The fear that has gripped her tightly refuses to abandon both her body and her mind. She wants to scream. What would that do? Anybody who hears her would just think she’s crazy. Really her scream would be similar to the sound of one hand clapping.
Once she had a good life. A great life really. She remembers the days of champagne and music. Men crowding around her. Wanting to make her laugh. Her low giggle would turn into a contagious roar she was incapable of stopping. Tears would come from her eyes. Somehow that was attractive.
She never really understood that. There was a lot she never really understood, she thinks, as she reaches for a cigarette in the overflowing crystal ashtray on the glass and sterling silver vanity; vestiges of the life she used to have.
He walks into the room. He’s like every damn cliche she can imagine: unshaven dark hair, half bald he makes up for that by dying his hair with shoe polish, she thinks. A wife beater showing his hairy chest and grungy white boxers that don’t quite hide the parts of his body he forced on her last night.
“You’re late for work,” he says in that accent that’s a combination of uneducated and illiterate.
What would you know about work? she thinks but doesn’t say. Instead she smiles. “I changed shifts. Doing the lobster one.”
It was a gamble to tell Mavis she would be happy to change so that Mavis could be home when her husband comes home from his cross country truck run. She didn’t know how Eddie would take it. Didn’t really care at that moment. For once she wanted to do something good for somebody.
Eddie’s cigarette manages to look like a baseball bat:
“I told you, you can’t change shifts without checking with me. I’m having the guys over for poker.”
“I didn’t know you changed nights.” It’s her job to serve the food, clean after the game, go into the bedroom and be available for any friend who might want her. Though really she’s getting so old. Then again so are they. Sometimes there are young ones. They really like her. For an old broad she’s hot.
Every morning Eddie watches her when she goes on the scale. If she gains anything he won’t let her eat all day. During her breaks and lunch at the factory she eats exactly what Eddie tells her to. She thinks figuring out her diet is the high point of his day.
She sits by herself, during breaks, at the factory. Eddie has his spies everywhere. Sometimes she talks to Mavis, who is new, in the ladies. Mavis doesn’t realize she’s persona non gratis. Mavis likes her educated accent and her look that is as defeated as anybody there but still has a hint of her former life.
She tries to remember how this life happened. It was all so gradual. Except for being fired from the publishing company during the dot com bust. She was an editor with nothing to edit. Nothing personal. Yeah right. For some reason she couldn’t work past the firing and would spend hour upon hour at the bar Eddie hung at mooching drinks off her and everybody else.
One day they drove to Point Hell as all the locals called the town that Eddie’s family had lived in forever. She didn’t remember much about that time. Once she had a great memory. “The memory of an elephant,” people would say as she would give a precise recount of some adventure that had happened years before.
Somehow they ended living in an apartment in a 40’s court. Eddie went back to New York and brought back what he liked of her furniture. He threw out everything that was personal and that she truly cared about.
Her parents had died years ago. Her brother lived somewhere in California. He wasn’t really the family sort. Her friends must have wondered but not cared enough. Or maybe they did and just couldn’t find her.
Eddie brought her out of her reverie. “Call your friend now and tell her you can’t do it.” He brought the cell to her. Usually it was locked along with other things he didn’t want her to get. He stood and watched her make the phone call.
She wished she had the nerve to tell Mavis to call the police. She wanted to be saved. Jesus she wanted to be saved but she didn’t have the strength.