"I never expected you to betray me like that." Vivienne's voice is full of sulfuric acid and her eyes look right through me, denying me the right to even exist in her world. I think of the woman who told me I was hers but wouldn't be the following day, the woman who told me she would miss me. She isn't here.
I could argue that I did no such thing. I simply followed the order she'd given me by attempting to finish the job I never wanted but she forced down my throat in spite of my many objections. I could challenge her, confront her with the fact she tried to squeeze the life out of me only a few hours ago just because I failed to comply on her whim. But I know it would be no use. It would only make her infinitely angrier. I don't have a deadwish. There is only one thing I can do and success is not guaranteed. She doesn't have to forgive me immediately, I would settle for taking the edge of that mood. I walk over to her, keeping my eyes glued to the ground and kneel down.
"I'm sorry." I whisper and I try to sound as meek as possible. Within a second her flat hand crashed into my face, setting fire to my right cheek, then my left. It hurts, increasingly so after a few rounds of that but I'm also relieved. There are worse punishments. She continues to slap my face so long I'm convinced it must hurt her as well but that's a sacrifice she seems more than willing to make. By the time she stops my face feels like twice it's original size and I can't remember why I felt like I had to leave Adrienne. In spite of everything she had wanted me to stay.
"Will you forgive me, Vivienne?" I ask as I look into her eyes. Big mistake. I lean down and press my face to the ground. It's actually quite comfortable to feel the cold tiles against my swollen cheek.
"Get up." She says and I do. I follow her into my bedroom.
All my stuff is gone. There is no trace from my clothes, my books, or my old bed. The room is painted black, there are hooks in the ceiling and whips, chains, leather straps, crops and whatnot dangling from a rack attached to the wall. There's a bed, but it's not mine. It's a single, simple iron bed with just a mattress on it and shackles in every corner.
"You've redecorated." I say.
"You'll be spending a lot of time here." She replies. "It's still a work in progress."
I harrumph. "Why do we need a room like this?"
"You need it. I've come up with a better way for you to earn your keep."
I gape at her. "What way?"
"Listen baby." Her voice is pure saccharine now. "You're getting older. You're really not that pretty anymore. You look all used up for regular clients. You're no spring chicken. Besides, the real money lies with a different group of clients. People with more specific tastes. You'll do great."
"How do you mean more specific tastes?"
"You don't need to worry baby. It's only good if you pretend you don't understand. Now undress."
I do as I'm told as if I've never been gone and never met Adrienne. I can't help but shake.
"It's good you're back. You have let yourself go. You're on a diet now, baby."
When Vivienne puts me on a diet it usually means she'll feed me just enough not to starve. Something else to look forward to.
"So now you may lay down on your new bed." She tells me like she has a special treat for me. I want to open my mouth but she interjects before I can ask. "On your back of course."
I lay down and she shackles me to the bed. I can't move much and Vivienne just stands and looks at me.
"You are no longer Lola or Davina. They were good girls, unlike you. They deserved all kinds of things you do not deserve." She runs her hand over my body but I don't feel the way I normally do. The magic has drained from her touch. Maybe it's the shackles. I've never enjoyed being restrained.
"From now on you're Delilah. I think it's a perfect name for a double-crossing whore like yourself, don't you agree?" I know I'm supposed to reply but I don't feel up to it.
"I can't hear you." She says.
"Delilah is as good a name as any." I say. It's honestly the best I can do. She moves a bit closer to my face, then bends down and bites my nipple hard. I cry out.
'Delilah has no rights." She says semi contritely. "None of the privileges Lola had." I don't remember Lola having that many privileges, her main right was to do as she was told.
"For instance, Lola was allowed to roam around the house freely, she could leave the house as well. She didn't have to ask permission to go to the bathroom. Do you want to hear more, or would you rather be surprised?" She gently caresses my hair.
"Lola deserved to be treated well. She deserved love and protection, care and mercy. She had the right to walk around her room without being shackled. Lola had some basics limits. Delilah doesn't have any of that. She has to earn everything."
She gets up, smiles at me and leaves the room.
I open my eyes and Vivienne is sitting on my bed, impeccably dressed in a white skirt suit. I feel light headed, close to out of my body completely, although there haven't been any visitors in what feels to me like a couple of days. She smiles down on me brightly and bends down to untie my wrists.
"What's going on?" I croak. It feels strange to speak.
"Your sentence is done, baby." She chirps as if she's telling me I won the lottery. I have no idea how long I've been in this room but it feels like forever. I haven't tried to count the days, I was mostly occupied with trying to get through them. I wonder if I've finally done something to convince her I'm worthy of her trust again or if she just picked out a random amount of time for my punishment before hand. Asking her is not an option, and she wouldn't give me a useful answer anyway.
"I thought that would make you happy." She says as she caresses my face.
It's the first time she touches me since she left me in this room, and the first time she looks at me like I have the right to exist.
"So what's next for me?" I ask.
"Oh Davina baby. You're getting some time off. I think you've earned that, don't you agree?"
I'm unsure I'll be able to force myself to say anything that won't change her mind immediately.
"I know I've been hard on you, doll. I had to undo a lot of damage. That bitch has really fucked you up."
"She'll never be you." I whisper and I get another bright smile.
"Everything is gonna be alright now. You'll see." She takes my hand and pulls me off the bed.
"Come on. Let's take a bath."
She guides me to the bathroom and pushes me in the shower cubicle while she runs the tap to fill the bath. I guess she really has forgiven me cause I get warm water and she uses her hands to soap me up. She's gently. Once I'm clean enough she turns off the shower and I get in the tub. I watch Vivienne undress and get in the water with me. There have been so many bathing rituals but she's never gotten in with me before.
"Things will be very different from now on, baby."
Her face comes closer to mine, her arms wrap around me and her wet silky skin clings to me as she kisses me. I close my eyes.
"What's the matter baby?" Her wet lips wrap around my ear. It's like a thousand degrees and she has me completely surrounded. I feel trapped.
"Nothing." I stammer as I try to part my legs. Accessibility is key, always.
"You're still mad at me." She sits back and stares at me.
"No, I'm not." It's not a lie.
"Are you in pain? I thought a week recovering time would be plently, was I wrong?"
She looks at me studiously.
"You are not fine, Davina."
I wish she wouldn't call me that. It makes me cringe.
"I'm just not in the mood." I say weakly.
That makes her laugh. She throws her head back and cackles. I've seen her do the exact same thing a billion times before but I've never noticed how unflattering and stupid it looks. I've never before noticed that shrill undertone her voice has.
She stops laughing. "You're serious."
"She broke you." She whines.
I don't know what to tell her.
"So tell me something baby."
I've been Vivienne's Davina all week, and to celebrate the first week of a new chapter in our life, she's taken me to the same restaurant as the last time she took me out, before Adrienne. The same band is playing and she ordered me a steak and fries. It's a bit surreal. Her hand reaches over the table to caress my face.
"What do you want to know?"
"What did that bitch do to you? How did she turn you against me?"
Her blue eyes bore into mine and I'm lost for words.
"Well?" Her fingers fold around my wrist and she squeezes.
I'm drawing blanks. Adrienne is the last thing I want to talk about. I don't even want to think about Adrienne and I certainly don't want to hear anything Vivienne might have to say about her.
"Davie please talk to me. You have to talk about it sometime."
"You think I won't understand but I do." Her encouraging smile makes my jaw lock. I know that I'm playing with fire. I don't want to go back to that room. I have to find a way to go back to being Lola or whoever I was before Adrienne. I have to say something. Vivienne's patience is limited.
"I don't want to talk about it." I free my wrist from her grip without giving it any thought. To my surprise she doesn't explode. I stare at my plate. The fries still look delicious but they must be cold by now. I start stacking them with my fork until I realize making a fry tower is best done by hand. A year ago Vivienne would had told me off immediately. This time she doesn't.
"You're still mad at me for punishing you."
"Yes you are. It was necessary, you don't understand. She tried to take you from me and you let her."
"I'm not mad at you."
I shake my head.
"Then what is wrong with you?"
I'm getting really tired of that question. She's asked me this everyday this past week. I stopped turning her down after two days, thinking it would make my life easier but it hasn't.
"Nothing is wrong with me."
"I know you Davina. I know you can hold a grudge. I want you to stop."
"I'm not holding a grudge. Nothing is wrong with me. I am not mad at you." In spite of all these things being true my words come out flat, exasperated. It's a stark contrast with the shrill lightly hysterical undertone in Vivienne's words.
She grabs my hand, squeezing too tightly this time.
"I want everything to be different between us."
"It already is." I answer curtly. I've slept in her bed every night this week. To be more precise I've familiarized myself with the small cracks in the ceiling of her room, wide awake for hours while she slept.
"I want things to stay like this forever."
"What do you mean?"
"I don't want you to go back to work."
I can't fucking believe it.
"What about money?"
"We don't have to worry about that anymore. To be honest, even if you'd retired a year ago we wouldn't have had to worry about it."
I thought nothing Vivienne could do or say would ever surprise me but I'm flabbergasted. Not that she lied. I've always known she likes to bend the truth to fit her needs. I just never thought I'd ever hear her admit a lie. I thought she never wanted me to retire.
"You want me to retire?"
"Yes." Her other hand also takes mine. Her smile is bright with a hint of insecurity.
"I thought that would make you happy, baby."
I swallow. Only a year ago nothing would have made me happier.
"So tell me what you want to do."
I suppose my dream is coming true but I'm not overjoyed.
"We could travel. See a bit of the world together." She suggests.
I smile but I can tell by the look on her face I'm not being convincing.
'You are still thinking of her aren't you?"
I don't want to nod but I do. I can't deny something so true. I haven't been able to stop thinking about Adrienne. I can't stop thinking about how I left her and what a big mistake that was. I want to go back, even if it's only to discover it's too late to repair anything, I have to know. I walked away from a good thing because my stupid feelings got hurt. If someone had told me a year ago I would be too sensitive to stay with someone I love because there's a small chance she only wanted to be with me because I remind her of my mother, I would have laughed. In the short time I spent with her Adrienne has changed me so much that I'm no longer compatible with a life that suited me fine before. That's what I can't tell Vivienne. I can't tell her I no longer want to be whatever she wants me to be. I can't tell her trying to fit into her mold is too hard on my soul. I can't tell her all I want is to leave her behind and never look back.
"She doesn't love you."
I bite my tongue. There are so many words that want out but have to stay in. Holding my tongue around her used to be easy. Being with Vivienne, used to be easy, it was always the one bright light in my day. The thing I longed for most. Now it's easy not to touch her. I bet that's what's giving me away. I still remember how I used to feel about her, how much I missed her when I first came to Adrienne. Vivienne hasn't changed at all, but the way I feel about her has. I've tried to come back to that old feeling but I can't.
"You're mine, baby. I don't ever want to lose you again."Her knee rubs mine and if her voice was any sweeter her words would stick to my eardrums. This is Vivienne, former centre of my universe. The woman who can put you on a pedestal so high you'd break your neck if you ever fell down. I've broken all my bones over and over again. Each time she pushed me. I'm tired of being her play thing, sick of waiting for her repercussions. Being a worthless backstabbing whore one day and a blessed princess the next is enough to make anyone lose sight of what's up and what's down. I don't want to be Delilah, Lola or even Vivienne's version of Davina. I want to be me, even if I still don't really know who I am.
I pull both hands from hers.
"Baby please. You have to let go of the past, things will be different now."
I bite my tongue till I taste blood.
"Please tell me what you are thinking."
"You don't want to know."
"Yes I do. Please tell me."
I knock over my fry tower just before the waiter decides to collect our plates. Vivienne orders us dessert pie.
"You have to tell me what's on your mind. What do you want? Do you still want to go to university?"
"You would let me go there?"
"I want to make you happy."
"I've always wanted that. I love you very much."
I can tell she's not lying, not consciously.
"I believe you." I say and she smiles happily.
"But I don't trust you."
"How do you mean?" The happiness drains from her face. "Is this because I exaggerated our financial needs?"
"Why did you?"
"You needed the motivation, baby."
"If we didn't need the money why did I need to be motivated at all?"
She's silent for a while.
"I was afraid you wouldn't need me anymore if you stopped working."
"I would have done anything for you."
"Would have? Not anymore?"
"I don't know."
"I would still do anything for you."
I can't think of a single thing she's ever done for me but there's no point in telling her that.
I watch Vivienne devour her apple pie. I can't eat more than a few bites myself.
We go home and not much later I'm staring at the ceiling in her room.
I can't shut off my mind. I can't believe she actually asked me if I wanted to go to university, or that she told me she wants me to retire. Could it be true? I doubt it. The past week she's been exactly how I used to want her to be but it's hard to imagine she'll keep that up forever.
I believe she believes she will. The same way I know she thinks she's always acted in my best interest. I no longer think she even knows what's best for me. I don't think she knows who I am. She only knows the parts of me she has created. She's never been able to see past Lola and now she's trying to mold me into a new vision, another version of me. She probably thinks she has changed but she hasn't. She will never change. If I stay with her I will be stuck in her loop forever. Eventually something will happen and I will find myself back in that room, or worse. Until then I have to pretend to be who she wants me to be and go along with whatever she has in mind. Maybe eventually I won't have to pretend anymore.
The thought of that is unbearable. I love Vivienne. I always will but I don't want to live for her anymore. I'm not holding a grudge. I know her life hasn't been any easier than my own and that I'm not the only one she's been lying to all my life.
I get up. I don't know how much longer my relative freedom will last, so I have to make the most of it. I go to the toilet, lock the door behind me and climb on the seat. I take the lid off the hanging tank and feel around in the water.
Years ago, during one of Vivienne's more trusting phases I managed to save up some tips. For a while I would lock myself in the bathroom directly after every job. She didn't like that, so after a month she took out the bathroom door. I'm not sure why I saved up that money. I wasn't planning on running away. Maybe I just wanted to take something from her. I guess I never really trusted her.
I take out the sealed bag, dry it and my hands off with toilet paper and count the money. It's barely 500. It's not enough to do anything really, but it will get me out of here.
I put on a pair of jeans Adrienne got me, a black hoodie Vivienne never wants to see me in and sneakers. I grab some of my more casual clothes and put them in the backpack I still have left from my school days. I take a small, framed picture of me and Vivienne and put that in my bag as well.
I'm about to walk out the door when Vivienne's voice cuts through the dark from behind me. The tension I held in my gut evaporates. Of course I can't simply sneak off. I'm almost relieved that she's here in time to stop me. Dread laces relief.
"Where are you going?" I turn around and in the yellow light that comes from the hallway beyond the door her face looks alien. She really had a bit too much work done.
"I can't stay with you." I say and brace myself.
"This is about her, isn't it? Can't you see she only used you?" She moves closer but luckily she doesn't touch me.
"This is about me and a little about you." I answer and my throat clogs up.
"I know you're still mad at me but you will get over it."
"I'm not mad at you. I just don't want this anymore."
"This? You mean me. She poisoned you."
"You're the one who sent me away. I was happy before that."
"You were never happy, baby." Her body presses against me, her hands frame my face and her eyes are deep and dark. I shiver.
I take a step back and a tear rolls down her cheek.
"Where would you even go? You don't have any money."
"I love you more than anything, why can't you see that?" She puts her hands around my face again, forcing me to look at her. Her eyes are full of tears, I'm close to crying myself.
"I love you too but you have to let me go."
I take her hands from my face, open up the front door, close it behind me and run down the corridor to the stairwell, speeding down seven floors of stairs. When I make it to the bottom it feels like my lungs are about to fall out but I can't stop running just yet.
I need to feel like there's enough distance between me and my old life.
I don't stop running until I'm at the train station. I sit down on a bench in the hall of departures and wait till the sun rises.
I can't believe Vivienne let me go.
I can't believe I'm all alone and not even scared.
I wait till it's eight and pay a guy at the burger king a tenner just to let me make a phone call on his cell.
Suddenly I'm so nervous I feel like I might pass out. What if she doesn't want to talk to me? Perhaps she never wants to see me again? I have nowhere else to go, she's my only option. My nerves grow exponentially as the phone rings on her side.
"Davina?!" She doesn't sound like she hates my guts at all. Just hearing her voice makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
"I was wrong. I'm sorry. I wondered if.."
"Where are you?"
"At the station."
"Don't move I'll come pick you up right now."
I'm so happy I could die.