The sting of his hand on her young face is compounded by echoes in the grotty storeroom. ‘You’re here to earn money slut. This is how you’re gonna earn it.’ One hand grabs the petite teenager by her hair tight, the other tears off her light blouse. ‘You, young slant eyed girls have great tits. I know you don’t understand English. Around here there is only one reason to open your mouth and I’ll show you what for.’ The sound of his zipper whitens fearful eyes. Her sobs choked by his knob down her throat. Outside, the sound of fast-paced Sydney rushes with car exhaust. The events in the back room of the exclusive men’s club holds no sway in the interest of the general public that passes by.
Tears dry as shaking hands feel clotted blood between stretched thighs. Naked, thousands of kilometres away from home in what some would describe as a cesspit. A dictated pattern of repression again befalls the innocence of unpaid family debts. The door opens. Thao, a girl a few years older, carries a wash basin and towel. The shivering Tai rolls her back on the meagre comfort offered. Thao’s gentle voice bargains, ‘You can’t survive on your own. We can help. Please, let me help. At least get clean and hold your dignity. You must hold on to something to go on.’
‘I don’t want to go on,’ yells Tai. ‘Leave me. I want to die.’ She sobs.
‘That, they will not let you do. Your parents will be sent the bill for your funeral, and you will become food for fish.’
‘I do not care my life has lost meaning. I am no longer clean, for family or living. I deserve to die as a failure. Does my mother really want a diem? No decent man will look at me now. Go away and let me die.’
‘Your parents think you are studying and earning good money as maid for a prestigious family. They do not know of your shame.’
‘How do you know?’ Tai’s voice hardens.
‘Like me, there are another 14 girls who suffer like you.’
Tai rolls back over to look at Thao for the first time; it is a mirrored prospect. Gently Thao stretches out the soapy face washer to Tai’s bruises. The warmth on offer brings light release of no hope to a shivering soul.
Tai allows Thao to help her on to her feet. The warmth of water brings slow respite against the humiliating pain that knots muscles. Soothingly the morning stains are washed.