Tony was sitting on the upper level of the sauna, so Gina spread a towel across the lower level and stretched out flat on her back Neither of them bothered to cover up. They were quiet for a bit, then Gina ventured, "This is nice." Tony nodded agreement. After another long moment of sweating in silence, Gina said, "I'm thinking about getting a tattoo."
"Oh?" Tony blinked.
"Yeah. I know what I want -- it's all about placement."
"Yes. I'm thinking, 'slut,' in some nice, cursive script. Placement is the issue, though -- I need to be able to hide it sometimes, but make it highly visible to strange men." Gina's eyes glinted. "Maybe you should get one, too -- one that describes you. 'Wimp' or 'cuckold,' maybe -- no, that doesn't quite cover it. 'Bitch,' I think..."
"Gina!" Tony erupted. "Dammit!"
"What?" she flared. "Okay, I'm mad! What are you gonna do about it?"
"You're not the only one! And from the sound of things, you'll be getting even for a long time," Tony rasped, "A LONG time!"
"Well," Gina backed off, "Getting even, as you call it, takes a toll on me."
"I'm sure. How are you feeling?" Tony shifted to being solicitous.
"Better than when I got up. My mouth hurts, and I probably look like that Jolie woman, and my ass is sore. I'm surprised my cunt isn't worse..." Gina complained. "How about you?"
Tony worked through his surprise at Gina's term for 'vagina' -- he'd never heard her say that word in their entire married life together! "Well, I don't have a... cunt... but the other two places are sore, for the same reason. The rest of the injuries, well, aren't visible."
"It'll be a while before I re-grow any pride," Tony related. "Bikers and blacks are going to be hard to look in the eye. And if you think I don't feel any guilt..."
"Martin said something," Gina replied. "I gather that I'm supposed to fuck guys, but..."
"Yeah. It doesn't quite put you in the same place," Tony confirmed.
"How bad is it when you have to?" Gina asked.
"You're supposed to resist to the bitter end," Tony said dully. "You're supposed to die first. It's... ugly... when you realize that you don't have the guts..." He gazed at the door, not really seeing it. "Martin and Scott had me tied down -- I couldn't do anything. But last night..." He paused again, for a whole minute. "A couple of kicks in the balls and I rolled over like a... pussy..." He shook his head. "They didn't just work on you that day -- they worked on me, too. They didn't use drugs -- they didn't have to. They used you -- and they used me. They didn't break me then, but they cracked the shell -- and they taught me that I could do those things. So when I was lying there, holding my crotch, I remembered that doing those things didn't hurt as bad as having my balls mashed, and coward that I was..." He covered his face.
Gina reached up and touched Tony's calf. "I'm still mad, and I still may never forgive you, but -- well, I didn't understand. I guess it IS different..."
An hour later, Gina and Tony were home. Tied up in their own issues as they were, they didn't notice anything amiss with Maria or Robert -- although, frankly, Robert was the only one showing any symptoms. Maria was at peace with herself over her decision and the consequences.
Sunday was spent in mutual avoidance -- nobody wanted much to do with anyone. Monday, the kids went off to school and Tony went off to work, and Gina gave a sigh of relief that they'd made it through the weekend somehow.
Regina had been bothered some by her mother's comment on Saturday morning. The whys and wherefores of her parents' breakup weren't clear to Regina -- it had been explained to her as 'Daddy doesn't love Mommy anymore' when she was seven and she'd not revisited the subject, but it seemed to be about something that Daddy either had or had not been giving Momma. Daddy's temporary replacement -- a guy named Fred -- seemed to keep Momma pretty happy, despite being pretty demanding -- and he'd been pretty good at sex, Regina had to admit -- but then THAT had been a problem with Uncle Mark... At this point, Uncle Mark was probably wondering why he had intervened in the first place, since now HE was playing sex games with Regina when he could, but he'd broken Momma and Fred up and now Momma was alone again. Momma generally didn't talk about money, but she'd let it slip that Daddy was out of work -- or supposedly out of work, as Momma put it -- and the child support wasn't coming in the last couple of months. Since Momma seemed to be seriously thinking about sex for money as a way to tide them over, Regina thought that maybe she should lend a hand...
Regina cornered Maria after first period. "Do you know what Mr. Frank does?"
"Well, no," Maria admitted, "but it's probably illegal. Uncle Joe is a bookie -- and I KNOW THAT is illegal..."
"Do you think he has hookers working for him?"
"I honestly don't know..."
"Can you ask Uncle Joe?"
So Maria got on the cell phone. Joe was tied up, so he said, "We'll talk about it when school gets out, okay, Honey? Bring Regina around..." Maria related this and the girls were both waiting when the limo pulled up. Robert was, too -- but he hung back until the car arrived and then got in quickly, up front with Hammer.
"So what's up?" Joe asked Regina.
"Does Mr. Frank have hookers?" Regina asked.
Crazy Joe cocked his head. "You're a little young. You could have quite a career, but I wouldn't put you on the street..."
"Me?" Regina blinked. "I don't think it would be as much fun. No, Momma is talking about it. Daddy is out of work and not sending money, and things are getting tough -- and I think Momma misses sex."
"Frank hires hookers -- he doesn't run a string of them. He gave me some money to give to you, but I don't think your momma would be thrilled hearing how you earned it," Crazy Joe related.
"He did?" Regina was wide-eyed.
"Yeah, we were talking about putting it in an account somewhere for college money or something -- I couldn't figure out how I was going to get it to you without your momma wondering what was up." Crazy Joe mused for a moment. "What does your momma look like?"
"Well, like me, but bigger..." Regina related. "She has bigger boobs, but the shape is the same..." Regina had fat cones, as Crazy Joe remembered well. "She's a little... thick... but she can do a bikini okay. She's a little taller than me, but not much -- we run short in my family."
"Has she ever hooked before?" Crazy Joe asked.
"I don't think so -- that's why I was asking about Mr. Frank. I wouldn't want her working for somebody nasty," Regina explained.
"Jerome runs hookers -- but they're streetwalkers -- and Jerome has a low opinion of women in general," Crazy Joe mused. "I think your momma would be better off if she didn't get their habits. I could talk to Jerome about her, but I have something else in mind..."
"Like what?" Regina was all ears.
"Do you think your momma could be interested in, say, young Robert? I'm sure Maria has told you that we owe him something... I would prefer that his education in sex with a woman didn't come from a hooker," Joe related. "I don't think that's fair to him. But if your momma took him under her wing, I could push the money Frank gave me for you at her as payment..."
"I like it!" Regina gushed. "I like it a lot!"
"Maybe we could engineer something where you two girls go over to your house to study and Momma takes a shine to Robert..." Crazy Joe mused.
"Ooooo! Yes! Yes!" Regina bounced on the seat.
"Okay. We'll take you home after we drop off Maria and Robert. Do you want to pitch this, or should I help?"
Regina thought about it. "Maybe you should help..."
"Fine." Joe turned to Maria and looked a lot less certain of things. "Honey, we need to talk. I've been presented with a moral dilemma."
"Your folks did well on their first outing -- VERY well. Your mother organized things and she worked some... extras... into the deal. The upshot is that between what they did and what you and Robert have done, the remaining debt is small enough for your father to pay out of pocket."
"Well, it is and it isn't, Honey -- because we'll have to tell them why. Your mother, in particular, is gonna take it hard -- she was trying to keep you and Robert out of it and no doubt she thinks she's got things well in hand. The truth is gonna be a shock," Joe explained. "It might tear your folks apart! She's already all over your Poppa about this." He looked out the car window. "It's too late for your brother -- but I could release you..."
"No you can't!" Maria flared. "I won't allow it!"
"It might hold your family together..."
"And it might not! Mama is already acting cold toward Poppa -- I don't think ANYTHING will help -- but if she stops having to..." Maria began.
"Sweetheart, my people made some changes to your mama," Joe told her. "She's going to WANT to... well... play around -- even if she and your Poppa stay together. We, well, trained her to get the itch..."
"I heard something about drugs..." Maria mused.
"We wanted her to embarrass your Poppa by being very cooperative and enjoying herself in front of him, so we used some experimental stuff. It worked better than expected," Joe related. "Your mama isn't going to be satisfied with one guy at a time all the time. It's kind of a long-term punishment for your Poppa, because one way or another, he'll get his nose rubbed in it." Joe wanted to say, 'I'm sorry,' but he couldn't do it -- besides, it wouldn't fix things.
"This was way at the start..." Maria confirmed.
Maria nodded. "It doesn't change anything. In fact, it just means that having you release me is a waste of time." She waved her finger at Crazy Joe, "But you have to take care of Mama!"
Joe nodded. "I'll find a way. Let's get you home..." He hit the intercom, "Home, Hammer -- theirs." The car changed directions at the next intersection; Hammer had been orbiting. A couple of minutes later, they arrived at the usual drop-off point. "Mum's the word on this thing with Regina's mother," Joe cautioned. "It will be a lot better for Robert if he never knows that it was arranged -- and we don't have it locked down, anyway. Have him stick his head in the window, okay, Sweetheart? Actually, why don't you two get out and let me brief Robert in private?"
"Sure." Maria leaned up and kissed Joe on the cheek. "When do you plan to break the news?"
"Thursday. That will give us a couple of days to work on Robert's problem and things like that before..." Joe explained, adding, "Besides, that's when they'll expect it." Maria nodded and got out of the car, waving for Regina to follow.
"Robert..." Maria waved at the back of the car. Robert nodded and got in.
"A couple of things," Joe told Robert, as Robert settled diffidently into the seat. "I'm working on the feminine companionship angle. We don't want just some hooker for you -- that wouldn't be fair. Give me a couple of days." Robert nodded, clearly not pleased. "Hang in there," Joe pressed. "I'm trying to get it right." He sat back and sighed. "Second is the matter of where your parents are. Since you two helped and they did a pretty good job on their first outing, they can get out from under this week. I didn't foresee this -- or the kind of shit-storm it is likely to produce at your house. Your mama has a lot more in the brains and spirit departments than I anticipated -- and it means that when she finds out why they're off the hook, it's probably gonna cause your folks to go through a serious rough patch. I could lie to them and tell them it isn't over, but I don't like doing that -- even though a couple more outings might settle things down."
Robert grimaced. "It might make things worse, too."
"Yeah, I know. I can't give you your cherries back -- and you probably don't want them, anyway -- but I'm not that far along with your sister. Problem is, she refuses to back out..."
"You could make her..."
"I've considered it, but..." Joe looked hangdog. "I can't -- I'm too fond of her. I think it's mutual, too -- if I thought she was just playing the game, I could do it, but..." He shrugged. "Why don't you check on that? If she's only doing it for the money, I might be able to cut her loose."
"Okay, I will," Robert agreed.
"Be careful about it -- she's as smart as her mother, at the very least!" Joe warned.
"See you tomorrow. Regina and Maria are talking about going to her place to study -- I'd like to drop you there, too, just to get a look at Regina's place. Frank has taken an interest, you know? He might want to send her a care package or something."
"Sure." Robert shrugged. Did he have anything better to do? No...
"Let Regina in," Crazy Joe dismissed him. Robert got out and handed Regina back into the car. Hammer, who had been standing by to do that, got back in and the car pulled away.
"Joe says you and Regina are planning some study thing at her house," Robert opened the conversation with his sister. "He says he wants me to look at Regina's place and see if she needs anything, because Mr. Frankowski might want to send her a gift or something."
Maria nodded. "That's okay, right? I know it might be kinda dull for you..."
"I'll do my homework, too..." Robert waved it off, more concerned with the other thing. "Joe says that Mama and Poppa can pay off -- but that there's gonna be trouble when they find out what we did..."
"Yeah, we talked," Maria groused. "He wants me to back out of our deal. I won't do it!" she insisted.
"Well, why not?" Robert asked.
"It won't help -- Mama and Poppa are going to be mad at each other anyway -- but I gave my word and Joe gave his, you know?"
"I know, but if he's offering," Robert said carefully.
"He doesn't want to -- he's just trying to be fair. But I don't want him to, either -- I LIKE Joe!"
Robert frowned. "What he's doing..."
"Isn't right?" Maria finished. "Isn't that for ME to decide? He's so gentle -- you have no idea!" She shook her head. "You hear about how terrible it all is -- but look at Regina! She LOVES older guys!" She shook her head. "Whatever he is to other people, he's very nice to me!"
Robert knew when to drop it -- Maria was getting worked up. He let it go -- besides, he had his answer.
At home, Maria went right to work on her mother and got provisional approval right away; the fact that Robert would be along was a plus for Gina...
Doris Hicks was more than a little surprised to see the limo pull up out front of her somewhat shabby home. Even more surprising was the well-dressed but dissipated Italian-looking guy who got out of the car behind her daughter. Doris wasn't dressed for company -- she had on a halter top, shorts, and flip-flops due to the heat and her frizzy red hair was tied up with a scarf to get it off her neck -- the heat STILL hadn't let up and Doris had no air conditioning anywhere but the bedroom area upstairs in her old house, provided by a window unit -- which she couldn't really afford to turn on with no money coming in from Julian. There was no time to fix things, either -- they were coming up the walk, fast!
All she could do was meet them at the door. "Good afternoon! Can I help you?" she asked Crazy Joe pleasantly.
"Could be," Crazy Joe replied. "Regina seems to think we ought to get acquainted."
"Momma, this is Maria's Uncle Joe," Regina made the introduction.
"Come in," Doris managed, shaking the proffered hand. "I'm Doris Hicks..." She led Crazy Joe into the living room, which was spotless, if dumpy. "Can I get you something to drink?"
Regina was nodding from behind her, so Crazy Joe said, "Sure. What do you have?"
"Well, iced tea..."
"Perfect." Crazy Joe settled into a chair.
Regina took off for the kitchen ahead of Doris, and was collecting a glass when her mother arrived and hissed, "What's going on? Why is he here?"
"We're in trouble, right?" Regina replied. "You said the other day..."
"Regina, I was just kidding!" Doris lied.
"No you wasn't," Regina insisted. "Besides, you haven't done it in a while and you're cranky -- that's one reason you're thinking about doing it that way."
"Come on, Momma -- I know THAT much!" Regina retorted. "I didn't want you to go out and get in trouble. Uncle Joe knows people. Why don't you talk to him?"
"What does he know?"
"Quite a bit..." Regina looked away. "I had to tell him what was up to get answers."
"God..." Doris covered her face. "How COULD you?"
"I don't want some pimp guy hurting you!" Regina snapped. "I'm TRYING to help!"
"Thanks, but..." Doris shook her head. She would wade through the embarrassment and pass the whole thing off... The ice went into the glasses and she poured the fresh brew from the pitcher -- Doris made sun tea, largely because it was inexpensive, but also because it didn't taste like a mix. "Get the sugar, Honey." Regina did as she was told, leaving her own glass in the kitchen, and followed her mother back into the living room.
Doris handed Crazy Joe a glass. "It's unsweetened..."
"Good." Crazy Joe took a sip. "Did you talk?"
Doris turned bright red. "There's been a mistake -- I made a remark and..."
"Sit," Joe directed, in a tone that said he was used to being obeyed. "Let's clear the air. I'm not Maria's uncle -- it's just one of those things you say to simplify things. I'm a business acquaintance of her father. I like Regina -- she's something you don't see every day -- so when she came to me, I took notice of the fact that she's looking out for her momma." He looked over at Regina. "I'll take it from here, Honey." Regina nodded and left the room, going back into the kitchen to get her tea. "So what did she tell me that isn't true? You're divorced, and you don't have a job, and the old man has chopped off alimony and child support -- right?"
"Yes, but..." Doris began.
Crazy Joe rode right over her. "You wouldn't have made the remark unless you were thinking about it -- but I don't think you're falling back on something you've done before -- am I right?"
"Personally, I don't think streetwalking is a good way to get sex," Crazy Joe continued. "Even if you were seriously looking at getting into the business, I think you should start out at a different level. I know a guy who knows a guy -- but I don't think you want him to run you -- he's been burned and he doesn't like or trust women."
"But I didn't..." Doris began. Crazy Joe just looked at her. She took a breath. "Okay, I did. But you're right, I was hoping to avoid the whole streetwalker thing and just, you know, bring in a little money to make things easier." Somehow, lying about it seemed like a waste of time -- the man seemed to know better, anyway, so why bother? There was something about him -- an attitude. He'd seen it all -- she couldn't surprise him.
Crazy Joe wrinkled his nose. "The commercial part of the transaction is something you have to get used to -- and some women really don't, and it screws up the sex part. That said, I have a proposal for you -- piece work -- a one-shot deal. Would you object to introducing a young guy -- say, a fifteen-year-old -- to sex?"
Doris blinked. "Fifteen?"
"Yeah. Look, this is a favor I owe -- you would be helping me out. The kid had his cherries popped -- by a gay guy. Now, it went really well, but the boy isn't sure he isn't gay -- and isn't sure he wants to be -- so he needs to try the other flavor, you know? And it needs to be done right -- not by a hooker. It needs to be done by someone who can take him all the way and give him the whole experience -- and make him feel good about it."
"So it wouldn't just be a quick fuck..."
"No. I would rather the boy never realized that it was arranged at all -- I would want him to think you took a shine to him and decided to show him the ropes. Now, if you were to do this, well, we wouldn't talk about it, but I would owe you a favor. In the meantime, there was a little gift I wanted to give Regina for helping Maria through a serious personal issue -- something that she would have some difficulty explaining to you, so it's best that I do it in person." Joe reached in his pocket and peeled five hundreds off his roll. "Maria had to work her way through an important decision here recently, and Regina provided help and advice and I wanted to show my appreciation." Crazy Joe eyed Doris significantly and said, "This is totally different from the other thing, but I'm sure you will see to it that the money goes to help you both be more comfortable."
"Um, yes..." Doris realized that Crazy Joe was deliberately muddying the waters. Was this really for Regina -- or was it a bribe to have sex with a boy? Almost certainly it was the latter... She was holding the money before she could think to object.
"I wouldn't want you to think I'm rude, or anything, but since I want this done right -- you're good at it, right?" Crazy Joe asked.
"What?" Doris blinked.
"Sex. The basics, anyway. I mean, no offense, but if I hooked him up with a dead lay, he might end up gay for no good reason..." Crazy Joe eyed her.
"No, I do all right," Doris muttered, embarrassed.
"I'm sure you do," Joe agreed, thinking, 'Your daughter sure does...'
"I can see how important it is..." Doris muttered, thinking, 'Is he asking me to fuck him? Yeah, he probably is. He's very smooth about it, though. Besides...' She fingered the bills in her hand, 'there's this -- and I could use a little...' "Maybe..." She shot a glance at the kitchen, "Maybe I should... demonstrate, or something..."
Crazy Joe followed Doris' glance. "Since Regina brought us together more or less specifically for the purpose, you probably won't have to expend a lot of effort hiding it from her..."
"Very true..." Doris squared her shoulders. "What would you like?"
"Oh, visuals, I guess. Some oral. Straight sex. Do you do anal?"
"I have," Doris admitted.
"He's been done, but I don't think he's returned the favor. You needn't try to get it all in with him in one pass, though."
"I can do this," Doris thought. "All right. Now?"
"Just a moment." Crazy Joe went to the front door and opened it, "Hammer!" He beckoned his driver from the car. Doris stood there, thunderstruck!
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