Kellyanne and the Princess
This story was published on the excellent Across the Margin site, however, due to editorial changes, I am publishing it here in its original form
Be aware this story contains foul language, threat, and sexual violence.
Not for the delicate of constitution.
Kellyanne paces. Her heels tap-tap on the pavement, clear and sharp. No one, she feels, should be outside this early, and certainly not to do what she’s here for. Shivering, she pulls up the collar of her fake fur jacket; its cosy look is deceptive. Rain in the night left standing water on the ground, and the sun is a chilly pink glow over the rooves on the far side of the road.
She could have been asleep for a good few hours yet, but Danny shoved her out of bed. He is fit, and at first he’d been exciting, but she wonders now, as the damp air finds its way to her legs through thin tights, whether he’s worth it.
A car is heading towards her and it slows a few meters away. Hope blooms in Kellyanne. If she can get a client for the full fee she could risk going home, and maybe Danny won’t kick her out again. A guy in the backseat winds down the window, ‘Skanky prossy!’
The wheels of the car pass through puddles lying by the kerb and water showers her legs and boots. Male laughter reaches her from the departing car window.
The word still takes her by surprise. Before fully awake and not yet having eaten, some part of her still identifies with the Kellyanne of three years before, the receptionist at the bank Kellyanne, with a proper salary and everything, who wore a crisp white blouse and black skirt to work every day and who the security guards called ‘Kitten’. When they first started it she’d wondered if there was a hidden meaning: a nasty, sexual one, but over time it was clear they just found her cute. She wonders what they’d think of her now.
It’s the ‘skanky’ bit that really bothers her. How is she supposed to make enough money to satisfy Danny if men think she’s so skanky? And, until she has enough he won’t let her score again. Then again, she’s often surprised by what men will shag when the mood takes them, so maybe she doesn’t need to worry.
Legs soaking, even colder now, she paces up and down faster. Sometimes she can’t believe she’s here, doing this, again. Every night she falls asleep resolving that tomorrow she’ll go to the shelter. This has to end. A hand is being offered to pull her out of her current life, all she has to do is take it. Then, in the morning, she’ll wake and remember how goody-two-shoes the girls who staff the shelter are. How they insist on praying with her whenever she gets into their van for a hot drink, a chat and some condoms, their heads bowed, holding her hands.
Their earnest recitations to him upstairs make her skin crawl. Why do they have to drag god into everything? It’s bad enough being looked at by all those fresh-faced girls as though she’s… well, a skanky prossy, without their imaginary god doing it too. Those girls shouldn’t judge her. What do they know? They’re probably only her age, though they look younger.
Car man might have a point, she muses. Since the crack really got a hold, her once thick blonde hair has thinned and she’s lost a molar, lines have appeared prematurely on her face: ‘crack-cracks’ as Danny describes them when he’s feeling complimentary. It’s going to be the crack that kills her before she’s thirty. Unless it’s some crazy punter who gets too enthusiastic with the throttling in the back of his car. She had a near miss with that last year. But if she goes to the shelter it’d mean rehab, and Kellyanne doesn’t know if she’d survive that either.
Another car slows down. She squares up to it, braced for another insult. A man, bald, suited, middle aged, on his way to a warm office no doubt, winds down the window, ‘Got the time?’
He looks rich so she says, ‘Sixty.’
‘Come on,’ he says. ‘Forty. That’s my final offer.’
She gets into the car and he drives them round the corner. In the back seat he kneels behind her, squashing her, hands groping her breasts through her strappy top and thin bra, hitches up her skirt, pulling her thong aside, and starts jabbing away. Even though he’s not big, it’s painful.
‘Say, “Fuck my dirty cunt harder, big boy.”’
‘Say, “I’m your dirty little slut, Daddy.”
‘Say it, slut!’
He grabs her face: she clamps her teeth into the skin between his thumb and forefinger. He yells out, hits her in the face with his other palm and carries on thrusting away. She releases his hand, squeezes her eyes closed, shuts up and lets him finish.
Minutes later he when pushes her out of the car she slides onto the pavement, shaking, pulling her skirt down. He throws a couple of notes at her as he steps over her to climb back into the front seat. ‘That’s half, because you bit me, stupid whore.’
‘I thought you liked that, fucker!’ she shouts as he drives away, snatching up the two tenners and stowing them away in her jacket. ‘Fuck…’ she mutters to herself. When will she ever learn?
As she sits on the pavement her mobile rings.
‘I’ve already had one!’ Even she can hear how her voice goes high pitched as she rushes to justify herself to him.
‘Get another forty, then you can come home. I’m going out in a bit, but I want to see at least sixty when I come back, or you know what I’m gonna do.’
Kellyanne knows. She hangs up, feeling sick.
She wastes one pound fifty by going to Greggs and buying a coffee. She needs something to recover from ‘Big boy’, and from Danny’s call. The little shop with its blue front has only just opened and the teenaged boy behind the counter is sleepily civil.
With her hot coffee, full of sugar, she feels better able to stand on the pavement and wait for another round. Pacing makes the soreness worse, so she leans against the fence.
There’s an alley directly opposite; a long narrow cut through to one of the main streets. As Kellyanne sips her coffee, trying to make it last, and warming her hands on it, a beaten up door in the alley opens.
A pair of boots appears on the top of the two stone steps, the rest of the person hidden by the open door. She knows those boots. It’s Jamie. There’s no way he's got up this early; must still be up from the night before. She remembers how he stamped on her rib cage with one of those boots when she told him it was over between them.
Jamie seemed so great when he first came here. Just wanted to look out for the girls, that’s what he said. And, he stuck up for her when some girl had tried to pick a fight. She’d been so touched she’d let him take her to his room at the back of the pub and do what he wanted with her. From there she’d ended up living with him, but over time he’d got weird. More angry, more demanding. When she dumped him he showed his true colours. Then again, Danny isn’t proving to be a much better choice now the novelty’s worn off.
The boots shuffle. Jamie is obviously standing there in the doorway smoking. She hopes he won’t come out properly and see her. Not that she’s scared of him anymore. There's a new and grudging respect from him since she’s kept herself away from him, but still, she doesn’t want a chat.
A clip clopping sound, growing louder, alerts her to a figure in the distance. One thing the crack hasn’t yet spoilt; her eyesight. A girl, heading down the alley towards her, still a long way off, but her heels are ringing on the cobbles, echoing around the walls of the shabby buildings.
‘Don’t see many of your sort around here.’ Kellyanne mutters into her paper cup. This girl must have got lost. As she nears, Kellyanne sees she’s really young, maybe around twenty, though it’s so hard to tell these days.
The shine on her brown hair could be seen from half a mile away, and she’s in a skirt suit of dark mauve. Pale skin and large pretty eyes. Mauve high heels are what’s making all the racket.
‘My god, it is a little princess!’ Kellyanne murmurs.
Realising the girl is about to draw level with the open door, and those boots, Kellyanne senses what’s going to happen before it does.
She’s not surprised to hear Jamie say something to the girl though she can’t make out what it is. The princess pauses, glances up, says something and carries on walking.
Kellyanne half smiles. This girl must’ve never had a moment’s trouble in her life, until now. She is somebody’s little darling and it shows in every glossy inch of her. This could be fun to watch. What do they call that thing... ‘shadenfraden’?
And sure enough, Jamie isn’t about to let it go at that. He shoots out from the open doorway, a blur of mucky jeans and tatty T-shirt, and grabs the girl’s handbag with the hand not holding the fag. Kellyanne snorts with giggles. This is better than TV.
She registers the look of fear on the girl’s face and thinks the show’s pretty much over. Jamie will go off with his spoils and the girl will wander off and find Daddy to make everything better again.
The princess grabs the bag strap in both hands and tugs, trying to wrench it out of Jamie’s grasp. He’s so taken aback that she almost manages to get it; the strap slithering through his hand, until he tightens his grasp.
The girl shouts, ‘Help, help, someone! He’s trying to mug me!’ casting her eyes around, failing to see Kellyanne on the opposite side of the road.
She begins pulling the bag, with Jamie attached to the strap, backing towards the road. Kellyanne has to admit, that’s clever. The girl must be hoping a car will pass and either offer help or scare him off.
But Jamie isn’t anyone’s fool. He must realise what she’s trying to do and, using both hands, he inches his way up the strap towards her, finally getting near enough to reach out and place his lit cigarette butt against the inside of her wrist.
She screams, but rather than letting go of the bag, convulses so hard she tears it from his grasp. In a flash she’s running down the alley. Jamie’s after her. He might not have caught her if she hadn’t slipped on the wet cobbles.
Without being aware of it, Kellyanne has crossed the empty road and advanced a little way up the street, following them, to see what happens.
Jamie is on the princess, who almost stumbled over, and once he has hold of her, he pushes her against the stone wall of the warehouse they’re beside. The bag falls by her feet. Kellyanne hears her gasping for breath, or maybe starting to sob, while Jamie says things to her in a low steady voice.
Kellyanne doesn’t want to see what follows. She turns away, starting make her way up the main road, out of ear shot. The princess had it coming to her, after all.
As she takes another step forward, she becomes aware of the coldness in her boot: the fruit knife she’s taken to tucking in there ever since throttly guy. She stops in the middle of the pavement.
Princess put up a good fight for her bag. Maybe she needs the money, or whatever’s in there; keys, phone. The girl has guts too. Kellyanne remembers the feeling of Jamie’s boot crashing down on her ribs, and what he’d done to her after she stopped fighting.
Hardly able to believe she’s doing this, she turns slowly round, walks up the alley the few metres distance, and creeps up behind Jamie.
Oh, god. He isn’t already doing it is he? No, he’s only snogging the girl, while fumbling with her skirt. Obviously wanting to take his time with this one. The princess is whimpering and struggling, but he has her well pinned, both wrists clamped against the wall in one hand.
Kellyanne inches up behind him and puts the blade of the knife flat against the side of his neck.
He stops kissing the girl and stands stock still. Kellyanne sees all the muscles in his neck go rigid.
‘Hi Jamie. Long time no see, darling.’
‘What the - What do you want?’ he asks, through clenched teeth.
Kellyanne thinks fast.
‘I remembered I haven’t paid you back for that kicking you gave me. Now, if you don’t want me to stick this in your neck, maybe you’d better be running along now.’
He doesn’t move. She feels her hand round the knife handle go sweaty. Jamie is unpredictable, particularly when high or coming down, as he probably is now. And this is a mind game. A mind game she has to win, for herself and for the princess.
‘Don’t try anything, cos Danny’s just on his way to get me. Wouldn’t want him to get you too, would you? You know what he can be like.’
After another second’s hesitation Jamie bolts, stepping sideways, away from the knife, and dodging back into his doorway, slamming the door behind him, like a scared spider, retreating into its hole.
‘You have a good day, darling,’ calls Kellyanne after him. She chuckles, muttering, 'Pathetic.'
The princess straightens up from against the wall, panting for air, and looks at Kellyanne, wiping her mouth repeatedly with the back of her hand, wearing a disgusted expression.
Close up, her skin is so white and pure, cheeks and lips flushed from Jamie’s handling, dark hair rumpled, that she makes Kellyanne think of the picture of Snow White in a book of fairy tales she loved as a child. Kellyanne used to have colouring like that too, only blonde, like the Sleeping Beauty in the book, before her skin went yellow.
In front of the princess, her bravado with Jamie vanishes. She looks away, waiting for an insult.
Out of the corner of her eye she sees the other girl bend and pick up the handbag, hooking the strap over her shoulder. Then she just carries on just standing there. What’s she doing?
Kellyanne looks up and finds dark eyes fixed on her, as though she is something amazing.
‘Thank you so much. You saved my life.’ The princess has a clear-honey voice, as people out of fairy tales should.
‘Well, I don’t know about that…’ Kellyanne shifts her boots on the cobbles and bends to slot the small knife back into place before looking up at the girl again. She maybe isn’t that far off the truth though. There’s no telling how nasty Jamie could have got.
‘You did. You’re a good person.’
‘Ah, wisht. Hadn’t you better be getting off now? Not nice people round here.’
‘Ok, yeah, I should go. I’m supposed to be going to a job interview, would you believe it?’ She gives a desperate sounding laugh. ‘I feel really in the zone for it now. Right, yes, I’m going, but thank you, I won’t forget you.’
‘You take care now.’
Kellyanne turns away, waving a hand as though dismissing the girl. Wandering back across the empty road to her former station, she finds the remains of her coffee still there where she’d put the cup down near the fence. She picks it up. She watches the girl, hawk eyed, all the way down the main road and out of sight.
A text pings into her phone. Danny.
‘I’m out now, but I hope you’re working hard, bitch.’
He’s called her that so many times it’s practically his pet name for her, but this time, it strikes her as wrong. She stares at the word. Bitch. Female dog. Who is he to call her a bitch? Who the fuck does he think he is?
If she goes right now, she can get her things before he comes back and be at the shelter in another hour for when they first open their doors at 9:30am.
Those godly girls probably aren’t so bad. Let them pray for her if they want. Let them pray and judge. Can’t really hurt her, can it? Anyway, the shelter will just be a stepping stone. A stepping stone to a different life.
Dropping her empty coffee cup in a nearby bin, Kellyanne hurries off through the grey morning to the place that will no longer be home.