The Faces They Wore (Part 3)

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On to the third part of The Faces They Wore.

I will continue sharing The Faces They Wore, part of Nothing Too Familiar by the Busan Writing Group. In the last part, Daniel and Angelina began an odd friendship as Daniel began visiting her for conversation rather than gratification.

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The Faces They Wore by TCC Edwards

Part 3 of 4


Her eyes went to the clock on the wall, and Daniel thought, hoped, that the slight flinch he saw was disappointment.

“Time over,” Angelina said, keeping her light tone.

“Yeah,” Daniel said as he stood, “But you know, I could come again.”

“Just for … talking?”

“Sure.”

For a brief moment, Daniel swore he saw a real smile spread across Angelina’s face. It was gone quickly, however, replaced with the coy fantasy she wore for her customers.

“Anything you like, Daniel.”

 

***

 

“Seriously, mate?”

“It’s just … I think about her all the time.”

“Tell me you don’t think she likes you.”

“What? Come on, I know that.”

“Hope so. She’s a whore. She gets into your fantasies.”

“I just like talking to her. What’s so bad about that?”

“You can talk to anyone. You don’t pay to talk to me, do you?”

“Dammit … she’s just … different. She really listens, know what I mean?”

“You’re comfortable with her, then. You sure you’re not in love?”

“No!”

“Good. I used to fall in love. Had my heart broken every time.”

“That’s why you never stay with one girl?”

“Damn straight.”

“But … what if I do like her?”

“Then you definitely need to meet someone else. Trust me – stay away from her.”

Cicada screeches filled the air as they each spent a moment in contemplation. Finally, Felix spoke softly.

“Maybe you just shouldn’t think about her – or any girls – for now.”

“Maybe not.”

Slowly, they walked down the path together. When they reached the stone bench before the pond, Felix sat on one end, facing the pond. Daniel sat on the opposite side, leaving most of the bench between them as Felix turned to speak.

“Wish I could stay. I’m still hungover, and I’ve got extra classes in the morning. Guess when I found out – go on, take a guess.”

“You found out today, by a text message in broken English.”

“Holy shit, you’re psychic! I’m pulling the midnight run on Master English if they keep it up. Won’t do it now – still got my fucking student loans.”

“I hear ya.”

“Take care!”

Daniel waved goodbye, and then was left alone. He took out his supplies and absently sketched the pond in front of him. He sank into the work, letting it fill his world.

“Good sketch!” The soft voice jarred him, his hands covering the sketch. Angelina now stood behind him, her dark t–shirt and jeans far more conservative than her clothes those weeks ago. With her light makeup and jet black hair, she was the girl from the subway, not the lady of the evening. She smiled at Daniel, and he awkwardly returned it.

“Nice to see you,” he stammered, “What brings you here?”

“Temple is nice,” she said. She then pointed toward the unoccupied end of the stone bench, raising an eyebrow in a silent question.

“Sure, yeah, of course,” Daniel said, gesturing for her to sit. He took his hands off the sketchbook, now eagerly revealing his work.

Angelina also had her book – the one she had dropped on the subway. Selecting pages with care, she showed her own work. As with Daniel’s drawings, most of her subjects were temple gates, mountainsides, and relics of ancient Korea. Much of their talk turned to the Chosun Dynasty and earlier ages of Korea’s past.

The sunlight slowly vanished, and it was soon too dark to carry on. In the fading light, Daniel led the way down the path, back toward the city streets. When they were nearly at the end of the path, Angelina stumbled, and Daniel was quick to help her. Moments later, back on solid concrete under a dim street lamp, Daniel found he was still clasping her hand. He marveled at how easily their hands fit together, how right it felt.

“I’m sorry,” Angelina said, at last letting her hand slip from Daniel’s, “I must work tonight.”

Daniel sighed sharply, a scowl flashing across his face. He bit his lip as he reclaimed the calm of the pond before the temple.

“I’m sorry,” Angelina repeated, “I was bad come here?”

“No, no. I’m glad we met away from … work. But don’t you … you know, want to quit?”

“I need it.”

Daniel raised an eyebrow, but Angelina kept her eyes even. Don’t ask again, her face told him.

“We cannot be friends?”

“Friends?”

“I go to temple every Sunday. We can talk about draw.”

Daniel nodded silently as she walked away into the busy night.

 

***

 

As she sat on the opposite end of the bench, Daniel’s day at Master English quickly fled his mind. He wiped sweat from his brow, smiling as he regarded the sketchbooks stretched across the stone bench. He watched Angelina work intently with her pencil, watched her hair as it swung in the summer breeze.

They continued to exchange glances and smiles as they worked. She was capturing the pond, the temple, and sprawling mountain landscape behind it in dark graphite, her work stretching across one sheet in her new, oversized sketchbook. Daniel turned to a sketch of her sitting cross–legged before the pond.

As he further fleshed out the drawing, he realized how much he didn’t know about its subject. Her real name, her hometown, how she had become …

No. Daniel thought, biting his lip as he lifted his pencil away from the paper. It doesn’t matter – she is who she is.

“Is something wrong?”

Daniel looked up, his eyes wide. Concern in her eyes, Angelina continued in Korean, “You look worried.”

Daniel smiled despite himself. You know what Korean I can understand. How well do you know me? Better than I know you?

“It’s all right, Angelina,” Daniel began. Say something, anything else. Can’t tell her I’m falling for her. An answer came to him.

“I realized I haven’t called Dad for a while,” he said, “I really should.”

It wasn’t a complete lie – the thought of calling New York had occurred several times over the last week, usually just as he had started teaching a class.

“Ah, I see! I call you tonight – remember you. Uh, remind you!”

“Thank you – that’d be great.”

His smile seeming to satisfy her, she returned to her drawing. Daniel smiled as well, contentment filling him as he watched her work.

 

***

 

“I need your help.”

Daniel stood as she ran to him, kicking fallen leaves from the path as he strode to meet her. Her hair was a matted mess, plastered to her scalp and dripping beads of sweat on the back of her neck.

“What’s happened?”

“My whole street’s been shut down. There are cops everywhere!”

“What? But – it’s legal, isn’t it?”

“It was! There is a new law. We thought it bullshit! Police took our madam.”

“Is it just here? Couldn’t you work somewhere else?”

“It’s all over Korea.”

“How serious are they? You don’t have to pay a fine or go to jail, right?”

“I was lucky – they only warned the girls. They told us, ‘find other jobs’.”

“What about your place – your room?”

“I left – I had to. I’m staying at … somebody’s house. He will not let me stay.”

Daniel’s chest clenched as he imagined the deal Angelina had made to secure her temporary shelter.

“You should have come to me sooner,” Daniel said evenly, “I would have said yes.”

“I thought it wouldn’t be right.”

“It’s right to help a friend, isn’t it?”

 

***

 

“It’s just until she finds a job. She sleeps on the couch – like a roommate.”

“You’re too close, mate. I bet she’s still fucking for money.”

“She can’t, now.”

“Of course she can, she’ll just be more careful. She can make more money now!”

“Well maybe it’s okay – maybe I want to be with her anyway.”

“Look, I’ve known guys in open relationships. I don’t think you’re one of them. I think you want a nice girl – I even know one.”

“You do?”

“That’s why I wanted to meet you today. I got a new job lined up – I’ve been teaching Saturdays at this place called English First. It’s all high-school kids and adults. No little kids, no bullshit – they always pay on time.”

“Nice!”

“Yeah, I know! Anyway, there’s a teacher there – she’s super sweet. I even turned down a date – I wanted her to meet you.”

Daniel raised an eyebrow, taking in Felix for a moment. Really, Felix?

“Hey, now – it’s just an introduction. I think you would work well together, that’s all.”

I don’t need your pity, Daniel almost said. With a sigh, though, he forced his lips into a smile.

“Okay, I guess I could meet her … hey, they don’t need any more teachers, do they?”

“No, sorry mate.”

“Aw, too bad.”

“Yeah, sorry. Anyway, I’d love to set up a meeting, but not with Angelina around. Sorry to say it – she’s got to go.”

 

***

 

Daniel turned and stood sharply as she entered, his chair banging against the computer desk behind him. Her hands covering her face, she ignored Daniel as she raced past him into his bathroom.

“What’s wrong?”

No answer came from the other side of the door. Daniel knocked loudly, but the only answer was the sound of running water. Daniel shook his head. He looked for something to do. He settled on the computer, which still showed various teaching jobs available in the tabs of his browser. He closed everything, promising himself that the search would continue in the morning. The bathroom door opened just as the computer finished shutting down.

Angelina stood in the steam issuing from the open door. She had her clothes on, apparently having undressed and dressed again in the tiny space between the toilet and shower. She held a hand over her left eye. Slowly, she lowered the hand, revealing her swollen eye, stark black against her tan skin.

“Who did this?” Daniel whispered.

“The guy I stayed with before. He called me. We met.”

“And?”

“It’s fine Daniel. It’s just something he likes – he is usually careful.”

“You let him do this?”

“He pays very well.”

“Who is he?”

“Just some guy. Does it matter?”

“Yeah, I want to know where he lives.”

“And what will you do? Punch him?”

“I’ll call the fucking cops on him.”

“Then the cops will get me, too.”

“What then? What do you want me to do?”

“It’s okay Daniel. Stay away from this.”

“It is not okay. What, are you just going to keep letting this happen?”

“What if I do?”

“You can’t stay here. Not if you do this.”

Daniel stormed to his room, throwing the door open.

“Daniel, wait!”

“You want to stay? You stop.”

He slammed the door, shutting out any further protest.

 

The door creaked, admitting a soft light. Daniel stirred from uneasy sleep as Angelina stood silhouetted in the doorway. He made no move as she closed the door behind her and carefully sat on the bed beside him. After a moment of careful silence, he offered her more space and she slowly joined him in the bed. They embraced, their fully clothed bodies cooled by the autumn breeze through the window.


Onward to Part 4 –>

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Read “The Faces They Wore” (Part 2)

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On to the second part of The Faces They Wore, serialized for this blog.

This week, I continue sharing The Faces They Wore, a story I published as part of Nothing Too Familiar by the Busan Writing Group. In the last part, Daniel, a foriegn teacher living in Korea, met a prostitute outside her brothel, and was severely tempted to go in.

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The Faces They Wore by TCC Edwards

Part 2

He was almost free of the alley when there was a wide, welcoming smile ahead of him. Daniel returned it, despite the sudden tension gripping his insides. The girl was standing inside one of the many glass doors, holding it open as he walked toward her.

“Hey,” she whispered, “Come in?”

Her smile became coy as she held out a delicate hand. Daniel clasped it without thinking. He quickly stepped in with her, closing the door behind him.

The girl led him away from the large window, through another door in the back. There was a single bed, covered with a simple white sheet. There were two chairs across from the bed, and next to them, a dresser with a large mirror. Condoms decorated the top of the dresser, offering several sizes and flavors.

“I am Angelina,” she said with that mischievous smile.

“Daniel,” he answered, without thinking.

“Okay, Daniel.”

She named her price, and Daniel blinked. Felix was right, he thought; it really isn’t that much.

Daniel’s hands shook as he took out his wallet, exposing the wad of cash he had withdrawn at the subway ATM. He bit his lip as his heart raced. I need to know. It’s time to find out.

He quickly counted off the money for one hour with the girl. He added a few extra bills, but still felt a tinge of guilt as he passed the money over.

Her dark brown eyes scanned the bills as her fingers counted. She nodded, winking at Daniel as she walked toward the door.

“I must give money – you here – wait!”

She disappeared down a narrow hallway that Daniel hadn’t noticed on his way in to the room. Daniel’s hands were shaking as he examined the condoms. He picked up one, running his fingertip over the package as he sat on the bed.

Angelina returned quickly, closing the door again behind her. She smiled, and Daniel fumbled with the condom wrapper. As Angelina closed the space, she removed her sheer black top and the black bra underneath. Daniel’s heart leapt as she took the condom, deftly removing its wrapper with practiced fingers. Any objections were quickly banished from his mind as she pushed him down to the bed.

 

***

 

“You didn’t! So that’s why you left the bar early.”

“Yeah, well – I’ve been thinking about it all week.”

“I’ll bet you have!”

“I don’t know. I mean, sure, it felt good, but what about her?”

Her? She’s fine. She got paid, and hey, who’s to say she didn’t like it? Couldn’t be any worse than our jobs!”

“I don’t know. I feel bad about it, you know?”

“Then don’t go again. You were curious, you tried it. You know what it’s like – you won’t be nervous when you meet a new girl.”

“You think it’s right that I slept with her?”

Right? Damned if I know. Understandable? Hell, yes. Why look deeper than that?”

 

***

 

Daniel groaned as he was pressed into the side of his seat by passengers crowding in. The blast of cool air from the conditioner above was cut off as the crowd filled the empty space before him. The doors closed, and a sharp jerk threw several passengers back a pace.

There was a thump as a large black purse appeared at his feet. Lipstick, a mascara pen, and a small phone were scattered around it – Daniel quickly leaned forward to catch the lipstick just as it rolled away. Another pair of hands helped him gather the items and place them back in the purse. As the other hands lifted the purse, a small, spiral–bound book was revealed underneath. The book was open to a sketch of a temple with a serene pond before it.

The girl’s phone buzzed just as she was putting it in the bag. Her eyes missed the sketchbook as she opened the phone and answered. Daniel took the book carefully, admiring the sketches. On the page opposite the temple were pagodas and a rough outline of a temple gate. Daniel looked over to the girl. She was still engrossed in the call.

Daniel turned a page halfway, finding a sprawling mountainside detailed on the page underneath. Halfway up the mountain sat a small, lonely shrine.

The girl next to him snapped her phone shut. Daniel snapped her book shut just as quickly as she turned to him.

“Oh…” she said as she regarded both him and the book. Her eyes flashed anger for the briefest second, but it quickly gave way as she wore her practiced smile. Daniel swallowed. Even without the layer of porcelain makeup, that smile was unmistakable. It was a smile that had visited his dreams every night over the last three weeks.

“Sorry,” he said, releasing the book to her hurried grasp.

Angelina nodded as she returned the book to the purse.

“Your sketch – that temple – I go there,” he said, trying out his broken Korean, “Good sketch!”

Angelina smiled shyly, cradling her bag as though worried the book would escape again. She spoke carefully, in equally broken English.

“You go there?”

“Yes, it’s near my school.”

“You like my draw?”

“Sure. You’re a great artist.”

Angelina giggled, covering her mouth with her free hand. As the train slowed again for another stop, her smile was again the sly smile of her trade.

“I here get off. Nice to meet you again.”

She winked, leaving Daniel stunned. She was out the door and lost in the large crowd as Daniel realized that this was his stop. He dashed out just as the doors began to close, scanning the faces and backs of heads around him. It was useless; she was already lost in the tide of commuters.

 

***

 

On the stone bench with his sketchbook open, Daniel tried to recover the serenity he had often found at the temple. Her face was on the page before him – an outline sketched from memory over the week since the subway encounter.

I meant nothing to her. Why do I care?

In his mind he saw her sitting before the temple, drawing in her book. He imagined gently greeting her just as she finished sketching the pond.

He quickly packed his book and pencils. Eyes fixed on the path down the mountain, he headed back to the city and the subway.

 

She again led him into the small room. Her face was stoic as he counted out the money, again adding extra notes.

“Could we just talk?” he asked as he passed the notes.

“Okay,” Angelina said with a shrug, “You wait.”

She disappeared as she had before, leaving Daniel staring at the condoms on her dresser. He shook his head, instead removing his backpack and setting it next to the bed as he sat. Angelina returned with her pleasant smile, closing the door behind her.

“English not good, sorry,” she said as she sat next to him.

“Okay, I speak slowly,” Daniel replied in Korean.

Switching between English and broken Korean, Daniel told of his visits to various temples, always with his sketchbooks and supplies in his backpack.

Near the end of their time, Angelina pointed to Daniel’s backpack. “Want to show me?”

With a shrug, he said, “Okay, sure.”

He took his sketchbook out, opening to the familiar temple. Angelina sat next to him as he flipped the pages back to the beginning.

“That is Gyungbok Castle – in Seoul?” she asked at one picture.

“Yeah – I visited last vacation. See this here? I had to draw that – it’s on the ten thousand won bill.”

“Yes, I draw that too.”

Her eyes went to the clock on the wall, and Daniel thought, hoped, that the slight flinch he saw was disappointment.

“Time over,” Angelina said, keeping her light tone.

“Yeah,” Daniel said as he stood, “But you know, I could come again.”

“Just for … talking?”

“Sure.”

For a brief moment, Daniel swore he saw a real smile spread across Angelina’s face. It was gone quickly, however, replaced with the coy fantasy she wore for her customers.

“Anything you like, Daniel.”


Onward to Part 3 –>

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