Match Twenty-Eight: Misère:
Francis looked at his wine. He sighed as he looked at the surface. This wasn't tasting as good as it normally did.
"Is something the matter?" a small voice asked. The Frenchman glanced over to his left. A waitress girl stood next to him, leaned in. Francis shrugged his shoulders.
"Nothing, my dear," he said.
"Can I get you more wine?" she asked. He shook his head.
"Are you ready to order?" she asked.
"No, just give me a little more time," Francis said.
"Okay," the waitress said. She turned and walked to the back. He turned back to his glass. This wine didn't taste so good. It was then he noticed an old lady looking up at him. She had to about seventy years old. Her brown fur coat looked too hot for the warm autumn. The jewels were too big not to notice. The woman was smoking a fancy cigarette. Something about her made the French man shiver.
"Excuse me, miss?" Francis asked. The old lady looked up. At first, the French man didn't know what to say. Something about this woman's gaze made him uncomfortable. Where had he seen this before? The old lady flicked out her cigarette. She had a curious look on her face. Suddenly, the woman got up and walked over to his table. The younger man froze. His new companion raised her eyebrow.
"You look familiar," she said. Francis chuckled nervously.
"I got that a lot," he said. The woman took him by the chin. Such a touch took his mind back to a dark place. His new companion smiled and chuckled.
"Oh my, what am I doing?" she asked. "My mind must be going." The old lady let go of his face.
"I'm sorry, did I remind you of someone?" Francis asked.
"In a way," the old woman said.
"May I ask who?" the Frenchman asked. He thought it would be a grandson or a nephew. The old lady gave him a little smile.
"A sex worker I used to pimp," she said. His stomach dropped.
"Oh…" he mumbled.
His mind trailed back to another unsettling place.
His pimp used to say he looked beautiful. He was so young at sixteen too. This boy would fetch a pretty penny. And he did too. It didn't take long for the youth to reach the top. Night after night, another man came for the boy. They would use him. It didn't mattered what he wanted. The golden-haired boy would lay in his bed, shivering. Everyone would just take and take and take. He couldn't keep up. His body couldn't keep up. They didn't care. He was just a plaything to be used whenever they wanted.
"Young man?" the old lady said. "Are you okay? Young man? Young man?" Francis about jumped in his chair, spilling his wine.
"Huh? Oh," he said.
"You look so pale," his companion said. She reached out to touch his forehead. Everyone looked up when they heard a slapping noise in the small restaurant. Francis lowered his hand, panting.
"I'm sorry," he said. "It's just…" The old lady looked so confused at first.
"Bad memories?" she asked.
"I don't know," Francis said. "I think so." The Frenchman rubbed his forehead. The old woman took a drag of her cigarette. The younger man cringed.
"You used to be a madam?" he asked.
"That's right," she said.
"You don't look like one," was all that he could say. The old woman laughed.
"Those were my glory days," she said. She leaned back in her chair and smiled.
"I felt like a queen," his companion added. "I was quite the looker, you know?" Francis slowly nodded.
"I see," he said. He found himself in a strange place. On the one hand, he wanted to turn around and run. On the other hand, something inside of him wanted to hear more of her story.
"What was it like?" Francis asked. "How long were you a madam?" The former madam's eyes twinkled as she eyed him.
"Do you have to go anywhere today?" she asked.
"No," the Frenchman admitted. This felt familiar. The warning signs were there but he couldn't see or hear them.
"Have you eaten yet?" the older lady asked.
"No," Francis said. His companion stuck up his arm in the air.
"Waitress!" she shouted. "We're ready to order!" The young waitress walked over to the table and took their orders. The whole time Francis tried to force himself to stay calm and smile. The old lady didn't need to look at the menu to order her lunch.