Carmen

She was a bold beauty and a careful madness. A willowy storm filled to the brim with honey-coated words and sensual desire. I had been to hell and back with that girl and I could honestly say that she was nothing but an angel to me with the devil’s charm. The boys in town could brag all day about having her, but we both knew better. I was the only one who gave a damn enough to show her that she was worth more than a Gin Rickey and a pricey night at the motel. I never made myself out to be a hero because of it. I thought it was just common decency to take her away from dirty men and cheap drugs. I didn’t even recognize her at first, what with a few years of disaster taking away the light in her eyes. But sure enough I knew after a few words that it was her; That sweet girl I dated back in high school with her wavy blonde hair and her full red lips. God I missed the sparkle in her eyes. She took a few drags off the cigarette I gave her, saying she’d just been working as a waitress and living with a friend in L.A. I should have known better from the darkness under her eyes and the frailty of her frame. I’d come to find out that she was living in her car making money off the next customer that saw her strolling down the boulevard. She thought that was all I wanted at the time.

“Let me guess, you’re here to fall in love with me too huh?” she said, flashing me that Hollywood smile.

“Don’t flatter yourself honey.”

I took her out to dinner a few times. One night we sat in the diner talking until the sun rose. She was going on and on, laughing and smiling at me, reaching over for a playful nudge to my shoulder every now and again. Finally she rested her hands on mine.

“I feel like I could tell you anything.”

She looked at me with such dreamy eyes. There was no faking that look.

“Sweetheart, you know you can,” I said.

Those smokey eyes looked down. She hesitated. I told her I already knew what she’d been up to. She started crying. She didn’t think I’d ever want to see her again.

“You can do better than that. I don’t know how many of those guys promised you a movie deal or a modeling contract for a bit of your time but that’s no way for a girl like you to be living. I’m not trying to sweep you off your feet here, I’m just being honest.”

I’m lucky that she still trusted me. People wanted to make me out to be this lady killer in the old town but I always let her call the shots. She didn’t listen to silly rumors from jealous broads. If I had her, I had her. I always said I did. For a long time I didn’t think it’d actually be true again. But at 7:30 am on a Tuesday night, it was.

I got her off the streets and gave her a nice and cozy space in the apartment. I told her she needed to lay off the pills if she wanted to stay. With a slip up here and there, she obliged. Her youth started coming back to her. First I saw it in her skin. Then I saw it in her soul.

She got an actual job as a waitress downtown and being the pretty little thing that she was she made damn good tips every night. We had a nice little thing going, I took up the bills so that she could buy herself new dresses and shoes to compliment her reviving curves. We called each other pet names from the old days. Things were going good.

We weren’t sleeping together. She’d only kissed me a couple of times on the cheek before work. But I wanted her from the morning she woke up to the night she came home. From messy hair to big curls, pale face to rosy cheeks. I couldn’t believe that she hadn’t found an honest man in all this time. But then I’d go walking down the road myself and catch glances of the types of clientele she used to cater to. Of course, no wonder she couldn’t find anybody. Either way, I was glad that she happened to run into me that evening.

I suppose one night some broad rang me up and she had answered the phone. It was an old fling of mine coming out of the blue to try and stir up trouble. I got home to her being extra feisty.

“I didn’t know you had some lady friend.”

I stopped in honest confusion.

“Lady friend? Why, you’re my only lady friend sweetheart.”

“And I’m sure that’s why some woman was ringing for you while you was gone.”

Her voice was on fire.

“Who?”

“Betty.”

I put my suitcase down and started fixing us a drink like I always did after work. She was staring at me, arms crossed and brow furrowed. Her signature pout was icing on the cake.

“Oh Carmie, that girl is old news. We were a thing a few months ago but she didn’t like me leavin’ her. She calls every now and then talking about some abusive boyfriend or somethin’.”

“She sure didn’t like hearing my voice on the line.”

“Oh I believe it honey.”

“I told her she don’t have to call no more. You’ve got other things to occupy your time.”

She sauntered over to me. I saw her thigh high stockings peeking from the opening of her night robe. She bent over the counter, putting her bosom on display. She was playing games with me now. Games I remembered well.

“Oh yeah?” I said, coming around the counter and setting down her drink. “Like what?”

“Like this.”

She grabbed the front of my shirt and pulled me to her. Her lips were quick to take mine. I immediately lost myself in the moment. She kissed me deeply at first, needing to recall again how we used to be. Needing to know she was still mine. She then became slow and sensual, taking care to kiss me softly and pull away, teasing my lips a few times before returning again. My hands lost themselves on her waist as she wrapped her arms around my neck.

I remembered a lot of things about her, but I never remembered how intoxicating she really was. No, I always took that for granted. But God damn that’s my girl. That’s always gonna be my girl.

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