The Faces They Wore (Part 4)

And now, the fourth and final part of The Faces They Wore.

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Today, I conclude The Faces They Wore, part of Nothing Too Familiar by the Busan Writing Group. In the last part, Angelina came home with a bruise on her face. Daniel urged her to quit her night job, refusing to talk to her. After their fight, Angelina came to his bed, where they stayed together in a platonic embrace.

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The Faces They Wore by TCC Edwards

Part 4 of 4


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.

***

 

“It wasn’t the first time. She’s been hit before – and worse, I’m sure.”

“I know. But she can’t just use me – I’m trying to help her.”

“She doesn’t want to be helped. You’re not Prince Charming, mate.”

“She’ll do it again. Dammit, I know she will.”

“It pays the bills and keeps her fed.”

They looked out together, letting silence replace the conversation.

“Look,” Felix began after a long pause, “Been meaning to tell you – I’m going back to Brisbane.”

“Why?”

“Dad’s in the hospital – he had a stroke.”

“Holy shit!”

“Hey, now – I don’t want you all worried. He’s holding up, for now. My contract is up soon – I need to help my family prepare, just in case.”

“I’m sorry to hear …”

“Please. It’s all right, Daniel.”

“Still, damn.”

“No kidding.”

A long moment passed before Daniel spoke again.

“You think I can get in?”

“The boss already approves – your interview will be just a formality.”

“I don’t know what to say. Thanks.”

“No problem.”

 

***

 

“That’s good, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, but it means that I have to move. So what about you?”

“Ah. I wanted to tell you – I might also move.”

“Where?”

“I don’t know yet. I called a lot of friends after … our night together. I will try to find different work.”

“Really?”

“Daniel, I cannot promise anything. If a client pays well…”

“Seriously, you’d do it again?”

“Maybe. I don’t know.”

“You must have saved up some money by now. Why sell yourself?”

“It’s just a job for me. There is somebody …”

She looked away, but Daniel gently clasped her face in his fingers, turning her eyes back to his.

“Who?”

“My grandmother. She’s very old – she has no one else.”

“Really? What about the rest of your family?”

Angelina shook her head, “My mother died when I was small. I’ve never met my father.”

“That’s awful. How is your grandma? She’s sick?”

Angelina nodded. “She has to stay in the hospital. She has no insurance.”

Unable to think of any sufficient reply, Daniel hugged her, their tension at last giving way in the long embrace.

 

Hours later, they were both awake, again lying clothed on Daniel’s bed.

“I love you,” Daniel whispered into the darkness, “You know that, right?”

“I know.”

“What about you?”

Angelina leaned to Daniel’s ear. She whispered three syllables, careful to enunciate each sound. Her name – her real name.

Daniel gently pulled her face to his. He kissed her deeply as her body pressed tightly against his.

 

***

 

“It was just for me. She thought I needed it.”

“Huh. I was sure you two wouldn’t do it again.”

“We shouldn’t have. We never talk – we try to pretend it didn’t happen.”

“Heh, like that ever works.”

“Yeah. She’s getting ready to leave now. She’s got a friend in Seoul who can get her a job.”

“Hate to say this, but … you should let her go.”

“Dammit. I know. I don’t want to, and yet …”

“I know, mate. But you’ve got a good shot with English First. Good job, good people – do me a favor and take it, please. Don’t make them get someone else.”

“I … dammit. You think … she ever felt anything?”

“She told you her name. She felt something – that’s why she’s going away.”

 

 

“But we could see each other? I could visit?”

“Daniel …” Angelina bit her lip, “I want you to go to this new school. Meet a good girl – someone who feels happy with you.”

“What about us? Don’t you feel anything?”

Angelina hesitated as she reached for the doorknob. She turned back to Daniel, meeting him with an even gaze. A thin, sad smile stretched across her lips

“Yes,” she whispered, “But I can’t stay.”

Daniel opened his mouth, but he stopped himself. Tears filled his eyes as he understood the truth of her words.

“Thank you, Daniel,” Angelina said, “For everything.”

 

***

 

“Yeah, I hear you loud and clear. I’m sitting on the bench, looking at the temple right now. How’s your dad doing?”

“He’s hanging in there. We’ll just have to see, you know?”

“Must be tough.”

“I’ll manage, mate. Anyway, how’s English First?”

“Great. The director loves me – he lets me do pretty much anything I want. The students love me, especially when I get them drawing.”

“I thought you were enjoying it. How are you and that new girl?”

“Okay, I suppose. She is my coworker now, you know. We’re going out on Valentine’s Day, but we’re taking things super slowly.”

“Good idea. You still think about Angelina?”

“Yeah. Sometimes I like to pretend it could’ve worked.”

“Some people can wear that mask, I suppose. But hey, you’re keeping yourself busy, right?”

“Yeah – I met more artists after I moved. I get together with a few every week.”

“Good to hear.”

“How about you – you won’t be back again, huh?”

“Doubt it.”

“Damn.”

“Chill man. And hey, you’ll be over her soon.”

Daniel stretched his mouth into a smile as he strained to sound nonchalant.

“Over who?”


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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.”


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