Authors: Max Ellendale
The truth of it was, that woman, the ginger hair, I wanted it to
be Jillian. She didn't look like her at all but it was what I wanted. I wanted
it more than anything. To see her again, maybe without her seeing me. To rage
inside as I watched her walk or eat or laugh or something. Whose lap had she
landed in now? Did anyone else stab her and leave her for dead? Did she
disappear back to New York or to Texas or wherever her parents were? Without me
as a burden, she'd have plenty of places to disappear to.
But that's how I ended up in Portland. A lot. And every time, I
found a club like the first one and waited to see a redhead to envision my
rage. There wasn't many and, eventually, I stopped seeing them all together,
and began watching the women dance. Distracted from everything else, far away
from family or Rhoda, far away from my destroyed condo or pitiful paintings.
In a few weeks, I maxed out on my strip clubs and titty bars in
Portland. Eventually, I began repeating some, but my mission quickly lost its
flavor. I sat in the back, as I usually did, and watched, a little boredly, a
dancer named Diamond, or Cindy, or something, dance the same dance she danced
last week and the week before that, until a shadow approached me, sliding a
napkin on to the table.
"You always come here alone," she said.
When I looked up at her, tall, slender, with black hair and pearly
teeth that brightened her smirk, I forgot about the stage. "What?"
"I said you always come here alone."
"Is that unusual?"
"No." She glanced over her shoulder, sending her hair
tumbling forward a bit. My eyes wandered over her, curvy hips, larger than
average breasts. "You busy tonight, Whisky Sour?"
"Want to be?"
"You ever gonna order something other than one whisky
"C'mon," she said, nodding toward the bar area. I dug my
hand into my pocket and tossed some money on the table. I wondered what Jillian
would think if she knew how I'd been spending our money.
bank account that she hadn't touched.
The woman led me around the side of the bar where she took off her
apron, leaving her in a tight pair of black shorts and a tank top. She gestured
toward a black velvet curtain and I followed her through it. The carpeted hall
wasn't anything fancy, resembling the hallway of an apartment building, which
opened into an area with three doors. We entered the only door on the right and
she closed it behind her. Part of me expected something trashy but it turned
out to be somewhat of a living quarters, resembling a dorm room.
"Do you live here?"
"Some of us rent rooms from time to time." That was all
she said before she swung herself in front of me, backing me up against the
wall. Her mouth was on mine before I even saw the color of her eyes. My body
resisted at first. Her foreign taste, flowery perfume, dark hair, and tattooed
wrists didn't have the softness that I was used to. Her body wasn't firm and
toned, but curvy and warm in places I didn't expect. She forced my hands onto
her breasts and I squeezed out of sheer habit while memories assaulted me. The
anger only kept me in the kiss longer.
The button of my jeans released and she shoved her hand down the
front of them, cupping me almost violently without bothering to ask. I let her
because I didn't care. Because I didn't care at all. Again, she grabbed my arm,
pushing my hand down her body. I mimicked her movement, reaching behind her
shorts, but the minute her dampness met my fingers, I ended the kiss.
"What?" she said, her brown eyes hazy with lust.
"Oh for fuck's sake. You're not
"Good." She jerked me backward, slamming my shoulders
into the wall at the same time that she entered me, her mouth and tongue
attacking my shoulder. I cried out, torn between want and hate.
"Stop." I pushed her backward and she withdrew, lifting
her hands in the air in a gesture of surrender. She turned away from me and
. Why the hell did you come back here then?
"You're a bitch."
"You're a cock-tease."
"You didn't even try," she said, nearly pouting. I
laughed in her face and she smirked. Silence fell awkwardly between us for a
"I'm gonna go," I said, buttoning my pants and heading
toward the door.
"Come back again, Whiskey Sour, when you've changed your
mind," she said and I closed the door behind me.
Bass from the music thudded lightly under my feet and voices of
people coming and going from the rooms around us mingled with it. The bartender
offered me a light nod as he walked passed carrying two stacked boxes.
"No, I don't
to," a whispering voice spat,
echoing in the stairwell. "I told you that already."
"Fine. Be like that. Just get me a beer," a man's voice
followed much louder.
," said the woman and as I turned the
corner, back toward the bar, I collided with the bartender and someone coming
down the flight of stairs. Napkins rained down on us in a fluttery mess. I bent
down to pick them up.
"Sorry," I said.
"Whoa there," said the bartender. "In a hurry,
"Can you get him a beer for me?" With less of an echo,
the voice of the woman sounded familiar. At the same time, we both slapped a
pile of napkins into the bartender's open hands.
"No prob," he said, glancing between the two of us. He
walked away just as a stifled gasp sounded. I turned to the woman and stood
facing the mane of crimson I'd been dreaming about for months. That perfect
orange-pink-red that belonged only to Jillian. Her face, pale and terrified,
with her piercing blue eyes that gawked at me the way they did when she spilled
my coffee ages ago.
At first, she stared at me, her gaze shifting right to left as if
she wasn't sure of what she was seeing until tears streamed down her cheeks,
smearing her eyeliner and sending black streaks down to her chin.
"You can't—you can't be here!" she shout-whispered,
grabbing me and shoving me down the hall back toward the room where I left the
curvy waitress. "What are you
"Me?" I jerked my arms away from her at the same time
that the door opened. The waitress nearly walked into us.
"Whoa. What the hell? I saw her first, Ginge, back off,"
" Jillian looked between the two of us,
then her eyes fell on me. "You were with Pam?"
"Yeah, she was. What's going on?" asked the waitress,
who I now knew to be Pam.
"Nothing," said Jillian, and the three of us stood there
"Well, this escalated quickly. I'm out." Pam rolled her
eyes and wandered back toward the bar.
Jillian grabbed me again and shoved me into Pam's room. I stumbled
over my own feet then the carpet until she closed the door behind us.
"What are you doing here!"
doing here?" I laughed because what
else was I supposed to do. "You fucking left
me in a goddamn
." Only then did I even bother to notice what she
was wearing. A red dress—the color she hated to wear because she said it
clashed with her hair—no shoes, and nothing else. The bruise on her shoulder
was the only thing that brought me pause.
"Jess, please. You have to go," she said the moment I
looked at her arm. "If Nate finds you, if he knows you're here—"
"Wait a minute,
? You're with Nate?!"
"Shh! No, I'm... He." She glanced over her shoulder and
her fingers dug heavily into my arms. "Please go. I'll call you, okay?
"I'm not leaving you here! Are you kidding me? Jilly…"
My anger shifted to fear when I picked up on hers. She couldn't stop looking
over her shoulder and her tears spiraled to soft crying.
"Please, baby, please go."
"Jilly, no. I'm not going. I'm not."
"He'll kill you. He'll kill me, okay?" She yelled with
her teeth clenched as she shook me.
it." I yanked her to me and for a
moment, a single moment, she melted against me, then recoiled.
"Jess, please," she begged, covering her mouth when the
realization of our predicament seemed to hit her.
"Did he take you?"
"I went with him."
"Why?" I bent down, lifted the hem of my jeans, and
pulled my gun from the holster. "Does he have any weapons?"
"N-no. It's just him and me." Her voice trembled while
she stared at the weapon.
"What's his job?"
"Quick, Jilly. Is he a cop or a lawyer or something?"
"N-no. He just…steals stuff and sells it. Jewelry,
"He's always alone."
"Listen to me," I said, tucking the gun in the pocket of
my jacket. "We're going to walk out of here like nothing, okay? Just walk
out. Is there a back exit?"
"He's coming. I'm supposed to be upstairs," she said
when a noise sounded from outside. She was panicking and I knew we didn't have
much time. "He...he… I went to get groceries. He was there in the parking
lot waiting. I told him… I had to, he would kill you—"
"Okay, baby, listen to me. Forget about that right now. We
need to think about getting out of here, that's all. Okay?"
"Jess." She sobbed out my name.
"I know, okay? You're okay." I stepped closer to her and
she recoiled again though reached for me at the same time.
"I'm sorry, I'm
," she cried and I didn't
know what to do.
"I know you are, Jilly. Come here, come to me." I held
my hands out to her and she moved to me, slowly as if she walked on shards of
glass. "How'd he find you?"
"Art show. When we did it at the university, he saw a flyer
with me on it when he was in New York." She sobbed and brought herself
close enough to hold my hand. "He found you, not me."
"I'm gonna get you out of here. It'll be okay." I
squeezed her hand and the way she shook, her level of fear was nothing I'd ever
A shout echoed from the hallway followed by a bang. More voices
rumbled and Jilly nearly screamed. I yanked her behind me at the same moment
the door flew open. In front of me stood a strung-out, long-haired, burly man
with a raging red face. He stared at me, sucked in his breath, and his entire
demeanor calmed to a casual smile.
"Jillian, come here please," he said and Jilly's hand
twitched in mine.
"She's staying right where she is," I said, cooling my
tone to match his. I angled my body toward Jilly and slid my hand into my
pocket, gripping the gun.
Pam's black hair swept passed the door and I heard her whisper,
"Call the police," to someone.
"Pamela, there's no need for that," Nate said, his eyes
on us. "I'm here for my girlfriend and then we're leaving."
"Ginger's your girlfriend? I thought you were her
manager," Pam said, leaning in the doorway a bit.
"He's a kidnapper and a rapist, Pam. I'd get to calling the
police if I were you," I said loudly and Jillian's sobs only escalated.
"Don't listen to her, Pamela," Nate said, lifting his
voice a bit. "Come here, Jillian."
" Pam's voice lowered and she retreated.
She glanced at me from over his shoulder and disappeared.
No one came in behind him, though I couldn't tell what was going
on in the hall. Nate must've known his time was limited because he broke his
posture and swept into the room. He grabbed Jilly by the arm and she let out a
soft cry. I stepped between them and put my hand on his chest, holding him
back. He was half a foot taller than me but I didn't care.
"Let her go, you fucking bastard."
He leaned down, his face an inch from mine, "Two choices; you
leave or you come with us. That's all."
"Just go," Jillian begged me. "Please.
She jerked her arm a bit but Nate held on. He remained a breath away from me
"Fuck you," I said and spat in his face.
He erupted in front of us, tossed Jillian on the bed, and slammed
the door shut. The bolt clicked after and he rounded on me. I dodged the first
punch he tossed, but the left hook caught me in the chin. The force of it sent
me flying and he picked me up like a ragdoll, throwing me into the bookcase
with a crash. I tumbled to the floor on top of a crunchy mess of papers and knickknacks,
gasping and coughing up a mouthful of blood. Jillian shrieked and a kick in the
gut lifted me from the floor again. I dropped back down and heaved for breath.
My vision blurred and a heavy ringing scored my ears. When I looked up, I saw
him grabbing Jillian and slamming her up against a wall, his hand on her thigh,
lifting her dress.