I walked away from the taxi, while its driver stared at me suspiciously, to one of the most infamous, dark and dingy locales of the city. I had followed the woman all the way from the party to what i presumed was her house. The area was known for its high crime rates and a woman walking down the road past midnight all alone made me worried and curious. She had captured my attention right from the moment she had walked into the room. She looked different from most other girls, her mannerisms, her make up; she looked like a sore thumb sticking out. To add to the fact was her lack of interest in her surroundings; there was something distinctly cold and distant about this young lady. So when she abruptly left the party and left her handbag on the couch I took it upon myself to return it to her and maybe get to know this peculiar character better.
I walked into the building which looked fairly old and was poorly lit and immediately caught a putrid stench emanating from within the building. Strange flickering lights decorated most of the interiors and there were blackened stains on every wall. I guessed it was Tobacco but the stench and atmosphere suggested something far more sinister-or disgusting. A fat lady dressed in a pale green dress sat behind a table in a large chair counting a stack of notes.
“Not many girls available” She muttered without even looking up at me.
“Umm I came here to return this handbag to a young lady who just came to a party” I replied catching a drift of where exactly I was.
“You mean Cindy?” She asked.
“I don’t know her name. But she was wearing a black dress.”
She made me sit in the room till ‘Cindy’ came out of her ‘office’. The lady meanwhile tried to indulge me in a conversation which began with a “Cindy is the youngest here so extra charge on her. They say she is really talented with her mouth.” and upon refusal made its way into “Do you like Heroin? We have the best Garad in the entire city.”
Finally she arrived. I walked toward her with a wry smile and handed her the handbag. I knew who she was now, I knew why she appeared so cold and distant. Behind the make up and gloss was a sad face that spoke of abuse and neglect. She had changed into more casual clothes and looked worn out and tired. I noticed her hands as she took the purse, there were deep scars on them; self inflicted wounds they were.
“What is your name?” I asked her.
“Cinderella” She replied.
“Is that your real name?”
“I forgot my name. This is what they call me here and on the street.”
“Well do you want her or not? We charge people even if they only want to talk. Mostly old men do that.” The fat woman, who I believed was the ‘madame’ of the house interjected with her loud abrasive voice.
I ignored her and addressed Cinderella again,”How old are you?”
She just stared back at me with empty eyes while her mistress got up off the chair and started walking towards me. I walked away towards the door and could hear her screaming expletives at me and Cinderella all the way till I reached the main street. I wondered about Cinderella all night after that. The emptiness of her eyes, the scars on her hand and thought about the deeper much more damaging scars that I could not see- the scars of ostracization. I wondered if she had a real family. I wondered why she was here and where she was from. Does she have dreams in her life? Are they big ambitions like most others had or is a loving family and social acceptability her only dream? For society she is a taboo, a thing to be looked away from and banished. She is an expletive. Her beauty is exploited day in and day out by men who care not a bit for her and women who keep her in a state of shell shock and absolute misery take all the money away. What does future hold for such a woman? What happens when she becomes old and diseased? Who will look after her? Does she believe in God? Do the elections and the World Cup or the Olympics matter to a person like her? Or are they the reality of a different world? I wondered about her and as I closed my eyes the image of her empty and emotionless eyes flashed in my mind. Helpless and a victim of circumstance, her life is no fairy tale.