Disclaimer: Don't own Spot Conlon's gorgeous face. Only Gilly, Mel, and the characters you don't recognize are mine.
Author's Note: This was the first fanfiction I wrote, a long time ago, but I never put it up. So be nice! I edited some of the rookie-er parts, and so hopefully it's now FF-worthy.
I was thirteen when I joined the brothel. My mother died, and my father had run off before I was born. I had no one left in the world.
I would have joined the newsies, but the Harlem lodging houses were full, and I was walking through the streets of New York in the winter one dark day, when I passed the brothel.
There was smoke coming out of several chimneys in the tall building. It didn't have a sign or anything, but everyone knew it was the brothel.
It was in Manhattan, just before the Brooklyn Bridge, so Brooklyn guys could come visit. I had been wandering the streets, looking for something worth stealing or someone whose pocket was worth picking.
The building was huge, and I could see that every room had a curtain. I had never had a curtain. I had lived in the slums of Harlem, with my mother and I cramped into one room. When she had died, the landlord ad kicked me out.
The brothel had a window on the bottom floor, and I could see that in a room that I guessed could serve as a lobby of some sort, a plump woman sat at a desk, and they were serving hot chocolate to the customers waiting.
Hot chocolate. I had only had hot chocolate once, before my mother lost her job. She had been paid well, then, and we had lived better, and one day she had brought home two small cups filled with hot chocolate, and we drank it all down. Then, we went out onto the streets and found the vendor, and bought another two cups.
I licked my lips. I hadn't eaten since the morning before.
So, on an impulse, I entered the brothel, and went up to the woman at the desk.
"Um, excuse me?" I asked.
The woman looked up, and saw me. She smiled sweetly at me. "Hello, honey, what can I do for you?"
"Um, ma'am, what is living in the brothel like?" I asked, and I was glad the last person in the lobby place had disappeared and we were alone, so no one could see my blush.
"Well, you always get hot food, and a place to sleep, and a room of your own," The woman said to me, not unkindly. "And every week you pay money to me for staying here."
"Would you like to join?" She asked me kindly. She nudged forward a book and a long pencil towards me.
"Um, no," I said, backing away nervously. "But thank you," I said as an afterthought, because my mother had always taught me to be polite.
"Well, you're welcome to come back," she called after me as I ran out into the street.
But six days later, I thought differently.
My mother had raised me to scorn those that sold their bodies, the hookers and strippers. But would she have wanted me to starve? I had tried to become a newsie, but like I said, the lodging houses were full, and the headlines were bad.
I hadn't eaten in three days, and I hadn't had a solid meal in three days before that. I was desperate.
So I returned to the brothel, and I saw that woman again.
She smiled at me and asked, "Back again so soon?"
I gulped. "I want to join the brothel." I said.
Once more, the kind woman pushed her thick book forward, and a pencil, too.
I picked up the pencil with shaking hands. My blood was suddenly cold, and the world swam around me.
I signed my name in wobbly letters, and the kind woman gave me a room and a hot meal.
I fell asleep, the first deep sleep I'd had in ages.
The kind woman, the 'landlady' of the brothel, was called Ms. Karen, and she let me have a few days off to get my strength back.
At the end of those few days, I reported to the room all the girls at in.
Everyone looked up as I entered. I was the new girl, and I realized that real life was just like the school I had spent three days in once.
I sat at the end of a table. The room wasn't extremely large, but it was big enough for the girls to eat, with a few places to spare.
Another girl plopped down across from me. I looked up.
"Hiya," She said. "My name's Mel." She stuck out a hand.
I tentatively put my own in hers, and shook. "Gilly,"
"How old're you, Gilly?" Mel asked. She seemed nice enough.
"Um, thirteen," I said.
Mel seems sad for me. "I started at your age, two years ago,"
"And?" I asked. "What's it like?"
She cocked her head at me. "Had your first customer yet?" I shook my head. "Poor kid." She said mournfully. "See, Gilly, the thing is that once you join the brothel, you have nowhere to go. People can tell if you've worked in the brothel, so they won't hire you anyplace else."
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"I mean, Gilly, that once you join the brothel, you technically can't ever leave."
Soon after that meal, I got my first customer, the kind Mel said rarely came to the brothel.
He was a newsie, but he wouldn't give me his name. Mel said afterwards that not many do, or that if they do, they give fake names, because they don't want their womenfolk to trace them back to the brothel.
I wasn't sure what to do at first, but I was lucky enough to get my first customer a guy who understood. He kissed me, and whispered "Relax," in my ear. He unbuttoned his shirt, and I undid the laces on my dress.
Afterwards, I was pale and still. The boy, in his trousers, lay next to me on the bed, smoking.
"Foist time?" The newsie asked.
I nodded vaguely.
The boy nodded. "Ya get used to it, 'm told. I wouldn't know, but dey say it gets easier."
I stared at the ceiling. My mother would be proud of me for making my way in the world if I had been a messenger, or a newsie, but no, I became a hooker and I wasn't at all sure what my mother would have thought.
The boy sat up, taking a long drag on his cigarette. He seemed around fourteen or fifteen, and you could sense he'd been here often.
"What's yer name?" He asked. "Ya nevah said."
"Gilly," I mumbled. "Gillian."
"Well den, Gillian," He said. "Nice ta meet ya."
I nodded. He got out of bed, and pulled his shirt back on, then his suspenders. He tucked something in his belt, then another something.
The boy plopped a newsie cap on his head as I sat up, my sheets wrapped around my body.
The boy came over and sat on the bed in front of me.
"Ya know, usually when I finish up my bidness at da brothel, de goil usually demands deir dough," He commented.
I held out a hand. "Pay up, then."
He grinned, and placed some money in my hand.
Getting up, he tipped his hat to me. "Pleasure doin' bidness wit' ya, Miz Gilly,"And he left. Then, another boy came to take his place.
Soon after that, life got complicated at the brothel.
The headlines got better, so more and more newsies started coming, but I never again saw that boy that had been my first customer. New girls came, and Ms. Karen bought the building next door, and put in a door to connect them.
Then, tragedy struck.
Ms. Karen died, and her formerly bankrupt sister inherited the brothel. Some of us reckoned she just killed Ms. Karen off for the brothel. Her name was Mrs. Drekson, and she and her husband and sons moved into the top floor of the building to the right of the two that made up the brothel.
It was well known that anyone who slept with any of Ms. Drekson's four teenage sons was guaranteed to be treated better, and so nearly every girl tried to get in good with Ms. Drekson. Except me, and Mel, and a few others.
Ms. Drekson was evil and cruel. She cut back how much we ate, and demanded more money every week, and less free time. We had a curfew now, and we had to stay in our rooms unless we had an excuse she deemed valid.
Every girl in the brothel lost weight that next winter. We had barely any to lose as it was, but we lost it anyway, and it reflected on our work.
Finally, Mel was the first to quit. When she said good-bye to me, she swore, "They'll be more after me, Gilly, mark my words." She gave me a hug and the older girl told me, "Be careful around Ms. Drekson."
After the loss of Mel and a few others, Ms. Drekson took to drinking and smoking and beating anyone who didn't satisfy her. As one of the youngest girls, she beat me often.
One day, I went to my room after a scant dinner, sore from a beating earlier in the day. I found Ms. Drekson's seventeen year old son waiting for me, with another girl, Kit.
After, he insisted that Kit get all the money, because she had done a better job than me, and he slapped me when I protested. Kit was a good person, and she gave me some of the money, but she kept most of it for herself, and I couldn't blame her. We were all stuck in a building together, but everyone worked in pairs, and half the time we didn't know who are partners would be. So we kept what we could take, and we gave nothing more than we were paid for.
Twice more he came by with another girl from the brothel, and refused to pay me. Then, I told him to pay up, or never come back.
I got a beating from Ms. Drekson harder than I'd ever gotten before, and then I got another on top of that.
I had just turned fifteen, and was already scarred and battered. I knew I had to get away.
I couldn't leave, it was the middle of January and freezing. I had nowhere to go, no one who could take me in, no job to go to.
The more I thought about it, the more I knew there was only one solution.
One day, I decided to do it.
It was the middle of the night, and the halls were empty, though the rooms were full. It was my half hour off, and so I crept through the halls in my thin nightgown.
I went up to the roof.
I had never been up there before.
I could see the Brooklyn Bridge from here, but I wasn't here to admire a bridge.
I was freezing. I went to the edge of the building. The brothel had once been a tenant building, and it was six stories high. My feet were freezing.
"You shouldn't do that," a voice advised behind me. I whirled around. "You might fall."
It was my first customer, a boy I hadn't seen in a year.
"I'm not gonna fall," I said. "I'm gonna jump."
"What for?" He asked. He stood casually, as if wasn't about to commit suicide. He was about a yard away from me, but I hadn't heard him come up behind me.
"Because I'm a whore," I said. "I sleep with people for a living. That's what I do."
"Ya know some people'd kill fer a job like that." The boy told me.
I might've laughed if I wasn't so cold and suicidal. "Well I'm not some people," I said. "And there's nothing left for me in life," That was the sad truth of it. I should've jumped as soon as I got up here, and saved myself a freezing conversation.
I got closer to the edge. It was a long way down. Good. If I aimed right, I could miss the fire escapes completely, and the death would be quick.
"Gilly," The boy put a hand on my shoulder.
"Don't touch me," I knocked his hand away.
"Gilly, let me take you away from here," The boy said.
"Why would you do that?" I demanded of him. "What am I to you?"
"Because I've got sense," the boy told me. "You're a street kid, like me. Be a newsie, in Brooklyn, I'll take you."
"In Brooklyn?" I echoed.
He nodded. "I'm da leadah." He held out a hand. "Come on, Gilly,"
I looked at him. I stepped back. My left heel wobbled over the end of the building.
"Gilly," The boy told me with sharp stormy eyes. "No one'll evah beat you again."
I bit my lip.
"You'll have a family," He said. "Da newsies. We'll take care o' you'se," His hand still stretched towards me. "Come on, Gilly." He said.
I looked at him. I stared at those cold gray eyes, that dark blue shirt and the red suspenders. The eyes, those deep eyes. He'd seen much more than me. He knew what it was to suffer. Like as not, he knew what it was like to want to die.
I slipped my hand in his, and he kissed it before pulling me gently away from the edge of the roof.