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Love in the context of human trafficking, Ch. 19

Chapter Nineteen: Birthday Boy's Brand

Rich sat silently on the edge of the bed, watching Angel sleep. She seemed peaceful, but Rich knew better than to believe it. Angel always suffered from terrible nightmares that terrorized her to the point that she had problems for many nights and even injured herself in her sleep.

Rich remembered the beginning of their relationship, when he first brought Angel to his house. At the time, he was living with another pimp, and that pimp's girls, Angel, were tense around her. Frank always kept her away from other girls, so Angel never knew how to interact with them. The girls often teased her, so Angel spent most of her free time in the bedroom she shared with Rich.

But over time, Rich pulled her out of her shell. He taught her what to do with a client and taught her the way of life. For a while he served her while she served the men. He parked on the street and kept an eye on the house in case there was any trouble.

What happened then? Now Angel was twelve years older, more stubborn, colder and lifeless. Rich knew the fire in her was still alive, but life had exhausted her.

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Angel let out a soft groan as she woke up. Her body was tense and stiff, like it was every morning. It seems like she could just lie there and let the men do whatever they want with the girl's body, but life demanded more of her physical body than meets the eye. Many clients beat the girl, forced her to do things she didn't want to, put her in physically uncomfortable positions, which drained her of all energy and caused damage to her body. She was constantly bruised, her muscles were sore and tense, and her body was slowly giving out.

Angel stood up and rummaged through the pile of clothes until she found a pair of gray denim shorts and a black sports bra. She quickly dressed and walked down the hall to the bathroom, rubbing her tired eyes.

She opened the bottle of mouthwash and took a quick sip before putting the cap on and taking off her shorts to sit on the toilet. Sleepily, she gargled with mouthwash as she went about her business. When she was finished, she flushed the toilet, spit out the mouthwash, washed her hands, and scooped up a handful of water to rinse her mouth.

Downstairs she found Rich in the kitchen, standing over the stove. When he saw her out of the corner of his eye, he quickly turned to her and nodded toward the table. “Sit down,” he murmured, looking at the cigarette hanging in the corner of his mouth.

Obediently, still half asleep, Angel sat down and ran his fingers through his hair. The cup of coffee slid across the table towards her and she stared at it for a moment, her mind contemplating what it was and what it was for.

The toaster dinged and Angel jumped, not realizing it was on and working. A moment later, a plate of scrambled eggs and two slices of toast slid across the table towards her. Angel stared at her plate, her brain not yet awake enough to process the morning's events. Rich turned off the stove, walked around the table and placed his fork next to the plate of food.

"Eat," Rich urged with more enthusiasm than Angel thought necessary at such an early hour.

Angel took the fork and poked his eggs before biting into them. She chewed quietly, willing her body to wake up.

"You look really tired," Rich remarked, pulling up a chair next to Angel and sitting down quickly.

She glanced at him before taking a sip of coffee.

“You better wake up, you have a whole day ahead of you.”

Another look.

- You remember what day it is, right?

She took another bite of the egg and chewed instead of answering him.

“The twenty-fifth of July,” he answered for her.

She didn't answer his questions and answers. She knew exactly what day it was and why Rich was acting like it wasn't an ordinary day. Despite the pimp and whore relationship between the two, this day was special, different and certainly unusual for Rich.

"You forgot?"

How could she forget it? On July 25, Frank gave it to Rich to help Rich start his own pimping business. July 25th was the day she was released from her physical cage, only to be metaphorically put in a cage. July 25th was the day her life changed; for better or worse was not yet foreseeable. But still it has changed.

She nodded and decided it was best to act naively.

He clicked his tongue and made a clicking noise. "It's a shame. I think we should do something special for your birthday.”

Angel chewed in silence. Birthday. That's what he called it. Angel was never sure when her actual birthday was. For her life She couldn't remember a time when she wasn't with Frank or Rich. This life was literally all she had ever known. She had no memories of her previous life. She had no memories of family, school, childhood. There was Frank and there was Rich. Nothing more.

So Rich chose the day to accept her from his teacher so they could celebrate her birthday. Rich always gave the girls a day off on their birthday. He treated them to a spa day, a nice dinner, and usually a new outfit and jewelry. It was his way of expressing his gratitude for the services rendered under his command.

The angel was afraid of his symbolic birthday. She didn't enjoy going to the spa, getting her nails and hair done, receiving gifts, the whole nine yards. It wasn't fun. It was cheap. It was a cheap thank you for another year of hell. It was a pathetic attempt to buy happiness that she herself couldn't even understand. Angel didn't enjoy being the center of attention. She preferred to blend in with the crowd and remain unnoticed, and on her “birthday” she could have done anything else.

“Well, it’s your special day. What do you want to do?”

Angel shrugged, honestly wanting nothing more than to go back to bed and wake up again tomorrow; Skip the day completely.

“How about we go to that French restaurant downtown?”

This was the usual place where Rich took girls for their birthdays. This was unusual; There were white linen tablecloths and live music, mostly consisting of piano and string instruments. And it was expensive. None of the dishes cost less than thirty dollars, and the menu was littered with French words that Angel didn't know.

Angel bit his lip. She didn't want a fancy dinner at an expensive restaurant.

“I know that’s not your style,” he said. Rich played and half smiled at her. "I know a place I want to take you." He grinned and stood up, giving Angel no further indication of where they were going tonight. He stood up from the table and placed his hands on Angel's shoulders as she shoved another piece of egg into her mouth. "But first I'll take you to the mall." You need a dress.

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The mall looked more like a local gang hangout. Everywhere you went there were pimps and their girls, thugs, gangsters, drug dealers and other people commonly called "scum." or “ghetto.”

Angel looked down as Rich led her into one of the small shops. It was a women's clothing store and Angel noted that the store specialized in colorful club wear. Angel felt uncomfortable and didn't want to go to the store.

Rich went to the rack of clothes. He leafed through it, the strings and rhinestones on the dresses caught the light and flickered here and there. He looked up, “Find something you like,” he supported.

Reluctantly, Angel browsed through the clothes rack without much enthusiasm.

“Take what you want to try on.”

She sighed as she continued to browse through the dresses, not paying them much attention despite her glimmering need for attention.

After a while, Angel received a red dress, which seemed quite appropriate. She looked at Rich, who had four or five dresses for her to try on. She sighed again. Rich wasn't going to take this easy.

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The angel thoughtlessly repeated the process. I slipped into the tight dress Rich had chosen, opened the dressing room door, turned awkwardly so Rich could inspect it, tugged awkwardly on the dress to make sure it covered everything it needed to, and walked back in the locker room to retire. from the dress to repeat the entire process with another dress. Dress after dress. Angel finally managed to snag the last dress in the pile of bright, flirty and eye-catching dresses that Rich wanted her to try on. She wasn't sure how lucky she would be, and every time she opened the door she sensed Rich's annoyance that he didn't like any of the dresses.

One more dress and maybe he'll take her home.

She pulled the dress off the hanger and opened the short zipper at the back. Without much enthusiasm, she slipped into her dress, zipped it up and opened the door.

Rich's expression changed. He straightened and his mouth opened slightly in awe. His eyebrows rose in surprise and he sat upright in his chair on the small bench outside the locker room.

"What?" Angel wasn't sure what to make of Rich's reaction. She looked at the dress and ran her hands over it to smooth out any wrinkles.

"You look"; He paused and blinked several times in surprise. “Amazing!”

Angel still didn't understand him, she turned around and looked again into the empty dressing room, at the mirror on the back wall. She held her breath and her eyes widened. She didn't even bother to look at the dress after she put it onThere was a red overdress with straps that reached just below her knees. Where the straps met the bodice of the dress was a small cluster of crystals, almost like a brooch. It wasn't like other bright dresses that were more suitable for going to the club. It was stylish and elegant.

"Do you like that?"

She nodded, still enjoying her reflection. This was the first time she really liked the image in the mirror.

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The angel looked at the river. She finished eating and waited patiently for Rich to finish. The food was good. Angel ate a small dish of rosemary chicken and Rich insisted on a glass of white wine. Rich was still chewing on the medium-rare steak he had ordered.

"Did you enjoy the meal?"

Angel nodded and glanced at Rich before looking back at the river.

Their table was on a beautiful outdoor patio overlooking the river that flows through the city center. It was already dark outside and the water seemed black and calm.

Rich didn't think about the dark evening. In fact, he was very impressed by the burning candles and the warm evening breeze. But for Angel, the darkness was oppressive. It wrapped its ugly fingers around her mind and dragged her down into the silent black pit that was the river.

Rich meant well about the candlelit dinner, but Angel would rather have slipped into the shadows, washed away and out of sight.

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Rich stopped at the club to pick up money from a handful of his girls who were working there that night. He dragged Angel with him, not wanting her to be left alone in the truck. Rich often stopped in the clubs and streets where his girls worked to collect their earnings.

“Amber, I know you did more. Give it back."

"Dad, they're not buying anything today. It's slow."

“You better deserve more.”

“Dad, I swear!”

Rich rolled his eyes, looked past the red-headed dancer, and counted to ten in silence. His patience was running out. She only made a hundred dollars in a crowded club.

“Dad, please!”

He just wanted to grab Angel and get out of there. It was her birthday and she shouldn't have been here at work. “Well, get up and shake your damn tits. Bring me my money.

He folded the bills, put them in his pocket and looked around the club for Angel. Where the hell was she?

"I wonder if the girl is dancing tonight?" I love watching her dance.

Rich wandered around the club, still looking for Angel.

“What’s this girl’s name?” Fallen angel?”

He stopped and looked for the men who were talking about the angel. He followed her gaze and found Angel standing at the steps to the stage. She was talking to one of the dancers, who was hunched over, trying to hear her through the crowd.

Rich made his way through the crowd, pushing between the men gathered around the stage, whistling and shouting vulgar compliments to the dancers.

"Angel," he called when he was within earshot, still walking towards her.

She turned and scanned the crowd until she spotted him. She turned back to the dancer and said something to the girl that Rich didn't hear before the girl looked at Rich and then back at Angel, nodded and walked away.

"Angel, let's get out of here," she said. He spoke a little quieter and shouted as soon as he reached her.

She nodded in response and walked past him to the front door.

Rich looked around the club. Amber was right: men didn't tip dancers. The only thing they seemed to get back at them was their rude comments. He looked up at the balcony and saw several fellow pimps, all of whom seemed to be focused on Angel. Some were talking to each other, others were pointing at her, but everyone seemed very interested in her.

Rich's jaw clenched and he followed Angel out of the club.

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The car ride was quiet. Rich's radio was set to low volume. It was a police radio tuned to the local police station so Rich could be alerted to any disturbances his girls might be involved in.

It began to rain lightly and Angel watched it from the window of the truck. She thought about asking him. The question could have easily been seen as inappropriate, but the question irritated her.

“Why didn’t you tell me about the shooting at the club?”

Rich looked at her.

“Why is this important to you?”

She remained silent and continued to look out the window.

“It was just a couple of drunk guys arguing. Nothing serious."

"This is serious. There was shooting.

“This kind of nonsense happens all the time. It does not affect you.

"Theinfluences me. I dance there.

Rich didn't answer.

"Raquel said the club has been dry since this happened."

“Who is Raquel?”

“One of the dancers.”

“Whose girl is this?”

“Why is it important? She works there. She earns her living there. Like me. She's here every night. She said people just aren't paying anymore. They are afraid that the police will show up. And she also said that there were some very shady guys hanging around after work.

“It’s just the off-season. Business will pick up again.” Rich really wanted to believe what he was saying, but he couldn't deny that the money wasn't flowing into the club. He did not allow Angel to work at the club after the shooting. He knew her fans weren't the safest, and he didn't want to put her at any greater risk than she already was. He didn't tell her because if he had talked about the shooting he would have accepted that the club was no longer working in his favor and he needed to get all his girls out and find another one. Association. These were the conditions that the angel was now forced to accept. He already had enough to worry about. The pimps started paying more attention to Angel and that was never a good thing. You could easily corner them and force them to give up. They could have taken her away from him. They could harm her.

He couldn't allow that.

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Rich lit candles in his bedroom and dimmed the lights. In Angel's opinion, it was a pathetic attempt to seduce her romantically that was clearly more than just the pimp-prostitute relationship they had. She made him believe that his seduction was a success and submitted to his lustful desires. She knew he wanted her more than she let on. He wanted their relationship to mean more to her, and she had to constantly keep him at a figurative distance.

Rich looked at Angel who was lying on the bed. The blanket stretched enough to cover her chest, but still left her collarbones and neck exposed. Her dark hair fell around her neck and her eyes were closed. Rich knew she was awake; She only rested after pleasuring him for about an hour.

He turned away and sat on the edge of the bed. He looked at the flame of the candle that was on the bedside table. Hypnotized and lost in thought. He had to do something to keep the other pimps away from her. He had to fight them off; Let her know that she is his and his alone. Mark his territory.

He reached into the bedside drawer and pulled out the pocket knife he kept there. These people needed to be taught a lesson. He opened the knife and examined it. They needed to know that Rich wasn't someone to be messed with. He pierced the candle flame with the tip of his knife and twisted it there; Watch as the tip darkens from the heat and then begins to turn orange.

He looked at Angel. She watched him. He carefully took her chin and turned her head away...

Angel's short, painful scream echoed through the house. Rich pulled the blade back and admired the V-shaped burn on the left side of her collarbone, the tip of which rose above a tiny pink mountain peak. She was his; was his property claimed.

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