Second Chance, Part 1

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LaneRain pattered on the aluminum roof over my head.  Arms crossed over my chest, I stared at the water pooling and rippling with tears at the edges of the dark and gutterless street.  Looked down at the beads dotting my pink toenails and wondered if raindrops were like snowflakes, every one different than every other.  I wished I was water, always changing but never broken because there was always a new form to take, a new bead to join with, whatever.  It wasn’t like that for me.  Some of us didn’t get a second chance. Headlights arced across the cement block motels up the road.  I felt my body tense, but I walked closer to the street.  The lights washed over me: my beige wedged sandals, skinny white legs, and I shut my eyes.  Listened to the car come closer, closer.  I held my breath.The noise of the engine kept going, diminishing until swallowed by the night.Seconds ticked by.  Swallowing against a dry throat, I exhaled and opened my eyes. Nothing but night and street lamps.  Lights on the wooden motel sign.  A low hum of cars from the highway a mile away.The best place on the way to the suburbs for a ho.  The worst place for me.  The only place for me.Such a fucking cliche.Heels from the right raced toward me, clacking over the static of rain.  I glanced up, hugged myself tighter and backed against the wall as a figure under a black umbrella hurried closer.  Hazes of amber streetlights and red-lettered signs shone onto her white tank, denim shorts, and gleaming legs.  When she got under the roof, the umbrella tipped sideways.Long, oily blonde hair with dark roots.  Smoky brown eyes and a smile with tiny teeth, making the rest of her face seem impossibly young.My roommate, and the best friend I had in this world.The tension in my shoulders eased.“Lane!”  Boots shook out her umbrella and tossed it into the corner.  She ran her hand over her hair and smiled up at me.  “You braved it out!”I shook my head.  Looked back out at the inky wet streets.  “Needed the cash, babygirl.  You know.”“Yeah, I know.”  Shaking her head, she stepped to the edge of the sidewalk in her clear platform heels.  “Any biters tonight?”We shot the shit for a moment, talking and laughing as if we weren’t working.  Rain diminished into sprinkles and faded.  Headlights whizzed by, catching the water on the pavement, their consistent anticlimactic existence rendering them nothing of significance.  Everything seemed the same as it had been for months, until a forest green truck splashed into the gutter and stopped.  It took my voice away.  Along with my breath and any strength I could’ve mustered to be who I was supposed to be.The window sped down.  A man leaned into the passenger’s seat.  Receding hairline, blonde or grey.  His facial bone structure was lost in the thickness of his beard, a certain double chin if he had one in the first place.  His glittery, wide set eyes were on Boots.“Lookin for a good time, baby?” Boots called.  She flicked her fingers down my arm in the familiar see-ya gesture, and sashayed to the car.His looked at me and back at her.  “Only from a real woman.  You got a real pussy, bitch?”I bristled.  Clenched my teeth and ripped my gaze away.  Stared hard down the streets.  God love her, I felt Boots look at me.  She gave a fake giggle.  “Girlfriend’s got her mama’s figure and her daddy’s hardware, baby, nothing wrong with that.  But I got what you need.”As she got in the car with him, I tossed my hair back, fingers dwelling on the scar on my neck just below my hairline.  A constant reminder of near-death.  The fragility of life and the business, as memories of countless friends disappeared into the recesses of society without a breath of anyone coming looking for them.Leaning back against the concrete of the building, I crossed my arms over my chest.  Pressed them against me until I felt the outline of my knife in my bra.  Gotta make a living.  Woman up, Lane.Headlights shone in the humid haze in front of me.  Bright LEDs, new.  I peeled off the wall and walked to the edge of the sidewalk.  A black Jeep slowed to a stop in front of me.  The tinted window rolled down.  The driver had short, dark hair.  Narrow eyes and a perpetually pursed, small mouth.  Intensity all over bahis şirketleri his expression.  Logan Marsh.  Assistant District Attorney extraordinaire.I flicked my tongue over my top teeth, feeling my lip raise, and folded my arms.  “Can I help you?”“After everything you’ve been through, you’re out here again.”Steeling my mind from remembering, I shrugged.  “Don’t tell me Edison’s on your way home.”“Tonight it is.”  Something softened in his expression, followed by a lift in his lip.  Smile, apology, wince?  I looked at him harder.  Tried to see into his eyes, read his truth.  A car passed and I straightened.  “I’m not testifying.”“I don’t care.”  “Since when?”“Since he killed a woman who fought back as hard as you did.  We have DNA.  You’re welcome to testify, but the case doesn’t need it.”The guttural sigh was out of me before I could reign it in.  My limbs felt weak, my throat mashed in.  “You have DNA.”“Yes.  He’s a lawyer, so it’ll be a trial.  But the DNA, it’s indisputable.”  “Okay.”  I felt my head nodding, but I couldn’t comprehend anything anymore.  “So why are you here?”His dark brows furrowed, driving deep lines into his forehead.  “Why are you?”Me.  I felt my mouth drop, anger burning my gut.  Fighting for control, I scanned the empty streets then leaned on the edge of his window, letting my ass hang out.  “I work here.  As you know.”“Correct.”  His lips pursed, then flattened as he stared into my eyes.  Guarded, yet intense.  “But you’re halfway to a Bachelor’s degree in sociology.  Why wouldn’t you pursue that?  You’re smart.  Strong.  Beautiful.”The last word made my stomach fall to my knees.  We stared at each other.  His head tilted an inch to the left.A truck rolled by, water hissing under the tires.  I let out a breath.  “Listen, you don’t have to come out here and save your tranny victim.  No one expects that.”“Not why I’m here, Lane.  You determine your life, not me.”  He scraped his face with his hand and looked at the road in front of him.  Hooked his fingers over the top of the steering wheel.  “I see a lot of people who think they’re out of options.  That their life is tainted and frozen in the direction they’ve chosen.  It’s not my business.  I respect their decisions.  But… something tells me that you don’t understand your worth.  That you’re so much more than who you’ve chosen to be right now.”I stared at him.He met my gaze.  “I don’t know you, Lane.  Just your statistics.  Your history on paper and how you were victimized.  That’s my job.  But something keeps pulling me back to you.  Something else.”“Stop,” I whispered, balling my hands.“I wanted to be the one you heard it from.  About the man that assaulted you.  Not the news, not some stranger.  Me.”The softening of his voice made the hair on the back of my neck rise.   I looked at the streets lit up under his headlights.  Then the sides, shadows in an overgrown ravine and in between dark buildings.  Thought of the motel just around the bend, where number 13 used to be my second home.My skin felt like it was crawling with bugs.  “Lane?”“Unlock this door.”“It’s unlocked.”Sighing, I pulled the handle and opened it, slipped in the seat and shut the door.  “Shouldn’t just leave it unlocked in this neighborhood.”“I didn’t leave it unlocked for the neighborhood.”This motherfucker right here….Fighting a smile, I looked down at my pink toes on his neat black floorboard.  “Drive, Mr. Marsh.”“Logan.”  But he let his foot off the brake.  Coasted us into the roadway, left hand fingering the twelve o’clock of the wheel.  No ring.  But there should’ve been.  Someone like him with a cushy lawyer job, nice car, nice looks, probably some money.  He should have a wife.  Probably had a lot of things going for him.  Unless someone saw him with me.“You didn’t think this through, did you?” I asked.“How do you mean?”“What happens when you get caught with me.  You can’t claim you didn’t know what I am.  Not to mention you and I together…. it’d jeopardize the case.”  At the words, shock iced the meat of my limbs.  “No.  I’m recusing myself,” Marsh said.“What!”“You’re surprised.”  He glanced at me.  “You can’t dump this case.  He assaulted me!”“And he killed another woman.  My mentor, Gopi Kumar is a better bahis firmaları lawyer than me, and much more objective.  He’s handling the case now.”“Objective,” I whispered.I waited a few long moments, losing myself in the quiet hum of his engine.    Goosebumps broke out on my shoulders, my body warming as my mind blanked.  I cleared my throat, a little green street sign catching my eye.  Adams Street.  We flew past popular bars, smokers at the walls.  People hanging around at the street corners, as old as I was when I hit the streets, on expensive cell phones and fancy shoes.  “Where are we going?” I asked.“I don’t care.  Habit, I was driving home.  But you tell me.”Boots and my apartment flashed through my mind.  The worn red sectional, my mattress on the floor.  Sex, fucking, smashing, whatever you wanna call it.  But it didn’t fit.  Because god damnit I wanted privacy.  Intimacy.   Something scary, vulnerable, and beautiful, where I could pretend for just a moment I could lean on someone.  That I could be loved.“Lane?”“You have roommates?”  My voice was raw.“No.”“Your place is fine.”In moments, I recognized Murray Street and the city rescue mission.  The homeless and transients that grouped together on the sidewalks, in the parks.  I caught my reflection in the window.  Red and orange lights flashed on my face, shadows finding the fine grooves of my wrinkles at my forehead, the corners of my eyes.  The hollows under my cheekbones, and every sharp line in my face that showed my assigned gender.  I sighed.  Shook my head and looked forward.  “Is Boots going to worry about you?” Marsh asked.No.  And… maybe.  I crossed my legs and ran a hand over my knee.  Pressed the short, thick bones under my skin, deep pressure to remind me I was alive.  In control.  “What you think you know about Boots?”“She’s a real friend.  A good person.”  His brows flexed together, eyes narrowing at the road.  “She visited you in the hospital, took you in after.  Like a sister.  Or a survivor herself.”The knife in my bra suddenly felt more solid against my breast and I remembered carving it down a white forearm bursting with dark hair.  Remembered Boot’s fingers on mine, and whispering to her about it in the hospital.  She’d spread the word like wildfire.  The summer was easier for everyone.  Winter not as much.  “This guy y’all caught… he got any tattoos or piercings?  Scars?” I asked.“Yes, but I can’t talk about that.”“Why.”“What if you change your mind and want to testify?  Then you can’t do a lineup.”“They’d say you picked me up and told me everything, so it doesn’t matter anyway.  Don’t be putting on an act now.”Marsh laughed—unexpected, unfettered.  Light.  “You’re right.  But you’d never testify.”“You right about that.”  Wetting my lips, I looked ahead as he turned into a parking garage.  Drove up the incline to the second floor.  “He have a scar on his forearm?  Long one?”“Ugly thing.  Glad you branded him so everyone knew who he was.  Nice little break in the case too.”  He nosed into a parking spot blazed with a yellow 124, then clicked the car into park.  Looked at me.  I reminded myself to breathe, but the air barely touched my lungs before I sucked in another breath.  “Who said it was me?”“People.  And no one.  As it should be.”  Quiet fell between us, laden with promise.  With expectations.  Hope.  Ripping my gaze from his, I stared at my hands.  Wiped at the smooth surface of my pink fingernails and exhaled, blood singing through my veins.  “This is crazy.”“Why.”“You know what I am.  Everyone you know, knows who I am.”“Good.  Less I have to talk to them.”  I looked up at him.  “They got a problem?”  He shrugged.  “Fuck ‘em.”Dizzy, I grabbed the armrest on the door.  “They’re big a part of your world, Marsh.  Don’t be stupid.”“They’re a big part of my job.  My world is for someone else.”I swallowed.  Raked my hair back and stared at his intense eyes as if something in their depths would give me an answer.He looked at my mouth, then back up.  “Lane… I’ll be blunt.  I want to spend tonight, the next day, and every day after, worshipping your body and immersing myself in your mind.  Let me know now if you don’t want that and I’ll back off.”“What…” A giggle escaped my lips.  kaçak bahis siteleri I covered it, horrified at my reaction and terrified at his.  “Have you ever been with a trans woman?”“No.”  His eyes dropped to my mouth again.“A man?”“No.”  “Then what makes you think—”“Don’t overthink every fucking thing right now, Lane.  Yes or no, God damn it.”  His voice was rough, and his body seemed tight.“Have you thought at all?”“It’s all I’ve done!” he exclaimed.My skin was on fire, my brain frozen at his outburst.  The flare of passion, emotion.  Happily ever afters didn’t exist.  Not for me or people like me.  But in this moment, chest full with emotion, I wanted to believe.“Okay.”  His head ticked to the side.  His fierce expression melted into concern.  “Okay?  That’s not what I’m looking for, Lane.  Do you want me?”“I… fuck.  Don’t make me say it.”He took my hand.  Looked down and traced the outline of my finger.  The first, the second.  Gentle and slow.  “I’m not looking to bully you into letting me love you.  I want to know how you feel.”Love?“You’re insane.”  “Maybe.”  His eyes met mine.  Didn’t look away.“Oh forget it.  Yeah, sure.  Fuck the world.”The grin that dawned on his face was disorienting.  A smile fit for a frat boy, if not for the deep lines in his five-head and the eerie memory of his inflexible grim expression.  Marsh pushed the ignition button, turning off his car, and was out in a flash.  I reached for the door handle, only to grab air as he pulled it open for me.Laughing, I clasped the bar above my head with one hand and grasped my headrest with the other.  “You gonna do this chivalry stuff the whole time?”“Of course not.  There’re only so many doors.”  He sounded as reckless and excited as a teenager tipsy for the first time and I stepped out feeling like I was trying on an actual tiara, existing on a breakneck high.  I glanced around the garage floor and its peppering of sparkly cars and amber lights.  We were alone.  He walked to the corner of the floor toward a red gleaming exit sign.  Looked back at me, but I didn’t meet his eyes.  Just followed him into the elevator.  Watched him swipe a card in a slot before hitting the button for the first floor.  The doors shut.  I swallowed.“0229,” he murmured.  “In case you want to leave without me, just hit those numbers on the keypad and it’ll let you out.”But as the elevator ascended, gravity in chaos, I scoured his face.  A white cis-male full of privilege and arrogance last year.  And now?  He looked down at me with a bottomless softness. 0229, I reminded myself.The elevator doors slowed to a stop, then opened with a dull tone.  Smiling, he took my hand and led me down the cream-colored hallway to the corner apartment.  Entered a code at the door and pushed it open, dropping my hand to flick on a light.His apartment opened into a living room.  A white sectional facing a tall TV on the wall.  Open bookcases, minimal books and more small paintings and knick-knacks.  The threshold into the dining room was a foot of wall on either side of the opening, making it seem like the apartment just went on and on to the kitchen in the back.  Charcoal-colored cabinets.  Stainless steel appliances.  Butcher block counters.  All the masculine stuff of remodeling shows.  Money.  Real money.  Class.Hearing a clack behind me, I turned to look at the door.  Marsh’s fingers were on the deadbolt.  He raised his brows.Oh.I walked back to him and reached for his belt.“No, Lane.”  He grabbed my wrists, pushed them back to my body. Air wooshed out of my chest. Panic lit my veins.  Grip lightening, his gaze burned into mine.  “I…I want you.  You have no idea.  But I need to show you—do you want something to drink?  Wine?  Water?  Juice?”What the fuck?“No.”  He let my wrists go, but caught my fingers and curled them to his mouth.  Kissed my knuckles and smiled.   “I’m going to draw a bath for you.”  Fingers loose on mine, he led me to the left of the living room and through a small hallway to the master bedroom before letting me go.It was only slightly bigger than a normal bedroom.  The walls were cream-colored, the queen-sized bed covered with a thick comforter with thin blue and white strips.  Rows of pillows bunched at the head and I wondered how many girls had laid there.  How much spunk he’d spilled for them and if he thought he loved any of them.Doesn’t matter, Lane.Water pounded into a tub to the right.  I followed the sound to the bright doorway.  

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