I walked into the tavern fearfully, not wanting anyone to notice me. I knew nobody would, I was just being careful, as always. Unlike before, however, few eyes were on me, few eyes were off. Hardly anybody was in the ratty pub, and I was grateful for that.
"Whiskey," I said to the man behind the counter, throwing a few tarnished silver pieces by his hand. My voice was rough and scratchy, and the dainty young woman standing at the man's elbow jumped at it. I laughed, a horrible, grating sound, "Never heard a man that gone without drink, eh?"
She cowered behind the bartender, who shot me a look. "I don't care for you talking to my daughter that way," he growled at me.
I smiled, baring my teeth in a yellow grin. "And I don't care for my drinks comin' from a son of a bitch like you, but I ain't the one complainin', now am I?" I took one of the knives from my belt and started picking at my fingernails with it. The rusty steel blade felt odd against my skin: cold, large, intimidating.
The man froze at the sight of my blade. I knew he could see the others eyes on him, judging his reaction. He turned to his daughter, "Eudora, why don't you help your mother," he gave me another angry glare, "this is no place for a girl of sixteen." Her gown swished as she walked demurely up the staircase, more like a small woman than a girl.
Only sixteen, I thought as I watched her slim figure go up the stairs. I shouldn't have been surprised; I'd seen girls half her age working in pubs much worse than this one. And when I went back, they'd still be there.
I was lucky. Not many girls ran away and made a name for themselves. Not many girls would have the courage to do so, either. Going to a different town each day, always disguised as a man, fearing for your life every second of every minute. It was hell, utter hell.
The bartender sat a dirty glass down my hand. I released my grip on my knife, setting it down gently by the glass. I took a long pull, downing it all in a few seconds. My little trek through the desert had left me horribly thirsty. I ordered another, than other, and then other, my thirst for whiskey seemed unquenchable, at least for now. As I slammed down the coins for more drinks, the bartender pushed them back.
"I'm sorry, but I simply can't abide drunks, 'specially ones who speak harshly to my daughter." He motioned to the men behind me, "Israel, Ambrose, escort this man out of here, if you will." I felt two pairs of arms lifting my body, scratching and biting as it was, off the ground and over to the door.
My face landed in the cold mud of the streets with an audible squish. I picked myself up and contemplated going back in there and giving those men a good fight, but even in such a drunk state I knew I would be the one getting beat. With unfocused eyes I looked for the familiar lights of an inn, my mind set.
I rambled haphazardly down the street, not caring where I was going only caring about where I'd end up. My eyes caught the glare of a well lit building and I started running. Big mistake. By the time I got near the building, I had tripped countless times and was covered in muck and grime.
"Oh dear," I heard a feminine voice say when I fell again, "Oh dear, let me help you up." Small hands grabbed my own and pulled me up. I looked up into the kindly wrinkled face that helped me and smiled. She recoiled for an instant, then regained her composure and walked me inside. "Here," she said as we crossed the threshold, "lay down while I ready your bed."
If I was sober, I would have gasped at the sight that lay before me. Plush sofas, a silk throw pillow upon each one, a fine little piano in the corner, oil paintings hung everywhere, fancy wool carpet, delicate sweets upon each cherry wood table, and a large mahogany staircase spiraling upwards, this wasn't an inn, it was a manor.
Detail, however, meant nothing to me as I sat down on the sofa. I didn't even care if I had ruined it, for the urge to close my eyes was stronger then that of common sense and courtesy. No, my muddy body would stay here, and my muddled thoughts would be at rest, if for only few hours. Right now, I didn't give a damn about me or anybody else in this messed up world, I only gave a damn about sleep. And sleep was the only thing that seemed to give a damn about me. So, naturally, I feel into sleeps clutches, and within a few seconds I was snoring deeply.
And so I barely felt the strong arms lifting my prone body, carrying me gently to out of the parlor, into a cushy bedroom. Their caress was a like a physical lullaby to me, one that I sank deeply into.