Romeo turned off the truck's engine in the driveway of the big white house on 9th Street in San Angelo. He stole a glance at Slappy and tried not to grimace. Ah, Christ, he thought, he's got a hell of a shiner coming up. He felt guilty for losing his temper and hitting the boy, then felt resentful that he'd been driven to it by his stupid mouth. They had fought three times that day, if he didn't count the endless bickering. The kid would just start to behave himself and show the faint beginnings of a likable personality, then without warning he would bust out with some totally irritating behavior that would incite Romeo's anger. The more he tried to be easygoing and not take the bait, the more the kid needled him.
He hoped the truce they'd finally struck would last. The thought of living out in the middle of nowhere with a teenager whose daily goal was to create conflict just made him feel tired. Then he noticed something that brought him a small measure of satisfaction–– the kid was scared. He was all big eyes and restless hands as he peered out the window at the small, neat sign over the porch that read: Shy Violet Ladies' Boarding House.
He pulled the truck around the back and shut off the engine, grinning at Slappy, his guilt evaporated. "Here we are, lambchop. Your first honest to God whorehouse."
Slappy scowled at him, "I told you, it's not my first time. I been to plenty of cathouses back home."
"So you've said," Romeo nodded, grinning wider.
Slappy waited in the truck while Romeo went up and made enquiries. He spoke to a willowy black-haired woman in a pair of pink sun shorts and a white halter top for a moment, then motioned over his shoulder for Slappy to come on up. The woman pinched Slappy's cheek when he walked past her and said, "We don't mind the young ones here, we like 'em tender..." and she laughed at Slappy's furious expression. She led them to an over-fluffed sitting room done up in too many shades of purple and left them to wait.
Madame Violet swept into the room a short time later, resplendent in a pale blue summer gown that left far less to the imagination than Romeo would have preferred. She wore high white shoes and her platinum blonde hair was piled up on top of her head, bringing her height to somewhere around seven feet, Romeo guessed. When she walked toward them beneath the ceiling fan, he winced, imagining the possibilities. He'd never taken such a deep and instant disliking to anyone. After he'd left that first time, he thought he'd get over it, but he hadn't. He wondered if she'd ever worked the carnival circuit...
"Evenin', gentlemen, y'all here for the early bird special? It's barely past supper time," she drawled.
She smiled through blazing pink lipstick and fluttered frightening creature-like artificial eyelashes. One of them would have been big enough to serve as a mustache for Slappy.
"Good evening, Madame Violet. As a matter of fact, we are here for the early bird special, this early bird right here," Romeo said, as he squeezed Slappy's shoulder and gave him a playful shake.
He turned to give Slappy a smile and saw that he had gone from scared to terror-struck. He stared up at Madame Violet with huge eyes in a pale face and was breathing shallowly through his mouth.
Oh, little brother, time to pay you back for the last couple of days, Romeo thought wickedly.
"I'd like to throw a little coming-out party for my young friend here, and I just know that you are the best choice to introduce him to manhood. Would you be kind enough to take on his education yourself?" He winked at her and was gratified to see a gleam of fun in her eyes instead of offense.
"This adorable little morsel?" Before either one of them knew what she was about, she swooped Slappy up in her arms and rolled him into her lap like a toddler as she sat down on the lavender damask settee next to Romeo.
"Why, I'd be delighted to be the first to open his box of bonbons," she gushed lasciviously as she planted a big wet smooch on his cheek, leaving a lipstick print bigger than his ear. Slappy was panting through a grimace of pure panic.
Oh, sweet Christ, I hope he doesn't piss himself in her lap, Romeo thought, barely able to keep a straight face. "You are so kind, Madame Violet."
"Aww, it's not kindness." She ran a huge bejeweled hand up Slappy's leg, fondled his crotch, and whispered loudly into his ear, "It's lust for virgins... they're my favorite dish."
Slappy leaped straight up into the air, vaulting out of her lap. "It's not my first time!" he squealed, backing away until he ran up against the wall next to a potted palm. "I, I wouldn't want to disappoint you under false pretexts, I'm practically a whore myself," he blabbered.
Madame Violet turned to Romeo in mock shock, "Not a virgin?" She stood up and in two giant strides was looming over him again. She petted his newly shorn head. The cavern in the middle of her large, thrusting bosom threatened to swallow his face.
"Well, I am truly disappointed, young man."
She reached down and swiftly grabbed hold of his package, lifting him up against the wall until he was eye level with her. He let out a strangled groan as his balls compressed against her hand.
"I could have shown you what these toys were made for..." she growled, "but I just don't have any interest in used goods." She slapped his cheek playfully and let go, allowing him to slide down the wall. He looked like he was going to faint.
"I am so sorry, Madame Violet, my mistake. I must have misunderstood. Could you take him to the viewing room and show him someone appropriate for his level of experience?" Romeo said, trying to hold back a laugh and failing.
"Indeed I can, there are any number of sweet, willing ladies awaiting your pleasure, young man, follow me." She smiled an evil smile at Romeo and stepped out into the hallway. At that moment, he almost liked her for playing along.
Slappy glanced back at Romeo, still shellshocked and uncertain as he stepped away from the wall. When he met Romeo's eye, Romeo burst into laughter. Slappy hesitated as understanding dawned. He narrowed his eyes and nodded, "That's two I owe you," he hissed as he turned to follow Madame Violet. Romeo rolled over onto the settee and howled with laughter.
"I'll pay extra for that," Romeo said, grinning as Violet came back into the room. "Thanks for playing along."
"Oh, not at all. I do enjoy virgins, just not that kind," she said inscrutably. Romeo did not want to know what kind she meant.
She chuckled, "I had you figured wrong, I thought you were a stick in the mud last time you came here."
He shook his head adamantly, "Oh you had me figured just right. I am a stick in the mud, I just owed that kid some grief. You know, of course, that he is most definitely a virgin?"
"Never fear, he'll be in capable cherry pickin' hands with Laurabelle – that is, if he doesn't lose his load gawkin' at her through the mirror. She puts on a nice little show."
She draped herself delicately over a mauve velvet chair, pulled a lacy fan out of her pocket and began to fan her face lightly, smiling at him. "And what can I do for you this evening?"
Romeo shrugged. "I'd be happy to see Dolly again."
She tsked, and shook her head. "I'm sorry to disappoint you, she's no longer under my employ." She went on fanning herself, her face completely neutral.
Romeo was disappointed. "Huh. That's too bad, she was okay. She quit?"
Madame Violet shrugged, "These girls are all flighty, it's just their nature. If they were solid and steady, they'd have husbands and tidy little houses on the other side of town."
Romeo watched her eyes with a growing feeling of unease, he wasn't sure why, but he felt like she was lying.
"Do you know where she went?"
She closed her fan slowly and rose to her feet without concern. "One day she was here, the next day she was gone, and everything she owned along with her. As well as a few things she didn't own, I might add."
She sauntered toward the hallway. "I'll just go set your little friend up with Laurabelle, and then you can take a peek at the other girls. I'm sure you can find one to make do with, seeing as your tastes are so straightforward."
Her words had their intended effect, and Romeo was left feeling embarrassment at the idea that he'd been... what? Tattled on? Exposed? He found himself suddenly angry with Dolly, he'd assumed he could trust that he wouldn't be talked about. The whole thing left a bad taste in his mouth, and he decided to tell Violet to forget it when she came back. He'd just wait for Slappy and drive them back to the motel. He was no longer in the mood.