Balle stood in the doorway, holding her red high heels in one hand and two fat chocolate brownies wrapped in plastic in her other. I scratched my chin. “How did you manage to knock?”
“Ah,” she said, resting the brownies in her open mouth. She giggled and swayed like a schoolgirl. I felt my stomach drop. Her playfulness reminded me of my girlfriend from junior year. Soft sweet skin rolled over her curves like icing on a cake. I could remember the feel of that soft, smooth skin, different from a grown woman’s skin. Somehow only a few years change everything, makes it solid and firm. Balle was too young to be here, flirting with me so masterfully.
“I can put my fist in my mouth.” She explained with hushed excitement.
“Well, that must come in handy,” I remarked, not knowing exactly how to respond. “So is the plan to distract me with baked goods while Ed ransacks my room?” I could hardly think of another plausible reason for her visit.
“I thought you might like one of Manny’s special brownies. He used to make them for his significant other while he was sick with cancer, he got real good at it, you can hardly taste the pot.”
“Really well, I will have to have one of those. I am a connoisseur of fine edibles.” Balle laughed and brushed her bare feet across the hard cement floor, her toenails were painted three different colors: bright red, grape purple, and dark midnight blue.
“You couldn’t handle a whole one. Christ that would put down a bear, you can have a quarter. Maybe even half of that. I supposed to distract you, not do you in.” Balle giggled and twirled her shoes by the long pointy heels.
“What’s with the polish you couldn’t decide what color you liked more?” I asked, pointing down at the floor.
“It’s very chic,” she stated, wiggling her toes in the light spilling from my room. “It’s in all the magazines. I don’t know if I like it yet. Ling did them for me, she does hair too, but I can do my own hair just fine. Balle flung her bright red locks over the high heels in her hand. The color matched well.
“You’ve got a death grip on those brownies you going to break me off a corner,” I asked, tapping my finger on the plastic wrap.
“Maybe. We girls got a bet going that you have a washboard stomach, with those V muscles that point down past your waist.” Balle made hand gestures from her waist to her crotch with a look of delight on her face.
“You want me to parade around naked so you all can see my stomach muscles,” I asked dryly.
“Oh you can, but there is a serious risk of getting something stuck where the sun doesn’t shine.” Balle pointed towards Edwin’s room and raised her eyebrows. “Ed doesn’t care where he sticks it.”
“Good things to know. House rules and all.” I ran my finger through my short hair and decided I would play along with the girl’s request.
I slowly pulled my white shirt out of my slacks, unbuttoned it, and tossed it on the bed behind me. I opened the door wide and stepped into the hall before I pulled my white tank top over my head.
Balle noticed the pockets that lined my undershirt, a small plastic-lined pocket for razor blades, and spare ammo pouches were sewn in sections at belt height along with a pocket across the abs for emergency cash. She looked intrigued.
I raised my arms and flexed, showing off my six-pack and the dark ink of my six-month-old tattoo. A Devil with broken wings sat on my right shoulder. I couldn’t think of a more appropriate trademark to put on my skin, something about the severed wings on the ground spoke to me.
My usual ritualistic exercise program was neglected of late. I found a bar I like to hang out in at night. It was walking distance from my apartment and attracted a great mix of people, women people. Sometimes you have to change up the cardio routine. But I was sure you could still see the lean soldier’s body underneath the bar whore, beer belly I was working on.
“You lose Jeannie. I told you he wasn’t just a stuffed suit.” Balle yelled down the hall.
“Fine.” A woman’s low voice came from a nearby door. She was probably thirty with long blonde hair that she wore half up and half down. Waterfall curls fell over her shoulders and stopped at her elbows. She was athletically built and graceful. “You let me know if he’s too much for you to handle, Little Girl.” I could feel a twinge of lust and fear grab me by the waist. She was beautiful, Ed had great taste in women, but something about her voice chilled the air and made me want to step back in my room.
“Yes, mother.” Balle sneered.
“So you bringing those brownies in here, or are we eating them in the hallway?” I asked, leaning my arm on the doorjamb.
“Your room kinda sucks. I have a bigger tv and an Xbox.” Balle explained, nodding her head down towards the end of the long hallway.
“As long as you have a working shower. I smell like every crappy place I went to today.” The burnt cooking grease and musty old building smell in my hair were noticeable. My suit jacket had something sticky smeared on the arm from the last bar we visited. I wanted to shower and change into clean clothes and relax in a sparse room. I needed to let my mind rest. Stress was starting to eat at me, making it harder to carefully choose my words.
“You know he’s going to look through your stuff right. You might as well play along. It’s easier to get along with him if you don’t put up a fight.” Balle stepped close to me, the back of her warm hand resting on my chest. “But don’t let him know you’re letting him look through your bag.” She whispered almost silently as if the hallway was lined with microphones.
It was the first moment I saw her. The personality behind the clingy dress and the playful little girl act spoke out. She aged twenty years at that moment. I could see the careful game she was playing, and it sobered me.
“Come on, I’ll kick your ass suit. I don’t care what game you pick.” Balle beckoned me to follow her with a wave of the stacked brownies in her hand. Outside her bedroom door was a box with beers and bottled waters so cold the condensation left a ring on the floor through the cardboard.
“No planning at all right.” I picked up the box and noticed it was stamped with the grocery store logo down the block—one more place I would need to watch myself. Ed would have loyal informants posted everywhere he could. I know I would.
“Oh no, not me,” Balle winked and opened the door.
The room was an assault of whites and grays. Light beige, wood furniture ran the walls, it was modern with straight, hard lines and polished silver hardware. My brother’s influence had trained me to look at things with a more artful eye. I usually took note of the details of a room so I could put it all back together after cleaning it. I suppose the two mindsets served me well.
A dark-gray tufted headboard rose up the wall behind a tall king-sized bed. It was the first thing to draw your eye as you entered the room. The ceilings in the building were higher than in a residential building. The height allowed for several sets of pendant lights to hang like crystal stars from the ceiling. The walls were lined with dressers and mirrors all tastefully situated. It was simple and clean, polished, but lacked any emotion or personal details.
“This can’t be your room,” I said, looking for a place to set the box of drinks down.
“Of course, it’s not, come on bring that box this way.” Balle continued across the room to a door on the far wall. It was locked, and when she opened it, a light breeze of candy perfume escaped.
Walking in, I could see a wall of tall windows that overlooked the street. The city lights shown through the black fabric blinds like golden torches burning just beyond the walls. Her bed was covered in purple and hot pink blankets. Black and silver oversized pillows sat ready on the floor at the end of her bed. A game controller and a makeup box filled with small, brightly colored containers sat next to them. Silver painted nightstands stood at either side of her bed, piled with paperback books and half-empty water bottles; glossy book covers with bare-chested men, fiery symbols, werewolves, and vampires littered the white marble tops. It looked like the kind of room you would expect any teenage girl to have.
Balle emptied the contents of her hands on a dresser top next to a black lacquered tray of perfumes and walked into what looked like a large bathroom. I could hear the water in the shower start to run. “Do you like it hot and steamy? I can run the steam setting if you like.” She popped back through the doorway, wearing only her lightly tanned skin.
Her firm breasts bounced tightly with step she took towards me. Dark pink and light brown nipples peeked through long purple streaks of hair. No shame or insecurity could be seen on her face. There was no pride or vanity, either. She just stood naked and smiled at me.
“Well, do you or do you not want the steam turned on?” Balle asked.
“Uh, I don’t know. You choose.” I was pleasantly stunned and partially speechless.
“Alright then steam it is. Come on, you said you wanted a shower.” Balle smiled and slid one arm out to either side of the doorway. The light from behind her lit up her silhouette, and I was dazzled by the sight of her.
“So the drapes don’t match the carpet?” I asked, not really sure what to say next. “I’m almost glad to see you didn’t go red with purple streaks down south too.”
“Oh yeah, It’s not worth the hassle. You can dye anything you want any color you like, but why?” Balle arched her back like a cat so she could look at her trimmed mound of blonde pubic hair. She brushed her hand back and forth across the hair harshly before letting her hand rest on her hip.
“Did you want to shower by yourself? I assumed you wanted company, you won’t hurt my feelings if you want to shower alone. But we are wasting the hot water letting it run full blast.”
“By all means, let’s not waste the hot water.” I removed my shoes and unbuckled my belt. I let my pants fall to the floor and took off my socks. She was waiting, watching to see the rest of me, her long fingers drumming on her hips with a look of impatience. I dropped my boxers on my pile of clothes and saw a flicker of an unguarded smile pass across her face.
“See now that wasn’t so difficult, come on, let me scrub that smell off you. Jesus, it’s like you’ve been deep-fried by Chinamen and rolled in the gutter by a drunk.”
“I’m pretty sure that’s the technical description of city smell.” I made air quotes above my head and followed her into the bathroom. The bathroom was covered in white on white subway tile accented with white towels and white rugs. It made her peach skin and purple streaked red hair stand out all the more.
“Come on, I’m going to scrub away that city smell before I let you have your dessert.” Balle was already wet and squirting some kind of green gel on a rough-looking cloth before I stepped in the steamed glass container.
Her image slightly blurred, making it appear as if her hands found my skin from obscured corners of the shower. Her fingers slid over my shoulders and back in large circles. Soapy fingertips pushed into my skin as she slathered the body wash high and low. The smell of red hot cinnamon candy and vanilla frosting filled the shower. The steam was almost edible.
“How old are you, Balle?” I asked, as her hands slid firmly over the muscles of my arms. The rough scrub cloth was being deployed liberally. Her firm leg was against mine, and her breasts darted lightly against my back. There were only a few moments left for casual conversation before my brain turned to mush.
“Is that your problem?” She whispered into my ear as the scrubber made it to my lower stomach.
I lightly restrained her hand as it continued to travel. “Yes. I need to know how old you are. It seems like you are much younger than you appear.”
“How old do you need me to be?” She asked, moving her wet body in front of me. Rubbing her warm soapy skin against mine. She could feel my hard interest growing on her thigh.
Balle smiled mischievously, bringing the scrubby massage routine up to my shoulders. Her hands stopped on each scar I earned lightly, tracing the raised skin. Black mascara melted from her eyes. Her wet hair looked lighter as red water poured off her head and slid down her soapy neck.
“Just tell me the truth,” I looked up at the tall ceiling, trying to pry myself from the tantalizing experience unfolding in front of me. “I’ll know if you’re lying,” I explained, looking in her eyes more harshly than I meant to. I read a touch of fear in her eyes, and I looked away. I wanted her to say that she was twenty and that Ed was paying her well for her time. I wanted to hear that she was here of her own choice, but I suspected that wasn’t the case.
“Fine, I turned seventeen last week. I’m not jail bait if that’s what concerns you. You must have missed the fact that we are on the top floor of an illegal arms stash and drug packaging warehouse. Those types of laws don’t apply here.” Balle looked real again, her blue eyes burned with a fire that was missing earlier.
“How long have you been here?” I swallowed down a lump of disappointment. She was younger than I even suspected.
“We can’t talk this way outside this shower. You know that, don’t you.” She replied with anger tingeing her words. I motioned for the scrub cloth, she squirted more soap on the rough surface and handed it to me. I started to wash my unmentionables and rinse water through my hair.
“How long has Ed kept you here?” I asked again, squirting a fat glob of blue shampoo in my hair.
“Four years,” she whispered.
“Jesus Christ, you were thirteen, how the hell did that happen?” Shock filled my mind. I took a small step back from her. She noticed the motion and put her hand out to grab my chest.
“I’m not going to tell you about that today.” She stated firmly. “You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to, but you can’t leave my room for at least an hour, or you’re going to get me in serious fucking trouble.”
“Anything I don’t want to? Christ girl, does it look like there’s anything I’m not interested in here?”
“Hey, whatever floats your boat. If you want to make excuses and fret and wring your hands cause I’m younger than you thought, you go right ahead. If you want me to spank you or sing to you or wrap you up like a baby while you rub one out, that’s fine too.”
“No. Wait, what? No, why would? No, that won’t be necessary.” I was seriously taken off guard and looking to get out of the shower. I finished scrubbing and rinsing while Balle washed her hair and hummed a tune I recognized from the radio driving in. “You have a nice singing voice.”
“Thank you.” She said, rinsing the last of the red out of her hair. She washed the mascara off her face and brought the scrubber between her legs and over her hips and round cheeks. I stood and watched it was something I couldn’t say I had ever witnessed before—the cleaning and primping rituals of a woman undeterred by my presence. Once she was done rinsing, she carefully placed drops of oil over her wet skin and rubbed it in.
“Do you actually use all the bottles of shit you have in this shower?” I asked, realizing I was staring at her.
“Not all at once, but yeah, I guess I do. You like to watch. Did you even know that you like to watch?” Balle finished with the oil rub and sprayed something from a bottle on the shower floor that smelled noticeably of bleach. She tossed a white washcloth on the floor and wiped it all around. “I’m ready to get out of the shower now.” Balle pointed past me to the door I was blocking. She brushed her oiled thigh against my hard masculine display, grabbed a large towel off the stack by the shower, and handed me one not looking behind her. “Come on suit, let’s see if you can hold your baked goods.”
The sensation that moved through me made my whole body ache. Balle wasn’t unwilling, and she was far more advanced than her seventeen years. “So what is it that you like to do?” I asked more breathy than I would have like to.
“Me? I like to sleep. And I like to read. And I guess I like to kiss. I don’t get kissed much, really,” she confessed.
There was a wistful, lonely look in her eyes. I needed her skin next to mine. I knew the feeling that went with that look, I dealt with it every day since my mother vanished. She was lonely, and I couldn’t stand to see it.
I grabbed her by the waist and pulled her to me. I was kissing her before I knew what I was doing. She was light, and I easily scooped her up off the floor. Her arms were around my neck, her fingers grabbing my hair, and her firm nipples digging holes in my chest.
Balle was kissing me like it was the only way she could breathe. She wrapped her long legs around my chest, and I could feel the heat from between them radiating on my stomach. I leaned her against the closest wall and slid my thumbs into her waiting opening. Wet and slick, I charted the velvety muscles and the outer folds of skin that quivered at my touch.
Her body went rigid when I found the right pressure and speed. It was exhilarating to feel her squirm and writhe under my weight.
“My legs are going numb.” I conceded, pulling her off the wall and walking her over to the bed.
“Oh my God, mine too.” Balle hopped from the bed and pulled open a dresser drawer. I could hear the crinkling of condom wrappers. She dropped herself down on the bed next to where I was standing. “So Suit, where were we?”