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Outlaw’s Promise

By:Helena Newbury

h older: forty or more, with a bald head and a thick, dark beard shot through with gray. The front of his leather cut had a shining metal spider the size of my hand on the chest, positioned as if it was scurrying upwards towards the man’s face. It had been made with jointed legs so that it seemed to tense, ready to pounce, every time the man moved, the metal clinking and rattling. It made my skin crawl. The patches on his cut said Blood Spiders and President.

“Go upstairs,” said my step-dad, as if I was still a teenager. But he had that drunk, don’t argue with me tone, so I climbed the stairs, feeling their eyes on my ass the whole way. Instead of heading into my room, I hunkered down behind the handrail and listened.

“How many are coming?” my step-dad muttered.

“About thirty,” the biker told him. “Enough you’ll get a good price.”

He’s selling drugs, I decided. But I couldn’t imagine him as a drug farmer. He had no knack for growing things. Meth? When would he cook? He barely left his armchair. He must have gotten hold of a package of something cheap and was hoping to sell it on….

My step dad’s voice again. “Is that guy coming?”

“Let’s hope so. I sent him the photo.”

What photo? Why would he take a photo of drugs?

My step dad went quiet for a moment.

The biker’s voice grew low and hard. “You got second thoughts,” he said, “you tell me fucking now. People show up, there ain’t no getting cold feet: there’d be a riot. And if Volos turns up and you try to back out, he’ll kill you. He’ll kill me, too. The guy’s serious. Protected. You gotta be sure.”

I heard my step dad knock back some whiskey. “I’m sure.”

“Go get her ready.”

Sometimes, your mind just refuses to go there. Her? A car. He must be auctioning a car. People sometimes called cars her, especially if they were old and valuable. Did he have something stashed in a barn I didn’t know about?

The door banged as the biker left. A moment later, my step-dad came upstairs. I raced for my room and he found me there.

“Get changed,” he said. “Put on a dress. Put on some make-up.”

My mind finally started to swing around, like a boat pulled loose from its moorings by a whirlpool grown too powerful to resist. I sat there and gaped at him but my brain still refused to accept it. That’s insane. Things like that don’t happen.

I couldn’t ask. Asking the question would make it real. Instead, I said, “I don’t have a dress.” I wore a uniform for waitressing and jeans at home. I didn’t go on dates. I hadn’t owned a dress in years.

“Wear that one your mom left you.”

My stomach twisted. My mom had left me an old, bottle-green vintage dress that I’d always loved when I’d seen it on her. It was small on me and not really suitable for anything other than a vintage-themed ball—it was a keepsake, not something I’d wear.

Our eyes locked. I could feel mine going big, desperate. Please don’t let this be real. This can’t be real.

And for a second, I saw his eyes soften and he looked away in guilt. My stomach plunged down to my feet because suddenly I knew I was right.

“You can’t do this,” I told him. My voice had gone thick and hoarse. “You can’t—You can’t sell a person.”

“I provided for you and your mom for years. Time you made a contribution.”

I wanted to scream at him that I’d been the one paying the bills for years...but I knew it wouldn’t matter. In his mind, I was still the unwanted kid he’d been stuck with. “You can’t….” I shook my head, cold fear climbing my chest. I couldn’t get my head around the concept. I hadn’t known that things like this even went on: was I just naive? “Please!” I said at last, my eyes filling with tears.

“Get ready!” he snapped. Then he turned and left, slamming the door behind him.

I turned to my closet and took out the dress.

I wouldn’t normally have let him drive when he was that drunk, but he was too riled up for me to risk arguing with him. So I clutched at the edges of the seat as we bounced and skidded on the dirt roads, cutting cross-country. At first I thought we were heading to Teston, the nearest big town, but we passed by and stopped on a country road a few miles beyond it.

It was a bar, but take off the neon sign and it could have been a barn. Basic and functional, a place for people who just want to get wasted, away from the prying eyes in town. The parking lot was already full of cars, a biker with a shotgun standing by the entrance to vet people as they arrived. I saw him turn some cars away, pointing to the sign above the door: Private Function.

Tonight had been organized. Planned. Everyone had known about it except me.

The cold fear that had started in my bedroom had spread to fill my whole body. I am going to be sold. To a man. I knew it would be for sex, either with him or....customers. I’d serve him, or I’d be on my back in some brothel until I was too old and then he’d kill me. I was so scared I thought I was going to throw up. This can’t be happening. I’m twenty years old. This can’t be all my life is going to be.

Our car stopped beside the biker—he too had one of those leather cuts with the spider on it. “This her?” he asked.

I tried to shrink in my seat. The biker’s eyes trailed all the way down my body: ugly lust, the kind that makes you cross the street to get away. My mom’s dress had looked great on her but on me it was too tight across the bust, the front too low cut for my larger breasts. Where it had flowed elegantly over her hips, it clung to mine, outlining my ass.

“Did Volos show up yet?” asked my step-dad, slurring a little. He was even drunker than I’d thought. Was he trying to block out the reality of what he was doing?

The name made the biker nervously scan the line of cars behind him. “Not yet. C’mon. Hay’s waiting for you.”

Who’s Volos? The name sounded foreign. Whoever he was, he scared the hell out of even the bikers.

We were met at the back door by t