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a guest Aug 17th, 2019 60 Never
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  1. The car heater carried a stale breath even after a good fifteen minute drive out of the suburbs and into the slums. Mameha had her head perched to the passenger’s door, ignoring the smell of bacon and cheese fries. Knowing the driver, they were probably sitting off in a corner of a waste bin stacked up to the roof of the car. She tried not to think about it when she was desperate enough to ask for a ride out in town. Wesley just so happened to be free the second she mentioned gas money. The two of them had been driving with good old Joyride playing in the background. Wes didn’t bother asking why she needed a ride this early in the morning, but maybe that's because his concern was on the briefcase sitting on her lap. Greedy asshole. He was as greasy as he sounded. They’d known each other from the orphanage, tight friends and all. One time, she made the mistake of hitting him upside the head and cried out at the slick content that stuck to her fingers. His hair was a build up gel in those sandy locks, slicked back in a boyish undercut. He had a sharp tongue and a slack jaw, as if he didn’t remember what he said even if he insulted the pope’s mother. But when it came to money, he could do math. Wesley wasn’t wicked smart but he wasn’t lazy either. “Did you eat anything before you came out?” He asked.
  2.  
  3. She shook her head without a languid remark. Wesley’s silence made it seem like he was nodding and she felt the car slowing down at a turning lane. Still at the red, there was another car that made a screech on the road till they finished the sharp stop beside them. Mameha could hear a group of voices mutter to themselves, the sound of their backs slumped into their seats as the leather swoons. Cockiness like they were ready to kill while whistling Dixie in between their teeth. By the sound of that rubber and hum, they had a Mercedes. Cute.
  4.  
  5. The group of boys noticed the two of them and scrunched up their faces, making whoops and kissy faces in her direction. Wesley and her didn’t pay attention. When Wes’s foot shifted underneath them and went to the gas, that was enough to tell her that they were moving again. She felt the car curve into a slow left, while the other car whistled straight. Happy life.
  6.  
  7. The pigeon apartments were barely holding up against themselves, little lean in shut outs with broken windows and questionable faces behind said windows. One of those faces were bound to be her client, it was just that sort of compromise. Wes’ peered his grey eyes through the window and searched the numbers for 390. When they were just a building away from the intersection, Mameha’s hand came down instinctively on the man’s arm,
  8.  
  9. “Stop. We’re here.”
  10.  
  11. The car door filed out and fresh air rolled across her face, washing the smell of stale cheese. Exposed and freshly cold, the back of her neck was trailing with shivers but she ignored it. It was good to be out in the open.
  12.  
  13. “Aren’t you going to be cold like that?” Wesley leaned in as she started climbing out of the car.
  14.  
  15. “I’ll be inside for a while, so I’ll warm up.” Mameha took the suitcase but just as she tugged, it stopped shortly. Wes was holding the other end of it. Christ, he was starting to remind her of their foster mistress.
  16.  
  17. “Relax. You should go get something to eat while I’m in there.” She insisted.
  18. He shook his head but remembered she couldn’t see the expression. Wes said quickly, “How do you even know if they have running heaters in there.”
  19.  
  20. A quiet smile spread east to west across her expression and the other man raised a brow, “What?”
  21.  
  22. Mameha shook her head, “There’ll be a fire. I’ll be fine.”
  23.  
  24. “What? Do they have the money to provide a fireplace?”
  25.  
  26. He didn’t sound convinced.
  27.  
  28. She shook her head again; once left, once right.
  29.  
  30. “The window frames.” Mameha responded simply.
  31.  
  32. If Wes could’ve been any more confused, it was now. She reimbursed her explanation, "They’re broken because they’ve used the wood for fire.”
  33.  
  34. His jaw dropped and he stared at her, “But isn’t that counter productive? How are they going to keep the cold out?”
  35.  
  36. A little laugh emerged from her cupid mouth, “They’re gypsies. They’re like termites here…”
  37.  
  38. Before Wes could make another comment, the car door shut in his face. The other woman started her walk up the stairs of the apartment building, and the car behind her sped away with an obnoxious screech. With the shamisen tucked in Wesley’s car, she didn’t have to worry about the weight of her instrument. The suitcase made up for it.
  39.  
  40. Wry legs walked the way up to stairs, their steps collectively making a devil’s spine of some sorts with the way each step made an audible crack. The boots did their work in making her presence known to the entire building complex. She was just surprised no one was running down the stairs screaming “booga-ooga”. That’s what the dead beats did when they didn’t realize they were a step closer to being dead. The instruments in her suitcase weren’t to blame for that, but nobody believed her. Mameha walked her way onward with a straight back, measuring how many steps she’d already ventured until she could walk back down. It wasn’t long before she was at the third floor, top of the midway and opening a thick metal door to a slightly less colder hallway. The apartment doors were lined up, retired from any debriefing. She stepped cautiously across the floorboards; there wasn’t any solid proof that they could hold up the weight of a 115 pound woman so she didn’t want to take her risk. Each trekking step accounted for another nerve in her patience, so she kept walking until she made it all the way through to the arranged suite, 156. Braille, goody.
  41.  
  42. A hand went up to knock, but the door was already fixed. A collection of audible noises chinked every lock in place, the door’s opened to reveal a 5’8 woman in heavy clad lingerie, nothing but a faux fur coat to cover her shoulders. Black haired styled into a fringe pixie cut, red lipstick that doused her bruleé thick mouth, and a scar that stretched the inches across her collarbone to the crane of her swan neck––by the smell of her perfume, Mameha knew it was Jerusalem at the door. The woman gave Mameha a knowing smile and stepped back like a newborn fawn learning how to walk. Those pumps didn’t do her any justice. Before Mameha could step a toe in, she averted her attention past Jerusalem to where the others were “settled” but she didn’t feel anything but an empty space in her throat. No, they were in a farther compartment. She’d hear someone tipping over or something. They had to be in the bedroom. Shit.
  43.  
  44. “It’s just us, Mami-darling.” Jerusalem pulled in close to Mameha’s shoulder and purred into her ear.
  45.  
  46. The other woman automatically winced at the sensitivity and stepped back, the weight of the suitcase nearly bruising the side of her leg. Jerusalem laughed at her reaction, knowing perfectly well what conscience she had. The barely there woman went back to the side of the door, a haughty smirk emerging against the grain of her lips when she saw the suitcase for the first time. The odor of the apartment reeked of perfume, marijuana, and leftover opium. The liquid drug didn’t leave that much of a scent but when it was laced in the air, it was like pink champagne. Sweet smelling to the point that it could’ve been mistaken for alcohol or perfume. For now, Mameha wanted to believe it was just excess perfume.
  47.  
  48. Jerusalem took her wrist (Mameha flinched before she cajoled her into trusting her touch) and guided her into the living room space. After a good year of desolation, the apartment was just barely holding up its own air but it was lukewarm to say the least. Like stepping into a pool of water that you know is cold but after swimming in it for a while, it’s hard for you to step out of it when the air is worse than the latter. Mameha restrained herself from tugging her hand back to pull the hem of her sweater up to cover her nose. She didn’t want to look too sensitive. Jerusalem lead her into a corner space with two doors, one of them ajar with a sink and a wash basin, cracked with powdered remains of something lavender like. It was a caked on residue for a bathroom but it wasn’t the room Jerusalem was inquiring to go to. Instead she opened the other door and stepped in, Mameha quietly following her lead. The master bedroom.
  49.  
  50. One of the faces inside looked up at Mameha, a face full of insomnia. He was a blonder fellow, dark circles for eyes and a empty blue hues to call irises. Others were too busy huddled in front of the mattress clump, surrounding a fire pit with a great stamp on it. The place was darkly lit, windows still intact with thick curtains to shield from the sunlight.
  51.  
  52. “Who’s that?” Mameha heard one of them ask.
  53.  
  54. The boy’s hand came down on the wrist and his body ended up sliding forward, pale skin on the back of his neck filtered with goosebumps. He didn't sound a bit well.
  55.  
  56. “This is our dealer.” Jerusalem introduced them, or at least introduced her to the people that were still listening.
  57.  
  58. The whole air was wrong. From the second she stepped into the building with the briefcase, everything had been wrong. Her mouth tightened and she felt her insides sink. Another smell had measured up to the room’s standards and she couldn’t even sit this one down. One of the burnouts turned over on their side and the sound of him ripping heaved chunks filled the “everywheres” in Mameha’s ears. A little cry echoed from one of the girls as she stifled over to the blonde guy, a moan coming over her like she was in pain. The girl ripped the skin of her thigh on a nail that was sticking out of the floorboards.
  59.  
  60. “Jesus Christ…” Mameha grimaced and shook her head, ready to turn around.
  61.  
  62. It wasn’t until Jerusalem tightened her hand around the other’s wrist did she stop in her steps. She hadn’t even had breakfast yet and this woman was trying her patience.
  63.  
  64. “Just where do you think you’re going. We had a deal.”
  65.  
  66. Mameha looked over her shoulder, at least to show that she was acknowledging her, and closed her eyes but the stench caught up too fast. Faster than any marijuana, faster than any opium. It just pinched. Mameha threw her hand off, turned around, and let her legs carry her all the way over to the living room space, door still locked and mocking her diminishing patience. If she was going to be any angrier she might’ve just dissolved into a frustrated scowl. Jerusalem ran up after her in those clunky heels, threatening to fall down and smash those knock knees of hers.
  67.  
  68. “Unlock it.” Mameha said simply, her hand coming up to her forehead to check her temperature.
  69.  
  70. She didn’t even know at this point. Jerusalem gave her a huff but just the look the other woman made caught her in a clinch. The lingerie lady pursed her bottom lip and filed up to the floor, every motion made mechanical all the way up to the last lock. The door swung open and Mameha was just about out until Jerusalem’s arm barred her from continuing out.
  71.  
  72. “The suitcase.” She insisted and Mameha nearly spat in her face.
  73.  
  74. “Go fuck yourself, Meriam.”
  75.  
  76. Jerusalem Meriam Thompson’s face dropped and her arm was pushed away by Mameha’s less patient swoop. The door didn’t even close itself by the time she was out of the hallway and down the stairs, legs measuring down the floor without so much of a peep echoing in the back of her head. She found herself at the bottom layer and out the pigeon apartment door, fresh air again. A dawning thought occurred to her and she nearly cursed herself. Wesley wasn’t due back for another hour and she didn’t have the gas money to pay him
  77.  
  78. “Fuuuuuck.” Her voice drawled and she stepped forward, only to feel the clunky weight of her heel measure her down, the starvation sinking in the back of her head. She didn’t want to go back in there, no matter whether it was worth her while or not.
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