When Lil got back to #41 she called Juanita from the kitchen and sent her up to #12 with instructions to bring Cora down. Cora arrived a couple minutes later. “Ma’am, you wanted to see me?”
As she said this she started to sit in the chair she’d sat in earlier but Lil said, “Wait, don’t sit. Turn around slowly.” Cora turned all the way around so she came back face-to-face with Lil. Lil could still see the dark stain was on the back of her dress as she twirled around. “Step over here to me, girl.”
Cora stepped toward Lil.
“Now, Turn with your back to me.”
When Cora had done as requested, Lil reached down and took the hem of her dress, raising the fabric to get a closer look at, and a sniff of, the stain. She dropped the dress and said, “Okay, turn around and face me. I know now that Jonny brought you here. Did you come straight from the bar?”
“No. We went up those steps next to the bar. Jonny said it was called Broadway.”
“Did you actually get to the top of the stairs before you stopped to screw.”
Slowly Cora’s face turned crimson, deepening color ascending upwards across her face. She hung her head and said nothing.
“You can tell me, girl. I promise not to judge you. Or Jonny. You’re an eighteen year old girl who expected to become a wife when you got to Bisbee and Jonny’s a sixteen year old boy with raging hormones. Looking at the back of your dress I can pretty much guess what happened. Was it him that pushed himself on you or did you help him? Entice him?”
The crimson color, that had ebbed, enflamed her face again as she answered Lil’s question “I sort of helped him, I … I guess.”
“Did he pull it out before he squirted? Is that how the stuff got on your dress?”
“Pull it out? What’a ya mean?”
“Pull it out of you.”
“Oh!” Cora exclaimed. “No. He never put it inside me in the first place. I don’t think he really know’d what he was supposed to do with it and I only sorta did but didn’t have time to help him before it was all over. For him. It left me with a empty feelin inside.”
Lil made no comment. But she began asking more questions. “You came here with no suitcase. Do you have one?”
“Yes’m. It’s up yonder…” Cora looked around and realized she had no idea which direction Gertrude’s was from there, so she just said, “Up yonder, wherever that Gertrude woman’s house is.”
“As soon as Jonny surfaces I’ll send him up after it. I assume you have some clean panties and other underthings. And dresses of some kind?”
“No’m. No panties or nothin. Daddy wouldn’t never let me wear ‘em when I’us back there in Lake City. I got another o’ these floursack dresses though.
“Holy mother of god!” Lil said, realizing what a hick this girl was. “When was the last time you had a bath, girl?”
“Before I left Arkansas. Some time before, I reckon.”
Lil just shook her head and said. “Go get Juanita for me. She’ll be in the kitchen. Door at the very end of the hall.”
“Yes’m.” Cora said, slipping out.
A few minutes later Cora and Juanita came walking back in. Lil said, “Juanita, take Cora up to the bathroom and help her with a bath. And make sure her hair is washed. You’ve got precedence to use the tub unless one of the girls has a date in the next half hour.”
As soon as Cora and Juanita left, Lil went to see Lizzie in #6. Lizzie was about the same size as Cora. Lil left with a pair of panties, a short chemise, a plain dress, … although not nearly so plain as the floursack … and a peignoir.
She took the items to the bathroom where Cora was just getting into a hot tub of water. Lil stood by while Juanita used a brush to wash her, including her hair,. When Juanita had finished Lil handed her the peignoir and instructed her to take it up and leave it on the bed in #12.
As Cora stepped out of the tub Lil handed her a towel. When Cora had dried herself, she handed her the pair of panties. “Put these on.” she said.
Cora stepped into the panties rather awkwardly. Lil handed her the chemise and she slipped it over her head. It hung below her hips to mid-calf. Then Lil dropped the dress, a simple one, but elegant compared to her homemade floursack, over Cora’s head and buttoned it at the back of her neck.
“Follow me.” Lil said, kicking Cora’s old dress over into a dark corner behind the tub and leading the way back to her room.
Back in her room, Lil looked Cora over. She looked good in the new dress. Her hair was still damp from the scrubbing but dry enough to show a bright reddish shine coming through the brown.
“Take your dress off.” Lil ordered.
Cora blushed again. She had felt embarrassed in the bathroom but her nakedness was circumstantial. Now, she was being ordered to undress in front of this strange woman. She blushed.
“Oh come on, girl. I saw you naked just a few minutes ago. And, besides, you’ve spent your entire life being naked in front of your father and you’re embarrassed to take your dress off in front of me? Now, drop it.”
Cora reached behind her neck where a single large button only needed to be undone for the dress, which was split most of the way down the back, to slide off her shoulders and down to the floor.
Lil thought, “She’s not going to be the most popular filly in the stable but she may have potential.”
She said, “Cora, what can you tell me about yourself? You came here from Lake Village, Arkansas. You mentioned your daddy didn’t like you to wear panties or other underthings. Why was that?”
“My daddy said he liked to study me with no clothes on. He especially liked to watch me when I was squatted over the chamber-pot. I think he might have made me go naked all the time if there was no chance someone would see me. So he made me wear dresses with no underclothes.”
“Cora, did your daddy ever … “ For some reason Lil couldn’t think of the exact word she wanted to use when Cora said, matter-of-factly.
“Yes. I might have used a different word, but yes, it’s what I meant. Did he ever fuck you?”
“No, not exactly.”
“Not exactly? What exactly did he do?” She put exactly in air quotes.
“Well, when I was little my mama run off and daddy had to take care of me after that. It was in the winter, and it soothed me when he heated up water on the stove and give me warm baths in the kitchen sink. Then he wrapped me in a towel and tucked me into his bed, him layin behind me and spoonin me. And then when I started gettin older he did other things. But he didn’t fuck me.”
“Did he still have you sleep with him in his bed?”
“Yeah. I ain’t never had my own bed.”
“But you never… ?”
“No’m. He said that was a sin but as long as we didn’t actually do it, anythin was okay. So all he ever done during all those years was play with me down there a little and pretty soon I’d feel something thick and gooey shoot out all over my back and then daddy would get a rag and wipe it off and we’d go to sleep.”
“My, god!” Lil exclaimed. “Cora, do you know what the word virgin means?”
“Oh, yes’m. Jesus’ mama Mary was a virgin when Jesus was borned. We learned in Sunday school that that meant she hadn’t never been with no man. You know, to get fucked by one.”
This girl’s story became more incredulous with every sentence. She had been abused by her father virtually all her life without ever having lost her virginity.
And now Lil was trying to turn her into a whore.
“When you told me about you and Jonny earlier, you said you thought he didn’t know what to do and you only sorta knew but didn’t know how to help him. What did you mean you only sorta knew? And if you only sorta know, how do you know the word fuck?”
“Well, in Arkansas, just like ever’where, they’s farm animals around and me and some others used to watch ‘em in the barnyard you know when they was doin it and some boys told me one day that what they was doin was called fuckin. And then when I got older and I learned about Jesus and how his mama was a virgin and learned from my Sunday school teacher what a virgin was, I knew then exactly what fuck meant. I might be ignorant of school learnin and talk like a hick, but I ain’t dumb.”
“No.” Lil chuckled, “you’re not dumb.”
Lil looked up at a clock. Quarter after four. Supper was served from half-past-four to half-past-five in order that the girls could be ready to entertain customers beginning at six. Lil just had a few more questions and instructions for Cora.
“Do you know what kind of house this is, Cora.”
“Ain’t it just a boardin house?”
“Well, somethin’ like that but ten of the rooms are rented to women who entertain men there.”
“Oh, you mean they’re whores.”
Again Lil couldn’t repress a smile. “Yesss.” The incredulity in her voice flew right past Cora. Lil didn’t dare ask how she knew that word. “Are you hungry?” she said.
“Yeah, I reckon I am. Ain’t et since breakfast and that was the first I’d et in two days.”
“Go back to the kitchen and tell Cooky I said to feed you. After you’ve eaten, go up to your room and stay there. I don’t want to see you in the house tonight. In the morning Juanita will show you what you must do to earn your keep while you’re here. Good-by now.” Lil said.
“Yes’m.” Cora replied. “And thank you.”
“Wait to see what you’ll be doing tomorrow before you thank me. Now, kitchen.” Lil said, pointing to the door.
In the kitchen, Cooky was busy getting ready for supper. There were only two meals served in the diningroom each day. Breakfast from ten to twelve every morning and supper from four-thirty to five-thirty.. At breakfast almost all the girls came down alone, many just grabbing a piece of fruit or a roll and going back upstairs. Several hardly ever came down at all. Most made it down to supper, often lolling over glasses of beer before going back up to make their final preparations for the evening.
When Cora told Cooky that Lil said to feed her, Cookie ‘humphed’ in disdain. She stared at Cora for a minute before saying, “Some cold ham there under that cloth on the table, bread over there in the box. They’s other stuff in the icebox there. Eat whatever you want.” And she resumed her frying of chicken for dinner.
Cora made herself two ham sandwiches which she quickly ate standing at the table. As soon as she had finished, she washed it down with a large glass of water before making her way back up to #12.
As soon as she stepped inside the low, sloping room, she spied the peignoir Lil had left on her bed. She held it up, admiring it. She had never seen anything so pretty.
She slipped out of her new dress, carefully hanging it on one of the three nails at the back of the room that served as a closet, and slippped the peignoir on.
A small mirror hung on the wall opposite the bed. She backed up as far as she could from the mirror and opened the peignoir. She liked the way she looked in her new lingerie. She slid her hands down the front of her body, over the chemise that encased her breasts and on down to her hips. The chemise and panties were both a pale shade of pink.
She lay down on the bed in her new finery and cried herself to sleep. It was still late afternoon.
Sometime later… Cora didn’t know what time only that it was dark… she was awakened by someone tapping her on the shoulder, at the same time clapping a hand over her mouth and whispering in her ear. “Shhh! It’s Jonny. Don’t scream!” He slowly removed his hand from her mouth.
Cora sat up in bed. Not thinking at all about her state of undress, she pulled him down onto the bed beside her and folded her arms about him. She buried her face in his neck and cried softly.
“What’s the matter?” whispered Jonny.
Cora wiped the tears from her eyes with the back of her hand and said, “I don’t know. I just started thinkin about all of what’s happened to me since I got here just day-before-yesterday and how I’ve already got friends who are tryin to help me.”
Cora had released Jonny and the two were now sitting side-by-side on the bed. When Cora started to talk again it was in a normal voice. Jonny quickly shushed her.
“Shhh! If Lil finds me here she’ll skin me. Speak softly.”
“I just wanted to know how you got in the room. Did you come through the house?”
“No, I came in through the window.”
“How did you know which window?
“I’ve been around this house since I can remember. Lil’s my mother. But if you mention it to her she’ll deny it. Everybody thinks I’m just a kid who hangs around and does odd jobs for her when I ain’t at Elmo’s. And she let’s Cooky feed me and Cooky takes good care of me. She told me Lil had put you in #12.” He looked over at the window. “Say, did you know Lil went to see Elmo today right after I left you here?”
“Went to see Elmo. What for?”
“I wasn’t there because as soon as I saw her come in a little after openin, I knew she would tell Elmo that you was at her house and I had already tole him that I took you as far as Clawson and you insisted you could get on up to Gertrude’s by yourself. I knew when he talked to Lil he would put things together and know it was me brought you here.”
“Oh, Jonny. I’m so sorry for causing you all this trouble.”
“No worries. I’ll wait to tomorra and talk to Lil and get everthin straightened out.”
Cora leaned closer to him, reached for his hand and thrust it between her legs, as she said, “Jonny, remember how we tried to do it this mornin in the bushes? I’ll bet if we take our time we can do it right on this here bed. Take yore pants off.”
Taking their time was not to be. Doing it right was.
Jonny stood and dropped his pants to his ankles before turning to see Cora, naked but for the peignoir, laying there before him, welcoming him in. There was no foreplay. He had just penetrated her, when an inadvertent scream began to escape her lips. He was almost able to get a hand over her mouth and squelch it before it got out. Almost!
They lay there holding their breaths, neither moving except for the slow, steady slippage of Jonny’s stiff member further inside her. It was but a moment or two before they had indeed been successful in doing it right.
About that time, just as Jonny exploded inside her, somebody tapped at the door and said, ““Is everythin hunky-dory in there, girl? This is Esmeralda from next door. Is it okay for me to come in?”
In the time it had taken Esmeralda to say this, Jonny had grabbed his pants and jumped out the back window onto the roof where he lay down and pulled them up over his legs, realizing too late that he didn’t have the rope that kept them up, but he couldn’t go back for it now. Holding his pants up with his hands, he slipped off the roof and out to the hillside beyond.
The door to the room opened just as the window closed. A young woman, dimly lit from behind, was standing in the doorway wearing only a peignoir which was hanging open. Her hair was in a tangle about her head. Cora had pulled her own peignoir tightly about herself.
A tiny squeak of a voice said, “Oh, hi, hon. I’m Esmeralda from next door. I thought I heard you scream.”
“Perhaps you did. I think I dozed off and had a dream but it’s okay now.”
“Alright, hon. If I can do anything, anything at all, I’m right next door except when I’m down in the parlor.”
“I don’t think anything could keep me from sleeping now. Bye.” Cora lay her head back down on the bed and pulled the peignoir up around her.
“Bye.” Esmeralda said as she closed the door.
Cora lay there luxuriating in Jonny’s warm stickiness between her legs. She wondered where he was right then and when she would see him again.
As it turned out, when Jonny disappeared into the night it would be the last time Cora ever saw him. Ever!