ROOM 7 AT THE PHOENIX HOTEL
The movements of her limbs being restricted, Colours depended on her sense of hearing, the monotonous drone of moving vehicles passing by was the dominating audible offering. The ceiling of room seven, once a gleaming white-wash now appeared aged and jaundice, nicotine stains crawled and smudged the snaking cracks that moved across the surface like a child’s road map drawing: the wallpaper had long ago began to peel itself away from the wall, exposing a dull grey painted plaster, the wallpaper plunged and coiled from the room’s corners and slithered away above the only doorframe.
From a slightly opened window, an autumn breeze skipped over the nakedness of Colours: the thin, frayed curtains wavered in its wake as if they were suddenly granted life. A shudder raced through Colours as the coldness nipped at her skin and behind her closed eyelids a brightness seemed to erupt, she gradually opened her eyes and the dangling naked lightbulb, two metres or so above her head, forced her to flutter her eyelids several times, again, before becoming accustomed, and as she did so, her mind began to whirl with many differing thoughts and visions, the thoughts were confused, blurred, muddled and nagging. Temporarily forgetting about her present situation, Colours moved her left hand in an automatic response to scratch her head, instantly a pain jolted and sped through her limb and with it she released a soft, almost distant cry of discomfort: She gazed at her wrist and saw the mauve-red indents made by the tight grasp of the thin blue electrical flex that secured both her arms to the wooden tubular bedposts.
As the hurt in her arm began to subside Colours closed her eyes, she lay still and quiet thinking about the seemingly uselessness of it all, of the justifications and excuses she used often to propel her own life into what it had become: an endless spiral of faces and places, of bars and hotel rooms, of cold lonely streets and the dark lingering hours, of empty words and empty spent passions, frustrations, of callous inconsiderate greedy hands and the pursuit of money: Colours wanted more, she knew there was more but she didn’t know how to get whatever more there was and where it was likely to be.
Earlier, he had taken her with aggression, with a sense of disgust and distaste that Colours had never before experienced: Generally, Colours always felt that she could sense some kind of warmth or loneliness seeking comfort or the urge to fulfil a sexual lust: But earlier she had detected none, nothing, as she recalled previous occasions with him, she realized, it had been the same: he seemed to have no obvious apparent flaws or vulnerability around him, he came across as detached, alien to any form of affection, of a soul that would not succumb to revealing an openness of fears and humanness.
Their first encounter happened, as usual with Colours, on a city street corner, about four months ago. He appeared, literally, out of the night’s humidity like some nocturnal hunter: he had stood before her in his black three-piece suit, his well- built frame looking awkward beneath such conservative attire: Colours studied his face as she offered him a working and welcoming smile: he didn’t respond or seem to be interested by her gesture: he rarely let his dark eyes meet with hers but within those glimpses, Colours sensed something, something that she did not know, she felt it to be strange, unclear and this unsettled her a little. Colours did not let her smile fade, she was working and she was good at her profession and she was particularly intrigued with this stranger: she pushed her long fingers through her dyed blonde hair and softly shook her head as if in slow motion: she let her hands fall and slide down the sides of her slim twenty seven year old body until they came to rest tenderly upon her hips.
As he stepped out from under the street-lighting’s pale glow, Colours saw the features of his face more clearly: he was handsome, in a pampered well-manicured way, his facial contours were sharp in the half-light, he appeared reserved and formal: his face seemed unblemished by life, a few fine wrinkles beneath his eyes, that gazed mostly towards the hard lifeless streets.
He had spoken in a low, near whispering tone: it was difficult for Colours to hear what he was saying and what he had already said: she moved in closer and as she did so, he raised a hand very quickly, pointing to the heaven’s above: he shook his head, silently warning her not to come any closer: Colours backed-off, feeling puzzled, foolish.
“Where to?” he asked flatly.
‘The Phoenix Hotel, it’s just around the corner, a few minutes’ walk’ Colours said. ‘Is that okay?’ she asked: Colours waited for an answer, she looked at him and after a few moments he nodded his head. ‘It’s this way’ Colours said and then began walking, he walked beside her looking straight ahead, his movements deliberate and mechanical, his silence demanding in its presence.
That first meeting, as Colours and the stranger walked away from beneath the electric lighting, she knew instinctively that there would be no space for small-talk or verbal pleasantries: it was customary for Colours to become talkative, inquisitive, friendly, to move in closer, to make her work a little more comfortable to get through: in order to supress the urge to talk Colours began focusing on their footsteps ricocheting into the dark and dull, poor environment and empty atmosphere: a brave breeze wandered through the streets as paper debris raced after it.
Colours then began to feel herself relax a little, the tightness in her neck and stomach eased and she again turned to the stranger and smiled: but the stranger did not see her smile, he was looking straight ahead and in view was The Phoenix Hotel.
Outside of room seven of The Phoenix Hotel the darkness began to thicken and somewhere in the near distance a car-alarm whirled its high-pitched shrill: occasionally, Colours could hear the voices of strangers but it was difficult to establish if they were from within the hotel or drifting up from the streets. When in his company, Colours felt that she had somehow, surrendered any form of self-governing, as if she had no will of her own to call upon, even when she felt disgusted or disagreeable with what had previously happened and would no doubt happen again: with this stranger: Colours had considered this to be fear and a dark-excitement, leaving her completely open and vulnerable. After two hours it was time to leave, such moments brought a relief, a freedom regained, earnt and she would begin to feel alive and in control of her own fate once again.
Time itself, seemed to stagnate within room seven, the minutes stumbled and gnawed away sluggish and slow: the two hours that he had handsomely paid for, crawled painfully like a broken hearse: time was something that really held little significance when working, time was work and vice-versa, but with this customer, the time was far from ordinary and its routine decidedly cold and unfamiliar to the world that Colours knew and moved within: yet time and again, she had willingly agreed to meet with him at room seven and even at the moment of doing so, pangs and throbs of fraught tremors wandered through her soul and mind, yet she also felt helpless to do otherwise.
The ritual or pattern that this customer had established, had initially, quite naturally, disturbed Colours and a silent forceful panic drenched her veins that first time: now she felt indifferent, it was his game and she chose to play, but there still remained the under-current of doubt and caution on every occasion.
When Colours and he had first entered through the doors of number seven, the first thing he did , as he was always to do, was to instantly lock the door behind him: this was not unusual practice: before closing the door he’d lean out into the corridors looking left and right several times, as though he was expecting someone: someone he didn’t want to see: nothing unusual about this: most of those who visited The Phoenix Hotel would prefer to remain anonymous: once he was satisfied, he tried to open the door numerous times to make sure: he then reached into an inner breast jacket pocket, and fished-out a thin wad of money, neatly bound with an elastic-band, he then placed this upon the surface of an old beaten bed-side table: afterwards, he reached into the opposite inner breast pocket and pulled out a small automatic handgun, which he then gently placed next to the money: the dull thud of the metal against wood echoed around the room and in that instant, within that feint echo, Colours glared hard at the weapon, transfixed at its deadly gleaming metallic light and grasped wildly in her imagination, at how this was going to play-out.
For several long moments Colours found it impossible to divert her focus away from the hand-gun: of course, she wasn’t certain that it was real, but that didn’t really matter, it looked real enough: but why display it? Was it a threat? Adrenalin rushed through Colours, unheard voices screaming that she may be in danger and that transformed into a sense of the unknown, thrilling, scary and Colours could not resist but to follow: she became aware of a light perspiration gathering upon her brow and walked over to the bed and sat down, brushing away the tiny droplets with her sleeve: the stranger moved away from the door and stepped the few paces and stood directly in the centre of the room, facing the window.
“Get undressed now” the stranger said, still gazing at the window: his voice sliced through the room and startled Colours, who looked away from the weapon with a nervous and broken smile: she remained seated and began, slowly, almost hesitantly, removing her clothing: she could no longer resist the temptation to speak, perhaps, prompted by fear: with a quaking tone she asked:
“Look, I’m called, I mean, I’m known as Colours, but I guess that you can call me what you wish. What do you like to be known as?” Colours found it hard to believe that she had heard herself talking and her words bounced around the room like sad spheres. She stared at the customer, it seemed he had not heard a word that she had said: he remained motionless, looking at the window. Colours waited, quiet, waiting for something and that something frightened her.
From the centre of the room, the stranger stepped away and made his way over to the bed and sat down upon it, just a short distance from where Colours sat: there remained no eye contact: perhaps he thought this a weakness or that it may reveal his vulnerability: maybe he wanted, he needed to remain invincible, impenetrable for survival: Colours knew something of that: Colours felt as though she could do no more than to await what could happen in the next few moments, the next few hours and this numbed Colours.
“Mr S” the stranger said: his tone was not as harsh as before when he had spoken and his words dripped softly toward the floor, where his gaze now fell: “Colours, you have nothing to fear, I will not harm you, do not be afraid”
Colours felt far from reassured from these words: although his manner had lightened, there was, Colours felt, still an element of coldness within his voice: but she began to relax a little, felt a little safer, a little more confidence kicked in and she again primed herself to say something again: she wanted to ask and say so many things but this would not happen: she could not mention the gun: she wondered how much money lay on the cabinet: she wondered how much of her time he wanted: but right now, she concluded, it would be wise to remain quiet.
The stranger removed his jacket and slid it neatly onto the thin carpeted floor: instantly Colours became aware of the two lengths of bright blue electrical flex interwoven around his belt:
“Look, Mr S, I’m okay with you’ her heart was quickening and her throat was becoming dry; “We’ve got to talk money and time, you know?” her voice sounded pale and weak: ‘I mean, let’s get the business transactions out of the way’ Colours attempted to smile but her lips betrayed her: Colours stood up and wriggled out of her short skirt and watched it drop to the floor: she sat back down on the bed wearing only her skimpy cheap underwear: again Colours found herself waiting.
“Money and time, yes, of course” said the stranger with a sound of boredom in his voice: “On that table is £300, adequate for two hours?” Colours nodded her head, which he did not see as he removed his shirt: “I assume that out of that £300 you’ll pay that slimy creep who haunts the entrance and hands out the keys to this shit-hole?’
Colours gave a small laugh and followed it with “You mean Mr Draclire, the owner of this place: yeah, I’ll square it with him, no problem”
The stranger’s torso was muscular and well-toned and tanned, his upper arms were shaped and ripped: Colours watched on as he secured the lengths of flex to the wooden bedposts. Pulling and tugging at the flex several times to make sure the knots were tight and would hold fast.
Colours laid herself upon the bed, manoeuvring into the centre: she outstretched her arms towards the posts behind her head: she flinched as the plastic knots tightened upon her wrists: she glanced up into his face, seeing clearly for the first time, the deep-green morose of his eyes: a fractional streak of sympathy dashed through her mind, at the sadness, at the sense of loss within his eyes: but this sentiment evaporated quickly as the stranger walked around to the front of the bed: he undressed himself further and then moved onto the bed and began kissing Colours ankles and then the kisses moved up her legs: he gently pulled at her thin panties and removed them: she pulled back her legs and closed her eyes, braced herself and waited.
For several minutes she could hear him furiously masturbating as he knelt between her parted knees: Colours heard his breathing become erratic and fast, leaping in short gasps and hushed whispers of a name that Colours could not hear and then he entered her.
Aggression pumped through his being and his movements were fierce and hard and for Colours the pain erupted as he his large smooth hands forced her legs further apart and the flex tightened: Colours was a professional and she began writhing and moaning and whimpering and this increased his viciousness and he moaned as if in agony: moments before he climaxed, he withdrew and directed his discharge over Colours breasts.
Then quietness again: Colours could hear his breathing slow and quieten down: she felt almost afraid to open her eyes, it felt safer with them closed.
He was to take Colours twice more, in exactly the same way, same ritual: he remained mostly silent and each time since their first encounter, nothing at all has altered and this itself became a frame of safety.
As with the initial two hours: after he had taken her the first time, he moved from the bed and stood in the centre of the room for twenty minutes, gazing toward the window: ‘Again’ he said softly as he picked up her panties, sliding them back on Colours before he began kissing her ankles and continued to replicate what had happened previously.
After the third time he had taken Colours: without hesitation he began to quickly dress, which he did with a great deal of care and attention and after checking his reflection in the dusty mirror, he then untied the flex and wove the strips around his belt.
Colours instantly felt the relief and the blood rushing into her wrists as her hands dropped onto the bed: her fingers tingled and were stiff for several minutes as she reached for her items of clothing upon the floor. She found some paper tissue in the bedside cabinet and wiped her chest clean: She heard the stranger speak but his voice was so low she was unable to hear the words.
He moved towards the bed and cabinet and picked up the handgun, replacing it within his jacket and then moved towards the door: he looked back at Colours, who was looking and smiling at him: he nodded his head and opened the door, stepped out, closed the door and was gone.
Colours sat on the bed, listening to his footsteps fade into nothingness, fade into the night, into the world, into her mind, into her world: she picked up the money and laughed gently and then she left the room, dropping the key and some cash to the creep who hung about in the lobby.