So he wanted me and I didn't want him. Simple, isn't it? Just walk away, you're thinking. Let him go. But he just wouldn't let me. Let me elaborate. This was just after the Coal Riots.
The sky had become clear for the first time in two decades. I usually work down in the bellows of the Capitol Building, but of course I had the day off. No coal, no bellows. So for once I was clean and soot-free, I could breathe without my gasmask, and the world was a beautiful place. There had been compensation from the persecution of the classes from the time of the Republic, and everyone's pockets were full these days. I bought a sandwich from a man with a cart in the park. He wore a pair of bronze goggles that were cracked on one side. I wanted to ask him why he was wearing the goggles when there was no miasma, but I saw his gasmask hanging on the handle of his cart and guessed he just wanted to be prepared.
He almost didn't recognize me.
I was wearing my best dress, a dreadful calico number with an insane amount of buttons. He didn't know me at first without my suspenders and my denim. He turned around and looked at me for a minute before he knew me. When your family is starving and you are a paycheck away from the streets you do what you have to to get by. You sell your belongings, you do odd jobs on the side. I whored myself out more than a few times when we couldn't even afford bread. I'm not proud of it. The Capitol types paid me well. They would come down to the bellows because they didn't want the soot rubbing off on their couches. They would lay their tailored jackets on a high shelf and they would unbutton their shirts so the fabric didn't rub against me. They usually didn't want much. Just an afternoon screw, and standing up worked just fine for them. It was a good thing, too. I didn't have to take my denims completely off and everyone was the better for that.
This one had squealed when he came and slumped his fat belly on my back. My head hit the cement wall and I was aching all day. It almost wasn't worth the silver he'd wiped into my hand, along with a trail of his sweat. My back was damp, too. So there he was staring at me in the park, his spectacles pinched on the end of his sweaty nose and I just didn't know what to do. So I didn't do anything. I kept walking without another word. But wouldn't you know it? He followed me.
“Angel,” he panted when he caught up to me. I kept a brisk pace, as is my usual. It speeds up the heart and the mind to walk fast. It makes me feel good. But I was walking fast to get away from the man today. I couldn't remember his name.
“I have to go,” I said. “I'm late.”
“Late for what?” he said. When I didn't have an answer he smiled a slimy smile with his small teeth lined up like boxes on a shelf. “Just give me a minute, Angel. I want to talk to you.”
“Why?” I said, stopping. “Why do you have to talk to me? What's past is past. Let it be.”
“Angel, you mean something to me,” he said. Sweat dripped in his beard, crawling down like lice. “I'll do anything. What do you like, Angel? I'll buy you jewelry, pretty baubles, anything.”
“I like to eat,” I said. “But I haven't been hungry since the Revolt. The Blue-Collars get paid a fair wage now. No more whoring. I got enough money now.” I started walking again, but he panted next to me.
“Angel, is that all it was to you? Whoring?”
“Yes,” I said. “You gave me money to pull down my denims. That's whoring. And I don't want to talk to you on the street. I don't want to talk to you at all.”
“I'd marry you, Angel,” he said, his voice a dull whine. “I'd marry you and take care of you. You wouldn't have to work in the bellows anymore. Think about that.”
“You'd marry a whore just for another screw?” I said. “That's ridiculous. Go find another whore.”
“But I want you, Angel. You're the most beautiful creature I've ever seen. And now, without the soot, you're a vision. You stop the heart, Angel, really you do.”
“You don't know me,” I said. “You shouldn't be so hasty.”
“I can't stop thinking about you, Angel,” he said. “And I won't stop until you're mine. I'll come to see you at work, I'll come to your home—”
“My home?” I said too loudly. I turned on him. His face was red and he was having a hard time breathing. “You are never to come to my home,” I said. “If my family knew about you they'd kill me.”
“Don't be dramatic,” he said. He coughed. “Hard times. Lots of girls lifted their skirts for some coin. Not all of them got a marriage proposal.”
“My kind don't lift their skirts,” I said. “And if we do it's for a completely different reason. You can never come to my home. Promise.”
“No,” he said. “Marry me. I'll go to your mother if you don't agree.”
I spied a stand of trees. “Come with me,” I said. I took his hot, moist hand and forced myself not to let go. He followed like a puppy. He thought I was consenting. I heard him chuckle behind me. We were deep in the trees before I lifted my skirts and let my appendages slither out. One pink tentacle wrapped around his round waist to hold him still and the other I forced down his throat just as he opened his mouth to scream. He writhed and jiggled like he was trying to dance and his buggy eyes popped open even further. His fat face turned purple and I saw the veins in his forehead and neck pop out. And then he was dead. He dropped on the ground with a splat, like a rotten peach. I tucked my tentacles back around me and tucked down my skirts. I headed for home.
I know what you're thinking. You think it was extreme. But you don't know my family. They would have killed me had they known. Killed me.