Rammstein: Sanctuary

I stood at the crossroads in the dark and looked down the shabby asphalt road heading north out of this tiny little hellhole, somewhere in Louisiana. Behind me on the road sat a large tour bus, humming with a thick diesel power, ready to take me away from this town. Before me was a tiny little dirt road beaten into mud by the wet weather. It bellied right up to the main road like a dog begging for a scrap, but no tire tracks showed up in the fresh mud. The only prints visible were the marks of small bare feet, slender and graceful, and tending to step on the ball of the foot like a dancer.

Scattered around my own booted feet was a collection of strewn items of clothing. A little tiny t-shirt of white, muddy now, with its humorous quote showing as a slash of red in the dim light given off by the windows of the bus. A pair of blue denim jeans, size one, crumpled where they’d been thrown, at my feet. A few feet away, a very sexy pair of scarlet five-inch heels lay haphazardly, smeared with mud.

I couldn’t even see the ghost of her in the distance anymore, and I knew that when I got in the bus and it drove away, this little muddy road would disappear into the swampy landscape as if it had never existed. Yet I stood a while longer anyway, just in case she called my name.

I heard the bus door open, and someone came down to stand beside me. It was Chris, of course. He stood silent for a few moments before breaking my reverie.

“Come on, Till. We need to go. It’s for the best.”

“I know.”

“She has your number. Not that I’d advise taking that call, if it comes.”

“There aren’t any phone lines out here, Chris.”

He waited in silence again until I turned, turning my back on her, which I had promised to never do. He walked with me to the bus, and let me up into it first. He closed the door, too, and then handed me a new bottle of Tequila Gold from the table as I stood there staring at him, feeling lost. I took it, and ignoring everyone else, went back to my own bunk cubicle and shut the thin little door.

I sat on my bunk and opened the bottle. Holding it up in a toast, I whispered our promise to myself in the thrumming noise of the engines.

“Sanctuary, no matter what. I’ll never turn my back on you.”

The bus pulled off into the night and left her far behind in moments. We’d be miles down the road before we reached the highway, before we passed a telephone pole. I drank, but the liquor tasted like rust.

**********************************************

“What are you grinning for, Till?” Paul asked me.

“I love this city,” I replied, pulling my sunglasses down in the warm Southern sun as we climbed off the tour bus.

We had finally reached our destination, the tall Wyndham Metairie Hotel, on Galleria Blvd. The bus ride had been long and cruelly boring, and it was good to hit the pavement again.

“You’re kidding,” Paul told me. “After what happened the last time? We almost got hauled off by the police!”

“Almost,” I qualified, smiling at him mischievously. “I want to go tour the French Quarter on our break, not drive on to Florida right off the mark.”

Flake stepped off the bus in time to hear that plan. He moved aside so the others could disembark after him, and shook his head at us both.

“The French Quarter in mid-July. That ought to smell just charming.”

“Pessimist,” Paul chimed in, warming to my plan. We laughed together and headed off into the hotel.

The concert was tomorrow evening, and we’d have to do sound check in the morning. I got to my room, fumbled with the card key, and then gratefully fell onto the bed. I didn’t move until the bellhop brought my suitcase up. I got up, tipped him, and tossed the big gray suitcase up onto one of the wide dressers.

First things first – call room service and have them bring up the parents of the little bottles in the mini bar, and some snacks to eat. Then a shower, and then off to explore and see what trouble I could find in this crazy town. I lit a cigarette and smoked it as I tossed my shoes and clothes all over the floor. I took a little glass ashtray with me into the spacious bathroom and started up a hot shower.

I had emerged to dig for my black shower bag out of the suitcase, when room service arrived. I remembered to wrap a towel around me first, then opened the door and let the fellow in. He arranged the solid and liquid goodies on the table, received his tip, and left. I locked the door after him, opened a bottle of Smirnoff and downed a few gulps, then returned to my steamed up bathroom and hot shower.

What to wear? Having not bothered to shave, there didn’t seem to be much point in attempting to dress with class.  I got as far as socks and continued to drink the Smirnoff as I tried to decide. Eventually, it was indecision, instead of apathy for once, that led me to my signature black jeans and t-shirt.  The t-shirt was a gift from Richard, with a silkscreen image of Einstein, the logo of the Café Einstein back home, on the front. Tucking myself into the button fly, I caged the beast, hoping to let him out again, soon.  I stomped my feet into my black boots, and remembered to grab my wallet, sunglasses, lighter, and cigs. I slipped my room card key into my wallet, and closed and fastened the suitcase.

I made one final trip to the bathroom to splash on cologne, and made a last attempt to shove my long dark bangs out of my eyes, although they fell back into them immediately. I noticed a touch of gray at my temples and frowned. Perhaps it was time to talk the band into another experimental hair color? No time now to bother about it – it was almost four o’clock and I wanted to look around before it got dark.

This city was very different from Berlin, but then, it was entirely different from most of America, too. I got a taxi and immediately asked to go to the French Quarter. The driver, an old black man with a white grizzled beard, but no mustache, and a brown hat on his thick white hair, kept up a lively chatter the entire drive over there. I understood most of it, but his speech was accented, quick, and peppered with idioms and slang, so some of it was lost on me.

I had him drop me off at the start of the French Quarter, and tipped him generously. I wanted to walk around, find bars, peer in shop windows for gifts for Nele and Marie-Louise, and perhaps meet someone interesting of the female species, while I was at it. I’d learned long ago on other tours that American women warmed to you fast if you asked them to help you find a gift for your little girl back home. It wasn’t my best opening line, but it was better than, ‘hey, I’m in a band, want to sleep with me?’ I tended to prefer the women that line wouldn’t work on, anyway.

Ending up in O’Flaherty’s Irish Pub on Toulouse Street, I hadn’t been there even twenty minutes before the bartender was telling me about their three resident ghosts. I was only half listening though, caught up in watching a girl out in the courtyard, sitting on the low edge of the fountain.

She was a spell-bindingly pretty thing, with long black hair and golden skin, slender and graceful. She had her hand in the water, swirling her fingers back and forth in it. She wore a dark yellow cotton sundress and leather sandals, with a generous glimpse of shapely bare leg as she perched there. She must have felt my stare, because she looked up abruptly through the open doorway at me. Her perfect heart-shaped face and high cheekbones were a work of art. Her steady dark eyes watched me fearlessly, and I knew I had to meet her.

Before I could extricate myself from the bartender’s story, though, she got up and came toward me. In spite of myself, my stomach lurched. She was twenty years or so if she was a day, and I was twice that. All my conflicting insecurities clawed at my mind, threatening to render me mute. Before I could either panic or recover my aplomb, she walked past me and called out a greeting to someone.

I turned to look, and saw my taxi driver outside, talking quietly to her. They hugged and she left, walking down the street out of sight. The driver came in and sat at a table by the windows, and a waitress brought him a beer without him having to say what he wanted.

Flustered, but intrigued, I picked up my glass, made my excuse to the bartender, and went over to talk to the cabby.

“Excuse me, may I ask you something?”

He looked up, smiled, and motioned me to the chair opposite him.

“Danke. I wanted to ask about the woman? Is she a friend?”

“No sir, no friend. She’s family, but there’s not many that would say so but me.”

“Your daughter?” I asked, embarrassed.

“Oh, no, sir. I’m her great uncle. She tries, that child, she tries, but it’s hard,” he said, and eyed me closely. “You like her? That’s okay, I’m not out to judge; but there’s trouble with that child, you mind that. Want my advice?”

“Uh, ja, sure.”

“Go find a nice tourist girl. That one? Trouble. Sweet child, she tries, but still there’s trouble.”

“I see.”

“No sir, you don’t,” he said and smiled. “You remind me of me when I was a strapping boy. Got that look in your eye, too. Never mind me, hear? She’d like you, and you seem nice.”

I didn’t know what to say to that. He drank his beer and I sipped my tequila in silence.

“You got supper planned?” he asked.

“Planned?”

“You got no plan, and you like adventure, I’d like to invite you to supper. My missus, she is a good cook; and Ayondela, she will be there tonight.”

“That’s a beautiful name.”

“Yes. It is from an Umbundu saying, ‘a little tree bends and bends, as we all bend toward death’. She was a sickly baby, but she grew up just fine.”

“If your wife doesn’t mind, and Ayondela wouldn’t be angry, I’d love to have supper with you.”

“Angry? No. I said, she will like you.”

I sat there and talked with him for another hour or so, and paid for our drinks. Around seven o’clock, he said it was time to go. We got up and went out to his taxi.

“I’m Till Lindemann,” I finally remembered to introduce myself properly.

“Hezechiah Comeaux. Pleased to meet you,” he smiled, and we shook hands like two slightly drunk old friends.

Hezechiah’s home was a beautiful little upstairs flat on St. Ann Street, all old world French, and very clean. When he opened the front door and asked me in, the smells of cooking drew me directly to the kitchen, where a tiny little black woman with hair as white as her husband’s was stirring something in a huge green stew pot. She looked up at me and smiled warmly.

“Eva, this is Till Lindemann, and I’ve invited him home to supper.”

She wiped her hands on her apron and came over to shake my hand.

“Pleased to meet you, Mr. Lindemann, welcome. We’re having shrimp jambalaya, and it’ll be ready in just a minute. Hezechiah, did you tell Ayon to come and eat?”

“Yes, ma’am, I did. She said she’d come.”

Hezechiah led me to their living room, where he brought out a fine 18-year-old scotch and poured for us both into heavy crystal whiskey glasses, over ice. I had just sipped some, when the door opened and Ayondela came in. She saw me and hesitated, but went to her aunt first and hugged her.

“Sorry I’m late, Mama Eva. Vincent didn’t want to let me come over.”

“Never you mind, Child. You’re here. Now help me with supper.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

When Eva called for Hezechiah to help set the table, I came along.

“Mr. Lindemann, you are a guest, sir,” Eva told me in smiling reproval.

“Please call me Till; and I don’t mind helping at all.”

“Ayondela, this is Till, my supper guest. Why don’t you show him where the plates are, there’s a good girl,” Hezechiah said, shooing us both to a large wooden hutch dresser next to the kitchen.

“Hallo,” I said, quickly feeling very awkward.

“Hello, yourself. I saw you at the pub. You know my uncle?”

“I just met him, actually, today. He brought me to the French Quarter from my hotel.”

“You’re lucky then. You can leave here.”

“You don’t like it here?”

“Here, yes. My own home, no. Here, she wants these plates, with a guest.”

I was much taller than she was, so I reached up and took down four of the plates she had indicated. She took them from me, and our fingers touched. She smiled and blushed, and I couldn’t help but smile.

She smelled enticingly of a perfume I didn’t recognize. Her voice was a warm and smooth alto, and very sexy; and here I was about to play house and have supper with her extended family. How did I get into these strange situations, when I’d gone out looking for fast fun? Yet I had to admit I was too intrigued to back out now. Besides, the food smelled far too good to miss.

I ended up spending the entire evening eating, talking, and laughing with these people. I got many of Hezechiah’s slang phrases learned, and tried to explain Berlin to Ayondela. She was fascinated by my travel stories, and though I didn’t hide the fact of what I did, they didn’t seem to know the band at all.

After supper, Hezechiah poured us another scotch, but chased Ayondela and myself out of the kitchen. He helped Eva clean up, and Ayondela led me out to the balcony that overlooked the narrow St. Ann Street. She carried the bottle of scotch out with us, and set it on a wooden table at our left. Ignoring the chairs there, she stood at the black iron railing and looked down at the lively nightlife all around.

I stood near her, and nervously sipped my drink. Her cheerful yellow dress seemed darker out here, with only a dim light at the corner of the balcony.

“When do you leave?” she asked.

“The day after tomorrow. We’re supposed to get a break, and we haven’t decided if we will drive on toward Florida or stay longer here first.”

She turned to me and took my glass, gulped the scotch without wincing, and gave it back to me. To my surprise, she then put one hand up on my chest and the other behind my neck, and pulled me down into a kiss.

Her mouth transformed me from a hesitant and awkward guest into a man of wicked thoughts. Common sense was slipping away, as she pressed herself into me, and I gripped the heavy crystal glass in my hand as I held her to me.

She broke the kiss and looked up at me. “I want to go, now. I know a place. Will you come with me?”

“Won’t your uncle and aunt disapprove?” I asked, trying to remember my manners.

She smiled a feline smile. “No, they know. If Uncle Hezechiah brought you home, he knows. I like you. I want you to come with me.”

“We could go to my hotel, but it’s not here, it’s in Metairie.”

“No, I know a place. It’s just down the street. Come,” she said, and took me by the hand to lead me inside.

“Where are you going, Child?” Eva asked her.

“It’s early, Mama Eva. I want to show our guest the town.”

“Well you are a sweet child, Ayon. I’ll see you tomorrow?”

“Yes, ma’am, maybe so.”

She hugged them both, and I thanked them for the meal quickly before she rushed us out the door. We went only a little way down the street when she stopped at the Place d’ Arms Hotel. It looked small from the front, but it sprawled behind into a courtyard with a pool, and more buildings beyond, all part of the hotel.

We didn’t even stop at the front desk. She nodded to the man behind the counter, and he smiled warmly at her and let us pass. She took us through the courtyard and into the next building. Turning into a narrow carpeted inner circular stairs, she went up first, and I nearly tripped due to watching her supple body move up the stairs before me. I managed to keep my hands off her until she stopped at a room that was open, and shut the door behind us.

I might have worried about this whole situation, but my heat blinded me to sense. She stood before me and reached down, grabbing handfuls of her dress, and tore it off over her head, letting it fall in a heap in a corner. She was nude under it, and she kicked off her sandals as I drank in the sight.

She came to me and kissed me again, and helped me strip off my t-shirt. Dropping it on her dress, she walked fluidly to the neatly made double bed and lay down on it, looking up at me.

I don’t know how I struggled out of the rest of my clothes so fast. I went to sit beside her and placed my hands on her small breasts, rubbing the dark nipples under my thumbs.

“Lay down,” she purred, and moved over for me.

I lay down and tried to think about what I was doing. I didn’t know this woman at all, and the whole situation was a little odd. She didn’t have a key to this room, but it had been open for her. The possibility that I was with a prostitute crossed my mind, but I rejected the idea because I didn’t like the thought of it.

Of course, I told myself, this girl just took one look and fell madly in love. What the hell are you thinking? I wasn’t thinking at all when she straddled me and took my hard cock in her hands. Did anything really matter at this point? I wanted her. When she slid my cock inside her slender body and started to ride it, I honestly didn’t care anymore if there was a bill at the end.

My hands stroked and pinched at her nipples, feeling with delight the taut smooth golden brown of her stomach, the delicate, but athletic body, thighs working to move herself up and down my shaft.

She leaned down to kiss me, pressing the little hard points of her nipples into my chest hair, her body driving me mad with lust. She moved in ways I hadn’t seen in years, and never on a woman under thirty. My hands gripped her hips as my orgasm built up to a frenzy. She played with her breasts as she moved, staring into my eyes, and the sight sent me over the edge. I came hard and faster than I’d have liked to, but it felt so good, I couldn’t care. I didn’t even know if she had come or not, but I could take care of that, as soon as I caught my breath. She moved off me and snuggled up to me, and I held her close.

“Damn, you are huge,” she said, and giggled.

“Thank you,” I said and smiled.

“You beat some of the black men I know.”

“Is that good?”

“Yes.”

“Good, then.”

“I’m half you know; and quarter white, and then Native American. Momma called me a mutt, but she’s been gone for years.”

“Whom do you live with?”

“Oh, Vincent. He’s my stepfather; but I don’t like him. He’s a drunk, and he gets mean.”

“You can’t live with your uncle and aunt? They seem very nice.”

“They are nice; but they like me to live by rules. I don’t like rules.”

“I might have guessed.”

“You don’t care that I’m a mutt?”

“Why should I? But you shouldn’t say that. You’re a beautiful girl.”

“The whole clan cares, except Mama Eva and Uncle Hezechiah. The white side, they won’t look at me at all.”

“Well, I like looking at you,” I said, getting up on one elbow to look her over with a smile.

“I like looking at you, too. You have beautiful eyes, and they are kind.”

I ducked my head to hide my eyes from her and kissed her between her perky conical breasts.

She laughed with delight. “You’re shy? You’re too big to be shy, boy.”

I responded by kissing down her body. Her slim fingers slipped into my hair and played with it as I slowly settled down between her legs, which she opened to me instantly. Her dark glistening sex was a gorgeous sight. She trimmed her pubic hair in a way that reminded me of Playboy centerfolds, and I smiled to think that she might have tried to copy them.

Sliding two thick fingers inside her, I enjoyed her gasp, watching her back arch and her hands cover her breasts again. I pumped my fingers in her for a minute, and then put my mouth on her and thrust my tongue deep inside for a few wet thrusts, and then toyed with her clitoris and all the beautiful folds and whorls of skin that could make a man feel so good, and licked and lapped at them all.

Her hands kneaded my shoulders and her body squirmed under my attentions. The soft moans told me I was doing well. I was also slowly re-inspiring myself, which surprised me, since it was so soon after the first time; but we had time, I hoped.

My fingers spread open her folds and I exposed her clitoris and flicked my tongue over it fast and constant; never stopping until her body twitched and I could taste the fluid of her orgasm on my tongue. I lapped it up and entered her with my tongue again; keeping it up until I lost count of the times I made her come.

Her fingers clawed at me, trying to get me to move up over her, so I obliged, and carefully settled myself on her and entered her with my cock, nicely hard again to my delight. She wrapped her legs around my waist hard, with a strength that drove me wild, and I thrust hard and full as I kissed her.

She didn’t hesitate to taste herself in my mouth, and I’ve always loved women who weren’t squeamish about that.

“Come on, come on, do it hard,” she told me huskily.

“If I keep that up, it won’t last,” I breathed into her throat.

“But I like it like that. Don’t worry, I’ll get you up again in no time.”

Having already seen that possibility, I simply did as she asked, hard, full, and fast. I pulled almost all the way out, and then shoved myself all the way back in hard. She was hot and tight in there, amazing feeling, and as I’d predicted, it was too good to take long.

I gasped and shouted out when I came this time. My head spun, as it often did if I’d been drinking, nearly making me dizzy.

I felt almost woozy when I made myself move off of her too quickly afterward, but I didn’t want to put my full weight down on her. She was so slender, and even though she was obviously strong, I was self-conscious about hurting her. She curled into my side, my arm around her back, and laid her head on my chest.

“You make me feel safe,” she murmured.

“I hope so; but I worry a bit about being too rough.”

“Don’t. I like that; but you’re nice after, and that’s good. In your arms, it’s like being in a sanctuary.”

I raised my eyebrows, and smiled indulgently at her thick, soft black hair. “If you want that to last, you could come with me back to my hotel.”

“You’d let me? That would be nice. What about your thing tomorrow? The show?”

“Well, you could come to that, if you like, too. Then we could go back to my hotel tomorrow night.”

“I like; but first, I want to eat you whole,” she said with a grin, and reached down to touch my spent cock.

“You might have to wait for that,” I said sleepily. “He’s not a young buck, like you.”

“How old are you?” she asked, sitting up and scooting down to sit at my knees, her hand still around my cock.

“Forty-one,” I said, trying not to wince. “And you?”

“Old enough; but you seem like a gentleman, and a gentleman should never ask a lady’s age.”

I’d have thought about that, but she had laid my cock on my stomach, spread my legs, and lay between them. She held the base of my cock and to my surprise, gently put my left testicle into her hot mouth. Her tongue and mouth made it move inside its skin pouch, and the feeling was incredible. She let that one go just to capture the right one, and the mind-numbing pleasure started to warm me again.

She caught my eye and put her index finger in her mouth, making sure I saw her do it, and then I felt it rub against my ass. She pressed just a little, enough to make my stomach flip over, and I held my breath.

Her mouth left my body briefly and I looked down at her.

“Do you mind this?” she whispered, the pad of her finger pressing there.

“No….” I closed my eyes and just let it happen.

She knew what she was doing, knew the spot to find and stroke, and I felt her mouth take in my whole sack and play with it with her tongue.

When I felt my cock stir and start to grow hard again, I opened my eyes and watched her again. She released my sack and took my cock into her mouth, moving her hands to the base of it, and started to slowly deep throat me.

I hadn’t encountered many women who could do that, and I watched her do it, fascinated. Her lips touched her fingers, and she had almost the whole thing in her throat. The sight made me so hard it hurt, and she sucked it so good, I might have passed out. Her left hand moved and stroked my sack again, toying gently with the testicles as she sucked and then licked the head, and then swallowed it all down again.

Expecting her to finish it in her hand, I was surprised when she didn’t. She knew when I was close, and simply increased the suction and speed. I watched her voraciously, and came loudly, my body trembling and drenched with sweat, watching her swallow my cum down without a wince, just like the scotch.

I closed my eyes slowly, alive but feeling very drunk, and felt it when she moved to cuddle up with me again. I fell asleep without remembering that I had sound check in the morning.

Waking slowly, I was unaware of the time, or even where I was. Sunlight filled the room, and there was someone at my side. I looked and saw Ayon sleeping beside me, and remembered everything. I got up and got dressed and then wondered if I should try calling room service for coffee; but the question of why and how we had stayed here was still a mystery. I had managed to remember that I might be late for sound check, and so I decided to forgo a needed shower and just get out to the arena as quick as I could.

Sitting on the bed, I touched Ayon’s face to wake her. Her dark coffee eyes opened and she smiled at me. Sitting up to stretch, her muscles and glowing skin alight, she was a sight. I was taken in again by just watching her. She took in the fact that I was dressed and went to fetch her dress and sandals.

I stood at the door, having gathered my things, and opened the door to smoke a cigarette. Ayon put on her sandals and came up to kiss me.

“Ready? I need to get to the arena.”

“Yes.”

“Do you want breakfast?”

“This hotel sets a good sideboard brunch. We can grab and go. It’s set up this way.”

She led me back through the courtyard to a room we had passed the night before. There were people all about at the tables here, having juice, coffee, and pastries. We helped ourselves to coffee and croissants and continued out through the hall that led to the street. Ayon popped her head into the lobby door and asked someone to call her a taxi.

We stood and consumed our breakfast, and then she slipped her arm around my waist as we watched the taxi arrive. I let her into the backseat first, and then followed her, giving the address of the UNO Lakefront Arena at 6801 Franklin Ave.

She snuggled into me in the taxi and held my hand, playing with my fingers. I didn’t stop to wonder what the band would think of her coming along. I was too busy thinking up an excuse for being so late.

The arena was busy, and I had a little trouble getting the taxi allowed into the backstage area. The bustle seemed to excite Ayondela. I paid the driver and we walked hand in hand into the band’s dressing room area.

“Till!” Chris called out when he spotted us. “Where the hell have you been?”

“Chris, I want you to meet Ayondela. Ayon, this is Christoph.”

“Hello,” she said brightly, stopping the drummer’s tirade in its tracks.

He said hello, grumbled at me, and led the way to the others.

Sound check was grueling. No one was too surprised at my reason for being late, though, and I behaved as if nothing was amiss; but I wanted to get done with it as fast as possible, too. I had deposited Ayondela with Caron and the other women, and she seemed quite fearless among them. As soon as I could, I avoided all questions and escaped with Ayon to go exploring.

“Be here early for the show, Till,” Chris warned.

“You got it. Let’s go,” I said to her, and took her hand.

We got a ride with some of the roadies back into the French Quarter, and Ayondela showed me around. I also decided to do some impromptu shopping. I’d never met a woman yet who minded being bought things, and this one was no exception. I got her a pair of designer jeans she’d had her eye on, a tiny little baby doll white t-shirt with red letters that read “Duct Tape Specialist”, and for later, because she wanted them, and I wanted to see her in them, a pair of sexy scarlet five-inch stiletto heels.

Finally, a bit of relaxation before the show sounded good, so we returned to the Wyndham hotel. It was a sprawling expensive suite, and Ayondela seemed impressed. We got into a shower together and wasted a lot of water. She insisted on drying me with a towel herself, and I started to feel quite decadent. I obliged and dried her off, too.

She went and got her new heels out, then. Naked and gleaming, she slipped her tiny feet into the shoes, and posed for me, smiling seductively. I dropped my towel and wrapped her in my arms.

Leading me to the bed, she laid down, pulling me over her. I ended up on my knees, thrusting lustily into her with her legs up, the arches of the heels in the palms of my hands. The slick feel of the scarlet leather in my fingers and the pleasure of taking her again drove me to another brain-melting climax.

I pulled her into my arms and held her close. She looked up at me and touched my face.

“I could get used to this, Till.”

“Me, too.”

“Remember when I told you about a sanctuary?”

“Yes, I do.”

“There’s a story my Mama Eva told me when I was little. I don’t remember much about it now, except that people in trouble used to go to churches, cathedrals, and they could claim sanctuary and be protected. I guess I just liked that idea. I don’t often feel safe; but I feel safe with you.”

“I’ll be your sanctuary, Ayon. If you want it, you could come with me, for as long as you like.”

She smiled sadly. “You say that now. We are warm in a bed, and I give myself to you. It is easy now.”

I looked down at her. “I don’t understand your sadness. What is wrong? Is someone treating you badly?”

She turned her back and pulled my arm over her. I shifted my weight and held her close again.

“Tell me what’s wrong,” I whispered into her ear.

“I don’t want to go home,” she whispered back.

“Then come with me.”

She turned her head and looked at me again. “Do you really mean that?”

“Yes. I want to take care of you.”

“Soon enough, you will think I am trouble. Then you will turn your back on me like the others.”

“No.” I turned her face to me and kissed her. “I won’t turn my back on you. I promise.”

“You will be my sanctuary?”

“And you can be mine,” I said and kissed her deeply.

She settled into my arms again, and fell asleep. I felt abruptly happy, content for the first time in many months. It took me longer to sleep, imagining all I could do for her. We slept for a few hours after that.

The concert was a mess, and we barely managed to avoid being arrested. The fans loved the show, so that was all I cared about, but we escaped backstage quickly when it was over.

Caron came backstage with Ayon in tow to find Richard and I. I took her in my arms in front of everyone and kissed her passionately. Richard didn’t notice, though, he was too busy doing the same with his wife. I knew I wouldn’t have any protest from him about bringing Ayon with us.

The band got showered fast, and I dressed in a fresh pair of black jeans and a navy blue silk dress shirt. Ayon was in a new red dress I’d bought her, with her obscenely sexy red heels, and I had to remember my promise to take her out before going back to the hotel.

We got one of the limos rented for the band’s use, and had it drop us off back in the French Quarter. I loved the quaint buildings steeped in mystery and ghost stories, and the ramshackle sidewalks that you had to watch out for, or a tree root or broken piece of concrete might trip you.

Walking to the corner of Royal and St. Peter, we went into the Royal Café for dinner. I had put all my nagging worried thoughts aside without further consideration. She made me happy, and she wanted me too, and we seemed to get along fine. I was aware that she inspired my desire to rescue someone, and I shamelessly made plans in my head to do just that. What we would do when it came time to go home to Berlin, I didn’t know; but if she wanted that, I’d be happy to take her with me.

At dinner, she played with my jeans with the toe of her shoe under the table. People milled everywhere, but she seemed unconcerned about that. Her boldness both worried and enticed me. I didn’t get to desert before I was ready to toss her over my shoulder and look for a cave.

We paused on the street after dinner, trying to decide where to go, when a disheveled white man approached and lurched up to us.

“Ayondela, you little bitch! You come home now, girl!”

She shrank away from him, and I moved instantly to stand in front of her.

“Who the hell are you?” he demanded. “Get your hands off my girl. Ayondela, don’t do this again, don’t be a little slut, you come home, now!”

“I’m going to tell you once to leave her alone.” My hands clenched into fists.

He chose to swing at me instead, but it was a huge swing you could see for miles, and I avoided it easily. I clubbed him with my right fist in the back of the neck and he went down like an ox.

Ayon grabbed me and pulled me away and we went on down the street before a crowd could gather.

“Was that Vincent?”

She was quiet, but I assumed I was right. We found a little public park and sat together on a bench. I thought she might cry, but she just sat there looking distraught.

“You’re safe now, Ayon. I’ll protect you. Sanctuary, remember?”

She turned to me and leaned her head on my chest. I held her tightly and kissed her hair.

“I’d like to go back now, to the hotel.”

“Sure. We can leave tomorrow, too, if you want; but I would like to see the St. Louis Cathedral tomorrow, first.”

“Yes, I’d like to show you that. It’s my favorite.”

I took her up to the room and let her get a shower while I went to find Richard. Caron let me into their suite and I found Richard sitting on the couch, smoking. I lit a cigarette too, and sat next to him.

“You want to take her with us, don’t you.”

“Yes, I do. Am I going to get grief for it?”

“Not from me. Caron is with us, and Paul and Olli have their ladies, too. Why not you?”

“Christoph and Flake won’t fuss?”

“Ask them. Chris will fuss, because he worries you’re making a mistake; but I think you’re old enough to decide that for yourself.”

“Thanks, Reesh.”

I encountered Chris in the hall. He was returning from dinner, too, I assumed.

“Till, I want to talk to you.”

“I figured,” I said, resigned. I set my feet in a stance that my band mates had always told me was my stubborn pose.

“Caron said you plan on bringing your new friend with us on the tour.”

“That’s right, Chris.”

“Have you checked her driver’s license?”

“She’s twenty. Why do you care? You’ve brought women from one city to another before. The others bring their women all the time, too.”

“Exactly. Women. I’m not going to argue with you, Till. Just be careful, okay?”

“Noted. Good night, Chris.”

Turning on my boot heel, I left him standing there. Inside the room, I found a nude and gorgeous Ayon lying on the made bed on her stomach, her still damp hair splayed around her.

I locked the door, undressed silently, and sat beside her. My hands ran greedily over her perfect body, beautiful ample rear, and smooth legs. I stroked her from her feet to the nape of her neck, and down her arms.

“That feels good,” she murmured.

“So, what do you want to be when you grow up?”

“What?” She sat up and faced me.

“Well, I won’t be on tour forever, and home is in Germany. Would you want to go home with me? You can do a lot of other things, too, if you don’t want to go to Europe. I’d set you up somewhere, get you in a good college, whatever you like.”

“I want to stay with you.” She got up onto her hands and knees and crawled up to the pillows, pulling the covers loose and pushing them down with her feet. “I used to want to dance; but I’m too old to start that now. I learned how to step like a dancer when I was little; and it looks good in heels.”

Still on hands and knees, she looked back at me and smiled coquettishly. I didn’t need any further invitation, and I was already hard from stroking her. I got onto my knees and got behind her, my left arm drew her backside to me, and I set my eager cock against her and pushed it slowly in. I wrapped my arms around her, and my right hand fingers reached around her thigh to touch her sex, enjoying it’s quick wetness as I began to thrust inside her again.

This position was fabulous for a lot of reasons. It allowed me to get deeper than ever with minimal effort on me, and the kinky angles I could achieve could make a woman very pleased. I kissed her back, too, and licked up her spine, loving the feel of her tight heat on my shaft.

My left hand reached to toy with her firm and beautiful breasts. She moved with me, rocking with my motion, and as we wound up tighter in our heat, she began to slam back into my thrusts, making my cock sink even deeper into her body.

Fingers moving at alternating speeds, I sent her into a round of orgasms. I finally had the patience to pace myself and make it last; but the view was my downfall. I’d always been a very visual man, and watching my cock slide in and out of her made me even harder. Imagining her as a dancer, a real ballet dancer, got to me, too. Maybe she’d let me buy her some ballet shoes, even if it was just for the bedroom. I leaned in over her back again and kissed the back of her neck, nibbling and biting a bit, too. She went wild at that, so I kept it up. Glorying in her heat, I felt my own orgasm build and reveled in it. The gathering pressure made me ache just before it burst in pleasure through my cock and radiated through me like a drug.

I moved when she stirred, and we lay close, panting and sweaty, our fingers entwined. I turned to look over at her, and enjoyed the sight of her. Then Chris’s comment floated up to haunt me as I took in her supple curves and small, perfect breasts. Soon enough, though, I shoved the worry away again. Chris was so used to seeing me in the company of women sporting a double D that he was in shock, that was all. Ignoring my nagging instincts, I drew her into my arms and drifted off to sleep.

The St. Louis Cathedral was worth a visit. I have never been a religious man, but I have always liked the dark mood of a Gothic church. Scores of little votive candles were lit, and sunlight showed the colorful patterns of the stained-glass windows beautifully.

We sat in a back pew, far from the railing before the altar, and I looked around at the statues, paintings, and fancy gilded columns and ornamentation of the building.

Ayondela was watching me silently. She had been very quiet all morning. Now she seemed restless, barely patient with my sightseeing, but tolerant; as compliant as she’d always been since we met.

When I turned my head to look at her, she looked away and watched the few others around the pews. She was wearing the jeans and baby doll t-shirt I’d bought her, with the high red heels, and she had left her thick hair down at my request. In return, I had worn my sleeveless black t-shirt with my signature black jeans and boots. She called it “the tough look”. I didn’t know if I agreed, but if she wanted it, I was more than willing to please her.

“Are you hungry?” I whispered.

“No.”

“What would you like to do?”

“Whatever you like.”

“If I can drag you around on one more outing, I’d like to see that cemetery. The famous one.”

“St. Louis Cemetery No. 1.”

“Is that where the Voodoo queen is buried?”

“Marie Laveau, yes.”

“Let’s go.” I took her hand in mine and we walked through the nave to the front doors of the church.

She paused at the nook where the vigil candles burned beneath the statue of the Virgin, in a little alcove. Lifting a long wick that lay there, presumably to light the candles, she dipped it into one candle’s flame and lit a new one. She whispered something to it that I couldn’t hear.

“You’re Catholic?” I asked, curious about her prayer, but too polite to ask about it.

“Everyone here is Catholic, either that, or they pretend to be. I see no harm in a little religious insurance.”

We stepped out the doors and went through the iron gate, emerging again onto Jackson Square. I put my sunglasses back on and turned to look up at the church front clock, noting that the time was 11:30 am.

Walking hand in hand to Chartres Street, we caught a taxi to the cemetery over seven blocks away. We fell in behind a small walking tour, but soon struck out on our own along the narrow avenues of this city of the dead, as they called it.

Arriving at the tomb of Marie Laveau, we waited until another clutch of tourists left it before we approached. I saw a scattering of burned down votive candles on the ground at the tomb, with flowers, coins and other items left there around them. The tomb was a large rectangular white block, tall, and covered with scrawled X’s.

Ayondela slipped some coins out of her jeans pocket and left them with the rest. I took a last drag on my cigarette and dropped it, crushing it out with my boot, and watched as she turned around three times clockwise, and then knocked on the tomb three times. Her lips moved in another quiet prayer.

“Practicing Voodoo as well?” I asked with a smile.

She smiled back at me. “I told you, I see no harm in a little religious insurance.”

Taking my hand, she led me around the back of the tomb. Leaning against it, she pulled me up to her. She took off my sunglasses, put them on top of her own head, and looked into my eyes, her hands stroking my bare arms. I leaned in and kissed her deeply. Her right leg rose between mine and pressed up against the instantly growing hardness there. She moved her hips and rubbed her leg back and forth along my crotch, the rough sound of the denim we wore seemed abruptly loud in my ears.

I lifted the white baby-doll t-shirt she wore up to her collarbones, exposing her breasts to my eager mouth. Her fingers toyed in my hair as I suckled her nipples. I knew I couldn’t risk my own satisfaction here, but there was no stopping the sudden desire to make her writhe with it. I slipped her shirt back down and opened her jeans. Her smile widened as she leaned her head back against the tomb and closed her eyes. I tugged the tight jeans and her red silk panties down to her thighs and went to my knees before her.

My body was a riot of denied need as I licked and sucked at her sex. My fingers spread the folds of flesh to expose her clitoris and I lapped at it fast and hard, enjoying her moans, her hands gripping my shoulders. The sun was warm and blinding. Then I heard voices on the other side of the tomb.

“I’m not kidding, Jerry, I heard her ghost moaning!”

“Will you stop trying to scare me, Stacey?”

“I’m serious!”

“Come on, we’re losing the others.”

I couldn’t help a grin as I heard them walk away, thankfully in the opposite direction. Ayondela twitched and groaned under my tongue, and I drank her greedily, and then licked her clean. She went limp and we both had a difficult time getting her jeans back in place. I reclaimed my sunglasses to escape the glare of the day. The stroll would be more difficult for me after this, but I planned to endure it stoically, knowing she would reciprocate later, when we had less chance of being arrested.

Before we left the tomb, Ayondela got out a little red lipstick tube from a pocket and drew a small X on the spot where we had been. As I donned my sunglasses again, she circled her X with a thick scarlet slash.

We met Richard and Caron for lunch at the Court of Two Sisters. The women predictably went to the ladies room together after the meal, and Richard and I leaned back and nursed our drinks.

“You seem happier than I’ve seen you in quite awhile, Till.”

“A bit of good company will do that.”

“Yes, I know. I like her, so does Caron; but she’s coming along to escape things here, isn’t she?”

“Yes, I suppose so. I met Vincent already.”

“Vincent?”

“Her step-father. Not a pleasant fellow.”

“This isn’t a lecture…” Richard began.

“But?” I asked, my eyebrows raised.

“But, I wonder if you know much about her situation? Will this step-father have a legal say in what she does?”

“He shouldn’t have. He’s a drunken mess, and probably hits her, though she won’t talk about it. I’m doing her good, Reesh.”

“I know. I trust you. I just don’t want to see you get hurt; and Chris has a point about her seeming to be rather young.”

“Chris should mind his own business.”

Our companions returned and ended the conversation awkwardly.

“Till,” Caron asked, “are you going to take her by her home first? We need to leave this evening, and she’ll need to take some of her things, I imagine.”

“We’re leaving this evening? When was that decided for sure?” I asked.

“At the band meeting you missed this morning,” Richard said with a smile. “You said you wanted to go today already.”

I nodded idly, though I didn’t remember saying so to anyone but Ayondela.

“I don’t need much from home. Could we go now?”

“Sure,” I said, rising and taking her hand. Richard had already captured our check. I gave both of them a kiss on top of their heads and we left.

We had to get another taxi to reach her house in the outskirts of New Orleans, a run-down area with ramshackle wooden houses that looked as if they’d been raised up from the swampy land around them. The houses were a good way down a narrow dirt road from the main road, off of the highway. Her house was almost at the end of the road, a tiny wooden structure that might have been green years ago. As I let the taxi go, Ayondela asked how we’d get back to town.

“We can call another cab when we’re ready to go.”

“There aren’t any phones here.”

I looked around and realized just how run down the place was, almost last century. I was more convinced than ever that she needed to leave the place.

“I have my cell phone.”

She took my hand and we went up to the house. She stepped up onto the cinder block porch and opened the door.

“Vincent, you here?” she called into the darkness.

I waited and listened, hearing nothing but birds and the distant highway.

“Must be out. Come on,” she told me, and lead the way inside.

The interior looked like the outside made you expect, giving squalor a new dimension. She took me down a grimy hallway toward the back bedroom, and when she pulled a string, an overhead light came on to reveal a tumbled room and rumpled bed. I stood to the side as she knelt, reached under the bed, and grabbed a battered brown nylon gear bag.

“I’ll be right back. Sit down,” she told me, indicating the bed.

She went out and I heard her rummaging through a bathroom, if the slap of a plastic shower curtain was any clue. I glanced around and noticed a complete absence of things you normally expect to see in a young woman’s room. No stereo, for one. A desk with a broken mirror was covered with a scattering of make-up and odds and ends. Only a large poster of a Jazz festival from 1998 adorned the gray walls. Clothes were strewn everywhere, and the closet door was propped open by a flood of more stuff.

When she returned, her bag was about a third full. She set it on the chair at the desk and swept most of the things on the desk into it. As she started opening drawers and stuffing their contents into the bag, I sat down on her bed to watch her.

She zipped the bag up and set it on the floor by the open door. Turning to look at me, her expression was serious. She came to me and kissed me. I drew her down to sit next to me and held her close.

“I can’t believe I’m really leaving. Make love to me, Till.”

“Now? Here?” I said, startled.

“Yes, now, here, silly boy. I want to fuck you in my own bed before I leave.”

She kicked off her heels and stripped off her shirt, tossing them next to the bag, and the jeans and panties followed after. She came back to me and pushed me back on the bed, undoing my belt and jeans.

I wasn’t sure about this at all, but I was soon given little choice. Once she got her hands on me, my body was too eager for her to worry about anything else. Besides, I did love it this way – total abandon, without even getting undressed first, just a release of my cock and her nude body straddling me and riding it. Her strength and skill on top of me were mind-blowing, and the tease in the cemetery made me all too willing for release.

She made it quick and rude in the messy sprawl of her tousled bed, her hands on my chest, staring into my eyes with a fierce hunger on her face. There was something odd about her mood, but I wasn’t up to finding out what it was just then. She was like a force of nature, working my body to a breathless heat in moments. The crudeness of it all abruptly made it hotter, and I knew I wouldn’t last long.

I watched her grind into me without pause, without a single kiss or caress, and my body trembled with heat. The molten pleasure coiled in my gut and I held my breath as the orgasm took me over, burning through my veins as I came deep inside her. She slipped off me too fast and I lay there feeling a bit dazed as she quickly dressed again.

It had felt wonderful, if almost like being attacked, and it took me a moment to recover and sit up. I wanted to go, though, and I fished out my cell phone as soon as I got myself back into my jeans. The cab on its way, I stood and picked up her bag for her. She took a last look around and motioned me out ahead of her. I wanted a shower, but that could wait for the hotel.

I walked down the hall again to the shabby living room. As I came out into it, still feeling a bit too warm and shaky from the intense sex, I stumbled over a roll in the ratty carpet. Before I could regain my footing, I heard Ayondela shout. I was about to turn to her, when something heavy struck me on the side of the head. I lurched and fell to my knees, the bag flying from my hand. Something struck me again, and I went down on my face.

The room blurred, but I heard Ayondela screaming at someone, and I struggled up to my knees again. A thin man had her by the wrist and she was screaming at him and trying to fight him. I foggily recognized him as the man from the street that had cursed at us. Vincent. He dropped a full Jack Daniels bottle to grab her better, and I realized that was what he had hit me with. As I struggled to my feet, he slapped her down to the floor and stood over her where she curled into a ball, protecting her head.

My world spun, but I got up. Anger boiled through me, coursing into my knotted fists. He was about to kick her when I reached him and punched him solid in the gut. He doubled over and staggered back, but recovered quickly and got in a punch to my right shoulder as he came up. I moved between him and Ayondela and closed with him. I didn’t care that he was half my size, and I was too enraged to think straight after seeing her crumpled in a heap.

I beat him down to the ground and kept hitting until he was still. I felt her hands on my arm, trying to pull me away, yelling my name. I finally sat back away from him and she clung to my arm, sobbing. I pulled her into my lap and held her tight. Vincent never moved.

When the horn of the taxi sounded outside, I finally stirred. She moved off me and I got shakily to my feet, helping her up and hugging her to me again.

“Let’s go.”

“Is he – dead?” she whispered.

I walked over to him and prodded his limp dirty body with my boot toe. He groaned and twitched, but didn’t wake.

“No; but he should be.”

I picked up her bag again and opened the door for her. She went out and down to the taxi in a daze. Her cheek was starting to bruise a little where he’d struck her. The sight of it made me want to go back in and kick him.

She snuggled into me on the ride back to town, and I directed the cab to her uncle’s house. I thought Hezechiah deserved to hear what had happened, and that someone should know about her decision to come away with me.

Going up the stairs was difficult and I was dizzy at the top, but I managed it. We were welcomed inside and Hezechiah got the story from Ayondela and called the police.

A good whiskey helped calm me as I sat in Eva’s kitchen. She had given me a tea towel with ice in it for my aching skull. She was in the living room with Ayondela as Hezechiah spoke on the phone with the New Orleans police. They had had Vincent picked up for assault, but apparently he had needed a hospital from the beating I gave him. I had refused medical attention myself. No one seemed in a hurry to question me for my part in the incident, and I gathered the police were used to Vincent being brought in for this. I was told they would talk to me at the hotel before I left.

I had called the band, and Chris and Richard were on their way in a rental car from the hotel. I was the only one left who needed to pack, and then we could all board the bus and head out of town. The plan was still Florida for our tour break, they said, but I didn’t follow the conversation much.

Hezechiah and Eva hugged us both when the car arrived, and we got into the back seat. Ayondela waved to them as we drove off to the hotel.

I showered and packed quickly in my bathrobe, leaving a change of clothes on the dresser by my suitcase, while Ayondela showered. A knock on the door was probably the police, so I tightened my robe and went to answer it.

Two officers had come to ask me about my part in Vincent’s condition, and I invited them in and stood answering their questions in my robe. They seemed unruffled and my worry that I might be in trouble drained away.

“What is your relationship to Miss Comeaux?”

“She’s a friend.”

“We understand that she will be in the custody of her Uncle and Aunt for now, Mr. Lindemann. Mr. Comeaux assured me she was there and safe, so you needn’t worry about her, she’ll be fine.

“Custody?” I asked, my mind leaping to that one word.

“Yes, sir. Miss Comeaux is a minor.”

My throat constricted painfully. The shower was still going, and perhaps they thought it was running for me. I looked around quickly and saw to my horror that one of her red heels was peeking out from under the bed covers. What if she came out of the bathroom before they left?

“Thank you for your time. Good day, sir.”

They left in what seemed like slow motion, and closed the door. I locked it quickly behind them, my heart pounding. I went to the phone and called the number Eva had given me.

“Hezechiah. You didn’t tell me she was a minor.”

“I thought you knew,” his voice replied. “I told them she was here, though, so you wouldn’t be in trouble.”

“Hezechiah… how old is she?”

“She’s sixteen.”

“Holy shit.”

The shower had stopped. I almost felt sick. My own Nele was near her age; but I’d been so taken in by Ayondela’s wild adult abandon, I had refused to see what my own band mates had tried to tell me.

“Hezechiah, I had no idea. I can’t do this. I’m bringing her back to you.” I hung up on whatever he had started to say.

Sitting in the chair at the desk, I stared at my hands. She came out of the bathroom toweling her hair dry, and then dropped the towel on the floor and sat on the foot of the bed, splayed and gorgeous.

“I feel so much better. Come and make love to me, Till. I promise to be gentle.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Tell you what?”

“That you’re only sixteen.”

She looked at me more seriously as I looked up at her.

“I thought you didn’t care about that.”

“I didn’t know about that!” I shouted, my hands clenched into fists.

“But it’s not a problem, is it? Why should it be?”

“It is,” I growled. “I have a daughter near your age. If I’d known, I never would have….”

“Till, it is not a problem. I’m not your daughter. I’m your lover.”

I winced. She got up and stood before me, picked up my right hand and placed it over her warm breast.

“You want me,” she whispered, her free hand straying to open my bathrobe.

I froze almost in a panic. Her hand stroked my cock, and her familiar hot touch roused it immediately, to my shame.

“No.”

“Please, Till….”

“No!” I got up in a rush, knocking the chair backward to the floor.

“So that’s it?” she said in sudden anger. “For my age, just for that, you won’t have me? You promised!”

“It’s not right, Ayon!”

“It was right enough before!”

“I didn’t know you were a child!”

She threw herself across the bed and sobbed.

I paced in anger, hurt and confusion. What the hell was I supposed to do? I began shoving on my neatly folded clothes, letting the robe drop. I stomped my feet into my boots, and stood there watching her cry, stretched naked on the bed. I got her clothes together and set them on the dresser, then snapped my suitcase shut and lugged it to the door.

She sat up, face wet with tears, and looked up at me wildly. “Don’t you leave me here!”

“I’ll take you back to your Uncle and Aunt. They’re supposed to look after you now.”

“You promised!” She held herself tightly and sobbed.

“I’m sorry. I can’t do this – I can’t do this with a child.”

“Stop calling me that! I haven’t been a child since I was ten years old!”

“Whatever Vincent has done isn’t your fault, but I can’t be with you. Please understand….”

She turned away from me and fell to the bed, curling into a tight fetal ball.

“Your clothes are there. Please get dressed. I’m going down to the bus with this. I’ll take you to Hezechiah.”

I left her to cry and carried my suitcase down to the elevator. I met Chris outside at the bus.

“What the hell is wrong now?” he asked.

“You were right. Okay? I don’t want to hear about it now. I’m taking her to her uncle.”

I left the suitcase for them to deal with and headed back upstairs. As I went I heard Chris telling Richard, “I guess the police told him. Poor bastard.”

Poor bastard. If he tried to gloat, I’d smash his face; but I knew I wasn’t angry with Chris. I was angry with myself. How would I face Nele when I got home? Why hadn’t I paid attention to anyone? If she had come out while those policemen had been in the room, I might have gone to jail. That thought froze me. I’d been in American jails before, and I wasn’t eager to repeat the experience.

When I got back into the room, I was shocked to see that Ayondela was still nude, but at least she had stopped crying. When I closed the door behind me, she came to me and tried to kiss me, but I wouldn’t allow it. She clung to me and trembled instead. Slowly, I put my arms around her and held her close, so sorry for hurting her, for hurting myself.

“Till, please don’t do this.”

“I’m sorry, Ayon. I know you don’t understand, but it all changes now.”

“It doesn’t have to. Please? I’m good for you, you know it. You like me, you said so.”

“I do like you. I might have loved you; but I can’t do this, not now. I have to take you back.”

She was quiet for a moment. “Take me home, then. I want to be alone. I’ll go to Uncle Hezechiah tomorrow. I can’t face them now, I won’t.”

“All right, if that’s what you want. Vincent is in the hospital and he’ll be in jail when they let him out. Will you get dressed now? We need to go.”

She moved out of my arms and went to her clothes. I turned my back, unable to watch her dress, and leaned my forehead and hands against the cool door. My head throbbed from being struck, and I was still feeling dizzy. I felt her hands on my back, but I didn’t move.

“I’m ready to go,” she whispered.

I fumbled to open the door and left the room. She followed behind me without a word. The band was silent when we boarded the bus, and Ayon went to sit by Caron, and I would be eternally grateful to her for holding the girl and comforting her. I took a seat at the table beside Richard, put my head down on my arms, and closed my eyes.

“Till, where are we going?” Richard asked, his hand on my shoulder.

In a daze, I told him. My head was hurting badly, but all I wanted to do was get drunk. The bus moved on with its smooth power.

When it stopped, I sat up with a start. The first thing I saw was Ayondela sitting across from me beside Caron, looking at me with a hollow pleading expression. In a sudden thought, I tore a piece of paper from Richard’s music notebook lying on the table and used his pen to jot my cell phone number down. I put it inside her nylon bag where it sat beside me on the seat.

It was dark outside. I got up, picked up her bag, and stepped down off the bus. I was standing at the head of the little dirt road again. It had rained here since we’d left, too, and everything around us was wet. The road was a smooth path of mud marked here and there by a puddle of oily water.

I heard Ayondela come down out of the bus behind me. I didn’t want to face her, but part of me wanted her, still, and that filled me with shame. I had promised to take care of her, but I couldn’t rewrite the rules and try to bring her with us as a mascot. She would expect to be in my bed if I let her come with us; and I would want her there, right or wrong, and then I would hate myself for doing it… more than I already did now.

“Don’t make me go.”

“I have to do this, I’m sorry.”

“I can’t believe this… I can make you want me,” she said, desperation in her eyes.

“Yes, you can; but I won’t let you try. I’m not a good man, Ayondela, but I try to be a decent man. It would be wrong for us.”

“Why do you get to make this choice for both of us?” she cried out loudly in the dark.

“I’m so sorry I hurt you, I am; but I can’t just wrap you in lies and pretend it’s right. It’s not.”

She stared at me, and then came up to me. I tried to hand her the bag, but when she didn’t take it, I put it down beside her. Then she cupped my jeans in her hand, and squeezed my cock skillfully through the denim. In spite of my resolve, it came to instant life, wanting her.

Looking triumphantly up at me, she declared, “I told you I could make you want me.”

“I do want you, very much; but I can’t have you and respect myself.”

“Feel that? You need that.”

“Want and need aren’t always the same. I’m sorry.”

She pushed away from me, angry. “You promised! Now it comes to this, I knew it would. I knew it. You’ll play with the pretty doll, but then throw her back down. Dress her up, undress her, fuck her, and drop her again. Damn you!”

I couldn’t speak in the face of her anger. It was all true after all. My intentions had been good, but she wouldn’t see that now. I stood mute, holding my hands in fists at my sides.

“I’m not a child, and I won’t be your damn doll,” she said, her expression savage.

She stepped back, took off her heels one by one, and threw them away from her. To my shock, she stripped off her t-shirt and dropped it in the mud, standing there in her jeans.

“Do I look like a child? Do I?” she screamed at me.

“Yes,” I whispered, feeling my body begin to tremble.

She hissed in anger and tore off the jeans, nearly falling. She balled them up and threw them at me. They fell at my feet. Standing there in the mud in white panties, she had started to cry again. She picked up her battered bag and slung it over her shoulder, heedless of the mud on it. Looking at me with a twisted longing, she waited one moment. Getting no sign from me, she turned on the ball of her foot, and walked away from me into the darkness.

For a while, I could see her dim shape until it was swallowed by the thick night. My throat constricted, but I just stood there, unable to move. I had promised her sanctuary. Promised never to turn my back on her. Unable to turn away even now, I stood frozen there. My mind emptied of all right and wrong in a wash of pain, and if I could have spoken, I’d have called her name. Her beautiful name….

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