When I was six, I went to my father and told him I wanted to be a doctor. At eight, a vet. At seventeen I was considering studying to become a newswoman. I had enjoyed journalism for years, and reporting the news seemed like a dream to me. But a dream was all it would ever be. After my parents' death, reality took over and dreams were put behind me. I was eighteen at the time, and although I was legal, being left on my own so abruptly was a jarring experience, to say the least.

My father used to read me stories from the Bible when I was very small. I can still remember sitting on his knee in front of the gas fireplace, listening to him recite tales of the flood, the wisdom of Solomon, and my personal favorite - the story of Esther, a woman of influence, who saved the Jewish people.

I don't consider myself religious, but the stories have stuck with me, as well as the way my father would read them. The cadence of his voice was deep, and the boom of it would send shivers down my spine as a child. To this day, I haven't found a single thing that can bring out that sort of reaction in me.

I've done my damnedest to try, though.

Tonight's attempt is coming from the woman below me. It embarrasses me to say I can't recall her name. Perhaps she never even told it to me. Although this is the absolute worst time to be thinking about such things, passages from the Bible are going through my head, even as the physical pleasure I'm feeling from this woman's wicked tongue is building up.

'Mordecai told him everything that had happened to him, including the exact amount of money Haman had promised to pay into the royal treasury for the destruction of the Jews'.

'So Hathak went out to Mordecai in the open square of the city in front of the king's gate'.

'Esther replied, "My petition and my request" -'

My thought-process ceases abruptly as the build up inside me reaches its inevitable apex, and I release on the woman's tongue, moaning louder than I care to admit. I had been caught by surprise, lost as I was in my own mind.

She raises her head up, her lipstick smeared and her blonde hair messy from where I had been tugging on it without thinking.

"How was that, Ciera?" she says with a sultry smile, putting more emphasis on my name than is needed.

"It was great," I lie, returning her smile. I reach over to her beside table and pick up the beer bottle I had been drinking from, taking a large gulp. Honestly, I wish I had something stronger, but the lager will have to do. The liquor contents in this woman's home would absolutely disgust my friend Jack, who is the sole bartender in our shared place of business.

She crawls toward me, lies on her back and rests her head on my knees. My legs are bony - like the rest of me - so the position can't be comfortable for her, but it doesn't look as though she cares. Her own orgasm (brought on by my tongue) had already worn her out, and returning the favor probably took even more out of her. I told her I'd be fine if she didn't reciprocate, but she wouldn't take no for an answer, saying that wasn't how she did things.

"We're not men," she had said with that same sensual smile, the last word practically spit out of her mouth, as though it tasted unpleasant. I felt no attraction to men myself, but she seemed to actively hate them. I wondered what had made her turn out that way, but didn't care enough to actually ask. I had no business questioning her, anyway. It wasn't like she knew my life story, so what place did I have to try and discover hers?

She leans forward and runs her index finger along the scar that marks my pale flesh. It starts at the crook of my elbow and stops at the top of my wrist. I have a scar of the exact same length on my other arm, as well. They are memories of the death of my parents, and the only physical imperfections on my body. I'm tall, I'm thin, (some would say too thin), I have lovely light green eyes and gorgeous dark red hair. Both women and men alike respond to my appearance, but they know nothing else about me, and that's just the way I like it.

I have to fight to keep myself from flinching as she touches me, the healed-over skin more sensitive than most other places on my body, thanks to the depth of the scar tissue. I usually wear long gloves to hide this imperfection, but she had asked me to take them off before we got started, so I did. They're on the floor now, someplace between the doorway into the house, and her bedroom.

To her credit, she did well at hiding the surprise she had to have felt when she saw my scars. Other women I've been with were much less subtle, staring at them and demanding to know what had happened to me. Sometimes I made up elaborate stories about abuse, saying that my mother had been severely violent, so much so that I felt a knife was my only way out. Sometimes I brushed it off with a shrug, saying it was a long, boring story. But I never told the truth - not to these random women. I knew, deep down, that they didn't really care. They were simply making conversation. And I refused to be just another story for them to tell their friends.

"Do they hurt?" she asks, her voice quiet. In the darkness of the room, I can just make out the shape of her body - her barely-exposed collarbones, her stomach, skinny, but with a small ridge of fat resting atop the muscle, and her large, inquisitive eyes.

I don't want to talk - and I especially don't want to talk about this - but she's just being nice, so I try to keep my tone sweet when I say,

"Not anymore, really. It kind of tickles when they're touched, but they don't hurt."

She wants to ask where they came from, I know it. But thankfully, she doesn't, which means I don't have to lie. She drops her current line of questioning and moves on to another.

"Ciera is such a pretty name. How did your parents come up with it?"

Looks like I will be lying after all, because Ciera isn't my real name. It's a necessary alias that I use for work, and for trysts such as these. But that's not something she needs to know. I've been asked this question before, and I know how to answer it.

"My family on my mother's side is Irish." That part isn't a lie. "My grandmother passed away just before I was born, and I was named after her." That part is. In truth, I searched the Internet one night and came up with the name on my own. My family had nothing to do with it. The fact is, I haven't heard from anyone in my family since my parents' death. I tried calling one of my aunts soon after they died, just to have someone to talk to, but she told me outright that she wanted nothing to do with me. I suppose her attitude could have come from the fact that she was obviously drunk at the time, but I was too embarrassed to ever call her again.

And now here I am, lying naked in a bed with a woman whose name I can't even remember. Whatever happened to my shame?

"So you're Irish," she comments. "That explains how you're so good at handling your liquor."

I would be upset at the woman's stereotyping, if she weren't right. I hated drinking when I was younger, but being able to drink without actually getting drunk is practically a requirement for my job, so I had to learn how to pull that off rather quickly. It was hard, being as thin as I am, and my liver is probably half way to failing by now, but thanks to Jack - and Johann - I succeeded.

One night after work, Johann asked me to come with her down to the bar. She wanted to talk with Jack and I for a while, she said. I had just taken my job about a month before, and I was shadowing Johann, letting her teach me everything I needed to know, taking every word out of her mouth as the gospel truth. Looking back on it, I was young and naive, and she could have easily taken advantage of me, had she been of the mindset, but she didn't. Partially because she wasn't gay, and partially because she wanted me to respect her as a coworker and a friend.

She and Jack got me trashed that night. Jack kept pouring, and I kept drinking, with Johann passing glass after glass down to me. I guzzled several different types of alcohol, and vomited every one of them up by the next morning. They made me do the same thing that night, giving me just a little less alcohol than I had had previously. This went on for a couple months, and by the time it was done, I was an expert at handling booze. (It also gave me a lasting phobia of vomiting, and taught me that vomiting in general will always leave you with a sore throat, but those are secrets I keep from the both of them to this day. I don't need them teasing me.) My favorites have become vodka and gin, and I almost always have a glass of either one or the other while at work. On particularly good - or particularly bad - days, Jack brings down an old bottle or two of scotch or whiskey, and we'll all have a glass together, joined by Darryl, who is essentially a bouncer, and Erik, the man who acts as the boss to all of us. To me, though, Erik is more of a father-figure than a boss, and he's the main reason I've worked where I have for so long. Erik actually saved my life after my parents died, but that's another story.

With a sigh, I move to leave the bed. I really should get dressed and go home. But my companion puts her hand on my arm before I can stand.

"Where are you going?" she asks. Her voice is sweet, and it makes me feel a little sick.

"Home," is my response. "I have work in the morning."

I can just barely make out her disappointed frown.

"Oh," she says. "Well, do you want me to drive you? It's no problem."

"No," I respond, "but thanks. I'm sure I can make it if I walk."

"Okay. . ." She doesn't sound like she believes me, and I can feel her eyes on me as I get dressed. Halfway through putting on my gloves, something crosses my mind.

"I'm sorry," I say, smiling sheepishly, "but um. . . what's your name again?"

The woman - whose name was apparently "Sarah" - wound up driving me home, after all. No matter what I said to try and convince her not to, she kept telling me that she didn't want me to get hurt, walking home alone. She wanted to come inside my place, rather than just dropping me off, but I made a quick excuse about the place being a mess, and my being embarrassed to have her see that. She left without too much protest. Perhaps she came to the realization that she was never going to see me again, and she just wanted to get it over with.

My paycheck isn't bad, and because of that, my apartment is just slightly smaller than Sarah's was. I don't eat much, so my fridge is pretty empty at the moment, but my stomach is growling. I toast a couple slices of bread and spread a little butter on them, then sit down on the couch with my meal and turn on the television.

I'm not actually watching anything - rather, I'm taking small bites of my food, staring at myself in the mirror hung on the wall in front of me. I keep telling myself I should get rid of it, or at least move it, but I have yet to do either. The mirror belonged to my mother, passed down to her from her mother, and to her by her mother.

My mother would have passed it down to me, but she died before she could, and it was given to me through her will.

The mirror is clean, (I wipe it down with Windex at least once a month), and my reflection is clear. My normally smooth red hair is a mess, my pale skin clammy. My light green eyes look exactly like my mother's did. My Irish roots are obvious to people who are paying attention, though most don't. I don't think even Erik knows of my lineage, but I suppose that isn't really a surprise - he may act like a father figure, but he's still my employer.

I finish my toast and get up from the couch. Tonight has already been shit, I might as well keep it going.

I go into the kitchen and grab a cold bottle of vodka from the freezer. It came from Jack's bar at work, and he gave it to me months ago. It hasn't even been opened yet.

Sitting back down in the living room, I crack open the bottle and drink straight from it, stopping only when my reflection before me blurs. Hopefully the alcohol can burn away the taste of that woman's lips on mine.