Hi! 🙂 For a while now I’ve been gathering thoughts and attempting to turn them into book form-and the process is surprisingly challenging. I’ve uploaded the first chapter, and I’d love to hear some feedback from you guys 🙂
Ultimately, we’re just a few billion atoms.
There’s no meaning to being alive.
People often trick themselves into believing in an afterlife-an eternity of happiness for them and eternal damnation for anybody else that they can’t understand. There are endless tales about God and a higher power and whatever the fuck else satisfies the need to know the unknown. They’d bloody well kill for their savior.
But to some unfortunate bastards, life is just that; life. A birth is a birth and a death is a death. The world moves on.
When I study another being, through the endless depths of murkiness and blurred past experiences that people cling to like safety blankets, what I see is myself, and rarely just another human. And staring back, invading my eyes and life, they see a reflection, too. Besides that, there is little more than an echo of another soul brushing with mine in a fleeting moment. I am a humanist. I believe, solely, in people. We are the angels and the devil.
I have known both. My lover has told me each and every detail of the events that took place that year. This is all that I know, and all I have ever known, about what took place in those studios, in those tucked away alleyways in the summer of 1983. That beautiful, innocent child stood rooted to the spot, afraid to fight the grip of the man who was soon to end her contentment.
There is no God.
I feel as if I owe it to her-to all of them-to tell the events honestly, as best as I can.
Far too often, the stories are forgotten: swept under the carpet in fear.
There is nothing to be afraid of; we should not, must not, shy away from their pain.
Exactly a year before July 1983, amongst the high-rise buildings of New York, a man with thinning hair and grey eyes stopped to read a poster stuck to the glass of a bus stop. Now I can’t be certain, for I wasn’t there, but I’d imagine he would have looked both ways, first to his left, then to his right-to check that the coast was clear. When he was certain that he was alone, he took the large, crumpled piece of paper out of it’s protective cover. Then-again, this is my guess-he sat alone and waited for the number 66 bus home.
A small girl, 10 years of age, leapt up off the sofa when she heard the keys turn in the lock. The details here on in I do know, for she has recounted the story to me many times.
“Daddy, is that you?”
“Hi honey, I’m home!” He called before leaning down to kiss her on the forehead.
“I’m hungry daddy, did you find food today?”
“Only something small.” He produced half a loaf of bread. “I found it out the back in the supermarket whilst I stacked the bakery shelf. No one saw.” Her eyes widened as she put her hand into the bag, and devoured the first slice like a wolf.
The Sun set quickly, time passed somehow more rapidly when there was food on the scene. It was almost as if life had somehow expanded-the possibilities on the horizon had broadened; without the distraction of starvation, the cup refilled itself to half-full.
“You’re not too cold, are you?”
“No.” She lied to save his feelings, although underneath the sheets, her hands were frozen. “Daddy, will we always be this poor?” He sighed.
“I don’t know Delilah. I hope not. I really do.” There was a pause. “You know I’ve never exactly agreed with the modelling industry, but I saw a poster today…”
“You’re going to become a model?”
“No.” He let back a laugh. “Christ no. I was thinking about you.” Finally, he reached into his pocket and unravelled the piece of paper.
“Wow! That’s amazing! Could I really do that?” The father, my recent father in law, looked to the ground unhappily, but made an effort to mask the look with a smile. The face never lies with real emotion-in the split second before the cover up sets in, there is always a give away, if one has the awareness to look for it. Most don’t. And after that, there is the trick. The lie. The smile, the frown, the anger. He’d mastered it.
“Well, just think about the money involved. We’d be able to eat again. Properly, not just scraps of rubbish. Not only that, but you are my beautiful little girl. You’re in with a chance.”
“Daddy I love you!” She leapt up into his arms happily. She was beautiful. Hell, if ever the word had a definition.
Beauty is an illusion. I have come across countless ugly beings who have gone on to surprise me with how very stunning their optimism towards life is. I love a stunningly beautiful woman, with a tear-stained soul.
He did it to save her. He couldn’t have known, at the time, just how devastating the impact would be. He was, more or less, just another desperate human.
On the 26th July that same year, a row of young girls stood lined up on a stage in front of a panel of judges. That was the first step; the auditions. Not only was it compulsory to look unique and attractive, but the participants had to be photogenic. Each candidate took it in turns to have a photo shoot whilst the others looked on with interest. “I was nervous and shy”, Delilah once told me after we’d made love one evening on the sofa. “I didn’t know what to do. I guess I just got lucky.”
“Who’s this kid?” The center judge, who later became known as Frank Herbert, called.
“I don’t know. Kid, what’s your name?” The man to his right asked.
“Delilah Rivers, sir.”
“Well Delilah, how do you fancy becoming a model?”
“I’d like that very much.”
And then the childhood fame. We still own those godforsaken magazines and adverts to this day. It seems to me that, despite the pain being present in them, she’s afraid to let the memories go. Long blonde hair and bright green eyes.
She enjoyed it, at first. She enjoyed seeing her father with flesh on his bones and a spring in his step. That hurt me. Deeply. Her kindness.
In between the strain of the work, she would talk to one other girl, and one other girl alone. As they sat on the swings every Saturday afternoon, moving their legs in rhythm, they would talk about life. And more specifically, their lives.
“I need to tell you something.”
“Go for it.”
“When you were doing your photo shoot a couple of hours ago, that Frank man started getting weird with me.”
“What do you mean by weird?” She asked curiously.
“He made me do things that I didn’t want to do. Like, grown up things.” Delilah’s eyes widened in horror.
“Rosa, that’s terrible! We have to tell someone!” Rosa shook her head.
“People don’t believe girls like us. When we start talking about what’s happened, they just tell us to stop flattering ourselves, as if to say “why would a man want you?””
Back then, the misconceptions kept the abuse quiet. You kept your mouth closed, or else they’d force it shut anyway.
That’s just the way it was.
Rosa was, I’m sure, the first of many girls to suffer at the hands of Frank Herbert’s unhealthy interests. I suppose, as an adult looking back on the situation, what came next was inevitable. Although, having said that, Delilah wasn’t fully grown at the time-she still carried that sweet sense of naivety, that blissful unawareness that children often posses. She knew full well what had happened to Rosa-but somehow, it didn’t seem real to her. Rosa was Rosa. She wasn’t Rosa. She was Delilah. Which is why, when Frank approached her whilst she prepared alone for the following session, she was so shocked.
“Will you do a naked shot for me Delilah?”
“Excuse me sir?”
“You heard me.”
“No…” She stumbled uncomfortably. “I have to go, the photographer will be getting impatient with me.”
“Modelling can wait. I however, can’t.” He smirked contently.
“Sir, I really don’t want to…”
“Let me ask you a question. Do you want to carry on working here?”
“Yes. But please sir-”
“No. Either you take off your clothes, or you know where the door is. What’s it to be?” The horror filled her chest, suffocated her of every last word. She nodded and sighed bravely. Her father would be hungry.
“Give me five minutes to get ready.”
In the toilets, she wept. She cried into her t-shirt as she took it off to muffle the noise. Before she left, she stood naked in front of the mirror, and dried her tears one last time.
“That’s lovely.” Frank’s eyes scanned over her lustfully. “Sit down on the floor.” Reluctantly, she did, but tried to cover herself half-heartedly. Beneath her hands, the beginning of awkward adolescence had started to take place.
“No. You have to move your hands.”
“Please…” But she gave up anyway. The camera clicked repeatedly until Frank sat, staring at her obviously, with a satisfied look in his eyes.
“You can go now. I have all that I need to keep me entertained.” He grinned at her. “And you won’t tell anyone, will you? I notice you’ve been getting close to that other little whore, what’s her name?”
“Rosa. And don’t talk about her like that, she’s wonderful.”
“Wonderful my arse! If you saw her with me the other day, you’d know what a little slut she was.”
“She’s not a slut, she’s my friend.” He mimicked her with laughter.
“Go, there are photos to be sold. Horny men don’t like being kept waiting.” He chuckled loudly to himself as the first of the tears began to run.
“Hello sweetheart, how was your day?” . He smelt so different compared to Frank-he smelt of home and of comfort and of love and of care.
“It was okay thank you dad.”
“Just okay?” He asked with a smile.
“Just okay.” She confirmed.
“Rosa, that thing about Frank.”
“What is it?”
“Me too. But you can’t tell a soul. He told me he’d hurt you if anybody else found out.”
“I don’t know what to do. What shall we do?”
“I think one day he’ll go to hell.”
“There’s no such thing as hell.”
“How do you know?”
“Because nothing could be worse than this, Rosa.” She stopped to wrap her coat around herself and held her hot chocolate between her hands to warm them with a shiver. “At least in hell, it would be a whole lot less cold.” They caught each other’s eyes and laughed with the voices of little girls. That peculiar, sweet sound that grates after while. And with the minds of women, they held one another’s hand for comfort while, deep down, they cried.
Recently, he had noticed subtle changes within her. He had noticed the way she held her bag had changed. He had noticed that her face pointed to the ground instead of her normal proud smile, curious of her surroundings. “He became aware of my pain, but was unsure about what to do.”
“Well, have a good day honey.”
“I love you daddy.” She said quietly.
“I love you too sweetie.” More than you could ever imagine.
Inside the main studio, dozens of boxes of new clothes had arrived, marked with requests from various companies. The girls, stood in small groups, talked excitedly about their next photo shoots. Rosa was sat alone in the corner of the room.
“Delilah? I thought you wouldn’t come!”
“I was scared to leave you.” They stopped to hug briefly.
“Thank you.” She whispered.
“We’ll be okay as long as we have each other.”
“Girls, take these out to the recycling, would you?” They looked up to see an older student gesturing towards a stack of empty boxes.
“And put a smile on kids. It won’t kill you.” She winked at them affectionately before drifting away.
The recycling bins were outside, and the air of that day carried a certain frostiness about it. It was the sort that caused noses to run, and then, unflatteringly, almost produced iceicles to hang from the nostrils. Unusual weather for mid-July. Perhaps it was a warning. Or a sense of irony. But then again, perhaps not.
“Came back for more, I see?” The voice caused them to jump. The heart beats between the two of them.
“No. Please, we don’t want this.”
“You don’t want me?” He sniggered. “I find that hard to believe.”
“We don’t, really we don’t.”
“No? Then why have you come back?”
“Well you see sir, Rosa has to because her parents want her to. And I’m…I’m poor so I need the money.” She stuttered through terror. Heart beats.
“It’s a lie. I know your game, you’re trying to play hard to get. You know it turns me on.” He stepped forwards and forced his tongue into her mouth. She gasped when he stopped, afraid of his power.
“I’m sorry, my dad…he’s picking us up soon.” Rosa pleaded nervously.
“But you’ve only just got here, kids. You’ve got time to do this with me.” He started to undo his belt.
“Take your clothes off.”
“We don’t want to, please stop. Please.” She begged. The fear and the cold. Heart beats.
“You have to.” He took his underwear off and then began to pull her top over her head. Rosa nodded in the direction of the door and they tried to escape, but he pulled them back into his arms.
“Are you virgins?”
“Yes.” Rosa spoke. Eleven years old. Frozen to the spot.
“Well girls, I’m going to be the one who changes that. You’re going to find out what a real man is. Do exactly as I say, and no harm will come to you.” Tears started to fall down Delilah’s cheeks rapidly. Rosa grabbed her hand for comfort. When Frank had momentarily turned away, she whispered quietly to Delilah.
“It will be okay as long as we have each other, remember?” Heart beats. Together. Hand in hand.
In the city of New York in 1983, on that exact day, at that exact time, two little girls grew up.