Claude’s Story

I’m sitting in the cafe that I frequently go to because I love their Latte when I can feel that someone is staring at me.  I turn my head and my eyes meet those of a very beautiful African American woman.  As we lock eyes for what seemed like eternity, I debate whether or not to walk over there or simply walk out.  It hasn’t been that long since my marriage ended after I found out that my wife was cheating on me.  Her betrayal still leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.  Relationships are the last thing on my mind right now.

The owner of the cafe, a jovial man walks over to her and she looks up at him.  He leans over and says something to her.  She grabs her handbag and immediately leaves.  The owner comes over to me and says in a low voice, “I saw her making eyes at you,” he said.  “I don’t want her business in here.  I told her that if she came here again, I would call the police.”

I stare at him, confused.  “What do you mean?  What kind of business is she in?”

He looks around to make sure no one could hear him.  “She’s one of them ladies of the night.  Seems like she likes to go into reputable businesses and find customers.  Well, she’s not use my cafe for her sordid business.”

“But, she didn’t look like a…”  I couldn’t even say the word.

“No, I don’t suppose she does but I know her kind.  I see her  hanging out on the street, trying to solicit and now she has the gall to come into my cafe.  I told her not to show her face around her anymore or else I’ll set the police on her.  I think I scared her off.  I don’t think she will come here anymore.”

I thank him and finish my Latte.  I get up from the table and leave.  Outside, I stand on the sidewalk and look in both directions.  I spot her standing at the corner.  I hurry towards her.  This is crazy, I think to myself.  I shouldn’t get involved.  But, I can’t let an opportunity to reach out to someone who needed help pass me by.  She turns her head and sees me.  I can see the surprise on her face.  “Hi,” I say when I reach her.  “I was hoping that you hadn’t gone far.”

“Why did you come after me?” she asks.

Up close she is very beautiful.  “I wanted to talk to you.”

“You’re not a cop, are you?”

I shake my head.  “No.  I’m a lawyer.”

“You think I need one?  Did the owner press charges against me?”

“No.  Why would he press charges against you?”

“Because I’m a hooker and I was on his premises.  I thought I was trying to solicit?”

“And were you?”

“No!  I was in there like any paying customer when I saw you.  I can’t help that you’re a very attractive man.  I was just admiring you.  I wasn’t going to solicit you or try to pick you up.”

“If he hadn’t told me what you were, I never would have guessed.  You don’t look like a…”

“Prostitute?  Well, during the day, I’m a regular person, doing regular things but at night I get picked up by all sorts of men.”

“Why do you do it?”

She shrugs.  “I got laid off a year ago.”

“So, why can’t you try to find another job or go through a temporary agency?”

“Listen, why should I settle for another nine to five job when I can earn $120. a customer?  I make more money having sex with rich, white businessmen?”

“You don’t have to do this.  You can make that kind of money without selling yourself.”

She stares at me.  “How?”

I think about it for a moment and then I say, “A former client recently told me that if I had any favors to ask of him, don’t hesitate.  I can call him and see what he can do for you.”

“Why are you doing this?” she asks.

“I’m a Christian lawyer.”

“Oh.  Wouldn’t your church have a problem with you helping me?”

“No.  As Christians we are supposed to help others.”

“I used to go to church a long time ago but stopped going because the members were judgmental.  I got pregnant out of wedlock when I was 17 and they treated me like I was the devil himself.”

“So, you’re mother?”  I can’t believe that as a mother she would sell herself.

She shakes her head.  “I was.  I lost the baby.  It was a stillborn.”

“I’m sorry.  What about the father?”

“He was one of the deacons.  That’s why I left the church.  They were a bunch of hypocrites judging me when the baby’s father was a man they all respected and treated like he was a saint.”

“I’m sorry you had a bad experience and you were judged instead of shown love and mercy but not all churches are like that.”

“I guess not but I’m not interested in going back to church.  How do you think they would treat me if they knew that I was hooking?”

“Unless you told them, how would they know?”

“I guess you’re right.”

“Listen,  I have to run.  I have to meet a client.  Is there a number where I can reach you?”

“Sure.  Do you have a business card and a pen?”

I fish in my breast pocket and hand her a business card and a pen.  She takes them.  I watch as she scribbles something at the back of the card before she hands it and the pen back to me.

I look at the card before putting it and the pen back in my pocket.  “Thanks for writing your name too, Danica.”

“What’s yours?”

“Claude.”

She holds out her hand.  “Well, it was nice meeting you, Claude.”

I shake it.  “Likewise.”

She withdraws her hand.  “Well, don’t let me keep you from your client.”

“Do you have any plans for tonight?”

“Yes, the usual.”

“How about having dinner with me tonight instead of…”

“Is this you being charitable again?”

“No.  I just you would spend the evening having dinner with me instead of with a complete stranger who’s only interested in you for one thing.  You’re a beautiful and smart woman, Danica.  You deserve much more.  Stop selling yourself.  It wouldn’t bring you any satisfaction or happiness.”

“Okay.  You don’t have to argue your case, Counselor.  You’ve talked me into having dinner with you.”

“Good.  Where do you live?”

She tells me.  “What time should I be expecting you?” she asks.

“I’ll be there at seven.”

“Okay, Claude.  I’ll see you at seven.”

I smile and then, I walk away.  I could feel her watching me.  I find myself looking forward to seeing her tonight.

At promptly seven o’ clock I show up at her apartment.  She looks amazing in a black dress with a V neckline and three quarter long sleeves.  She’s wearing her hair up, giving her an elegant appearance.  We go to one of my favorite restaurants where we enjoy a sumptuous meal and a very engaging conversation.  When I take her home, I ask her to have dinner with me the following evening.  By the end of the month we are seeing each other regularly.  She’s no longer soliciting. My friend and former client was able to find her a well paying job at a PR firm.

I’m taking her to church where she feels warmly welcomed.  What impresses her is that there’s a ministry for former drug addicts, drug dealers, alcoholics and prostitutes.  She sometimes can’t believe that a church is willing to minister to such people.  After her baptism and becoming a member of the church, with my encouragement and support, she has become a part of the ministry.  And now she’s helping prostitutes to leave the streets and they receive counseling and job training.  Many of them have joined the church.

I never imagined that I would get married again but that was before I met Danica.  We got married last year and are expecting our first child in the summer.  I thank God that I was in the cafe the same day she was.  I went there as usual for a Latte and found love.

Mia’s Story

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Ours isn’t your typical love story.  I was a victim of human sex trafficking and he’s an FBI agent.  My name is Mia and I’m 28 years old.  I was 18 when I ran away from home.  I was having problems with my mother who always made me feel like I was no good and that she was sorry that she had me.  And my father who was hardly around and when he was, he fought with my mother and ignored me.

Life at home was hell and sometimes I just wished it was a nightmare and that I would wake up in a different house and with different parents–people who loved and cared about me.  It got to the point that I knew that if I didn’t leave, I would kill myself.  One night after my parents had gone to bed, I grabbed my knapsack and sneaked out of the house.  I had some money which I took from my mother’s purse and my father’s wallet.  I didn’t have time to count the amount but it looked like it would last me for a while.

It lasted for a couple of weeks and then I was broke.  I had no idea of what to do.  I had no where to go.  I refused to go back home.  I called other family members but they hung up when they knew that it was me.  I was too ashamed to call my friends.  So, I decided that may be I should find a job at McDonald’s or some other fast food place.  It was better than staying on the streets or going to a homeless shelter.

I stood there trying to figure out where the nearest MacDonald’s was when a really cute guy came up to me.  He had the most incredible blue eyes and an amazing smile.  “Hi,” he said.  “Are you lost?”

“I’m trying to find a McDonald’s,” I explained.  “I’m looking for a job.”

“I see.  It just so happens that I work at a restaurant just around the corner and the manager is looking to hire a cashier.  Are you interested?”

My expression brightened.  “Of course!  I’ve worked as a cashier before.”

“Good.  I’m heading there now so I can introduce you to the manager.”

“Okay.”

“What’s your name?”

“Mia.”

“I’m Joe.”  He held out his hand.

She smiled and shook it.  “Nice to meet you, Joe.”

We headed in the direction of the Space Needle.  I promised myself that one day I would visit it.  As we walked we talked.  He was so charming and easygoing.  I found myself hoping that he didn’t have a girlfriend.  About ten minutes later, we stopped in front of a restaurant.  It was packed.  He pushed the door open for me to enter.  The smell of fried food assailed me and reminded me that I was hungry.

As if he read my mind, he asked, “Are you hungry?”

I nodded.  “I haven’t eaten all day.”

He took me by the elbow and led me down a long corridor and into a room.  “Sit here while I go and get something for you to eat.”

I sat down, grateful for his kindness and to be able to sit down after being on my feet for so long.  Fading light streamed through the windows.  The sun would be setting soon.  I hoped that Joe was right about his manager and that he would hire me.  It would be so cool working there with Joe.  I was feeling a little hot so I removed my jacket.  I pulled my hair back into a ponytail.  I was about to get up and walk over to the window and look out when Joe came in carrying a tray with a burger, fries and a soft drink.  He set them down on the table.  My mouth was watering.  “Thanks, Joe.”

He smiled.  “No problem.  When you’re finished just come to the front where the cashier is and I’ll be there.”

“Thanks.”  I waited until he left before I wolfed down the burger and fries.  They were sooo good.  I drank the Ginger-ale.  It was nice and cold.  I was half-way through it when I started to feel dizzy.  The room started to spin and I squeezed my eyes shut.  When I opened them again, I was in another room and there was a strange man standing over me.  Was this the manager?  Had I passed out or something?  Did I eat too fast?  All sorts of questions whirled around in my mind.  My head was pounding but at least the room wasn’t spinning and the dizziness was gone.  I tried to sit up but the man pushed me down.  Panicking, I cried out but he put something over my nose and mouth and everything went black.res

When I regained consciousness I was alone and I realized that I was lying on a bed.  I managed to sit up and I screamed when I saw that I was wearing red lingerie.  How did I end up here?  Who removed my clothes?  Where are my clothes?  I looked wildly about the room for my clothes.  I tried to get out of the bed but the door opened and Joe came in.  He grabbed me and tried to force me to lie back down.  I struggled wildly and he struck me.  I was so shocked that I fell back against the pillows.  Joe looked like a different person.  His eyes were cold and his expression impassive.  “You’re not going anywhere,” he muttered.  “You’re going to be here for a long time.”

“Where am I?” I asked, tears streaming down my face.  “Who are you and why are you doing this to me?”

“I don’t have time to answer your questions.”

“What is this place?  Why have you brought me here?”

“You wanted a job, remember?  Well, here you are.”

I struggled to get up.  “You told me that it was a cashier’s job at your restaurant.”

“You’re far too pretty to be a cashier.  You will make more money on your back.”

Then, it hit me.  He was forcing me into prostitution.  I felt sick.  I clawed at him until he clamped his hand over my nose and mouth.  Everything went black again.  I don’t know how long I was out but when I came to, I heard Joe say to someone, “She’s all yours.  I broke her in for you and she’s nicely cleaned up.  Remember to wear a rubber.  We practice safe sex here.  She’s no use to me if she gets pregnant and I’m not to spend my hard earned money on an abortion.”

I heard the door open and close.  Then silence.  I opened my eyes and I saw a man leaning over me.  I felt his hot breath on my face.  I struggled to get up but I couldn’t move.  Then, I realize that he was on top of me.  I pushed at him but it was no use.  I lay there helpless while he raped me.

When it was over, he got off me and I heard him moving about the room as he got dressed.  Then, I heard the door open and close.  I lay there for a long time, too terrified to move or make a sound.  Then, I pushed myself up and got up from the bed.  I put on the lingerie bottom which was lying on the floor and stumbled towards the closed door.  It was a washroom.  I felt for the switch and flicked it on.  I went over to the mirror and stared at my reflection.  I didn’t recognize myself.  My eyes were puffy, my jaw was bruised from where Joe struck me and my left shoulder had a bruise as well.  I turned on the tap and splashed water on my face.  I had to get out of there.  I went to the window and opened it.  I pushed my head out.  Outside was a fire escape.  I raised the window higher and climbed onto the ledge.  I reached out and pulled myself onto the fire escape.  I made my way down to the street below and ran as fast as I could.

When I was as far away from that place as possible, I flagged a cab down and when it stopped, I begged the driver to take me to the nearest hospital.  When I got there I went straight to Emergency and told the triage person what happened to me.  I was ushered into a room where I was told to wait.  Minutes later a nurse came in and asked me “Did anyone you worked for or lived with trick or force you into doing anything you did not want to do?” and other questions.  Then, she left and returned.  She asked me to get undressed so that I could be examined and left.  After the examination, I was given a gown.  I sat at the edge of the bed and waited.

The nurse who examined me came in and told me that I was a victim of sex trafficking.  There was evidence of forced penetration and bruising on my wrists as if I were restrained.  She asked if there was anyone I needed to call or somewhere to stay.  I shook my head.  I was in a daze.  I still couldn’t believe what had happened to me.  I had fallen for a pair of blue eyes and a charming smile.  The nurse told me that the hospital would help me with housing, transportation and any necessities I may need.  That was a real load off my shoulders.  I spent the night in the hospital.  I had trouble falling asleep because every time I closed my eyes I saw either Joe’s or that strange man’s face.  And I was afraid that I would wake up and find myself back in that room.

The next day, I was visited by two FBI agents who wanted to question me.  One was an older man with sandy colored hair, sharp eyes and a portly gait.  The other was tall, dark and very handsome.  The older one asked most of the questions and was very quick and direct.  Then, the other one said, “You were lucky to get out of there alive.  You did the right thing coming here.”

“I hope you catch Joe,” I said.  “I wish I knew the other man’s name.”

“It would be very helpful if you can give their descriptions to our artist,” he replied.

“I can,” I assured them tightly.  “I will never forget their faces.”

“Thank you, Miss Bautista,” the older one said.  “We will be in touch.  Good-day.”  He left the room.

The other one lingered for a moment.  “Good-day, Miss Bautista.”

“Good-day, Agent Fowler.”  I watched him leave.

I left the hospital that afternoon and was placed in Catalyst at Straley House where I can stay for 18 months while I work with my case manager to get connected to school and employment, and transition into permanent housing.   It turned out to be a really nice place.  I met a lot of great people.  My case manager, Rita was a tremendous help and support for me.  Before leaving home, I had graduated from high-school with honors but I hadn’t applied to any university.  After my ordeal in Seattle, I decided that I would move to another city in Washington.  I googled the best cities there and chose Spokane.  I applied to Gonzaga University and was accepted.

Before I left to go to live on campus, I received a visit from Agent Fowler who informed me that thanks to my descriptions Joe Cartwright and his cohorts were arrested.   The man who raped me was a prominent businessman who was a regular client.  Joe was a pimp and his victims included under-aged girls.  It turned out that Mr. Murphy had no clue about Joe’s nefarious business dealings.  Joe had used Mr. Murphy’s job posting to gain my trust.  I was very grateful to Agents Fowler and Benson for investigating and catching those monsters.  I hope that they will spend the rest of their lives behind bars.  I told Agent Fowler that I was moving to Spokane.  He smiled and shook my hand.  “I wish you all the best, Miss Bautista.”

As I watched him leave, I found myself hoping that I would see him again.  Years later, I did.  I had graduated from Gonzaga University and was working as a Youth Program Assistant which I loved.  I was on my way to lunch when I saw someone walking in front of me.  From the back he looked very familiar and then I realized who it was.  I quickened my pace until I was right behind him and I called out, “Agent Fowler.”

He stopped and turned to face me.  I could see that he recognized me.  Smiling, he held out his hand.  “Miss Bautista.  It’s good to see you.”

“I didn’t think I would run into you.  What are you doing in Spokane?”

“I’m here for my nephew’s wedding which is tomorrow.”

“Did you fly or drive?”

“I flew.  I didn’t feel like spending over four hours behind the wheel. Are you heading somewhere?”

“I was on my way to lunch.”

“Do you mind if I tag along?”

“I could do with the company.  There’s a bistro right up the road.  They serve the best comfort food.”

“Sounds good.”

We walked to the bistro.  Over local beef and regional fresh fish, we talked.  When it was time for me to head back to the office, he came with me.  As we stood outside the building, he asked me to have dinner with him.  I gladly accepted.  After that first dinner, we made arrangements to see each other again.  He spent the week in Spokane before he flew back.  We had a long distance relationship and saw each other in the summer, at Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s.  Then, one day when we were Riverfront Park, he told me that he was moving to the FBI office in Spokane.

I stared up at him.  “Why?” I asked.  I was thrilled, of course but taken aback.

He reached for my hands, his expression serious as his eyes met mine.  “I want to be where you are, Mia,” he said quietly.

I swallowed hard, my heart was racing now.  “Why?”

“Simple, I love you.”

“I love you too, Nathan.  And I’m happy that you’re moving to Spokane.”

He leaned over and kissed me.  I felt my head explode.  We drew apart several minutes later and holding hands, we continued our walk.  The following spring, he moved to Spokane and following a very short engagement, we got married in September.  The attendees were Rita, my case manager, my friends from Catalyst, my co-workers and his FBI friends and family.  My parents weren’t there because I didn’t invite them.  They are a painful part of my past which I want to forget.

Ten years have passed since my ordeal and what thing that I have learned from it is that “Our pain can be turned into purpose”  This March, I started a support group for former sex and human trafficking victims.

While Mia’s story is fiction, it is real for many.  Trafficking of any kind is an evil that must be wiped out and those responsible for it must be brought to justice.  Check out this video for a grim glimpse into the world of child sex trafficking and what is being done to save victims.

Here is a list of non-profit organizations fighting against Human Trafficking:

Let’s work together to stop trafficking and exploitation.  Let’s fight for freedom.

Sources:  FBI Video; Nurse.com; Nurse.org; FBI; YouthCare; Yelp

The Second Date

Marla was taking a stroll on her last vacation day in the summer, enjoying the quiet neighborhood close to where she lived and the beautiful weather when her cell rang.  It was Dean.  Smiling she answered it.  “Hi, Dean.

“Hi, Marla.  I just wanted to call and tell you that I had a really great time last night.”

They had dinner at the swanky Polo Bar.

“Me too.”

“You mentioned that you like Jazz so I was wondering if you would like to go to Bill’s Place with me tonight?”

“Sure, I’d love that.”

“Good.  I’ll pick you up at seven.”

“It’s a date!”

He smiled.  “Yes, it is.  The second of many, I hope.”

Sources:  Trip Advisor; Conde Nast Traveler;

Do You Know Him?

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PHOTO PROMPT © Ted Strutz

It was a nice, summer day.  After lunch, my father and I went to matinee show at the theatre which was within walking distance from the apartment I shared with my mother and sisters.

Later as we were walking back to the apartment, a cute guy was approaching from the opposite direction.

He looked at me, smiled and said, “Hi.”

“Hi,” I replied, smiling.

After we passed each other, my father asked, “Do you know him?”

“No.”

He laughed, looking surprised and amused.  I guess in his day, a guy didn’t say hi to a girl unless he knew her.

100 Words

 

Although I changed a few details, this actually happened years ago when my Dad was visiting me in Queens, New York.  We were returning from somewhere and a guy I had never seen before said hi to me.  It wasn’t the first time that happened but it’s one of the many fond memories I have of my father.

This was written for the Friday Fictioneers challenge hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields For more details, visit Here.  To read other stories based on this week’s prompt, visit Here.

Co-Workers Turned Couple

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He glanced up from his computer and realized that Shantel and he were the only ones in the office.  Everyone else had left.  It was Friday.  Most people left either minutes before or exactly at five.  And it was summer.  People wanted to enjoy the nice weather.

He wasn’t in any rush to get home.  All he did when he was there was watch television, play the stereo, read or spend hours on his laptop.  After living most of his life on a farm, it took a while to get used to living in the city.  In spite of the hustle and bustle and all that the city had to offer, his was a very boring life.  He didn’t have a girlfriend and he wasn’t interested in dating, at least that was before Shantel came on the scene.

Two years ago, she joined the company when Ruth who had been working there for over fifteen years, decided to move back to Toronto.  He was sorry to see her go because she was like an older sister to him.  However, when he saw her replacement, he was bowled over.  She was beautiful!  He was tongue-tied and couldn’t help staring when Ruth introduced them.

Shantel was quiet and reserved like him and they got along very well.  Some times they had lunch and took the subway together.  They learned a lot about each other.  He was relieved to find out that she was single like him.  They shared a lot in common and had similar tastes.  Sometimes, they went to the park to have lunch and after work, they went to the shopping mall or the library to browse before hopping on the train.

It wasn’t long before he started to develop feelings for her and he wanted so badly to ask her out but he was afraid of rejection and ruining their friendship.  He watched her now as she sat at her desk.  She glanced up and caught him looking at her.  She got up and went over.  She looked amazing in the purple dress which ended just above her knees.  What lovely legs she had…Realizing that he was staring, he turned away, his face red.

“Are you working late?” she asked.

He looked up.  “I wasn’t planning to,” he replied.  “What about you?”

“No.  I’m ready to leave when you are.”

“Okay.  I’ll be ready in five minutes.”

“I’ll go and get ready.”  She smiled at him before walking away.

He switched off his computer and quickly cleared his desk.  Grabbing his jacket, he went over to her desk where she was waiting for him.  They walked to the elevator.  On the ride down, she turned to him.  “Are you doing anything tomorrow evening?” she asked.

He shook his head.  “No.”

“Well, I was wondering if you would to have dinner at my place.”

His heart began to beat faster.  “I would love to, Shantel.” 

“I’ve wanted to ask you that for a long time but just couldn’t work up the courage until now.”

His eyes darkened on her face and he reached for her hand.  “And I’ve wanted to ask you out so many times but was afraid to.”

She smiled and squeezed his hand.  “I’m glad to know that we both feel the same way and that we’re finally reached this stage in our relationship.  No more hiding or pretending…”  Her voice trailed off as his lips found hers and moved ever so gently, like a caress, making her catch her breath.

When they exited the elevator, they were smiling and holding hands.  They were a couple now.

This was written for the Ragtag Daily Prompt for today’s prompt, Farm.  If you’re interested in participating, click HERE for more information.

Taken for a Ride

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“What a spectacular view,” Deepali remarked to Rohit as they sat perched high above the amusement park.  It was a mild summer evening and they were riding the Ferris wheel. It was her first time.  Initially, she was petrified to go on it and worried that something bad might happen but Rohit assured her that she’d be safe.  He’d make sure of it.

“Careful now,” he warned.  “Don’t lean over too far.”

Deepali smiled.  “I’ll be careful,” she promised.  “Is that the Capitol building–?” Her query turned into a bloodcurdling scream as she went hurtling over the side.

 

99 Words

 

This was written for the Friday Fictioneers challenge hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields For more details, visit Here.  To read other stories based on this week’s prompt, visit Here.

Painting With Phil

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One of the things I enjoy doing with Phil since we retired is painting.  During the summer, we set up an easel in the backyard and try to paint whatever tickles our fancy.  Art is our passion.  I guess it’s because we met in Art class in high-school.

Today, we are painting my rose bush.  While Phil makes the bold brush strokes, I fill in the details.  It’s shaping up nicely and our grandson, Josh is impressed.  When our masterpiece is done, we’ll frame it and hang above the fireplace.

This was written for the Ragtag Daily Prompt for today’s prompt, bold. If you’re interested in participating, click HERE for more information.