Hello everyone! As part of Short Story Saturday, I have posted another short story, this one entitled Please Call Me Daddy. Please enjoy.
“Looking for a good time?” He wasn’t really. The man was looking forward to resting his head for the night.
The cliché question attested to the sophisticated nature, or lack thereof, of the establishment that the man would reside for the evening. It was a gray-bricked dilapidated hotel in the outskirts of the City of Sin, on a street frequented by various vagrants including drug addicts, homeless men, and perhaps the occasional felon or two trying to escape from the law.
It hardly reeked of class, though the building really did reek of a menagerie of foul-smelling substances. Not surprising considering the homeless used its walls as a makeshift urinal.
Cheapness and availability led him to that place. It was the last time he’d agree to attend a wedding at the same time as the NBA All-Star game. He now realized what it truly meant to get what you pay for.
The wedding and celebration afterward were enjoyable enough. He spent most of the night with his friends and the married couple in revelry. The man wasn’t a heavy drinker so he was able to, even under the bright neon lights of that desert sky, keep his indulgences in check.
With a swarm of ladies of the evening having descended upon the place in order to buzz up business at this late hour, whether he’d be able to resist city’s most primal temptation remained to be seen.
The thought had crossed his mind several times throughout his life especially in the years after his divorce, the last time he had any sort of relations of that kind.
Still, even in spite of the drought, he did have standards. Most of the women who had arrived were hardly worth a second look.
The woman who had asked him the question was different, though. Hearing those sultry words escape those rose-colored lips nearly overwhelmed him with desire. As he gazed into her azure eyes with that long-flowing flaxen hair, her alabaster skin, and her long smooth legs revealed by a slit in her gold sequined dress, not to mention the ample bosom of her otherwise slender frame, he considered succumbing to his most base urges.
Was that a Nordic accent? Perhaps it was just southern. He couldn’t tell. He was never good with accents. Either way, her voice in combination with the rest of her made his engine run wild.
He thought for a moment it would be fun to submit to these impulses. Was there any reason not to? Plenty, it turned out, when he gave it but a moment’s thought. Most of his reservations were rationalized or dismissed, though, even if his reasoning at times required some impressive mental gymnastics.
Perhaps she was plagued by venereal disease. Doubtless a woman as attractive as she had been with a countless number of men, both as a professional and in her spare time. How likely was it that she engaged in safe sex every single time? He couldn’t possibly know. Even then, were modern forms of protection completely effective without fail? He had no idea.
Still, he figured that if he wrapped it well enough it would be of little concern. Besides, a woman like her undoubtedly could get away with being very discerning of what types of clients she took in. It still wouldn’t mean there was no chance she had some sort of infection or virus, but it would reduce the odds quite a bit. A beauty like her was worth that kind of risk anyway.
Perhaps she was a victim of human trafficking. Women of the world’s oldest profession often are forced into it by evil men. This thought reverberated in his skull. He definitely did not wish to, encourage, indirectly or otherwise, those kinds of heinous deeds.
However, weren’t victims of human trafficking generally very young girls? Though she was hardly what one would call old, she was also not particularly young. The woman was in her mid-20’s at the youngest and the man wouldn’t have been surprised if she had already eclipsed 30. For that matter, none of the other three women who accompanied her that night looked especially young either. In fact, one of them may have been significantly older. Human traffickers only go after underage girls, right? That’s how this works. He convinced himself of that. The idea that she could have still been doing this since she was a child never even crossed his mind.
Perhaps she was a drug addict who needed the money to get another fix. Sometimes it’s why these women get into this kind of business in the first place. The three other women were almost certainly afflicted with some sort of addiction. It wasn’t outside the realm of reason that the object of his eye might suffer similarly if the four were friends or at least acquaintances.
Yet his potential paramour did not show any outward signs of drug abuse. The woman did not appear to have any needle marks on her arm. Though thin, she wasn’t skinny. She was the healthy kind of thin, the fit kind. Her eyes were lustful, not despondent. Her mannerisms were calm and collected. She had an air of refinement and class. If she were desperate for the needle, she hid it incredibly well.
Perhaps she was a single mother who needed the money to feed her starving children. The woman’s figure hardly indicative of a woman who performed childbirth but with new discoveries and improvements to health, not to mention advances in medical technology including surgical practices, such a thing was impossible to tell at a glance. Would a single mother who worked as a courtesan to make ends meet really go through with that kind of vanity surgery? He honestly didn’t know. Regardless, was it right to take advantage of a woman in such dire straits?
Then again, he wondered whether it was really taking advantage of the woman if it was a negotiated transaction. Besides, he even justified it by telling himself it could even be considered a charitable contribution of sorts. It would be a little more insalubrious that the typical donation, though considering the state of charities these days such an exchange may not be as atypical as it would initially appear. That notwithstanding, surely it would not be inappropriate to receive something in return for altruism. They do give away tote bags on public television, after all. He would certainly last longer than those bags, an entire hour at least.
Perhaps she was subjugated by a wrathful pimp. A lot of women go into this business because they believed that such an individual was someone who cared for them, someone the woman could trust, as naïve and ignorant as such a conviction might be. Sometimes he gets her hooked on drugs and she’s dependent on him to satisfy the addiction. If not that specifically, he’ll use another form of conditioning that makes her reliant on him or sometimes even makes her think that the two are in love. It is cruel, manipulative, and truly one of the most evil actions one can do unto another human being.
Still, a woman of her elegance, with her poise and stature, would surely not allow herself to be dominated by any man. Independent escorts do exist the man forced himself to believe. Surely there was no one so charming or shrewd enough to convince the woman to perform acts outside her desire.
After mulling over all these possibilities, the man reached into his wallet. He had managed to convince himself it was just a harmless activity between two consenting adults. It was even legal in Las Vegas. Whatever happens there, stays there, right?
He didn’t have the cash on him to pay the woman but a place like this surely had an ATM nearby in anticipation of such transactions. If nothing else, he knew the woman would guide him to one if he asked nicely enough.
Just as the question was about to escape his lips, a terrible image flashed into his head.
It was the image of a little girl no older than six. She was pale and freckled, with bright red hair tied into pigtails.
It was the face of his daughter. The man had not seen her in almost three years. He had thought of her little during that time.
Now, whenever he looked into the eyes of the woman who had captured his attention, she was there.
He remembered something. Not too long after the divorce, not too long before he stopped going to his obligatory visits, the man discussed with his daughter what she wanted to be when she grew up.
His daughter was the one who broached the subject during a mostly silent car trip. The man was preoccupied with his bitterness towards his wife and his crumbled marriage to bring up any topics of conversation.
“An astronaut, daddy,” she said, “I wanna be an astronaut. I wanna be with the stars.” A lofty aspiration to be sure but one even the man was able to encourage.
He recalled spending that Saturday night with her, gazing at the stars, giving the names of the constellations he was able to find along with various planets she told him she wanted to visit someday. He wondered briefly of the kinds of dreams the woman in front of him must have once had as a child.
The man tried to look away from her, look elsewhere, look anywhere else, toward even the other women, their eyes and their faces. There was no escape. Wherever he looked, his daughter stared back at him with her wide, gap-toothed smile.
He was never a particularly devoted father. His selfish concerns always took priority in his life. Were work his only concern, it may not have been laudable or even acceptable but it would at least have been understandable, at least to a degree.
However, hobbies, social outings with his friends, watching television shows, even conversing online, everything seemed more important to him than his own flesh and blood. It was one of the primary reasons for his divorce.
His wife made the announcement while he was getting ready for work. Hearing it shook him to his very core. The man had missed all signs of such inevitability.
Though the judge agreed to allow him to see his daughter every weekend, the visits grew less and less frequent. He had an excuse for why this occurred.
She reminded him so much of his ex-wife. Not just in facial features, which is to be expected, but even in behavior in spite of her young age.
When he saw his daughter, it reminded him of his resentment towards his wife. These feelings would manifest themselves into coldness and unresponsiveness towards his daughter. This was obviously unfair and he knew this.
He claimed that was the reason for his neglect. Seeing her less meant she would not have to be the victim of his cruel indifference.
Yet that was not the true cause, as reasonable or unreasonable as it might have been.
He simply did not want to make the effort necessary to visit her. It was too much of a hassle.
These memories were locked up in the backdoor of his subconscious in the recesses of his mind. Seeing these women somehow opened the floodgates and allowed an outpouring of these memories to enter his conscious mind as well as his conscience mind. The man could now think of little else.
He put away his wallet. “I’m sorry. I guess I’m not interested.”
“Your loss,” she replied with a shrug.
The man moved past her into his room on the bottom floor. He turned on the light and checked his watch. It was already 2:30 in the morning. It would be the same time in Tacoma, Washington.
With a sigh, he pulled out his cell phone. He needed to make the call now lest he lose the courage to do so forever.
Butterflies danced in his gut as the phone rang.
A sleepy voice answered. “Hello?”
“Hi, sweetheart. It’s me, Daddy.”
The little girl sprung awake. Her voice was practically a shout. “What? Really? It’s you?”
“It’s been awhile, hasn’t it? Would you mind if we talked a little bit tonight?”
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