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story of a working girl
My eyes open instantly. No alarm clock goes off, no one shakes me awake. It's like my internal alarm system just went off—except it's a little late. There's no clock in my room so I can't know for sure, but it's maybe around nine or ten. It's the Friday of Spring Break, I should already roaming the streets for parties to crash, in search of potential customers.
Customers. That's what they are. And I am the salesgirl as well as the product.
There's no point in stalling, but I'm reluctant to get up. I throw off the thin sheet and roll out of bed. Literally roll. The mattress is barely six inches off the ground, so my impact with the floor is painless.
The room is pitch black, but I know the lay-out so well, I don't need light. I side-step cracks and splinters in the floor, making my way to the small laundry basket that serves as my closet. “Work clothes” are always on top, so I pull out the first things my hands touch and pull them on. I can't see what I'm wearing, but I don't really care. All I know is that the jeans are too tight and the shirt barely has enough fabric to qualify as such.
I leave my room, closing the door behind me. I flip on the hallway light, treating myself only because there might still be shards of a broken bottle from last night on the floor. The wooden floor creaks a little every time I take a step, reminding me of how empty the house is.
I cross the hall to the living room. Fast forward three hours from now and my father will be passed out on the couch, decorating it with beer stains, the glow from the TV illuminating his bloodshot face.
For a moment, the image of my dad lying wasted on the couch is so vivid that I almost believe he's really there. And suddenly, red-hot anger courses through my body, through my arms, down my legs, right to my fingers and toes. I want to take a beer bottle and smash it over his head. I want to slap him until he gets his butt off the couch and starts acting like an adult.
Get over yourself already. Just because Mom left you doesn't give you an excuse to turn into an alcoholic. People divorce all the time—that's life. Just because you lost your job doesn't mean you can't pay the bills. Get a job, pay the rent. Find a wife, get a life.
Grow up. Because at sixteen, I shouldn't have to.
Why should I be the one fixing the leaky sink because we're too poor to hire a plumber? Why should I have to steal food from my day job because every cent I make goes toward the bills you don't pay. I work two jobs just to keep up, on top of school. Speaking of school! Do you know the kind of reputation one gets when she's no longer a virgin? Do you know what abuse I go through—every—single—day.
No, you don't. Neither do they.
And they care just about as much as you do.
I squeeze my eyes shut to stop the tears I can feel burning under my eyelids. You will not cry, I tell myself. Whatever feelings I have bottled up inside have to stay that way, at least for tonight. When I come home, I can lock myself in my room and cry and scream my throat raw. But right now, there's work to do and a stack of bills that isn't getting smaller.
One foot in front of the other, that's how I make my way across the living room. My feet have been traded for cinder-blocks. My arm feels like lead as I open the door. A cool breeze sends goosebumps down my bare arms, making me wish I had a jacket. I step outside, like I have many times before, on my way to another day at work.