She stirred when the bright lights of the toll plaza lit up the dash of the Crown Vic. He laid his hand on her shoulder.
“Where are you taking me?”
“I need to get clean.”
He quickly scrubbed the grime from the last few months out of the tub and got the hot water running and then went and gently shook her awake on the couch. She sat up, slung her bare feet around to the floor, and ran her hands through her hair and shook it out. Her bloody stockings lay crumpled next to her shoes. Then stood and started down the hall with one hand on the wall for support.
“Will you be alright?”
She stopped for a second and turned her head down and to the left, keeping her back towards him, “Do you have anything I could wear?”
“Yea, I’ll get you a tee shirt or something. Maybe we can get you some clothes tomorrow.”
“That would be nice.”
The water ran for a long time and he began to worry that maybe she had fallen asleep and the tub would overflow. Just as he got up to check she shut it off and he could hear the last drips falling into the water and some sloshing that sounded like the washcloth being used. He picked up her coat, the fake fur collar matted on the right with a bit of blood, and carried it to the front closet and hung it. Then he picked up the shoes and the stockings and carried them into the bedroom and set them on the chair he kept by the bed.
He sat in the flickering light of the television. The sound was off and he listened for signs that she had finished her bath. He’d sat a tie-dyed tee shirt on the floor outside the bathroom door for her. He wondered what to do next. He couldn’t imagine how she had come to be on his train in the condition she was in without someone at the station or in the car noticing something and notifying somebody. Of course, he’d seen enough in those cars to know that people pretty much kept to themselves unless someone was threatening or actually dying. He tried to think of scenarios about what had happened to her. She seemed so frail and innocent. Her jacket and shoes were nice, not something someone living on the street would be wearing. He was worried that someone might be looking for her.
It had been quiet for two cycles of commercials. He couldn’t hear any movement in the tub. He thought the water would be getting cold by now. He needed to get her up and settled so that he could get the car back to Johnny. He got up and walked down the hall and tapped on the door.
There was no response so he pushed open the door. She lay with her head against the back of the tub. He’d lit the candles that were left over from a short-lived romance last year. In the soft light her face seemed so young. Her nipples just poked through the still surface of the water.
“You ok?” he asked again, a bit louder.
She stirred and started to sit up, sliding her hands along the side of the tub for support.
“Can you dry me?”
He picked up the towel from the toilet seat and bent down and lifted the lever on the drain. Then he shook the towel out, tucked it under his arm, and stood behind her to help her stand. The wet skin under her arms was still slightly soapy. Her body glistened in the candlelight as she stood. As he wrapped the towel around her could see bruises along her ribs. As she stood she sagged and he grabbed her with the towel and wrapped it around her and picked her up. Before she was covered he could see bruises, fresh and dark, across her back and along the sides of her ribcage. She felt light as she put her wet arms around him and buried her face in his neck. He turned her feet sideways and maneuvered through the door and down the hallway to the bedroom.
He pulled back the sheets and lay her down, trying not to let his eyes linger on her breasts and the smooth, shaved area between her legs as he quickly dried her. The bruises extended down onto her thighs. When he covered her up she rolled onto her side and curled into a fetal position.
“I’ve got to take the car back,” he whispered in her ear. “I’ll be gone about two hours. We can have some breakfast when I get back.”