Trudi was a wicked weasel of a girl; her shadowy eyes never held still, but always flickered across a room, searching for an advantage, an escape. She always seemed furtive. Her hands were always dirty.
Trudi was a bully, a surprise for such a slight girl. But she would twist the other girls' hair or bite at their arms or scratch at their face until they screamed for mercy. She was a tyrant, the boss of our little school, even though she had arrived much after many of us. I heard that she was sent away for thievery. She certainly possessed the criminal heart, and skills to match.
From each girl, she would exact tribute of some sort or another. Sometimes, she demanded favors that were sexual in nature, and I would sometimes hear the girls she chose cry as Trudi bit at their nipples or mauled their tender parts. For there was no tenderness to be found in Trudi, only hardness and cruelty.
I chose to befriend her in another way. I offered to take her laundry shift if she would teach me some of her criminal skills.
It was a calculated offer; I deduced that if I approached her first, she would be less likely to demand something that I didn't want to give up. I couldn't imagine her hands on my body, taking their pleasure in my flesh; much better to give up a few hours of drudgery than to allow any unwanted intimacy.
Trudi was delighted to find a sister in crime, and so she taught me how to pick locks, how to conceal contraband inside the folds of our clothing, and how to manipulate the other girls. I do say that I was a quick study, and not shy about testing my newfound talents. And I was lucky in that my offer was accepted without question; once or twice she demanded a portion of my dinner, and after a few weeks of study began to ask me to tie her hair up every night, but that was the extent of her demands.
Eventually she agreed, out of pure mischief I am certain, to assist me even further in my plans for escape. I convinced her to cause a disturbance so that I could work on the lock and free us all.
But I must admit, I underestimated her skills.
Trudi set a fire in the kitchen. She could have killed us all, locked in as we were, but I doubt she thought twice about it. I know I only imagined the flames gleaming in her sick eyes, her lips pulled back from her teeth in a feral grin at the sight of the destruction she was wreaking. But the image is burned into my mind nevertheless.
The first hint of trouble was a faint whiff of smoke. Trudi had started the fire before dinner, while on shift. I had asked her to do it early in the evening rather than late, as I didn't want to make my long-awaited escape in bare feet and flimsy gown.
It is so easy to panic a group of young women, confined away from the world. It was not long before someone started screaming, even before Trudi ran out, face and arms streaked with soot, crying "Fire! Fire! Help!"
I grabbed Anna's arm and headed for our single classroom. It was farthest from the kitchen, and it had one window large enough to fit a body through. With a swiftness born of hours of surreptitious practice, I broke open the lock on the iron bars of the window. I prayed that in the chaos, nobody would notice the sound of breaking glass; I shattered the pane, cleared away the shards with my sleeve, and put one foot on the sill. I held out my arm to Anna, intending to lift her up, lift her to freedom.
Trudi was suddenly behind us, an arm around Anna's waist. "I'm coming with you," Trudi said, and suddenly stood on her tiptoes to lick Anna's ear. Anna shuddered. Trudi helped boost Anna onto the sill and into my arms.
It was only a short hop to the street. Anna and I tumbled down together, clutched in each other's embrace, and landed without harm on the dusty yard below. Trudi followed with an agile leap, landing on her feet.
"I know where to go next," Trudi said. Somehow, she had become our ringleader. "Follow me," she said, tugging Anna's hand. Anna followed complacently, leaving me behind them both, having to jog to catch up.
Trudi led us through the darkest, most squalid sections of the city. She seemed sure enough of her way; I, however, was terrified of losing the trail and ending up lost and alone in these terrible parts. I could imagine hands pulling at my suddenly too-thin clothes; I could see, I was convinced, old madmen leering at me. I imagined any number of indignities that might be forced upon me, should I stumble or lose the way. Trudi was running, laughing, dashing forward, holding Anna's hand as she ran.
Finally she stopped, breathless, before an incongruously grand building facade. The place looked to be in disrepair, but in its prime, it must have been a mansion of mansions. Now it was a faded dame, still daubed in paints and primps that failed to hide the flaws of age. A fallen woman, just as all three of us were.
Trudi did not lead us through the front gate, but rather around the side, to the tradesman's entrance. "Hush now," she said as she slipped over the threshold. "Everyone will be working. Stay here."
So Anna and I huddled miserably in the dark, cold and frightened and feeling exposed and vulnerable in our schoolgirl outfits. Since we had missed dinner because of the fire, we were hungry, too. Two lost kittens, scratching at the window, I thought, as I rubbed my forearms to ward away the chill.
And, in fact, a cook from inside caught sight of us in the window, and motioned us inside. She was a short, big-boned matron, her eyes small and obscured by the pillows of her permanently reddened cheeks, giving her the appearance of a cheery, fattened pig.
She had made us sandwiches of butter and salami, which she offered us on a plate before any of us had introduced ourselves. Both Anna and I wolfed them down, licking the crumbs off our fingers without any semblance of manners whatsoever.
The cook's name turned out to be Ulla. She smiled a warm, wet-lipped smile at us in return for our profuse thanks. I may have even kissed the grease-softened skin of her hands in gratitude. I was starved not just for food, but fore care and consideration, and Ulla seemed to be so full of human warmth that she shone like a lantern.
"So you came with Trudi, eh? Then you'll be welcome here." Ulla's hands occupied themselves with peeling potatoes as she spoke. "Do you know what she used to do for us?" she whispered conspiratorially, eyes crinkling. We shook our heads no.
"You know what kind of establishment this is?" Ulla asked. Again, we indicated our ignorance.
"This is a house of iniquity; a brothel. You know the word?" We did. I had learned much since coming to the reformatory, not all of it in class. Some of the girls at the school had worked in such establishments before, and they had told me their tales. I was no longer the soiled innocent I had been when I first crossed the school's threshold, to be sure. But I had still never imagined I would find myself standing within the confines of a place such as this.
Ulla chortled. "Trudi is a specialist. She clears out the wallets of our less-favorite clients while they're occupied. It encourages them not to return."
She ignored my shocked look and continued to chatter. "Trudi is the daughter of the madam of the house. You didn't know?" Ulla exclaimed at our shocked faces. "She was sent away because..." and here Ulla looked almost ashamed at her loose tongue and gossipy ways. "Let's just say that Trudi's a little headstrong. Surely you've noticed," the cook chuckled. "The Madame thought it might be time she had a firmer hand to guide her. But I fear that your reformatory may have been too much for such a nature's child as she." I could see that she loved Trudi, in her own way. In fact, Ulla seemed as big of heart as she was of body, and I began to warm to her immediately. After all, if Ulla could love as flawed a specimen as Trudi, perhaps she could find a space for someone like me as well. I suddenly missed having my own mother, a pang as sharp in my belly as hunger.
Ulla sighed and patted her pillowy breast, then wiped her hands on her apron. "Follow me," she said, bustling toward the kitchen entrance. "I'm sure that Trudi and her mother have had enough time to renew their acquaintance and reconcile each to the other.. You've eaten; now you should rest. Let's find you a berth." Ulla's low laugh rumbled once again through her stout body. "No shortage of beds in a brothel, of course, but I must make sure to find you girls one that will remain undisturbed through the entire night -- not always an easy task for a house as popular as we are!"
Ah, but the bed that Ulla did find us was sumptuous, and huge. The room itself was small, and utterly dominated by the bed and its draperies, all velvet and silk, red and black. Anna and I were delighted with it all, and spent several minutes bouncing on the mattress like children while Ulla watched us, beaming. "Yes, that's right, make yourselves at home," she said as she fluffed the pillows and turned down the sheets.
Our energy didn't last. As soon as Ulla left, we collapsed onto the bedclothes, exhausted by the excitement of the day. I barely had the energy to tuck the sheets around the drowsy form of my beloved Anna before I, too, slipped into unconsciousness. "We're safe now," I whispered into her ear as I pulled the sheets up to her chin. "Frau Traubst will never punish either of us again." Was it my imagination, or did Anna wear a tiny smile at that?
We fell asleep curled into each other's arms.
When I awoke, however, something entirely different was occurring.
Anna had rolled away from me in the night. Now I could hear her, sighing softly. I opened my eyes and lifted my head to kiss her eyes...
...And found Trudi in the bed between us. She had loosened her diaphanous nightgown to expose her small, white breasts, which she was caressing with a free hand. And she was kissing Anna, full of passion. Her back was turned to me, one pale shoulder bared.
When she sensed that I was awake, she turned and showed me a smile full of triumph. Anna also raised her head to look at me, eyes full of innocence, and she, too, smiled and she reached across to stroke my cheek. And when she did, Trudi kissed the inside of her elbow, staring me in the eye as she did so.
I let Anna pull me forward into an embrace. I let her guide my fingers to her waist, then to her full breasts. I was hesitant to take the lead; after all, she had not let me touch her at all since Frau Traubst's beating. So I let her show me where her pleasure lay.
Trudi had no such inhibitions with either of us. She traded kisses with Anna first; then, while I was occupied with exploring Anna's creamy skin beneath her gown, Trudi took the opportunity to loosen mine as well.
Soon, we were all in a tangle of limbs together. But even in the heat of the moment, I was hyper-aware of the differences between Trudi and Anna's caresses. Anna's mouth on my nipples was soft and warm and velvety; Trudi would nip at my tender flesh there with her sharp teeth, and laugh when I yelped. Trudi's fingers tore pleasure from the cleft between my legs with their roughness, while Anna's slid along my moist folds with a delicacy almost too much to bear. Did Anna, too, mark the difference between my touch and her new lover's? And did she prefer Trudi's rough hands to mine? And what erotic tricks might Trudi have learned in her apprenticeship at this place, techniques of eliciting pleasure that I could not even dream of? At this moment, we were both Anna's lovers, but it was an unstable alliance, and I knew somehow I was destined to lose.
But, oh, it was still such a joy to be able to explore Anna's body again, to bring her to the brink of ecstacy at last. And I confess, I learned some things by watching Trudi make love to my darling. Her ways were rougher, to be sure, but Anna seemed to find the contrast exhilarating. She cried out her pleasure as I buried my fingers in her cunt, while Trudi simultaneously savaged her breasts. Trudi had placed her own moist cunny over Anna's eager mouth, and my lover's tongue sipped at her sharp musk, while I buried my face in Anna's fragrant thighs. I found her nubbin and sucked; I even risked using my teeth, and was rewarded with a gasp of pleasure from Anna, one that was quickly muffled by Trudi's spread cunt. Anna's legs hugged my ears as I licked away her juices and brought her to climax yet again. Her shudders were delicious, sugar to my tongue. I drank her down like a man rescued from the desert and given cool mountain water to drink, as much as he can swallow. But Anna was sweeter than the sweetest draught. I swallowed, and sipped again. I wanted to drown in her.
I refused to grant any similar erotic consideration to Trudi, the invader in our midst. Every cry of pleasure Anna made under her ministrations made my chest tighten, brought the beginnings of tears to my eyes. Those tears were released later, along with my own orgasm, as Trudi and Anna both turned their attentions toward me. How could I accept one and refuse the other? They both thought I was weeping solely with pleasure.
How far I had fallen! I reflected on my fate later that morning, caught in a post pleasure torpor. Less than a year before, I had been an innocent young woman. In that short time, I had learned the secrets of love with women, and with men; I had conceived a child, and lost it; and now, it appeared, I was living in a brothel with two lovers, at least for the moment.
What further discoveries lay in my path? I could not even imagine. I only knew that all these strange pleasures were like wine to me: heady, sweet, and addictive. I would welcome them all, I had no doubt. My fall was not yet complete, and that knowledge was nectar to me.
Even the bitterness I would learn to savor, and turn to the most honeyed treat.