"Bond"- Chapter Eight
River Road
The Virginia Exhibit
A Lost Car on Spike Canyon
The Beneficiaries
Invisible The Morning After
Beautiful Shadows
Something Like Wonder
Try to Keep Up
A Series of Moments Between Clocks
The Unromantic REAL World of Gulliver's Travels
Meant for One Thing
The Lesser of Evils
Love and Nemesis
The Sinning Bishop
The World In Your Pocket
Higher Purpose
A Promising Look at Genesis
Not For The Ladies
Fooling Around and Falling In Love
The Tediousness of Tragic Love
Poetic Analysis for "The Trees"
Creation On Dub
Creating the Universe
Fast Acting In Small Doses
As Crazy As They
We Can Always Use More Utopia
A Little Church in Corinth
The Theory of Carl Rogers
Historically Speaking
Different Shades, Same Color
A Rose for a Funeral
Obsessed With Race

     It took the rain nearly another twenty minutes to stop falling completely, and it was dusk before the clouds gave up their occupation of the sky. Now, with the stars shining aggressively and the streetlamps lit, Marie Lissel made her way through the elaborate front doors of the Sun House, hugging her red coat around her to keep out the evening's chill. Her auburn hair caught a tint of crimson to match her carefully placed hair pins as she walked through the dim, blood-red entryway of the temple, brushing a loose curl out of her eyes.

     Back the way she had come, a group of exhausted farm and textile workers gathered on the street, shaking hands and slapping each other's cotton and flannel-clad backs in greeting. Adam Love stood among them, eager to be on his way over to Tedrus Tavern. He had spent all of the afternoon on his aching knees seeding the ground as the rain slowed and eventually stopped. Mistress Irvine had come outside for a while, standing over him, darkening the plot where he was working with her shadow. She had pointed out everything that didn't suit her- from the paint chipping off the barn to the weeds on the south side that no longer offered flowering buds. She had even pointed out flaws in his seeding, which he accepted with a gracious nod and an offer to fix. Much of the time, she just stood and watched him carefully, sighing every now and then with her apparent boredom. He hoped Lile would be back one day very soon.

     "Are we going to Tedrus?" he asked impatiently, interrupting a conversation about a good-looking girl the others had spotted across the street.

     Donny, a large but boyish man whose pants were always a bit too short, looked at him carefully, then at the girl, and then back, noticing that the girl and the tavern were in two different directions. His shoulders slumped in mock disappointment as he began to lead the group towards Tedrus with a humored smile. Two of Adam's least favorite stayed behind, intent on approaching the lady. Adam smiled to himself at the thought of how wrong it would likely go.

     On their way to the tavern, they passed Dante Mier and Jim Rewer, both employees of Cian Norse in the unconventional sense. Dante was tall and broad, with light blonde hair that fell in careful, pointed strands around his eyes. His square jaw made him hard to look at without fear. He stared the men down as they passed, his intensely green eyes burning for no reason at all. Jim merely followed him, scuffling his feet and looking to Dante for direction. He was less severe-looking with long, stringy brown hair and a bird's bone structure. Still, he was rumored to be impulsive, rat-like and quick- always ready to stir up a fight. Both men were perfect for their jobs.

     The tavern was not nearly as full as usual; many were still in their homes eating large meals in celebration for the end of the rain, and even more were sleeping already. In Palmer Ellis, it was considered pious to slumber early and rise before the sun to witness Eclisolus and his gift of light to the earth. Adam generally slumbered late and still managed to rise for that spectacle, though he was usually well into his work by the time the other townspeople were letting their mouths drop open in wonder at the same thing they saw each morning.

     He and his friends chose a table near the back wall that was covered with the dark stain from many years of smoke and spilled drinks. The brew that Valder the tender served at the Tedrus was a rich brown color and resembled the herbal drinks the doctor in the square used to cure ailments of the throat. Many people were uneasy about Tedrus brew because of that very fact. The stuff the doctor offered tasted like the back end of a sweating hand, and burned like a fire going down. The Tedrus brew, on the other hand, was Adam's favorite. It calmed his aches from the day of work and soothed his irritated nerves as well. It also had a faint sweet taste that he was quite fond of- almost like almond candy. Over a year ago, his friend Michael had made a joke that anything tasting of almond was probably poisonous and deadly, and he should be wary of Valder's desire to kill them all in their shoes. Still, Michael was sitting across from him now, calling for a mug even before fully settling into his seat.

     Adam leaned back in his seat, fixing his feet firmly against the criss-crossing planks on the underside of the table supports. He wove his hands together and stretched them behind his head for comfort. The room had a relaxing, smoky haze that was like an early morning misty fog. His friends were back to talking about that girl. He knew her. Her name was Georgia, and she could hardly form a sentence without giggling and batting her eyes. It was dizzying, really, and not in a good way.

     The two of Adam's least favorite who had split off from the group were now on either side of Georgia, inviting her to join them at the tavern. She was giggling and batting her eyelashes, trying to convince them it wasnt proper, when Dante and Jim crossed the street. They paid little mind, but Dante was sure to give them all a stare that stopped Georgia's childish chortle. They continued down the darker side of the street toward the storage house where all of the Norse merchandise was kept. For the farmhands, the tavern was the fun place to be when the work was done. For the priviledged employees of Master Norse, it was this warehouse, which was always kept full of riches for those loyal to the most powerful business man in Palmer Ellis.

     Now, as Dante and Jim wound through the dark entryway of the building, they began conversing about their plans for the night. By the time they reached the back loading dock, Dante had decided he wanted to have a brunette, and Jim had decided that he didn't care, as long as he couldnt feel all of her bones like the last one. Neither was interested in any of the drinks or incense that were always available. Several of the other men were well into those riches, sitting on the edges of the enclosed dock, tipping back their bottles and waiting for the man of the hour.

     Jim broke off, seating himself next to another one of the less severe-looking men to share the story he had just told Dante. Dante approached the outer door and looked out into the night, hoping Cian would arrive soon with the goods.

     A few blocks away, deeper into the dark, Cian stood with two of his men who had been hand-selected. Huddled near them were two young girls who were there on their own accord, desperately needing money. Another stood several feet away, smoking and looking at the sky, waiting. Cian eyed her long legs and curves, smiling without realizing it. One of the other men noticed and gestured to the other, knowing the head man had likely made his pick for the night.

     Through the soft haze of smoke the leggy prostitute was creating, a short, stocky block of a girl emerged, picking a piece of baling twine from her hay-colored hair. She was dressed for her profession in a black camisole and jaggedly cut hip-dress, and her face was painted only slightly. One of the other girls had told her last week that she was wearing too much makeup, and it only drew attention to her wide-set eyes and lips. None of them men looked at her. She came every week, and nearly every week she was someone's last resort. It was shameful, really. The girl might be attractive if only she was a bit taller and not so squarish.

     Breaking the silence, Cian turned to the others and whispered, "Jim isn't picky." They broke off into a sad attempt at muffled laughter. The straw-haired girl looked up and smiled awkwardly, knowing full well that the joke was probably about her. She had grown beyond caring what these men thought of her. She just needed money, and no one in town would hire her for much else anymore. She knew there were some men that just weren't picky about prostitutes, and it was men like those that she needed most to be able to pay for her room in the basement of the Inn.

     She looked around, wondering if more girls were on their way. Four was not nearly enough for the dozen men waiting back at the storehouse, and she was confident that Cian wouldn't stand for that kind of sharing anyway. It would come down to three of them being divided after he had his pick- his choice was always exclusive. She assumed it would be the smoking woman. The other two were shivering in fear- likely first-timers needing a spare dollar. She remembered without fondness herself in that position, shivering a bit herself. At least they had each other. She had had no one.

     As she zoned off into her memories, two more girls approached, smiling confidently at the three men standing at collection. They had been there the week before, as well. Coincidentally, they had ended up paired with the two men standing near Cian, and the girls had talked with each other during the whole process. It was strange, but a little bit humorous, too. How callous to the act a girl must be to have idle chit chat in the presence of such disgusting men. Part of her wanted to be that way, but another part of her screamed out that it would be a terrible feeling that would leave her empty and hating herself.

     As they all continued to wait, she realized it had been a long time since she had really, truly hated herself. Most of the time, she pushed it from her mind, and her denial served as a perfect barrier between her and her past. Unfortunately, there was always the scars. When she looked at them, she remembered...and it was hard not to look at them. They were on the backs of her hands, where every person in town could see her crime when they shook them, took money from them, or watched her open a door. She had even taken to wearing gloves with the fingers cut off, just to cover the round taint of evil. Lots of the prostitutes wore gloves like this, so it was no big deal here.

     A cold breeze blew through the alley, shoving the steady plume of smoke from the other lady's cigarette abruptly out of sight. Gwen shivered a little, wishing she had brought those very gloves. It was sure to be a cold night, especially when her little clothing began coming off. She hoped it would be soon. With all of the horrible elements of her current existence, she had taught herself over time that waiting was the worst thing of all.