Tuesday 8 a.m. and my third life is about to take center stage. I just got a text from Sid. He’ll be back today, cutting his trip short.
“Returning early. Back this afternoon. See you then. Sid.”
A man of few words, Sid is. It’s something I’ve gotten used to over the past four years. There is a lot about Sid I’ve had to get used to, and this is probably the easiest.
There is a lot I haven’t told you about Sid, and about me and Sid. You’ll find out eventually, but now I’ve got to get my head straight for the day’s class. Today we get to practice what we observed yesterday. I’m teamed with a young woman from Lithuania, one of my classmates I get along better with, and we have a lot of fun together with the eggs and butter and flour. We’re both coated with a thin dust of white by the time we’re done and our product is deemed passable by chef.
I don’t have time for any walk-in escapades today, and all I have to do is tell chef Sid is back in town and I have to go, and no further explanation is necessary. There’ll be other days.
Sid is already there when I get to the apartment. When I walk in he’s snorting lines off a plate on the dining room table.
He answers only after he’s snorted another line.
“Yeah, sort of. Can’t deal with those pricks so I decided to come back early. Want some?”
“No, thanks. I have to be at Chantal’s in an hour and I don’t want to be all fucked-up.”
“Such a good girl you’ve become. Has Chantal got you turning tricks yet?”
“You know she thinks I’m too young. So, no, she hasn’t.”
“Too young for her, maybe. We know better, don’t we?”
I choose not to answer. We both know the answer, anyway. Sid knows exactly what buttons to push with me and I do my best not to respond when he does. I’ve learned that much.
Sid is the kind of person for whom the most direct route between points A and B is not a straight line. If points C, D, and E aren’t on the way, he’s not interested. He could probably do almost anything he wanted in life, but what he wants is to be a criminal. Or outlaw, which is probably a better word to describe Sid, though of course they’re basically the same thing. Just sounds more romantic, and that appeals to me as much as Sid.
Hanging out with Sid makes me an outlaw, too. I think I told you I’m his little partner in crime. When he needs someone who looks so innocent butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth, I’m the girl he turns to. Plenty of butter would melt in my mouth, and has, and not just in cooking class, but I don’t look it. I may be 16, but I’m still small of stature, kind of like a young boy with barely-there tits and long mousy-blond hair and two-tone eyes, which is why people think of me as little Rosie. That’s me. Little Rosie, and I wonder if I’ll ever grow out of it.
Anyway, given a passport with a fake name and identity – Sid has lots of them – and I’m whomever he needs me to be.
Sometimes I’m Sid’s niece. Sometimes his stepdaughter. I’ve even been his half-little sister. Put me in a dark dress and nice shoes, and in some countries, just a few, I’m his girlfriend. Sid turned 30 this year and his age is starting to show. He’s still pretty hot, but when you live like Sid does the years catch up with you sooner or later. So most of the time I’m anything but his girlfriend. And sometimes we pretend we don’t know each other. That happens often enough. Sometimes I wish it was true, but it’s not. Like I said, if I ever tried to get away from Sid I’m sure he’d track me down and find me, and who knows what then. Just the threat of it helps keep me in line.
So what does Sid need me for? Good question. Besides sating his seemingly insatiable sexual appetite and his unquenchable sadism which goes hand-in-hand with it, he needs me to be the sweet little mule who carries the drugs. Or who distracts the customs officials, like the magician’s pretty assistant, while he pulls off the real tricks. Or who just comes along for the ride to give him those looks of awe he so thrives on when he gets away with something particularly audacious. Or, one of my more common roles, to provide the entertainment Sid offers his so-called associates as a special reward. No extra charge.
Sid has other girlfriends besides me. I’ve known that from the start and I’m cool with it. I’m at the bottom of the pecking order with them, but for some reason I’m Sid’s preferred one, his favorite even if I’m far from the harem alpha. The trade off is that they get to use me as their plaything, but I’m the one Sid chose to install in Paris, put in culinary school, set up with Chantal. And I’m the one he comes back to at the end of his business trips ever since we left Southern California. I’m pretty sure it’s because I’m the youngest, and Sid doesn’t hide his preference for young girls. Not even from me. Especially not from me, just to remind me I’m expendable if I get to be much of a pain in the ass.
I’m telling you too much about Sid and me, and I didn’t mean to do that. There are things you’ll just have to wait to learn. Maybe you’ll never find out. This is just the outer peel of the onion, and boy, is he ever an onion, Sid is. And me and Sid. The onion couple, such as we are. Feel the tears coming on?
I guess I should tell you why we left Southern California, though. It’s really simple enough. Things were getting too hot for us there. Sid had a feeling the authorities were closing in, and meanwhile he pissed off some of the guys he deals with. I don’t know what he did exactly, but Sid can be pretty annoying, and any one of them might have tipped off the authorities. Or, worse, lots worse, they might have been lying in wait to off Sid at the first chance they got, and maybe me and the other girlfriends with him. It would not be a pretty picture, that much I know. I mean, we’re talking Mexicans here. So we took off, Sid and me, and he sent his other girlfriends packing for awhile and, voila, here we are in the City of Lights. And it’s getting late and I have to get ready for my gig at Chantal’s, so that’s enough for now.
“I’ve got to take a shower and get over to Chantal’s, Sid.”
“I thought you’d have time for a welcome-home fuck first.”
“Well, you thought wrong. It will have to wait. Besides, it looks like you’ve got your girlfriend there on that plate.”
“You porking anyone while I’m gone? Anyone at the school?”
He snorts another line, not looking at me.
“No, Sid. I’m not porking anyone. You have such a wonderful way with words.”
“I doubt that, but I don’t care. Go get your ass ready for Chantal and I’ll catch you later.”
Did I tell you Sid was a romantic, too? No, huh?
I never know how Sid is going to react to things. He can turn me out to a dozen guys, but one tryst in the walk-in might set him off, and I don’t need any bruises to show Chantal’s customers. Besides, Sid is always talking about “need to know,” who has a need to know something, who doesn’t, and I figure he doesn’t have a need to know anything about me and chef. It’s not like it’s anything other than a little side dish anyway. I’m sure not going to get serious with chef, and I doubt he’s going to get serious with me, either. And it doesn’t change a thing between Sid and me. So Sid has no need to know.
When I get to Chantal’s right away she knows something’s up. Chantal’s like that, she can tell things before even you can.
“Qu’est-ce qu’il y a, chérie?”
“Rien, Chantal. Ça va. Pas de problème. Sid’s back. He came back early. That’s all.”
“Ah, I see. Poor little bird. Papa’s home and she’s back in the nest under his eagle’s eye. Je suis désolée, chérie.”
Chantal knows Sid well enough. Like with chef, I don’t have to explain anything.
“Hey, it’s okay. I just didn’t expect him back so soon.”
“And you expect anything with Sid?”
“No, you’re right. No expectations. I know better. But I’m so glad I can come here, Chantal. It’s my daily refuge and I think I’d go crazy if I didn’t have it, have you, to come to.”
I wonder if I’ve opened a door a crack too far. Chantal gives me one of those penetrating looks of hers. I’m sure she can see into the shadows of my heart. I’m sure as well that I’ve starting trembling, just a little. God, I hate showing myself so bare like this, even to Chantal. I wonder what else she can see. She’s my one friend in the world, my one real friend besides Aunt Carol, and I don’t think she even knows it.
“Chérie, you can always come here. You are toujours welcome, and Sid knows better than to bother you here. D’accord?”
Is this Chantal the mother, or Chantal the lover? I don’t know, I can’t tell, but she knows how to make me feel protected in ways no one else can. If none of the others, it’s Chantal the friend. I can’t help it and I make the first move. I throw my arms around her, I give her a huge hug, and I don’t let go. As I hold onto her, I feel myself melting into that ever-so-loose body, her body as smooth as cream and as fragrant as fresh peaches, my head barely at her shoulder, a knife’s edge of desperation showing through despite my best efforts to hide it.
“Mon petit oiseau. That is my new name for you. My little bird. Such a sweet little bird, you are. And brave.”
She says it to me, softly, as she strokes my hair.
I wonder about myself. Am I the daughter, or the lover? Both? Neither? For now, I’m just the little bird. And am I brave? It’s the kind of thing my aunt would tell me. I must be, to do all the things I do. Or just crazy. There’s that, too. But for once I’d rather be the sweet little bird than the brave one. To be Chantal’s little sparrow, held close in the soothing safety of her bosom. That’s what I want to be, to feel I am. This is one of those times when I just need to feel safe.
We hold onto each other for the moment, sharing briefly the warmth of our bodies held close, and then Chantal looks at me.
“Is my little bird ready now to serenade the hawks, to calm their anxious souls, those birds of prey who will soon be here?”
There’s that, and time is running short. There is work to do, something that is on both our minds, even in this petit pause, as lovely as it is. The little bird needs to prepare herself to play for the men, to soothe their predatory urges with her delicate fingers on the keys.
“Oui, Chantal. Je suis prête.”
I stand on tip-toes and give her a quick kiss, brazenly on the lips this time, and before I can judge her reaction I break our hug and head to my screen to prepare for the hours ahead.