…she loved him, she really did. And he loved her. At least she wanted to believe when he said so. But sometimes nothing could be as simple as that. Life would be so dull if everything would go our way, wouldn’t it? He seemed to be the one. I liked watching them sitting in her room, looking at each other. Sometimes they could spend the whole time not even saying a thing, just enjoying minutes they could share. When they were together she was the happiest girl living in the Red Light District. Possibly one day she would be able to forget about him. Crossing the street, not noticing that somewhere in the crowd was the man that used to be the one. So beautiful in its fragileness, so rough, yet uneasy to be destroyed. The kind of relation that would be remembered forever. People don’t forget something that leaves scars either on their body or soul. She asked me once what was wrong with her that every man left her after a while… “I guess that nobody can afford to pay for our time till the rest of our lives,” I said and she has never asked me about anything again.
I couldn’t see her face as short, dark, curly hair hid the whole of her. I could hear a silent sniffle. She turned to pick up her shirt and you could see her round cheeks, always with a little, teenage blush, and this time with a tiny line of water marking a way from the corner of her eye, down to the chin. Her lips, so full, always half opened as if she wanted to say something, but never did. Her pale skin with a couple of bruises and scars. Big eyes, blue just like the sea we used to go to during our holidays. So she was, just like that sea – beautiful and full of mysteries.
It can be said that there were times that I was very jealous looking at her. I’m not anymore. Now I just wonder how something so beautiful can be so sad. Late at night, I could hear silent sobbing. Her eyes were red every morning, hands shaking. She didn’t want to talk. Always without makeup, always in his shirt. They told her so many times to change before work, but she rarely listened. No matter what she was wearing, every time, all of the eyes in the room were fixed on her.
After the small, chubby, middle-aged man left, she slowly examined the wallpaper in her room. It used to be green but that day it reminded more of dirty clover spotted with some red stains. The stink of old sweat and blood was in the air, her duvet squashed, stained, smelly. She was putting the white shirt on. The smell of male Chanel perfume was still on it. Golden ring on her middle finger – another pleasant reminder of him. She stared at it while buttoning up the shirt. She had to take it off while working to avoid questions if she was married. Of course not. They couldn’t get married. Not yet. Not in this case. But it didn’t matter to her as long as he showed his interest, as long as she was sure that he loved her.
Near her knee, there was a pink rose. It could be said that it rather used to be a rose once. He left it during the last visit. So many days, nights, weeks. It was the last thing she got from him. Rosie could stare at it for hours, gently touching rose petals. She didn’t let anyone throw it away. The red rose was looking more like a piece of an old stump, left and forgotten by someone, than a flower. It was in the same place where he had left it. Almost the same. Near the red pillow on which he used to like to lay down while they were talking. On which he said for the first time that he loved her more than anyone else. Everything in that room reminded her of him. She used to deny that she missed him dearly when I asked, but now… she just closes her eyes and turns back. Nervously looking at her phone, staring out of the window, analyzing every person passing by. She was waiting, again, for a sign, for a presence, for something that would mean more.
Then he came back. After few months of absence. He showed up as if nothing changed. Came to her room. The one with green curtains, the king sized bed in the middle of it and a pile of books lying near the wall. He was watching her dress up after work, standing there, in the door as always. Examining her every move while she was putting his shirt on. Breathing in the scent of his perfume on it, trying to feel his touch through the thick layer of old, harsh white material, gently touching the stained collar with ripped edges. He said that they had just an hour, that she had to hurry up and do her thing and she was still glad to spend some time with him. Although it was nothing as she had imagined. It wasn’t the thing that she was waiting for. He closed the door and laid his black, old jacket on the bed. The smell of sweat and Russian vodka spread through the whole house. She noticed the grin and knew that it wasn’t her to whom he came back. She gave him back the shirt and laid down near the jacket. Her eyes closed, hands – up, legs – spread, heart…
She couldn’t even say his name, that was never going to change… She had never spoken much. Not about him after he came back smelling like a distillery, not able to walk straight. We don’t know what happened that night. Madame was mad after seeing violet marks on her arms and legs, with makeup all over her face. I cleaned her room from blood stains. The smell was still strong although I came in after few hours, my stomach gurgled. The white shirt wasn’t there anymore and I haven’t seen it ever since.
My red room was just next to hers so, even though I didn’t intend to, I heard every conversation going on there. If I had a break obviously, just before jumping under the hot stream of water trying to get rid of the fingerprints left on my body, preparing it for the next hour of work. That day she talked more than for the last two years she had been here. He was a charming young man, probably in his twenties, maybe six years older than Rosie. They spoke about books, movies, theatre, music. I knew that they would be mad at her that he paid for nothing if he complained. But he didn’t. Now all she was talking about somehow led to him. Rosie seemed to forget where she belonged, who she was for all the men who came into our house. It was clear as soon as you looked into her eyes. She was in love, but does it happen in places like this? For longer than an hour or a night?
Once I crept to the window on the bottom floor when she was seeing him off. I saw them hugging, looking so innocent and pure… Was he to stay? To rescue her? If anyone could do that I was sure by that time that he would be the one. They were seeing each other three times a week. Of course, she had to get an approval from the house, but if not he could always come to visit her just as he did for the first time.
Coming into our house one doesn’t expect there to see a girl like her. They used to lock Rosie in the room not to let people see her. Otherwise, every man just wanted to get into the room with Rose. Other girls would end up just where they came from. None of us wanted to get back on the streets, we had been here way too long for them to get rid of us. One girl would not earn so much money and especially not a girl who had red eyes and never smiled.
Rosie wasn’t old enough. Everyone knew that one day she would just vanish, disappear and we would never hear of her again. She suffered because it was clear to her that most of the men liked just that false image of her that they created looking at young, beautiful girl or maybe a small, cute toy for which they paid so she was supposed to do what they wanted her to. It took an hour, two, a night, then they left. And she stayed in the small room smelling of sweat and regret, counting new stains on the wallpaper. She would stay silently trying to cover new marks that they left on her. And the man? He would just forget about that pretty, young girl trapped in the world she did not belong to.
He was different. At least seemed to be… She was smiling again. He made her days brighter, nights more bearable as after few hours she got to see him again. He didn’t care about her work. It was just the way she earned a living. Actually, no girl born in the Red Light District has a choice. She used to run away, trying to hide, but she always came back. Bruised, dirty, her clothes ripped. He made her so happy while being stuck in that awful place. I liked to watch them gazing at each other lovingly. Maybe they were the proof that love exists, even in places like this. Even if you have to pay for it. I’m still sure about that…