Jen stands out from a mile as she sits by the corner with her arms demurely crossed over. A shapely leg is draped casually but deliberately over the other with a slender ankle dangling rather provocatively. A stunner, she is dressed in revealing attire – a halter-top with a plunging neckline with nothing beneath, and a short skirt that hitches higher up each time she moves to change positions.
Her freshly shampooed bangs fall over her unusually alluring face and draw many an appreciative look, even as she tries to act nonchalant. She has a keen eye nonetheless; watching everything around her as she blows out smoke-rings into the already smoky air. To the unaccustomed eye there is nothing bawdy or cheap about her but the place that she’s in, well, its another story altogether!
It is supposedly an uptown watering hole. There is a heady concoction of various perfumes and liquors wafting around – seemingly to the music and the babble of a multitude of voices. Couples are clustered over tables and being a weekend, the place is just about full. Unaccompanied patrons of all ages, sizes and shapes mill around with spirits in hand, summoning that initial charge to make a move on the waiting ‘prey’ and shack-up for the night. For all its pretence at flamboyance and the false fa?ade, the place is nothing but a pickup joint cum bordello while she is a ‘working’ mom and there is work to be done.
Some nights are extremely bad and Jen has to make do with whatever’s thrown at her for her favours. The men who try their best to look dignified in their fancy threads are nothing but animals in heat – all for that fleeting instant of gratification sans the conscience, that flash in the pan to ease the burden of licentiousness lust. She has to swallow her pride and denigrate herself to pander to the whims and fancies of the nameless and faceless ‘Johns’. They could be kind or violent with a sadistic streak in them & like some unfeeling object or vessel; a non-person, she has to patiently bear the brunt of their bottled-up sexual tension.
She has mouths to feed back home and can’t afford to let them down. So she does what she has to do.
Nevertheless, life was so much different about a year back or so. She was happily married then, for the past five years. Rather, that was she had thought. Her husband, Alex, was, as they say, a ‘good catch’ ? a well-settled businessman with no undesirable habits and she, at the age of 23 was quite thrilled to have found such a partner. The match had seemed even more enticing since she hadn’t had much formal education ? something that her parents did not believe in as she was very sickly as a child. They however had already put by a handsome sum solely for her upkeep when she had gotten married.
Devoted and attentive that he was, he seemed to complement her soft and pliable nature and soon they had two children. In every sense of the word, Alex and Jen appeared to be happy with a great home running. The first couple of years of marriage had gone off without a hitch and life couldn’t have been any better.
But there was a murky side to Alex which was not perceptible in the initial years. He had a roving eye and a propensity to indulge in cheap thrills. Of course, the veneer that he had deliberately cultivated over the years helped to guise the deviant bent of his mind. Late night trysts with ladies of the night and/or one-night stands were passed off as business meetings. Even post-midnight sessions at the PC, hunched up, furiously pounding away at the keys were nothing but ‘catching up with work’. He used to get his rocks off by trawling the net for gullible ‘victims’, whom once he had entrapped would seldom be spared. He had broken many families and was utterly without remorse. Beneath his false fa?ade, he was nothing but an abomination ? a degenerate on par with the dregs of society.
But Jen had absolutely no reason to suspect that anything was amiss. He was at his attentive best and caring as only he could be. Amidst such a tranquil setting and with the toddlers occupying her mind fulltime, it was inevitable that gradually a feeling of complacency set in. She was so much in love with him that when he asked her for monetary help to expand his business, she cheerfully gave him every penny that she owned.
How the dark forces must have laughed!
Like the finest gossamer thread the first inkling of doubt crept into Jen’s mind. She was at the PC and while searching for some old pictures, chanced upon a folder. With hardly any second thoughts she opened it. The faces and figures of many different women in various stages of undress greeted her. Although her sensibilities were offended, she didn’t give it too much of thought. Rather, she preferred to pass it off as ‘probably a collection of trivia’, a small little ‘aberration/entertainment’ to take-off-the-edge of his hectic day kind of thing. Nonetheless, her femininity felt belittled and inadvertently, her intuition was piqued.
As much as she detested it, Jen began to be more watchful and observant. She tossed and turned in bed as he continued to pound away at his keyboard. The hour invariably used to be late & there he used to be – in the dark sanctuary of his study illuminated only the eerie glow of the screen. Each time his cell phone rang and the muted tones as he spoke filled her with dread. Against her will she began to conjure images of some paramour, some illicit liaison, and stabs of jealousy and a flood of bile began knotting up her guts. But outwardly Jen gave no hint of the turmoil within. She berated herself for being irrational because he was such a loving and caring man and hated herself for being prejudiced by the games that her distraught mind played.
And life went on ? seemingly smooth and on an even keel. But she knew it was superficial and that there was a storm brewing beneath the surface. With the seeds of doubt already having taken root, Jen was an obsessed woman and she would find no respite until she got to the root of the matter and laid her troubled mind to rest. She started riffling through Alex’s papers in his study and found more pictures with scrawled promises of sordid passion and erotica alongside telephone numbers. She dug a little deeper and there ? pictures of her Alex with so many different women! She was aghast! The transcripts of saved conversations on the computer were no better – they read like trash, were smutty to the core and spoke of furtive couplings and illicit intimacy that left her repugnant.
Jen felt cold and sick and her senses reeled. "Could this really be happening to me and my perfect life? Please, Lord, let it not be true!" she prayed fervently.
She had to get to grips with reality and while she balked at the prospect of confronting Alex, she felt that she could scarcely carry on with his artifice any longer. She called the various numbers that she had found and the voices at the other end of the lines only accentuated her worst fears.
…With her bewildered & sleepy-eyed children in tow, Jen staggered out into the humid night….
A torturous trip down memory lane & things began falling into place. She recalled the smell on him as he used to return from his so-called overnight business trips and late night meetings ? a mixture of hormones, sweaty and satiated lust and feminine perfume.
How could she forget the packet of rubbers in his pockets on a few occasions when he had returned from a late night, or the gifts that he had brought home to be ‘given to clients’?
And how about the occasions when they had been out for dinners or parties and he had laughed, joked & danced with everybody else except her?
What about the times when she had been out shopping & had inadvertently spotted him with different women in his car, ostensibly so carefree and animated?
Every minute thing that had seemed mundane then; now seemed to reek of deceit. Jen felt sick to the core and yet, steely resolve hardened her heart. Fighting back tears that threatened to quagmire her soul, she thought:
"I have my pride and self-respect and nobody is going to walk roughshod over me ? not even Alex! I shall never ever be a yoke on anybody. I will survive for my children!" She wept bitter tears of frustration and in an unfathomable kind of way they made her stronger.
Alex came back home that night, smelling the way he always did and Jen confronted him with what she had just unearthed. Her cosy little world turned topsy-turvy and her heart was blown to smithereens when without batting an eyelid, with clenched teeth he calmly hissed:
"Yes, I have done all of that and what’s more is that now, I want you to get the hell out of my life."
With her bewildered & sleepy-eyed children in tow, Jen staggered out into the humid night.
Her parents welcomed her gladly and although they were shattered, there was no outward display of acrimony towards what had transpired as they tried to take things in stride. Those suppressed feelings must have taken their toll because; within a month her father succumbed to a fatal haemorrhage. With her only tower of strength gone and the grief too much to bear, Jen’s mother soon followed suit ? she never woke up from her sleep.
"Could life get any crueler than this?" rued Jen, as she ran some earth over her mothers coffin and bid a tearful adieu to her mother. The vacant, innocent eyes of her little children who could hardly comprehend what was going on reminded her that they indeed could!
The future seemed desolate and she had no inkling of as to how she would feed her children and herself. She tried her level best to seek employment, but owing to her lack of education, there were no takers. Her parent’s house was mortgaged and they had had absolutely no money – she learnt that they had given her all of it and she in turn had been conned into giving it to her philandering husband.
With frustration levels peaking out, she took up the only job available – as a lowly-paid salesgirl at a local appliance store. Being a hard worker, she got into everybody’s good books. The pay was a pittance and hardly sufficed to put food on the table and to manage the upkeep of her children; who were as sickly as she was in her own childhood. Every now and then she wound up borrowing money from the proprietor.
Owing to her gregarious nature and service with a smile, business did pick up considerably. However, along with that, so did the admiration from the customers, the lewd comments and the passes. And so did her debts keep mounting until one late evening just before closing time, she was summoned in by the proprietor and asked –
"Jen, as you know from the past couple of months you owe me quite a lot of money and I want you to pay up".
In tearful desperation when she expressed her inability to do so, with shifty-eyes and a hoarse voice the dirty-old-man said, "never mind, I can forgo that provided you come with me tonight or else??.."
In the small confines of the proprietor’s cabin with the ceiling fan whirring ever so slowly, the unfinished sentence that hung in the air managed to convey the unspoken threat. She could lose her job, be evicted and her little babies would starve.
A flurry of thoughts flashed through her mind and paramount among them were her children – whom she had to feed, educate and bring up so that they would never be compromised into suffering like she had and has. Battling tears with an ashen face, Lady Twilight murmured her assent and hardened her heart to stone.
The die was cast and the wayward path chosen. Jen was no more and there was no looking back because she had to do what she had to do!
While all the characters in the story along with the storyline are a figment of my mind’s eye; even as I speak, there is somebody out there indulging in perfidy on a grandiose scale. It need not necessarily be a man because there are women on the prowl too.
They toy with emotions and lives & are enslaved by their avaricious desires only to fall prey to their weaknesses, time and again! Probably the thrill of the ‘hunt’ is worth more than the ‘prey’ itself! The beast in them pauses only for an instant to gorge on the ‘kill’ and after their frenzied fill, they move on ? to be on the prowl again!
Some of those deviants try to attribute their degenerate behaviour to the erroneous belief that they are in ‘love’, or even worse ? keeping in line with a fad. But falling in love time and again? Is that humanly plausible? And a fad; now tell me some!
What do you do with lechers such as Alex and vultures like the dirty-old-man? Would time be kind to them? Would Jen’s tears remain unheard?
Why do they do what they do & with such callous precision sans the prick of conscience? Is it a fallout of some faulty wiring upstairs, a flaw in upbringing, a compassionless outlook on fellow beings or some trait that is passed on; or a combo of all these and more?
And why did Jen wind up as Lady Twilight treading the path she chose to? Wasn’t there any other alternative pathway for her? Was she justified in doing what she did? Can she ever break free from the ‘shackles of sin’ (for lack of a better word) that she’s in?
Dear readers, I await your inputs and thanks so much in advance for your time.
Author: Chris Rego- UAE