Fiction: Mask

A sedan pulls off the road into the parking lot of a motel near the airport. The headlights flick off and a door shuts and the trunk pops open.

A figure in a black hoodie steps into the light, takes a duffel bag out of the trunk and sets it on the pavement. The figure reaches into the trunk and pulls out another duffel bag and shuts the trunk. Grabbing both, walking north to the stairwell, they fade in and out of light.

A man with a gut in a white ribbed tank and sunglasses yells “Hey Vickie! What you get for me tonight sweetheart?” with a muffled chuckle at the end.

Shit. She skips up the metal steps and set one bag down outside the door to room 17 and unlocks the door. Yards away, she can hear approaching footsteps on the metal platform. “You’re one of a kind…” he coos.

She grabs the other bag, slips inside, kicks shut the door, drops the bags, and turns the locks.

She sits on the bed and peels black sweaty gloves off her shaking hands. She looks at her brown hands and then pulls her black hoodie over her head. She shimmies out of the black leggings and tosses them into the mound of clothes at the foot of the bed.

She touches her cheek by accident and shirks away from herself. She draws her hand away from her face and a piece flaky skin falls off her fingers. She grimaces and wipes her hands on the bed.

In the bathroom, a face the color of coffee creamer looks back at her. Red patches on her puffy cheeks started forming yesterday. The crust collecting on top of them wasn’t there this morning. The pale dry skin on her neck fades to a deep warm chocolate on her collarbone. There’s a 2×3 picture of a young girl with a big toothy grin. She rubs the shiny surface until the photo pops, pressing her tingling lips to it. There’s a half empty bottle of vodka on top of the toilet tank and she drinks it like ice water. She goes back to the bed and falls asleep.

It’s 7:00 am. Valerie shakes awake and runs her hands frantically over her face. Shes scrambles out of bed and into the bathroom and looks in the mirror, hands gripping the sink.

Melanin covers her face. Once again. She sighs. Valerie pours the vodka into the toilet and tosses the bottle in the trash. She grabs the portrait and places it in her bra.

Valerie grabs the 2 bags at the door, sets them on the bed, and unzips them both. She buries her hands into the bags of banded money, caressing them. Grabbing a stack, Valerie flicks the bills under her brown eyes, imagining all the clothes and food she can buy her, all the hugs and love she can buy her, all the time and pain she can’t buy back.

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