Note from the author:

I highly recommend you read ‘Promise you won’t get mad?’ first.

Sitting alone in her room staring at herself in the mirror, Jeani was half way through the internal dialogue she always had on her first night back and the Board House. It had taken her a week to talk herself into coming back again and it was the fifth time she’d returned. Whether she knew it consciously or not, she always had the same conversation with herself on the first night back. It started out as shame, then turned to pride. Pride for being able to take charge of her life, to solve her own problems and use her body in the way that she wanted, and to get what she wanted out of life. Once she got there mentally, she’d finally able to sleep and the next night she’d start working. She would stay in that mindset for a few months, then slowly start to drift into indifference and loneliness. She’d start to tell herself that it wasn’t what she wanted anymore. She wanted someone special in her life, and not just to be the special moment for other people. Once that would happen, she’d take herself off to the Board House Headmistress, collect her savings, thank her, have a party, and be gone by morning.

The Headmistress ran an interesting system, still corrupt but far better than many other similar venues. She kept 70% and gave the girls half of their money at the end of the week, putting the other half in savings for when they wanted to leave. It created a space where the girls could leave if that’s what they wanted. Ultimately, it was just better business. Girls who didn’t feel trapped worked better. Girls who left, created spaces for new girls to come in, and the Headmistress had fresh stock to take to market. It also meant that she has a better reputation for housekeeping and the pick of the girls who came by.

Jeani was cute with a slender build and curves in the right places, but above all, she was smart. The men liked her because she could engage their minds as well as their bodies and the Headmistress liked her because she knew she’d leave before getting worn out, but would always come back. It was on this latest return when Winter and Jeani met for the first time. He wasn’t there as a customer but had joined as security. After suffering his violent breakdown, he was admitted to a high-security psychiatric hospital, but they couldn’t keep him forever and eventually, he had to be released. Not knowing what to do he returned to the Board House where he’d met his late wife and cashed in a favour. The Headmistress knew he wasn’t as insane as his lawyers had made him out to be, but she could see something had happened to him in the hospital. There was a numbness to him that hadn’t been there before, a blankness of character which made him harder to predict, but she owned him and knew that even in his current state he’d never hurt any of the girls. In fact, she thought it probably made him more dangerous to anyone who stepped out of line, which worked for her, as long as the really bad stuff was kept quiet. But then Jeani returned and the Headmistress had started to worry. Winter watched her closer than other the girls, not in any obvious way, but she noticed, and she knew why he did it, even if he didn’t. Winter’s wife and Jeani were cut from the same cloth, and when one had left to get married, the other arrived to stepped in picked up where they’d left off. Which worked perfectly for the Headmistress. but now it left a dark spot in the pit of her stomach, an unnamed fear as she couldn’t be sure if this new numb Winter knew that he was obsessed with this girl. But as weeks turned into months, with nothing more that the occasional over long stare or stolen glance, the Headmistress began to relax, and Jeani herself had taken a liking to Winter, for as much as you could like a man who couldn’t or wouldn’t engage on any level above business. But he did stand nearer to her during parties and if she was free during meals he’d often sit at her table. Not speak to her, possibly not even aware that he did it, but he did, every time. So, there they were, the prostitute and the warrior. Brains finesse and sensuality, sitting with her new best friend, strength and violence. The Headmistresses’ next prang of fear came when she saw Jeani begin to decline, she could see her eyes start to long again, and then the moment the Headmistress had been so hoping would never come, came. Jeani started asking questions about Winter. Where he’d come from, why he was the way he was, and if any or all the rumours about him were true.

Good business told the Headmistress to lie and misdirect, to get Jeani back on her usual pattern and let it play itself out safely, but she liked Jeani, and Winter, she’d loved Winter’s wife and when she’d read about what had happened to her, and how he’d reacted, she was almost proud of him. In as much as you can be proud of someone for doing the things that he’d done. The dramatic and extreme violence he’d visited on those responsible. Much of her fear came from this new Winter, this numb Winter that she didn’t fully recognise. But she wanted him to be happy, and had often tried to encourage him to spend some time with the girls, even asked Jeani to lean on him a little, see if she could get through to him. But it never happened. Now, Jeani was trying of her own initiative and the Headmistress feared, but wasn’t willing to stand in the way. So she laid out the whole story step by step. Winter’s wife first coming to the Board House, how she’d met him, the security work he was doing at the time and the type of people he worked for. How it had led to her murder and how Winter had reacted. How those same employers had kept him out of jail. All the way up until the day Jeani had met him, and onto her own suspicions. The whole time Jeani just sat and listened with silent tears slowly drifting down her cheeks and the occasional cold shiver erupting from her spine. In those moments she’d made up her mind about her life and in the morning packed up her things, collected her savings and left. Only this time it wasn’t to go to a secret boyfriend’s house, she made her way to Winter’s house and without a word after he opened the door she walked in, put down her bags and turning to stare at him defiantly, daring him to reject her, to move, to speak a word of protest. But he could only stare in return. In his mind he felt a distant flicker of a feeling, a half-remembered thought of what a feeling was or could be. The memory of love and a woman whispered in his mind so quietly that he couldn’t distinguish it from his current situation and it projected forwards. For an instant he couldn’t tell the difference between the women he’d loved and lost and the woman standing in front of him now, and for the first time in a long time, the bedrock of his soul shifted, cracking the stone of his heart just enough to give hope a chance to start creeping back in. Deep down in the middle of Winter’s soul a single spark flickered in the darkness and Jeani caught the split second of light in his eyes and she knew she’d won. She stepped forward to kiss him gently on the cheek and then ordered him to make breakfast while she took a shower to washed off the feel of the Board House.

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