We’ve a new contributor to the blog. Let’s welcome Jonathan Stone, who’s written the following short story for critiquing. This is the first time John has had his work read and, as we know, that’s a fragile and scary moment, so lots of encouragement, please!
Baby Suet was motionless in shock. She had not expected her first paying customer to be her husband. The grainy webcam image illuminated his study at the private school where he was the headmaster. It was the sight of his neat tie and tweed jacket contrasting sharply with the naked lower half that horrified her the most. He was stood with his back arched and face scrunched behind the impressive oak desk that dominated the room. She realised almost immediately that he didn’t recognise her. The cheap mask and white drapes effectively hiding her and their guest room from discovery. Should she end the call? She couldn’t think.
‘Whats your name?’ asked Steven, the voice distorted by the cheap microphone and low bandwidth.
She didn’t reply and perhaps he mistook her silence for acquiescence since he sat down and leered at her, his face looming large, filling her screen. The sweat on his forehead shone unevenly over his flushed cheeks.
‘Tell me what you do in your shows pretty lady’ he said.
She forced the laptop shut. Breathing fast she drew her legs under her chin and rocked herself, looking out from the large bay window at the school opposite where she pictured Steven still sat half naked.
Baby Suet, christened Rose Marie Socaro in an unremarkable province just north of Manilla, had always considered herself blessed with good fortune. Ever since she had been plucked from her frantic, family packed, life by the tall very white Englishman, she had relished her status as family provider. At just twenty years of age, tiny and thin with coal black long hair she had dazzled Steven with her white hot flame of youth. Now ten married years older and fatter she fielded the weekly Skype calls from the Philippines asking for for help with skilful efficiency. She routinely pruned out the unworthy and rewarded the just, dispatching funds via Western Union.
Last week all that had changed. Steven had announced over breakfast that there would be no more wasting of their money on her family. Baby had said nothing that day but waited until the following morning to probe a little further.
‘Love can I ask something?’ she began.
Steven nodded without looking up from The Times sheltering his cereal bowel and toast.
‘Love its ok for you we help my brother Lim Lim. He sick in the hospital.’
‘I told you we can’t send any more money. What’s wrong with you? Don’t you understand anything? I just have to keep saying it over and over again. We don’t have money to keep spending on all of them.’
She spoke louder now ‘Why we have no money? Its my fault? But love I only go charity and I don’t buy new.’
‘We have to save the money for ourselves’ shouted Steven. ‘ Now just leave it will you’.
Baby said nothing. Her face was set very still and she didn’t look up at Steven. Even when he relented later and offered to send some money Baby maintained her sulk, her “Tampo” as she called it and ignored him for hours. Only when he repeatedly asked her to find a shirt did she relent, snapping at him ‘Look your eyes not your mouth’ , before laying on her bed alone sobbing.
And so it was from that exchange between Baby and Steven that she hatched a plan to use her webcam to pose and titillate for men on an adult website used by her niece in the Philippines. It was a scheme her niece used to make a surprising amount of money and one that she thought might do the same for her. It was unexpectedly easy to set up and had it not been for that shocking first encounter, a promising career in the adult entertainment industry might have followed. But things had changed. Now Baby wondered constantly if Steven was spending all his money on webcam viewings of other women. Maybe that was why he suddenly had no cash. She had to know.
A month following the webcam encounter Baby prepared breakfast for Steven as usual. Toast and cereal as always. His favourite butter and the thickest and chunkiest economy marmalade. He paid little attention to her, muttering ‘oh yeahs’ to any small talk she made. For years their conversation had been largely task based and today was no exception. She prepared his packed lunch just as he liked it, rice and his favourite “Adobong Baboy” – a rich belly pork dish cooked with soy sauce and vinegar and filled with intense flavour.
She waited. Careful savage brooding waiting. At precisely one in the afternoon she went to the spare room, put on her outfit and mask and connected the laptop to the adult website. Her profile described her as a playful no limits kind of girl and that appears to be what Steven was craving because within seconds he had connected to her. This time Steven was clothed, sat at his desk. His lunch was opened but uneaten in front of him. She waved at him and picked up a plate of food in front of her. Using her fingers she slid large chunks of pork belly in to her mouth. She allowed pork and rice to fall over her sheer black blouse, deliberately smearing the grease over herself. Steven looked astonished and picked up a fork to eat his food as well.
‘Use your fingers’ she whispered.
He did, looking guilty at the lack of convention. She watched him eat and smiled. Downstairs in the kitchen the half empty jar of peanut butter lay discarded. Its contents carefully mixed by Baby with the Adobong sauce that Steven was eating. It wasn’t until the first constriction in his throat that he realised something was wrong. She wasn’t sure if his desperate wide eye stare was due to the lack of oxygen or her mask being removed. Either way her brother Lim Lim would get the care he needed.