Belle of the ball

The People are firm but gentle, their dark eyes hiding their thoughts not knowing that their shiny faces are telling tales.  I go with them because it is easier, I have known people like the People all my life.  And when we get to the car, a big black tinted-window behemoth that purrs to itself like a caged panther, I stop and wait.  The window must surely slide down like an iceberg calving from a glacier, and a man's face must surely peep out, wary as ever for the red dot of the assassin's sight, to tell me a message I'll have forgotten before he's finished speaking.

The People are not pleased that I have stopped, and they are rougher now, picking me up and pulling me forwards, words spilling from their mouths like sewerage from a pipe onto a bathing beach.  I almost struggle, they are blunt instruments with little finesse and my lessons from Daddy and Dietrich the chauffeur are etched into my memory like a Dore engraving.  A twist here, a foot there, and all the impetus of the blunt instrument goes awry, turning back against itself and splintering asunder.

But I don't.  The door opens and there is no-one inside, and for a moment longer I am confused.  A word slips from my lips.  Then I am inside the car, trapped in the leathered womb with its sterile scent and its cushioned plushness.  It's been too long, and I cannot get comfortable on the seat so I sit on the floor.

"DiD shE sAy DaddY?" says a Person, and another one rolls her eyes and makes circles with a finger beside her head.  I sign back to her, asking her her name, but she doesn't understand.  In the country of the blind the one-eyed man is the most successful thief I think to myself, and I curl up, puppy-like Puppy, to wait out the journey.

*

A doorway into a building that feels heavy, sunk into the earth and gripping with invisible claws to hold on against all- and any-comers, and a flight of stairs going up that are concrete underneath thin carpet.  At the top a hallway with rooms leading hither and thither, and someway along a room for Puppy.

They tell me to shower, so I lock the bathroom door and slide the toilet-brush through the handle to stop them getting in, and then I lose myself in the heat of summer rain until I can open my eyes again and see the colour of my skin once more.  It may not be much, but it is all me.  There are shampoos, gels and unguents that are all pretty perfumed fripparies that I disregard in favour of the cleansing stream of clean water.  This is a luxury.

The People are not happy when I come back out, and there are loud words that vibrate the walls and much pointing of fingers at watches.  I look at their watches, intrigued that they have so much ornamentation: how much time does a Person need?  Then they point at clothes laid out on a divan, and tell me to dress.

I dress swiftly, unembarrassed for my own sake, and I wonder at the layers and the softness of the fabric.  Memories stir in the back of my mind, but I press them back down with soft hands and gentle words; they are for another time.  And then I am done, and the People are leading me on again, down the stairs to another room, which holds a woman with red hair and man with painted-red hands.

The End

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