What I do for a Living
The wind bit into his meager clothing like daggers and his teeth couldn’t help but chatter with the cold. He cursed his thin sweatshirt, shoving his hands into his pockets and braving the cold, dank streets. He was terribly exhausted, as he always was after his work. Not to mention, his insides were paining him again and he had a new set of bruises all over his body. His work was even more brutal than usual today, yet it brought money on the table. If he had to suffer through this, then so be it.
Another blast of wind met him, blowing his hair wildly around his face. He bowed his head, his worn shoes dragging across the dirty pavement. Thoughts flitted through his head of a warm breakfast, a bed and soft sheets. He hoped his brother hadn’t eaten all of the bread yet….and there should be some peanut butter left.
His breath puffed out in a white cloud as he finally came to their small apartment building. Finally, he was here. The two miles walking here to and from work was nothing in the summer, but the winter, especially at night, was downright terrible
He shakily took his hand and pressed it against the pad on the door. It glowed a luminous green for a moment, before an electronic woman’s voice met his ears. “Welcome, Phoenix Henson.” The door then opened with a sucking sound and he quickly walked into the musty smelling apartment building. Cigarette smoke and the fresh smell of rust met his nose as the door closed behind him, but the heat didn’t fail in making him more comfortable.
He quickly made his way up the stairs, forcing his aching legs to move faster. On the third floor, he turned left and made his way down the hallway. He barely noticed the crumbling paint on the walls, the matted, grimy carpet beneath his feet. This had been his home for many years now and if anything, this place gave him comfort.
Eventually, he came to room 207 and again, he put his hand against the panel, watching it glow green, before the electronic woman’s voice met him. The door then opened and he walked inside, the room dark. He switched on the light, admiring the mess around him. Why couldn’t his brother ever pick up after himself? His eyes scanned the dirty plates of Chinese take-out and pizza. His endro was lying on the middle of the floor, blankets as well. All of the drawers in the kitchen were opened. How many times had he told him to close those?
He was too exhausted to really care though and tiredly padded towards the kitchen where he opened the refrigerator and took out a coke. He then grabbed the bread from the counter and peanut butter from the cupboard, sloppily laying out two pieces of bread and spreading the sauce onto it. After completing his meager dinner, he popped his coke lid and sat down on the table, hungrily shoving the sandwich into his mouth. Nothing ever tasted as good as that sandwich he ate at that moment.
“Phoenix?” a small tired voice made him look up from his meal. He found himself soften at the sight of his little brother. Even though he was already thirteen, he still thought of him as a small child. He definitely still looked like a little child, and it filled Phoenix with guilt, knowing it might be his fault that he couldn’t always get food. He was getting better nowadays, he was being paid more now that he was getting more well-known. Looking at his little brother now, he hoped he could fill out that small body of his. He was nearly five feet, with a small, skinny frame, and a mess of black hair on his head that terribly needed brushing. Phoenix had just gotten him new clothes last week, but he was in his raggedy pajamas now. They had definitely seen better days, looking at the numerous holes in them. His large, black eyes were looking at him tiredly, yet there was a sparkle of happiness in them. Whenever people saw him, they always commented on his large eyes and thick lashes. He was often compared to a girl.
“Zack, you don’t have to get up this early. Don’t you know it’s four in the morning? And you have school tomorrow.”
“How was work?” Zack said, ignoring him and sitting at the table, eyeing his nearly finished peanut butter sandwich.
Phoenix shoved the last of it in his mouth, hating the lie as he said it. “It was good. Production is going well as usual.” He took the last two pieces of bread from the bag and made another sandwich, he made a mental note to go the grocery store after he took a nap. “Did you sleep well?”
“You look exhausted. Maybe you can take the day off tomorrow, surely they can’t make you work every day?” Zack continued as if he hadn’t heard him again.
He let out a long sigh and sat back down at the table with his second sandwich. “Zack, you know I can’t do that. We need the money.” At once, Zack looked depressed….even a little angry. Guilt swam inside of him. “Look, not tomorrow, but if I talk to my boss, maybe in a few days.”
“And we can go to the Gamers! You promised you would take me there!”
Phoenix couldn’t help but smile. “Of course, I’ll take you there. It’ll be my treat,” he then took a large bite of his sandwich and was happy when he saw Zack smiling. “But, I want this place to be thoroughly picked up before we go, alright?”
Zack nodded excitedly. “I will! Don’t worry. Thank you so much!”
He just nodded, concentrating on eating the last of his sandwich without falling asleep.
He woke up the next day and looked over at the clock. 3:05. He sat up groggily, his body aching terribly from work the night before. And he would still have to do it again tonight….and the next night….and the next. He was filled with such depression that he struggled to get this thought out of his head. He was doing it for them....for Zack. He was lying to him too. He hated lying to him, but he couldn’t tell him what he did every night. He couldn’t stand that look of shame and disappointment on his little brother’s face.
He made himself get off the bed, knowing Zack was coming home from school soon. He should probably make him some sort of snack. He always liked cheese and crackers. Didn’t they still have some cheese left? A few crackers?
He thought about the money he’d made yesterday. His boss was barely giving him half of what he made now, even though he was becoming popular. No, he was now the most popular prostitute in the brothel. He knew his boss was taking advantage of him. He knew he had no parents, no place to go back to and he needed the money, whatever money he could get. The guy knew he wouldn’t quit. Phoenix had no choice though, even though he was worth nearly a thousand dollars now, if he was given only ten dollars of it, he would have to be happy.
He stretched his hands to his toes, feeling the pull of the muscles in his legs. He then loosened his lanky frame, wincing at the pain in his shoulder blades, but his butt was hurting him the most. He let out a long breath, pulling some pants over his boxers and a t-shirt over his bare torso.
He padded into the kitchen, looking in the fridge for some cheese. They barely had any left of the fake cheese his brother seemed to love so much. He pulled it out, making a mental note to go grocery shopping later. He then went over to the cupboard and pulled out the box of wheat thins. Shaking the box, there had to be only a little more than five crackers left.
Phoenix got out a plate and spread the fake cheese and poured out the rest of the crackers. His job now down, he made another peanut butter sandwich for himself. While he was doing this, he heard the lock click on the door and Zack came in. Phoenix turned and smiled at him. Zack smiled back and threw his backpack to the ground.
“Oh good! I’m starved.” He sat at the table and dug into the cheese and crackers. Phoenix finished his sandwich and sat next to him.
“So how was school?”
“It was fine. Luke was being an asshole today. He stole my pencil and the whole day, I had to go without one. But, besides that, it was as boring as usual.” Zack continued eating and Phoenix bit into his sandwich hungrily.
“Do you need me to get you some more pencils? I’m going shopping today.”
“No, that’s fine,” Zack stuffed another cracker into his mouth and looked sad when that was the last one, “Yeah, you really need to get some more food. Do you think I can come shopping with you? I won’t be a bother.”
Phoenix sighed. “You can’t Zack, you know why. It’s on a really bad part of town and I don’t want you to get hurt.”
“That’s what you always say. You’ll be there with me, it’s not like someone is going to kidnap me. Please Phoenix.”
He ate the last part of his sandwich and looked at Zack. His face was pleading, his dark eyes were large and he looked so thin. He could swear they’d all been eating better now. Why then, did he still look so thin? Was he still that bad of a brother?
“Fine, but you can’t run off and you have to stay by me the whole time. I have to go to work early today if you want me to convince my boss to take a day off, alright? So we need to leave now.”
Zack gave a whoop of joy and stood up from his chair. “Awesome! Then let’s go.” He went trudging towards the door and Phoenix rolled his eyes, but he couldn’t help but feel happy. He was glad he could make his brother happy.
He quickly put the dishes in the sink, telling himself he would clean them later, before he went over to the door and pulled a sweatshirt over his head. Maybe they could both buy jackets when they were there. At least for Zack, since he had to go in the cold all the time for school. He grabbed some money in the container by the door, stuffing it into his pocket.
“Okay, let’s go.”
They left the apartment and Zack immediately began talking a mile a minute about random things. Phoenix listened quietly, nodding when he had to. Zack was always the talker….Phoenix had always been on the quiet side. But he liked that Zack was excited.
They came outside and the wind bit in through their clothes and making them shiver. He put an arm around Zack and pressed him closer against his body so he would be warmer. They then walked through the cold streets to the subway station. They went down the dank cold steps, their teeth chattering from the sudden blast of wind. Phoenix used his subway card to get in and soon they were piled in with hundred of others entering the subway. There were people in nice suits and briefcases, moms holding their kids, beggars sitting on the dirty floors holding their hands out for money. A group of teenage girls laughing and talking with one another, poor people and raggedy clothes like them. Zack went on the subway everyday to go to school, so this was nothing new to him. Phoenix tried not to think about how easy it was to get kidnapped here.
The subway to go to Queenstown then arrived with a loud metal grinding and many people began filing on. They were soon all squished into the subway, body pressed against body. Phoenix kept his hand on his pocket where his money was. He knew how easy it was to get pickpocketed.
“It’s really busy today,” Zack said as the doors closed. Phoenix nodded and soon the subway was on its way.
“Is that Phoenix?” hot breath whispered in his ear and Phoenix tensed as he looked over at the fat man standing next to him. It was one of his clients that visited regularly. Shit. And with Zack here too. He must have seen him and made sure to stand with him. “I’ll be seeing you tonight I believe.” Phoenix was glad he was whispering. “I heard your price has shot up quite a bit from a few months ago. I’m not surprised.” Phoenix kept his cool when the man squeezed his butt. “How much are you know?”
He moved slightly away from the man and forced himself to keep a cool, professional face even though his heart was pounding. Zack barely seemed to know what was happening. He was staring at everyone else in front of him. Phoenix was glad he was behind him. “I am not at my work place right now. I would appreciate it if you would leave me alone until tonight. My price is fifteen-hundred.”
The man chuckled. “You’ll be at three thousand soon. But as you wish,” He squeezed his butt again, “I’ll leave you alone until tonight.”
Phoenix was relieved when the next stop was there’s. He grabbed Zack’s hand and exited the subway. “Who was that man who was talking to you?” Zack asked as they walked up the stairs from the subway station.
“One of the men who works with me.”
“He looked mean and he was looking at you weird.”
Phoenix decided to ignore this and they went through the metal gate and out onto the streets. This was the alley where the cheapest stores were. It was also a dangerous street. It was sometimes called murder street. Phoenix was good on the streets though and many people knew who he was. Occasionally, he had trouble from a few people, but he always managed to take care of that.
“Stay close to me Zack and don’t look anyone in the eye, alright.”
Zack nodded and this time he saw the slight uncertainty and nervousness in his eyes. Phoenix had been expecting the reaction. Already, people were looking at them. Being two teenagers, alone, was not only illegal, but it was dangerous. If any of the secret police saw them, it would be a fate worse than jail. That is another reason why this street was so necessary. No police dared to patrol here alone, sometimes they came in the hundreds to tone things down, but it was easy to hide then.
A man dressed in black then came up to them and Phoenix quickly pulled Zack behind him. “Ah, Phoenix,” He recognized him as Daniel. He was a thief and was known for a few raping’s now and then. Phoenix remembered the first time they’d met. He’d tried and failed to rape him. “Whose that you have there? That’s a pretty girl.”
“Be on your way, Daniel. I’m just here to get some things.”
He put up his hands. “Alright, alright, no need to get too hasty. I was just saying hi to a pretty face.” He then touched Phoenix’s cheek, but he was already walking away before Phoenix could do anything. By this time, Zack was shaking against him and Phoenix looked at him gently, smiling.
“Hey, it’s okay. I’m not going to let anyone touch you.”
“I know,” Zack swallowed, “I just wish I could be like you. You’re so confident here….everyone respects you.”
Phoenix ruffled his hair. “Maybe some day I’ll teach you the tricks of the trade. Now come on, it’s just up here.”
They came to the place that said Break Fast Grocers. It was a small place, but there was enough variety of food to do well on. They came in through the old wooden doors and a bell rang as they stepped in.
There were a few people in the store, all of them keeping to themselves. Phoenix grabbed a hand held cart, walking through the aisles. He grabbed milk and cheese. Another jar of peanut butter, a loaf of white bread. On Zack’s request, he grudgingly got a box of chocolate bars. He got some orange juice, two boxes of crackers. A box of cocoa puff cereal and three frozen pizzas. Zack begged for some peaches and apples, he got those too as well as a bag of carrots. It was a lot of groceries to carry….and a lot of money, but it would last them a week at least.
They went up to the counter who rang it all in. “I haven’t seen you in a few days Phoenix, I knew you would come soon.” Mary Grace was a nice woman and she worked hard. Phoenix liked her and she sometimes gave him discounts on the food. “And who is this young man?”
“This is Zack, my younger brother. Zack, this is Mary Grace.”
“Nice to meet you,” Zack said shyly and Mary Grace laughed.
“He’s cute. Alright, that fifty dollars and eight cents. But I can drop five dollars for you. So how about forty five?”
Phoenix thanked her gratefully, pulling out two twenties and a ten. She took it and quickly gave them the change. “Have a good rest of the day and be safe boys.”
“You too,” Zack called back and they left the grocery store. “I liked her.”
“I like her too,” Phoenix replied, “Now come on, let’s get home.”
No one bothered them on the way to the subway, upon which Phoenix was very relieved. The subway wasn’t as crowded on the way back and they actually got to sit. “Thanks for taking me. It was fun.”
“I didn’t know you had fun, but okay.” Phoenix laid his head back, shifting uncomfortably, his butt was hurting horribly.
“I don’t see why you have to go to work early,” Zack went on, “I mean, you work so hard and you’re always so exhausted. Maybe you can find another job-.”
“Zack….don’t talk to me about that. You know the options are limited for us. I was lucky to get a factory job that didn’t ask for our parent’s verification. You know what would happen if the government finds out about us. This job keeps money on the table and that’s all that counts.”
There was silence for a few moments. “Maybe….I could work too. I mean, you started working when you were a year younger than me and more money would help. We could both support ourselves-.”
“That is enough, Zack!” his voice came out harsh and some people looked at them. He forced his voice to get softer as Zack looked hurt at these words. “You are actually getting an education that I never will get. You should be happy I am doing this for you. I don’t want to hear you say you want to work again. You work hard in school, grow up and maybe you can get a good job, not a crap job like mine. You can live your life. So just be happy, okay?”
Zack looked down. “Yeah….okay.”
Phoenix felt guilty when he saw his brother do this, but he had told him the truth. There was no way he could let his brother sink down to what he was. His brother deserved this life he would never have.
The doors soon opened for them to leave. They didn’t talk as they left the subway station….or when they walked to their apartment. Once they both went inside, Zack helped organize the groceries, but his head was bent down, avoiding his brother’s eyes. He knew he should say something.
“Hey, look, I shouldn’t have said it like that.”
“It’s okay, you just told me the truth.”
There was another awkward silence and Phoenix opened the refrigerator to put the frozen pizzas in. “So… I was thinking,” Phoenix said as Zack pulled out the carrots, “When we go to the Gamers. I’m going to beat you at every game. I think it will be pretty easy, considering it’s only a little runt like you.”
Zack shrugged his shoulders. “You probably will.”
Phoenix was not expecting this reaction. “Zack, what is it? I’m sorry if I upset you, okay?”
“I’m going to go do homework.”
He turned around at him and Phoenix was stunned by the angry look in his eyes. “Why do you always have to be so fucking nice to me all the time?! Why can’t I do something for once in my life? Why can’t you go to school, I want you to. You’re much smarter than me, I know that. You would have a better chance of getting a great job. But no, you’re fucking throwing it away. I should be the one working, not you. But no, you do absolutely EVERYTHING!!! And I’m sick of it. I don’t want you to be tired all the time. That’s all that you are. Don’t you notice that? You’re always falling asleep….you’re always hurting. You always look sad. It’s like, you don’t even know how to live your life anymore. Do you even notice me? Do you even notice yourself? Look at you, you’re a fucking mess. You’re getting thinner, your eyes are so tired. Every time you come back from work, I’m scared to look at you. You’re scaring me, Phoenix,” And then he was crying, “You used to joke and laugh and play all the time when we were little. Now you can barely make yourself smile anymore. Instead of making me happy, why can’t you worry about yourself for a change?” He furiously wiped the tears away and Phoenix felt guilt swim through him. He suddenly wrapped his arms around Zack. He had no idea that he had been feeling like this.
“Zack….I’m sorry.” And then he felt the tears prick his eyes, “It’s just been so hard.” Zack began sobbing. “Every since mom and dad died.” A tear ran down his cheek and he hugged Zack harder as the sobs racked his little brother’s body. “Shhh, it’s okay. I’ll do better. I promise. I’ll do better.”
After about a minute, Zack’s sobs died down, but Phoenix still held tightly onto him. They sat there, brother holding brother. Until finally, Phoenix pulled away and ruffled Zack’s hair. “Come on, let’s cook one of those pizzas.”
He knew he was going to be late for work and he didn’t fucking care anymore. He needed this time to spend with his brother. He set the oven and unwrapped one of the cheese pizzas. Zack brought his homework to the table and began working on that. Soon, the oven dinged and he put the pizza in, and Phoenix felt a ravenous hunger as he began to smell the cooking pizza.
“What are you working on?” Phoenix walked over to his brother.
“US History. It’s so boring.”
“I love history!” he punched his brother playfully, “Don’t make fun of such a great subject.”
“Well I can’t find anywhere where it says who killed Abraham Lincoln.”
Phoenix burst out laughing and Zack look at Phoenix in confusion. “Zack…everyone knows John Wilkes Boothe killed Lincoln.”
Zack turned red. “I just forgot his name.”
Phoenix shook his head, still chuckling and Zack punched him. “Stop laughing, it’s not funny.”
“It’s absolutely hilarious.”
And suddenly they were wrestling on the floor. Zack was hopelessly weak, but Phoenix let Zack win and soon they were both smiling goofily, lying on their backs and up at the ceiling. “When we go to the Gamers, I’ll get back at you,” Zack said, breathing hard.
“You can try.” The oven then began beeping and Phoenix quickly jumped to his feet. “Pizza’s done!” He turned off the oven and pulled it out, the smell of cheese and crust making his stomach grumble. Nothing smelled or looked so delicious then.
They both dug into the pizza, the hot cheese melting in their mouths, the crust soft and crunchy at the same time. The pizza was soon finished and Phoenix knew it was time for him to go. Zack knew it too for he went back to his homework. “I’ll be back in the morning.”
Zack didn’t say anything and Phoenix tried to ignore the guilt inside of him as he left the room.
He came to the brothel shivering violently and snow melting in his hair. As usual, the place smelled of powerful incense, drugs and sex. There was a wooden counter for the customers to check in, where old Goldy stood there as usual, dressed in fine silks, her hair in a tangle of braids. There were numerous rooms for the deed. The customer got to pick which suited their needs. The bigger and finer, the more expensive. The prostitutes themselves were lined up already, there were mostly women, but there were a couple guys as well. The women wore fine, revealing dresses of silk and satin, parts of their boobs showed and their hair gleaming, their skin oiled. The men were oiled as well, but their chests were bare and they wore fine black pants, embroidered in gold. They were actually quite cheap.
Phoenix knew he was late, the brothel opened in five minutes.
“And looks who finally decides to show up,” Catherine, one of the prostitutes who seemed to hate him with a passion gave him a sneer, “The boss isn’t happy.”
Phoenix ignored her and walked across the room to the baths where he was to get cleaned up. He felt everyone’s eyes on him and he was glad when he closed that door. Inside was a shower, different bottles of perfume and cologne. Silks and pants and dresses. Soaps and oils. What he wasn’t expecting was the boss to be there waiting for him. He was a chubby man with a balding head and large brown eyes. He was dressed all in black as usual and his face was furious. Phoenix looked at him awkwardly.
“Sorry I’m late, sir.”
“Take your clothes off now and get washed up,” the Boss eyed him angrily and Phoenix quickly went to do as he was told, taking off his soaking sweatshirt, shirt, pants and boxers. The boss then turned the shower on. He wasn’t surprised to feel it was absolutely freezing cold. His teeth chattered horribly and he was about to soap himself up when he was surprised the boss did it himself. His nails grinded into his scalp and he winced. He then soaped his body. Maybe a long time ago, Phoenix would have been embarrassed, now, he was used to the boss doing this to him sometimes. Everyone in the brothel knew Phoenix was the boss’s favorite. The moment he came in to ask for a job, the boss had taking a liking to him. He heard the whispers, Phoenix knew why. He knew he was good at this job because with his unusual red hair and gold eyes, he was considered very attractive. He was also clever and had a way of making the customer feel like the best man in the world, paired with his looks, he was a masterpiece.
“You need to eat more, you’re getting skinny,” The boss worked the sponge over his butt.
“I’ll eat better, sir.”
“And I don’t expect you to be late again. For punishment, you will be staying an extra three hours.”
“As you wish, sir.” Three hours! He wanted to fall on the ground in despair. He kept his mouth shut though and Phoenix was thankful when the boss turned the shower off. He stood there shaking, but clean, his hair dripping. The boss then grabbed a bottle of oil and began smoothing it over Phoenix’s body.
“You already have six customers who made reservations for you. This doesn’t count the later hours when you are not booked. I’m guessing about ten today.”
He’d done ten before. It hadn’t been fun, it had been painful and exhausting. He knew he should bring up having the day off tomorrow. Somehow, he knew he knew it wasn’t a good idea.
The Boss’s hands smoothed the oil over his hips and then his penis, over his butt, between his thighs and down his legs. The boss then washed his hand on the sink and picked up a body of cologne, spraying him with it.
“Sir,” the boss put the bottle of cologne back on the shelf. “I…was wondering, with your permission, if I could take the day off tomorrow.”
The boss picked up a brush, but didn’t turn around. “I’m sorry, I’m not sure if I heard that right. You said you wanted the day off tomorrow?”
Phoenix swallowed hard, ignoring the nervousness inside of him. “Yes, sir.”
The boss turned around and slapped him across the face. It was painful and he hadn’t been expecting it. “Are you a fucking idiot?” Phoenix didn’t know what to say to that, “You come in late today and you expect me to give you the fucking day off?”
“I’ll work very hard, sir,” Phoenix burst out. He couldn’t disappoint his brother. He couldn’t.
“You’ll work hard?” He felt the brush being pulled through his hair. “I’ll tell you what, Phoenix. You can have the day off on two conditions. I’ve been putting this off because I know one of your conditions is no orgies, but you will do one today. The other condition is, I am now taking 95% of your pay. If you agree, then yes, you can have the day off.”
Phoenix felt like crawling in a small ball and never coming out. He knew he had to agree. For his brother. He had to. They could still make it off 5% of his total pay, right? He was worth fifteen-hundred dollars now. He would still be given a reasonable amount.
“I will take the conditions, sir.”
“Good boy,” the boss finished with his hair and gestured for him to sit down. He did so and the boss put shaving cream and soon took a razor to his face. When this was done, he put after shave and more cologne on him. He was then given pants. He put them on, noticing they were starting to get bigger around his waist. He really was getting thin.
“Face me.” He faced the boss who looked at him with a practiced eye. “Beautiful, my dear Phoenix, you are always so perfect. Now, give me one kiss before you go to work.” Phoenix did as he was told, and the boss wrapped his arms around him and their lips met. The boss’s tongue slipped into his mouth and he forced himself to kiss him. They did it for about five minutes before the boss pulled away. “Good, now get to work.”
He left the room and went out into the room. Some of the prostitutes had already left, but ten were still left standing there. He was a little surprised by the commotion on the counter. Goldy looked like she was trying to calm a few people down. “I’m sorry, he’s booked for most of the night. You’ll have to come tomorrow and make reservations. I’m sorry.”
He then felt a hand on his arm and Phoenix looked next to him to see a tall, lean, bald man. It was one of his regular customers. “Let us go, Phoenix.” He forced a smile and nodded.
“I had been looking forward to your next visit, Sive.”
Sive smiled and led him to one of the larger rooms. Phoenix knew he was a very rich man and paid handsomely for a nice king sized bed with plush red and gold curtains. Not to mention, he paid for a longer time. Usually people paid for a half an hour. He went sometimes for an hour. Phoenix didn’t mind Sive, he wasn’t harsh and Phoenix knew Sive was in love with him.
“How long today?” he asked as Sive closed the door and looked at him hungrily.
“An half hour.” Sive then wasted no time and slamming him against the wall and kissing him. He kissed back just as eagerly. Whatever the customer wanted, he had to do. His lips were soon on his neck and then he nipped his ear. Phoenix moaned when Sive’s lips went to his nipple, sucking and kissing. Phoenix then went to Sive’s pants and unzipped them. He worked his mouth over the penis and Sive gasped in pleasure. He went slowly, knowing a half an hour could be a long time. The trick was for the customer to keep wanting more. He gradually went faster and then he pulled away when Sive wanted him to kiss him again. They kissed for a while and then Sive took off Phoenix’s pants. Sive worked his penis with his hand and Phoenix smiled, leading him over to the bed. There was more kissing, more sucking, but Sive was eager and soon shoved his penis into him. He was harsher than usual, but Phoenix knew there was much worse to come.
The half an hour wasn’t quite up when Sive came. When he was done, he extracted himself from Phoenix. He then began stroking his body up and down. Phoenix let him do what he wanted. They kissed for a little while longer and then Phoenix sat up, smiling gently at Sive. He nodded and kissed Phoenix again, before he put his clothes on. “Thank you, Phoenix. Will I see you tomorrow?”
“I’m unavailable, but the next day, I would enjoy your company.”
Sive nodded, looking a little disappointed. Phoenix stood up and grabbed his own pants and smoothed down his hair. They both then walked out the room and already, Phoenix saw his other customers lined up. He wondered when the orgy would come.
The next customer was the fat guy from the subway. Phoenix didn’t know his name and didn’t want to. Phoenix hated doing it with this guy mainly because he smelled terrible and his sweat went all over him. He squeezed his butt.
“I got a good room this time.” Phoenix nodded and followed him into the biggest room at the place. Once they closed the door, the fat man looked at Phoenix. “You are so unusual. I do love those gold eyes of yours and that hair….quite lovely. You would sell well on the black market.
“I’m glad I please you so.” The fat man laughed.
“Alright, shall we?” He then slammed Phoenix harshly against the wall. He winced a little and felt his tongue twirling around his ear. The tongue then went on the curve of his back. Phoenix’s pants were soon off and the tongue was on his butt. “I better get my money’s worth, my beauty,” he said, before they began the deed.
When they were done, Phoenix was so tired he just wanted to lay on that bed forever. “Are you here tomorrow?” the fat man was looking at him greedily, his hand smoothing over his chest.
“I am unavailable tomorrow. But I would enjoy it if you came the next day.” He tried to make himself mean the words.
“Great,” the fat man stood, putting on his clothes and leaving the room. Phoenix took a deep breath. This was only the second. Eight more to go.
He went outside the room and immediately, his next customer came up to him. Another regular. He was short, dark haired, with thin lips, and shy. Good, this one would be easy.
Half an hour later, he came out. He went to go get a quick drink of water, before he came out again.
He woke up to something cold being poured down his throat. He grimaced and coughed weakly, opening his eyes blearily to see his boss holding a glass of water. He squinted, blinking, trying to adjust to his surroundings. He then tried to sit up, which he regretted when his whole body felt like it had been hit with a jackhammer.
“Take it easy, Phoenix,” the boss’s voice was surprisingly gentle and Phoenix laid his head back slowly as memories from before slipped into his mind. He bit his tongue to keep the tears in. That was the last thing he needed right now. In front of his boss too would just have made it worse.
“How long have I been out?”
“A few hours. They were pretty harsh with you. Drink more of this, it has some pain medicine mixed in as well.”
He did as he was ordered, letting him pour more of the liquid down his throat. His thoughts turned to his brother. “I need to leave,” he said after the boss took the cup away from his mouth. Phoenix took a deep breath and sat up. Almost immediately, he felt faint and sick. Without warning he turned his head and vomited over the side of the bed. He shivered when he was done, laying his head back on the bed, feeling ashamed.
“You won’t be leaving, I can’t have my most valued employee dying out there in the cold.”
“I’ll be fine. I’ve been through worse.”
The boss rolled his eyes and ran his thumb down Phoenix’s cheek. “My boy, what happened last night was my fault. I want you to stay here where I can take care of you. You don’t have the money for a doctor, don’t fool me. You can barely sit up. How about you have the day off tomorrow too? How does that sound?”
“I need to get to my brother. He needs me, he’ll be worried about where I am. He’ll-.” He was interrupted when his boss put a finger over his lips.
“No, you will stay here. There are no ifs and buts about it. You can call him and lie to him about what happened.”
Phoenix looked away from him, hopelessness and anger filling him. “You can’t just make me stay here. I can leave whenever I want. You don’t own me.”
“Is that so?” the boss looked at him with amused eyes that made his mouth fill with bile, “And where would you be without me? Hmm? You and that brother of yours would be locked up for the government to do as it wills. I heard those places are hell. You might think your situation is hell right now, Phoenix, but trust me, fucking of your own free will is better than what would happen to a pretty boy like you in a place like that. Not to mention the working hours, you would be a slave, more or less. I pay you, my dear, you get to have a life outside of this wondrous place. So don’t tell me I don’t own you. I am your lifeline right now and I think I deserve more respect. Is that clear?”
“Forgive me, sir,” his voice was devoid of emotion. Phoenix knew he was right. This job was keeping him and his brother on his feet. Sure, he was hopelessly cheated on with money and working hours, but it was better than the alternative.
“Wash your mouth out with the last of this,” his boss gave him the cup with the last of the water. He did as he was told, cleaning out his mouth with the water. The moment he’d drank the last of the water, the boss grabbed his head harshly, his lips pressing on his. In surprise, he tried to pull his head away, but his grip was viselike and he had no choice but to kiss him. He felt the boss’s hand reach under the covers, feeling up his bare thigh.
It wasn’t long until his boss pulled away, not looking at him and pulling something out of his pocket. “Call your brother, then get some sleep. You can leave tomorrow night.” He threw him a cellphone and he barely caught it.
His boss then left and Phoenix took a deep breath, dreading what he had to say to his brother. He’d promised he would be better and yet everything he told him was a lie.
“Hello?” Zack’s voice sounded like a small child on the phone.
“Hey Zack,” his voice sounded hoarse and weak. He cleared his throat.
“Phoenix? Where are you? I was starting to get worried. Are we still going to the Gamers today?”
He clenched the phone in his hand, hating what he had to say. “Zack….I got hurt at work and I won’t be able to come home today, alright? My boss ordered me to stay here so I can get better. He promised I could leave tomorrow and have the day off. We can go to the Gamers then, how does that sound?”
There was silence and Phoenix bit his lip. “Zack-.”
“It’s fine!” he sounded too happy and Phoenix was taken aback, “As long as we can go tomorrow, right? I hope you feel better….you don’t have to tell me what happened if you don’t want to.”
“It’s fine,” Phoenix pressed the phone tighter against his ear, “I got into an argument with one of the workers. He beat me up pretty bad. But my boss was nice about it. He knows we can’t afford to get a doctor, so he offered to take care of me.”
“Look, cook a pizza or make a sandwich tonight. I want you to eat something. I promise I’ll be there first thing tomorrow. And be careful on your way to school, alright?”
Phoenix didn’t want to hang up, he wanted to keep hearing his brother’s voice. That he was still okay. He couldn’t help but think back to when their parent were still alive. Such a rich life they had lived. Now….Zack was going to the poorest public school in the neighborhood when they had both been going to prestigious private schools before. His mother used to make the best foods…now they lived off of peanut butter sandwiches and frozen pizzas.
There were so many things he wanted to say. How he was sorry. How he wished things could have been different. That he wished he was a better brother. That he had been lying to him. But mostly…. “I love you, alright. So take care and I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“See ya, Phoenix.” Zack hung up and Phoenix stared numbly at the phone.
A Broken Promise
Zack slammed the phone as hard as he could onto the counter, almost wishing it would break into a million pieces. His brother always managed to do this. He promised things and then delayed his promises. He knew he should learn to never believe they would happen right away.
But at least he still kept his promises.
It was true, when Phoenix promised something, he would eventually do it, it just took him some time.
Zack would be lying to himself if he wasn’t envious of his brother. It was why he got mad at him a lot. He was everything Zack wasn’t. Phoenix was tall, where Zack was short. Phoenix could turn any girl’s eyes to his direction by just walking down the street. He had a certain beauty that Zack knew was rare…..in fact, Zack had never seen anyone look nearly as good as Phoenix did. Yet, it was Zack that was called a girl and made fun of. Phoenix was brilliant, even if he didn’t know it himself. Phoenix even admitted he had photographic memory and he could put together things logically, even hard math problems that took Zack hours to figure out, Phoenix would never have seen it and figure it out in a few minutes at most. For Zack, he was average, he got B’s, he wasn’t brilliant at anything, but wasn’t bad at anything either. Phoenix had golden eyes that people praised, Zack had black eyes that sometimes scared people. But it had always been like that. He knew Phoenix was just wasting his life. The teachers at school said it too when Phoenix came around sometimes. How he had so much potential and was wasting it by working. And yet, Zack knew he did it all for him. It scared Zack sometimes that he cared about him so much. Zack loved his brother too, but Phoenix was different. It was almost as if he was scared he would lose him at any moment. Just like what happened to their parents.
Zack went over to the fridge and made himself a peanut butter sandwich. He was going to miss his bus if he didn’t hurry up, so he grabbed his backpack and sandwich to go, before running out the door.
As usual, it was freezing outside. His teeth chattered badly as he wrapped his thin arms around himself. He only had a thin sweater, but it wasn’t like they could afford much more than that. He forced himself to walk through the raging wind and cold around him. It was only a quarter of a mile away to the bus, but it felt like an eternity before he finally made it to the bus stop.
He’d just made it in time, because the hovering bus just came as he walked up to the platform. He stepped onto the bus, welcoming the warmth. He made his way down the aisle and found an empty seat, ready for the hour-long bus ride ahead.
Looking at the streets outside, he saw what every poor neighborhood looked like. Shabby houses, people in rags walking down the street. Beggars holding out their hands for money. His mind turned to where they used to live. He barely remembered it actually, he did remember white sheets, sunshine, good, fresh food, polished marble. Sometime the thoughts comforted him. That there was a world out there like that….a world he could live in someday.
“Hey Zack!” he looked up to see that Patricia had just walked onto the bus. Zack turned his head away from her. Patricia seriously liked him, but Zack hated her being next to him. She was the most annoying, fat girl in the school. Zack already had a lame reputation and with Patricia always at his neck, it just went from lame to disgusting.
She sat next to him, her huge body taking up half his seat as well. “Hi Pat,” he mumbled.
“I know you’re happy to see me. Don’t be shy. Look, I brought some pistachios that I know you like.” If there was one thing Zack hated, it was pistachios.
“Pat, I told you, I don’t like pistachios.”
“Oh…I thought you said you did,” she shrugged, putting them back in her bag. “Are you happy tomorrow is the weekened? I am! I was thinking we could go to the park tomorrow.”
“I’m busy tomorrow.”
She pouted. “You’re always busy, what is it this time?”
“I’m going out with my brother.” He was really wishing she would just disappear.
“Doing what?” And she was always so nosy.
“We’re just going to hang out.”
Pat laughed and punched him rather hard on his thin shoulder. “It sounds like a date! I’ve never seen your brother. Everyone talks about him all the time, he must be really great. I bet he’s not as cool as you though.”
Zack didn’t say anything to this, and looked intently out the window as Pat continued with her blabbing. Already, Zack wished this day was over. He just wanted to get back home and go to the Gamers with Phoenix. Still, he was worried he’d been hurt really bad. He said he’d gotten beat up….but it always looked like Phoenix got beaten up. At least once a week, he came back with a bruise on his face that he couldn’t hide, or a bloody cut on his lip. One time, Zack snuck to see what was on the rest of his body. While he was changing, he’d seen what looked like bite marks and numerous bruises all over his body. Yet, Phoenix always had a smile on his face whenever he came back, as if nothing was wrong and everything would be alright. He knew his job must be hard, but he didn’t know working at a metal factory was so harsh. Phoenix said it was just the people there, but Zack felt there was more that he wasn’t telling him. It would be a twinkle of pain in his eyes, the forced effort. And now he couldn’t even come home he was so hurt, why were people always after him at work. Zack wasn’t stupid though, people tended to talk about his brother sexually. Even when they walked down the street, creepy people always tried to make moves on him. It was almost as if he was a sex icon. Zack figured it was probably that. In a dirty world they lived in, it was almost as if his brother’s looks were a curse.
It was soon time for them to leave from the bus. He stood up, grabbing his backpack from the floor and away from Pat’s huge legs. She gave him a sudden kiss on the cheek and Zack looked at her in horror. She seemed to take this the wrong way, for she blushed and thankfully stood up from her seat and walked out of the bus. Taking a deep breath, Zack pulled the straps of his backpack over his shoulder and exited the bus.
He was greeted with his school. It was nothing much. An old, old red brick building made around the 2000s. The white plastered sign in front of it read.
He sighed, and walked in with the rest of the students up the stairs and into the building. Immediately, he was caught up in an overcrowded hallway with clanging lockers, people making out,
pushing, shoving. Zack kept his head low, making his way through the mass of people to his locker. In this school, many people were bullied. Zack wasn’t a main target, but because of his small
size, every now and then the bullies would notice him. It was best if he kept low.
He put his sketogram, electro pens into his backpack, before slamming his locker. As he was making his way to his first class, the bell rang and Zack was pushed this way and that as people rushed to and fro to different classrooms. How he hated school.
His first class was US history with the maniac of a teacher named Mr. Anderson. He went on rants about his personal life that made you want to bang his head on a brick wall.
He sat in his desk, pulling out his sketogram on his desk. He tapped on various buttons to get to the notes for history. He heard the bell ring again and everyone filed into their seats as Mr. Anderson began the lecture by pulling up a map of what once was called the Middle East. Now, it was the Arab Republic. They were learning about the Egyptian Revolution at the moment. Zack didn’t find it that fascinating, but he knew every time he brought his homework for Phoenix to help him, his brother was engrossed with it. He found boring things absolutely captivating. It was so glaringly obvious that Phoenix was supposed to be sitting where he was sitting, not him.
Zack laid his head down on his desk and forced himself to listen to what Mr. Anderson was saying.
He was glad when the bell rang and he could go to his next class which was art. Another subject he was horrible at. Not to mention his art teacher hated him because he made hands look like stick objects. Today they worked on the art of Japanese painting. He ended up making a splatter painted blob and his heart teacher just shook her head and gave him a D+ on the assignment. Who knew a person could nearly fail art.
He sighed, and went to his next class which was Biology. He ended up falling asleep in that class.
His last class before lunch was Algebra. He was getting a C in the class, but Mrs. Wickley seemed to like him and usually raised his grade to a B by the end of the semester. He had a feeling that she thought he was adorable because he was so small. No one ever believed that he was actually thirteen and an eighth grader.
When the bell rang for lunch, he packed up his bags and went to the lunchroom. He used to sit with a few boys name Dylan and Jake, but that was a year ago when he actually had friends. These days, he usually sat by himself, except now Pat was so inclined to join him every lunch.
He took the chicken and mashed potatoes for lunch and went to go sit at his lonely table at the back of the cafeteria. Just as he sat down, sure enough, Pat went to sit next to him. He looked down at his lunch and began intently eating.
“I overheard some boys talking about you today.”
Zack kept eating, knowing it was probably made up by her to get him to look at her, he wouldn’t fall for it.
“They say that you and your brother have no parents and it is only a wonder the government doesn’t know about it. They also said that your older brother couldn’t have a job without the government noticing. I’m sorry Zack, I didn’t know you and your family are going through such harsh times. It is true that your brother is….you know….a prostitute?”
The words rang in his ears like a million knives. Stinging him, cutting him. Without warning, he stood up, banging his fists onto the table. “SHUT THE FUCK UP!” everyone went quiet at this, but he found he didn’t care and glared angrily at Pat who was looking at him in horror, “How dare you fucking say my brother is a prostitute. He would never do that, you understand? He’s a good person, he would never stoop that low. Don’t you dare say that about my brother again.” Zack took a deep breath as he watched tears stream down Pat’s face. Without warning, he ran from the room, tearing through the hallways as he felt eyes staring at him. Eyes wanting to hurt him.
He made it to the bathroom and locked himself in a stall, feeling sudden tears stream down his face. He was tired of people talking about their family. Of people assuming things about them. Phoenix would never be a prostitute, how dare they!! He was an honest man, he wasn’t dirty. How could they think of that of his own brother?
But he has bruises, a little voice said in his voice, he walks funny sometimes. He’d seen those bite marks. No! His brother wouldn’t lie to him like that. He’d said he has a good job as a factory worker. A long job, but a good one. No….he was just freaking himself out.
“Zack, come out of the bathroom and into the principles office,” said an authoritive voice.
Zack sniffed, wiping his eyes and taking a deep breath, before he unlocked the door and came out to see a school counselor looking at him with sympathy. “Come on Zack,” he said, holding out his arm.
He let him put an arm around him and lead him from the bathroom and out into the hallway. He knew Phoenix would be mad at him if they had to make up another lie of why their parents couldn’t talk with the principle.
They came to the principles office a half a minute later, considering it was only a few steps from the bathroom. The school counselor knocked on the old wooden door, before stepping back and waiting patiently.
“You can come in,” said the muffled voice behind the door.
The counselor opened the door and Zack filed in after him. He almost fainted when he saw who was inside. He stood in frozen shock for a few seconds, before he turned and bolted towards the door. He couldn’t let the man catch him. He couldn’t be caught. This couldn’t be it. This couldn’t be happening. Unfortunately, just as he made it to the door, someone grabbed him by the scruff of his shirt and pulled him away from the door. He was then thrown onto a chair and Zack looked down at his now shaking hands. It was all over now.
“Zack Jade Henson. Thirteen years old. Five feet, eighty five pounds. Lives currently at Westblock Apartments, an extremely shitty place to live in, in my opinion. Let’s see, it also says you have a brother? Phoenix Leo Henson I believe. It says here six feet and a half, one hundred and fifty two pounds, red hair, gold eyes. That’s unusual. Oh, and let’s see, I don’t see any document of any guardians to speak of. No parents, aunts or uncles. Unless you would like to prove my information wrong, Zack?”
Zack continued looking down at his hands, not daring to look at the man.
“I would like you to look at me when I talk to you, Zack.”
Zack but his lip and looked up at the Recruiter. He knew these government officials. They were the worst of the worst. They were what every orphan dreamed in their nightmares. He stood tall and lean, dark hair and eyes. He was dressed in thin, black armor against a lean, muscular frame. Everyone knew that cold, amused face. It was the Head Recruiter, James Moerson. Everyone dreaded him, it was said he worked directly with the president himself and was horribly brutal and harsh to orphans. There were many nasty stories about him. Zack prayed they weren’t true.
“You’re a pretty thing, aren’t you? Like a little girl,” the Recruiter laughed, setting his sketogram down, “According to your files, your parents died five years ago, is that correct? A nasty accident it seems. Both your parents were rich too….a shame that two beautiful boys had to deal with that. You know it is a federal crime to run away from the government, right? And all this time, you two have had to make it on your own. I wonder how you did that? You couldn’t have your parents money, we took that away. Would you care to enlighten me, Zack? I know prostitution is quite common, but brothels are quite picky with their employers.”
Zack struggled to get his mouth to work. It came out strangled. “He works for a factory.”
“A factory? Is that what he told you?” The Recruiter began laughing at this and picked his sketogram, still chuckling as Zack’s heart seemed to freeze, “Let’s see, where’s a good picture. Ah, here we are. This is your brother, correct?” he put the picture in front of Zack and there he was. He was smiling in the picture, it was a few months old and Zack remembered when he’d posed for the photo for his annual ID. He had a crooked smile, freshly shaven, with a ragged sweater on over his thin frame. His red hair was slightly messy, his golden eyes filled with life. He looked beautiful and even happy. They had gone out that day to buy fresh cookies from the bakery. Phoenix always liked to give him treats.
“I have to admit, I have never seen a boy look so damn fine. I would say brothels all around were clamoring to get ahold of this kid. Unless you disagree with me? Do you know what I think, Zack? I think he’s been lying to you. It’s a shameful job becoming a prostitute, but it brings money on the table. But why would he tell his little brother what dirty thing he does to keep you both alive?” Zack felt like crying as the Recruiter chuckled, slipping his sketogram in his pocket. “Now, I know this is hard for you to hear, but no factory is going to take an orphan boy at the cost of their own life, but a brothel, they look for orphans like your brother. The only way you both survive this long and unnoticed at that, is the contract he has with the brothel he works at. It keeps him undiscovered and at good terms with the government. Unfortunately, we do eventually find them. In fact, we always find them. Someone always manages to talk. So Zack, do you know what that means? You and your brother are going to be coming with us, but not before we put in our little punishment. Maybe you would like to tell us when your brother comes back and we won’t be too harsh on the both of you before you get shipped off to work for the government?”
Zack couldn’t hold the tears any longer and they streamed down his cheeks fast. He furiously wiped them away, but they just kept coming. &ldqu
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