Billy's Holiday

Chapter One

"Billy is in trouble. She doesn't know what to do. Billy is scared." I whispered, stock still, holding my knees to my chest. I allowed myself a small breath. The air reeked of sweat and mice. There was nothing in the hole of a room, but me, and the locked door. The tiny window was too small to fit through but I could see trees outside. At least I still had clothes on and my hangover wasn’t terrible. The worst part was, I couldn't remember how I got here.

Deep down in my throat I started humming Billy Holiday's God Bless the Child. The sad notes vibrated through my chest filling the tiny grungy room. Waves of sound lifted my soul and straightened my spine. I shifted and breathed out the words, "God bless the child, that's got his own . . ."

As I moved around to get my blood flowing I recalled snatches of memories from last night. I was at another bar with a fake ID and had not listened to my little inner voice. Now I was locked in a bad place, probably by a very bad man.

"God bless the child, that can stand up anywhere, and say, I've got my own." The lyrics filled my chest and rolled forth, shrinking my fears. I had been in worse spots, maybe. And I was still breathing. I had talked my way out of some crazy situations, and now, if given half a chance I'd try it again.

"Billy has gotta get outta here." I told Myself. Myself agreed. "What can Billy do?" I asked Myself.

Ever since I was a child I'd talked to Myself, the sound of my own voice was calming. It was the one voice I could trust.

"Billy wants to run, but she can't, she wants to scream, but no one hears. Billy has got to be free." My throat was tight, my voice trembled, I hummed and let it fill my body. Then I started swaying. Louder and louder came the humming. I released my emotions vocalizing with my head held high, until the sound of a truck crunching over gravel stopped me cold.

"Billy's got an audience," I told Myself. Fear fell like a stone in my stomach.

Ever since I was a little girl two things had kept me safe. One was my little voice that told me if something was safe. The second was my actual voice. I could talk most people into most things. It was especially powerful if I sang. I didn't sing where anyone could hear, at least not often.

Outside a door opened and closed. A need was building in me to be out of that room like a hog before the slaughter. I couldn’t be confined, it had always been this way.

Before I was taken away from momma by the state I remember her saying, "I should’ve named you Mariah, you gotta be free, like the wind." It was true, I couldn't be pinned down. But she named me Billy after Ms. Holiday and for that one thing I was glad because Billy’s music felt - like I felt. Broken, spontaneous, full of emotion, and full of life. Unfortunately life was dangerous and my survival hinged on acing this performance.

The floorboards in the hall groaned. I shuffled back, almost hitting the wall. The man that filled the doorway looked average, other than his size. I had a vague impression of him sitting by me at the bar last night. He had ordered me a drink, then there was only a blur.

He wasn’t handsome, he wasn’t ugly. Most people would pass him on the street and never remember him, until he smiled. I watched as the corners of his mouth pulled back like a snake just before it swallowed it’s victim. Instinctively I shuddered and it woke me from the man's hypnotic gaze.

"I've outstayed my welcome, don't you think." My voice was steel coated with honey. He blinked and cocked his face a bit confused.

"But I gotta hear you sing. You sang last night, and now I gotta have you." He said, a bit confused but determined much like a freight train before it ran over a small furry animal. In the back of my head I recalled that small furry animal having too much to drink then singing karaoke. That’s when I knew what happened. Sometimes my singing caused obsession and this was never good. The thing that bothered me was my lack of memory after singing.

"No, you let me stay the night. Remember?" I suggested. Unfortunately I had zero control over how my suggestion would be received.

"No. No, no, no, no." He shook his head like a bee had gotten caught in his ear. "I can't lose you. You said you would sing for me. Now sing girl."

Time to try a different tactic. "Umm, I don't even know your name. Who would I dedicate the song to?"

"What do you mean, you don't know? You sang that I was - your one and only." His face started to get red. He reached out with his massive hands and grasped my arms. Pain shot through me.

"It frightens me when you come to mind . . . " I began channeling pain into the song Dying by XTC. As I sang his grip loosened, my arms throbbed, but he didn't let go. I sang on, infusing a kind of death lullaby into my thoughts. I pictured the worst of my days, the idea that life was just too hard. And that he could be happier in another place, a better place.

I had run into his type before and I had hesitated. And because of that a different man had taken something from me, over and over until I was finally left to crawl away. To this day I didn’t think about it, and I didn’t name it.

My throat became raw. The day faded into the night. As long as I sang, I was safe. He was a hard man. A man who had been hurt by people, and hurt people in turn. It had taken every bit of my suffering poured into song, until he cracked.

Across the room he sat with his back up against the wall. Silent tears coated his cheeks. There was a square of moonlight between us. I wanted to run so badly, but I knew he could catch me. As I sang of hurt and suffering he retreated from me, but never took his eyes off me. What would it take, I wondered as I began another song. The lullaby was a dark French tune that I scarcely remembered that talked of monsters coming to eat a child that didn’t sleep when his mother left.

The man whispered, “No one ever sang to me before.”

He had been fingering a short nosed pistol for the past few hours, now he shoved it under his chin. I hummed with the assurance of sweet death. The notes sailed over my vocal cords with promises that he would never hurt again.

Then, the man listened to my promises.

The last note died on my lips.

The gravel crunched as I walked from the shack.

My hand started the ignition smearing blood on the dash.

The truck groaned to life.

I was done with my past life choices. So done.