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.
The Faces They Wore by TCC Edwards
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.
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Daniel’s hands shook as he took out his wallet, exposing the wad of cash he had withdrawn at the subway ATM.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?”
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.”
Or you can support this site by leaving a tip. Contributions can be made in any amount starting at $1 US. Thank you for the support!