Note: Check out the first three parts here.
The following night my father asks me to join him and his business partners in the VIP section instead of working as a bartender. “You can’t seriously think you’ll be working in the bar for the rest of your life,” he says while flipping a black tie around his neck in his walk-in closet. Our reflection in his floor length mirror reminds me of before-and-after pictures I see on billboards around town. Before owning a business, after corrupting minds. Before taking memories, after having sex with a different girl each night. How could I not have seen the corruption before? My brain answers quicker than I want it to: Because you were a part of the corruption. Ever since Luna confided in me about my father’s operations, my mind has been on overdrive about how I could possibly fix the corruption in The Mansion. Last night I tossed and turned all night, tangling my sheets, and muffling my frustrated screams into my pillow.
Marcus continues to discuss my possibility of taking over The Mansion after he retires. “There’s a real potential in you for pushing The Mansion into the next generation.” He continues to discuss ideas with himself because I tune him out and only mumble responses. “Son,” he sighs out. “I know you have grand plans of leaving and doing whatever the hell it is you think you want to do. But let’s look at the real plan here.” He tugs his tie tight around his neck and throws his left arm around my shoulders. His identical green eyes look me up and down in the mirror as if inspecting a new girl to buy. “You’ve lived in The Mansion for your entire life. I got you a tutor for schooling, and friends came by all the time to see you. Granted as you got older some of the boys came for other reasons.” His classic Marcus Crawford grin splits across his face as he chuckles to himself. He raises his eyebrows as if I didn’t already get the suggestion and flashbacks to my adolescent years. “I have provided for you your entire life. And I would like to provide for you the rest of it, as well.” Father slaps my back before turning to leave his closet.
I follow him through the house adjoining The Mansion into the first level of bedrooms where the girls stay. The tapestries and curtains creating a sense of privacy for the customers rustle and sway as we move past them revealing half naked girls. Some of them stare as we move past instinctively smiling and acting the seductress part my father enjoys. I keep my eyes straight ahead, suddenly aware of their total lack of emotion and sparkle in their eyes that accompany Luna. Tilting my head to the ceiling, I wonder where her bedroom is on the second floor. Is she getting ready for tonight or is she laughing with her friends? Then before my father notices I stopped, I pick up my stride to catch up with him.
Luna dances before me in the VIP section contained to a glass cage lit up red for passion, my father’s choice for the night. Marcus sits beside me, relaxing in his velvet, round chair holding a whiskey neat. His eyes light up in the passing spotlights. A few other girls accompany Luna in the glass cage. All of them wear little clothes to my father and his business partners’ pleasures. Fast-paced music thumps from the speakers creating a rhythm for my heart to bump to. My body reacts to seeing Luna in this state, but my heart wishes for a simple night alone with her. How can she stand having my father and his men see her this way? I fight my instinct to run to the cage and grab her away from their stares. Not being able to see any more, I stand up and head over to the bar. I ignore the bartender’s sneer when I order a Shirley Temple, complete opposite of my father’s drink, and slouch against the bar’s edge.
Sleepless, this madness is walking me out to the ledge…
A man’s voice crackles out of the speakers a song I’ve been replaying in my head. Turning back to the cages and ignoring the bartender’s outstretched hand, I catch Luna’s eyes as she dances.
I don’t want to live without you
I’m not ready to live without you
So let’s dance a little, laugh a little, hope a little more…
Her mouth subtly moves to the song, mouthing the words. I pick up the Shirley Temple and, without breaking eye contact, walk back to my chair. My father smiles at my brightened face in the dark room.
“You can have her tonight.” I whip my head towards him, and surprise myself when our faces are nearly inches from each other.
“I need her every night.” His smile reaches his eyes as he pats my knee. Marcus turns back to his business partners and laughs at a joke one of them said.
At the end of the night, I wait for Luna in the Star Room. When she finally arrives, I jump down from the winding staircase and run to her. I pick her up and spin her around until our laughs intermingle into one combined being. Setting her down on the floor, I grab her hands in mine and whisper three words to her, “I love you.” Luna’s smile suddenly falls away, and her eyes begin to water. “Okay, not exactly the response I expected.” I guide her to the roof, and we sit on the edge together with our feet dangling off the side of The Mansion.
“Theo, there’s a reason I didn’t visit you last night.” Tears begin to flow down her ivory skin at the unmentioned burden holding her down. Her body begins to shake with sobs as she struggles to say the words.
“Luna, I love you. Whatever is wrong, I can help.” I reach over and take one of her hands again, rubbing circles into her palm with my thumb.
“That’s why this is so difficult, Theo. I love you, too.”
Relief floods me for a mere second before crashing back down. “Then, what’s wrong?” My brow furrows as my mind scrambles to think of every possible reason for her sorrow. Suddenly, my mind thinks of the impossible.
“How? How is it possible? Father has rules, regulations for all the customers to follow. There’s no way you should have…” My voice cracks, unable to mention the impossible. “We always use condoms. There’s no way. There’s no way.” I repeat myself until Luna’s small voice breaks through.
“Marcus doesn’t though.” Those four words break me. I stand up ready to barge into the house, his bedroom and smother him in his pillow. I sit down ready to bawl my eyes out and crumple into a ball. I stand up ready to step off the edge. I sit down ready to hug Luna until all our worries pass away.
“I got tested yesterday. Marcus had been worrying about my… status for a while now. He had noticed that I hadn’t been making as much this past month.” Of course, my father is afraid of his assets losing value. “He sent the doctor to my bedroom last night and got the results this morning.”
“Shouldn’t you have known you had it?” My brain goes through the list of symptoms my father had me memorize as an adolescent boy. Always training me for the family business.
“It’s a rare kind of sexually transmitted disease where you don’t show any symptoms. The doctor himself was surprised I had contracted it.”
“How did my father…”
“He’s not sure. All the girls are getting tested though.”
“If this gets out, he will be ruined. All of his rules and regulations for the customers, for the girls, and even for me!” Suddenly, I worry for my father.
“I’m pretty sure he will make sure this never sees the light of day,” Luna says, staring down in the alleyway. “I won’t be able to leave The Mansion for a while though.”
“But you need the shots.” My mind catches up with what she’s implying. “I’ll go and get them for you. Keep them in my room in case Father searches the rooms. You never know how he can get in stressful situations.”
“Thank you,” Luna whispers, leaning her head against my shoulder. She begins to point out constellations and tells me their stories.
What are your thoughts? Do you miss Luna’s POV? What do you think about Marcus, the father? And the new development? YIKES! Let me know in the comments below!
Much love, XOXO,
~A Writer Named Charley~