Exam Papers

2007, Paper 1, Section II

Question 7

Write a short story prompted by one or more of the images in TEXT 3.

Image prompt chosen: War.

His hand slides over my high set-cheekbone, over the skin so taut and tense against my internal frame. His nails graze the hollow of my cheeks, leaving marks there that I know will remain for two weeks at the very least. Normally I would not have permitted him to mark me, but today he is a particularly good mood; the divorce with his wife has been finalized. And if I surpass myself tonight, he may just pay me extra- though I suspect he loves his gold too much to part with it for a simple whore. Now, he marks me as his, but hours from now, possibly minutes, I will be another man's, another's to use, another's to bruise.

My skin crawls on the trail that his fingers follow. Goosebumps erupt where he touches me. His hand slides over my jaw, my chin, my neck, reaches my collarbone as he rocks me back and forth and groans and moans as his other hand leaves dark bruises on my hips.

My name is Kimiko. I started selling myself when I was sixteen, when I was young and foolish and lost in the black, bottomless void that my parents had left behind. I had to pay for the drugs that had become essential for me to survive; had to pay for the crude apartment that I knew I could not afford; had to pay the woman who took care of my sister while I gave myself over to other men.

My name is Kimiko. I'm nineteen now, and sometimes I can hardly remember the time when I was still living in Japan with my sister, my mother, my father. Our parents died in the bombing of Hiroshima, with the rest of our family. The next day, I was embarking as a clandestine with my sister, on a boat whose direction I did not know – did not care. I remember scrambling into a barrel before it was carried inside the open stomach of the wooden beast by the sailors, my insides shaking and my guts churning at the thought that we would be found out and sent to the orphanage, or worse, separated. Our entire family had just died, killed by the Americans' bombing. At the time, I wondered if they knew how many children they had orphaned, and if they did know, how they were able to live with it. Now all I can think is that I want them dead, and I want them in the same graves that my parents now lay motionlessly at the bottom of. I don't know what I hoped when I dragged my emptied carcass onto that ship; a new life, perhaps, free from the destructive notion that everything I knew had been blasted to pieces and that there was nothing, absolutely nothing, that I could do about it.

My name is Kimiko. I'm a Japanese girl, living like many others in a shabby, cramped bunk apartment not worth the price I am required to pay for it, stuck in the poor South of Italy with hopes and dreams of grandeur and fame that seem hopelessly deranged here. I have a friend, strangely enough; a boy – man, really – two years older than me. He first spoke to me a year ago, when I was prowling the streets of Caulonia for a customer. He addressed me out of the goodness of his heart, and I mistook him for a client. In the midst of my current activity, I recall the blush that spread upon his cheeks as he realized just why I was dragging him to the nearest Hotel. I recall his confused and embarrassed explanation that he was not looking for my 'services'; merely that he thought I looked like someone who needed a friend and had the audacity to propose himself for the job – those were his own words. I remember my own lack of embarrassment, the simple shrug of my shoulders as I followed him where he would lead me with the whispered promise of an offered drink. Sitting at the table of a café, face-to-face now so that I could freely antagonize him – or so I thought -, he spoke without restraint, filling the heavy silence that separated us with senseless words that told me of his life and hardships, allowing me to maintain my own silent treatment. Perhaps he knew already that I would not tell him of myself, that I would keep to myself until that one day when he would bend over and his lips would brush mine so many months later, like a feather ghosting over my lips. Or perhaps he thought me strange, sitting there staring into his animated face like a lunatic, and simply considered it rude to tell me so and instead talked and talked and talked because it was easier to do so than to attempt to understand my actions. Either way, he met me at the same place every day for a month before I even bothered to ask him his name, and he, mine. Fabio is his.

My name was Kimiko. Now I'm just a whore like any other, with no name and only screams of pain and pleasure mixed to call her own. At least when I'm here, held by someone who pays me for my services, I know where I belong.

When he is done the man above me heaves himself back, mindless of my own body and possible pleasure as he pulls up his pants from his ankles and zips up his fly in a swift, careless movement. There was a time when their actions hurt me and unnerved me, dazed and stunned as I was by the drugs I always took before a client decided to make me his for the time that he was allocated. This is not so anymore, and I lie idly and lethargically back on the rumpled bed as he shrugs on his hastily discarded shirt and makes for the door, pulling out notes from his upturned pockets and dropping them on the low table beside the old, worn out couch before opening the door and closing it behind him.

I turn my head away from the remnants of his ominous presence, my fingers brushing my aching lips as the oppressing smell of his cologne mixed with sweat and semen permeates the room. My legs are tangled in the pale blue sheets of the bed; the room dark and foreboding as I watch the half closed blinds facing me, and the life before it as it moves on unknowingly. I must find the courage to stand, to pull myself upwards yet another time and to reach the minuscule shower room on the other side of the floor, to wash my body of his smell and presence, so that I can be presentable enough that my sister will not believe that something is amiss. I do so absently, the soles of my feet padding softly across the wooden panelled floor, one foot placed exactly in front of the other with each new step, perfectly aligned, the way my mother taught me when she was still bent on passing her passion of dancing on to me. The movement has become instinctual, even with her gone and with the fact that I had never taken as much of a liking to the art as she had. I had done it for her, and now I cherish the memories I have of us during those peaceful days.

I shower languidly, gently cleansing the scratches on my face and on the rest of my body before I step out and pull on my clothes, the suffocating heat of the closed off room reassuring me that the temperatures outside will be quick to dry my soaking clothes, even as they cling to my skin. I walk out of the Hotel room slowly, having grasped the thin, near insubstantial bundle of lira notes left on the table and stuffed them as far as they will go inside my cheap, contraband purse. The sun scorches the nape of my neck as I walk, burning me but not nearly as much as the stares I receive from the men who know what services I provide.

Twenty minutes later I finally walk into the park, dry now, mothers and fathers and unsuspecting children bustling happily all around, running, jumping, squealing. From a distance I catch a glimpse of Fabio sitting on a bench, watching as my sister plays with the other children. Julia, the woman whom I pay to take care of my sister when I am not here to do it and Fabio is not yet out of University, is not here, and I remember that today is Tuesday and that that is the day of the week when he has no classes in the evening. I observe them from afar at first, watching Fabio as his eyes roam over the playground and snap back to my sister, hovering protectively yet unnoticeably behind her as a big brother would. As I should be doing. His name lingers on my lips for a brief second, and then I am walking towards him, my dark, shoulder long hair and black eyes contrasting with those, so much lighter and bleached by the sun, of the Italians around me. It's been five years, yet even to this day I still feel out of place amongst these people. Uncomfortable.

I look up from my feet as Fabio calls my name, and for the first time that day, I smile, my heart no longer in my shoes as it rises and beats in my chest at just the sight of him. I don't know when he started doing this to me - when I started thinking that he was home and that up until we met I had been lost. When I'm with him, my name can be Kimiko again, and I'm a normal girl who doesn't have to worry about whether or not she'll be able to pay the bill for the month.

I sit beside him, and his hand grazes my cheek, soothing the superficial scrapes that I suddenly feel so self-conscious of. I lean my head into his warmth, closing my eyes to enjoy his touch and to keep this moment engraved in my memory forever. I remember a time when human warmth was a poison to me, a constant reminder of who I was and of what I did for a living. I don't know what I would be today if it wasn't for Fabio.


I turn towards the voice, and, pushing a clearly audible 'oomph' of surprise from me, my sister throws her arms around my neck and slams her body into mine. I freeze, the warmth of her breath against the crook of my neck an uncomfortable reminder of the men who own me. Over my sister's shoulder I meet Fabio's gentle blue eyes, and I regain my composure, closing my eyes on the vision of his comforting gaze as I squeeze my little sister against me.

Her name is Tsuko. 'Stolen child' is what it means. Oddly fitting; she was stolen from her home and dragged hallway across the globe by me, all because I couldn't bear to continue my life in a place where I would always feel like something was missing.

"Tsu-chan," I whisper into her year. I pull her back and frame her face with my hands; looking at her as though this is the first time I've seen her. She looks so much like our father, the strong nose, high forehead and prominent cheekbones, while my thin nose and high, sharp cheekbones are more reminiscent of our mother. I kiss her head and rub my nose against hers playfully, smiling when she squeals in pleasure and dashes off, back to her game with the Italian bambini, beaming back at me as she runs.

I lean back into the bench, tucking my head into Fabio's neck. He places his arm around my shoulders, and for a while I'm just content to sit there with him and relax. Fabio never says anything about my job. He knows, but he does not judge me for it. He has said before that he could make everything easier for me, that his family is wealthy enough to pay for my lodgement without it taking its toll on them. Every time he asks he knows I will refuse, that my upbringing forbids me to accept charity from anyone. But he still tries. Because it's better to try to help than to watch and have to endure someone else's pain in silence.

"Principessa," he says suddenly, and pulls himself away from me. 'Princess' in Italian; that's what my name means, 'child princess'. I look at him. "Principessa, there is something I need to ask you." I don't say anything, just look at him as he fumbles for words. I wonder what it is he wants to know. "Principessa." He pushes himself off the bench and kneels in front of me, and as he takes my hand in both of his there's a sudden, panicked moment where I can't breathe. "Kimiko Maorimiio," he says, "kekkon shite kudasai?"

For a moment the world stops, and my heart along with it as I stare into those warm, anxious blue eyes and process his words. 'Will you marry me?' he said. What?

Will I marry him? Will I?

I can't speak. My words escape me. I grasp at them, lash out for them in my head like I'm trying to catch a thousand butterflies that have just escaped from my carefully woven net. I'm a little girl again, hoping for the charming prince to come for me soon as I watch the bride in her flamboyant red and orange kimono from afar.

I clutch Fabio's hand in mine. What am I thinking?

"Fabio," I gasp.

I push myself over the bench. I slide down to my knees in front of him, grasping both of his hands into mine and pressing my forehead against his, eyes closed as I breathe him in. He smells of books and of dust, comforting and real and wise. He smells of home.

"Si", I whisper, squeezing his hands as though he is my life buoy. "Fabio, natura secondo!" My lips catch his, and I kiss him, my heart smashing my ribs to pieces inside my chest as our breaths mingle.

I suddenly realize that this will be my forever; that what I believed to be ephemeral up until now has suddenly become tangible and everlasting. With us married, I will have no need to give myself away anymore. I will not need to sell myself anymore. If I am with him, I will be his, and only his.

And I can't quite believe how much bliss that thought fills me with just now.

A/N: If you enjoyed this essay, please go take a look at my other essay, posted on this account also, and at my account, KuraraOkumura, if you like Harry Potter, Naruto, Death Note, Fairy Tail, or Ao no Exorcist! :)