. The ceiling, once white but now discolored, culminating in blackened corners and neglect. His eyes closed within his shame, he felt her lean behind and take something from a drawer, then feeling the whirr and the vibrations on the vacuousness that was him.

It was her fault, it had to be. Money in advance means you get the goods. She could have acted, couldn't she? And flesh, not a t-shirt between them, that he was pulling at. Breasts – he was entitled to them.

"You want more, you pay."

The words and the pain, both muffled, came from behind. Not clear, any of it, and neither the blood on her torn t-shirt. Her face was attractive, he hadn't noticed before.

"Menu. Price List."

He sunk onto her as the blow came again, this time to his back, between the shoulders.

"What the...? He saw the fist in the slow second it took for him to turn his head. It hurt. Not pain, but the shock and the indignity of no control. Of things being done to him.

Yanked up from behind, then standing up, supported by the wall. She sitting up on the bed. His face wet, he touched it and looked at his fingers stained red. She staring at him and at the other. Fear, blank? He didn't know.

The other was standing by the door, breathing heavily with a half smile. More disdain than mocking.

"Pay or out," Enough English for that. Not the first time, obviously.

The indignity of it all. He had paid. It wasn't fair and his head hurt. His back too. Not taller than him was the other, but stronger no doubt. With a knife held casually, clean still. And dressed. Watching him take the steps to the chair on which were his clothes. Red trickling down his front, he needed to wash his face, to leave.

Taking his pants, his fingers leaving red blobs on the beige cotton, he pulled out his wallet. Fifty euros, then another fifty. The other stared, expressionless. Two more twenties, and the other took the notes and nodded.

In the silence of the room.

Her eyes moving from the other to him, she leaned forward on the bed, took off her t-shirt, red with his blood, and lay down.

Her arms pinned out to the sides, she lay still and open, her eyes on him this time, his blood drip dripping on her within his passion. He had paid for it, paid for it, paid.

Behind him, the other disappeared behind the white separation.

Involuntarily he glanced at the table next to him, at the couple sitting there this time, each with a cognac. Lovers looking into each other's eyes.

He turned to the waiter, signing in the air for his bill.

About the author:

Ronald Green, born in England, and David Lloyd, born in Canada, are ESL teachers and published writers of ESL books. They have recently completed a novel Revelation, while Ronald has recently completed a novel Outside In. Individually and together, Ronald's and David's short stories have been accepted for publication in Nuvein magazine, Tryst, Aesthetica, The Sink and Unholy Biscuit.