I ran a hot bath and prepared to go on a trip.

I’ve been preparing to take this trip for quite some time now. It’s long overdue for me to finally leave here. After I graduated high school, my goals in life were to find a good man who would love me, grow with me, and protect me.

My biological sperm donor walked out on my sixteen year old mother soon after she gave birth to me. My mother decided she wasn’t cut out for being a parent either, so one night she dropped me off at my widowed Grandma Rose’s house, and never returned.

My grandmother raised me as best she could. She instilled in me morals, respect, and to never find myself in a position where I had to depend on anyone.

I love Grandma Rose to death, but what was always missing in my life was a man- a father, provider, and protector. For as long as I can remember, I’ve searched for the love and guidance I never got from a father in the men I dated. I wanted a man to wrap his arms around me, tell me I was special, tell me I was beautiful…that he would never leave me and would always be there to protect me from what this big, scary world has to offer.

Jamison was all of these things.

I worked to put myself through college. I lived at home with my grandmother while I worked part-time as a waitress at a soul-food restaurant. I was the first person in our family to go to college, and I was determined to make grandma proud of me by earning a college degree.

It was a Friday when I met Jamison at the restaurant. I’d walked up to his table and asked what he would like. His seductive eyes scanned my body up and down as he said, “What I want ain’t on the menu.” That made me blush and giggle like a schoolgirl. “You sure are a beautiful woman; may I take you out sometime, Mona?” he asked, reading my name tag.

Jamison was twenty years older than me, but he looked good for his age. And he’d called me beautiful.

No man had ever called me beautiful before.

“Sure,” was my answer.

He left his phone number and a one hundred dollar tip on the table when he left. I called him after my shift ended. We talked on the phone for nearly three hours. I found him easy to talk to. He spoke intelligently. He’d been in the military before, and I enjoyed listening to his stories about serving in the Gulf War, and the trips he took around the world. He said he would love to take me around the world one day.

The next night, he showed up at my grandmother’s house with two dozen red roses- one for me and one for grandma. Grandma accepted the flowers, but I noticed she had that look in her eye…the look she got when I did something she didn’t approve of. She didn’t like Jamison, and she told me that as I followed her into the kitchen to put our roses in vases.

“You don’t even know him,” I told her.

“Maybe not; but I know a snake when I see one. You be careful with him.”

I heeded her warning, but I liked Jamison. He took me to his place and cooked for me. For a bachelor’s pad, Jamison’s place was really nice and looked as if he’d hired a professional interior designer come in and decorate it.

I sat on a bar stool in his kitchen as I watched him grill steaks and prepare a Caesar salad. We sipped on red wine as we ate. After dinner, we went into the living room and we just talked. No television, no music or anything else to distract us; he simply listened to me as I told him my life story, my hopes and dreams for the future.

“You’re going to make some man a wonderful wife one day,” he told me. “Hell, if I was a little younger, I’d snatch you up myself; but I’m sure you don’t want no old man like me,” he said with a wink.

“I don’t care about your age; I like you,” was my response.

That was all the confirmation Jamison needed. He led me into his bedroom and I gave myself to him that night, and many other nights to come- mind, body, and soul. In return, he gave me everything I’d wanted and needed from a man- love, protection, and security. Jamison made me feel wanted, needed, desired, sexy, and beautiful. He showered me with lavish gifts, compliments, and money.

Before I knew it, a year had gone by.

Grandma Rose still didn’t like him, and she made it her business to tell me that every time he came to pick me up for a date. This caused many arguments between me and her- because I just wanted her to be happy for me, yet all she seemed to be doing was trying to come between me and the man who made me happy.

Jamison became a listening ear and shoulder to cry on when grandma and I argued. He suggested I come live with him; I said yes without hesitation. I packed my belongings and left. He told me he would always provide for me; that I no longer had to work or go to college. I quit my job and dropped out of school to play house with Jamison. I took care of home, while Jamison worked and provided for us.

Life was great…until it wasn’t anymore. Somehow, I never noticed how much liquor Jamison drank before. He liked the hard stuff; he’d drink it straight from the bottle, especially after a stressful day at work.

A year turned into five years.

Grandma Rose died.

I was all alone now, except for Jamison.

I went out of my way to make him happy. Nothing I did seemed to work. He was always angry with me. The compliments he used to give me turned into insults: ‘I was getting too fat; I didn’t satisfy him anymore.’ He was no longer the sweet, romantic man I’d met at the restaurant and fell in love with. “What do I need to do to please you?” I asked him. “I’ll do anything.”

That’s how I started prostituting. Jamison became my pimp, and together we made more money per hour than he ever made at his factory job.

He bought me sexy dresses and high heels, took me downtown, and he’d negotiate deals with the johns. I was scared to do it, but Jamison gave me shots of alcohol and lines of cocaine to relax me. He was happy when I gave him my earnings. The compliments and love returned. Unless, I made him mad. His fists put me in check. The beatings occurred frequently; but he always apologized while making love to me afterwards.

I stared at myself in the mirror as the tub filled.

Both of my eyes were swollen shut and my lip was busted- compliments of Jamison’s latest beating. It’s my fault, I shouldn’t have made him mad.

My eyes dropped to my flat stomach. Sadness washed over me. My belly should be big and round. Lacie- the name I’d picked out for my unborn baby- should be doing somersaults in my womb.

Instead, Jamison had kicked and stomped her out of me, killing her.

“Babies are bad for business,” he told me. “We can’t make money if you’re walking around pregnant.”

I wanted my baby. I would have made a great mother, but Jamison snatched that opportunity from me. I was no longer happy with him. Love and happiness had been replaced with fear and intimidation. I was a prisoner in maximum security and he was the guard. He’d kill me before he let me break free. So, I’d secretly made plans to escape the prison I was being held captive in.

I climbed into the bathtub once it was full. I closed my eyes and let the hot water relax my mind and body.

I reached for the bottle of brown liquor on the floor beside the tub and sipped. I drank and cried and drank some more. I cried for me, for baby Lacie, and for my grandmother. I didn’t make her proud of me, like I’d planned. I was a failure.

Inebriated, I put the bottle down and picked up the razor blade lying on the floor beside it. “I’m coming to be with you Lacie, mama’s coming to join you.”

I traced the veins on my wrists with the sharp blade, until blackness enveloped me. In my mind, I was dead the moment I agreed to sell my body for money. I welcomed the dark angel of death as he reached for my hand.

I’m finally going to be free.

RELATED ARTICLE: Short Story: Let It Be Me

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