Mail order is a dirty term in our business. A guilty pleasure in the comfort of a home. Whatever happened to having a drink in a bar?
When Father shipped me off I had mixed emotions. Worry that this would be the end of me; relief my debt would be paid.
I wasn’t the only one Father brought up, but I was one of the few he properly cared for. My sisters were sent out younger, at 12 or 15. Some think him heartless, but if not for him it would be someone worse. His competitors sell their daughters at 10. Even they’re considered fortunate by some, lucky to avoid the thirsty clutches of parched angels.
He waited until I was 18, which is perhaps why I’m less harsh. Over time, I became fuller bodied, of more interest to gentlemen, but those extra years maturing also meant he wanted me to earn more. Father runs a business, and with that comes ruthlessness. Send one out, begin developing the next. As soon as I left my space was refilled, wooden boards creaking under the weight of another.
For my sisters dispatched at a younger age, their work normally involves getting men into bed. Soon their marks can’t live, or spend a night, without them. Sometimes this is public knowledge, more often a shameful secret. Either way, the results are to the detriment of the men’s relationships. Father feels no remorse for his part in this. A failed marriage is even better for his wallet.
My life is more diverse. My targets are older, more sophisticated men. I writhe into them, getting them to blurt out what’s been locked away in their heads and their hearts. Some refer to me as a ventriloquist, but really I’m more of an enchantress. While I slip into their mouths I don’t put words in there, I just encourage these men to give voice to their thoughts, to be careless rather than wary.
It’s not just secrets that I can conjure, but pain too. I’ve incapacitated monsters of men. Put them on the floor and left them feeling horrendous pain the next day. I made them wish they’d never set their greedy eyes on me and gave them hesitation to deal with my kind ever again.
Regardless, there are many who use us without pause, but those who overindulge are looked down upon. Father is guilty of their sins too. Abuses his own supply and trades with his friends. Although I caught him looking longingly, he never put his lips to me. For that I’m thankful.
Despite my strengths, I do have a fatal weakness. Each time I’m handed over, I lose a bit of myself. Now I’m down to my last reserve, my last bottle. I feel like I’m in luck, though. I’ve been bought as a present, and as the recipient places me in his drinks cabinet I can see that he’s not a whisky drinker. That I’ll be able to retire in peace.
This story was shortlisted for the September contest on Brilliant Flash Fiction. The theme for this contest was “it came in the mail”.
Illustration by Ciaran Murphy.