Eva had lost count of how many men she’d slept with, but then this was never about keeping score. She rarely encountered Asmodius, her own seducer, the master incubus who launched her on this sad and lonely path of revenge, since she had fallen so deep into her own abyss, she required little encouragement to continue the descent.
She didn’t travel alone, however. There were a trail of formerly virtuous, noble, and even holy men left in her wake, spiraling down into Hell with her. She never felt sorry for them, no matter how piteously they pleaded with her, how they would lose everything, their wives, their children, their careers. It didn’t matter.
The seductress wasn’t responsible for them falling into her trap, only for setting herself out as the bait. She was the temptation, but the sins were on them.
These were the same sort of men who, claiming virtuousness, bought her as a sex slave at age three, her mother so impoverished that she bartered her toddler daughter’s virginity away. Then she became married to a man four decades her senior, as his religion allowed.
However, her resistance was not allowed, and she was blamed both for that and for having sex, even though it was child rape. At age five, her master slept very soundly one night, and she was able to reach a long and sharp knife on the kitchen counter. The child wasn’t strong enough to plunge the blade through his chest and into his black heart, but she was quick enough to slit his throat and then run.
It was a long line of supposedly holy, noble, and virtuous men who entered her shadow world for the next six years and secretly paid her for the sins of knowing her not yet pubescent body. This was survival, money, food, and drugs in exchange for whatever sex act they desired. Most made her call them “Daddy” during the act.
At eleven, a monk found her half-dead in an alley, beaten by older girls who said they were stealing their business. He took her to the convent where the nuns cared for her. Thinking she had finally found the salvation she often begged for in her silent dreams, she stayed, eventually taking the vows.
Then he came, the shadow man, the one from her darkest nightmares. She was guised as a Priest, a so-called man of the cloth, but it was he, Asmodius, demon, incubus, the master seducer. She had three orgasms the first night in her tiny cell as he took her and from her humble pedestal of light, and she began her long tumble back down into darkness.
Now the darkness was all around her and Eva was the seductress.
Oh, there were a few men who tried to save her believing that they could. Most she seduced, crushing their arrogant presumption, but one or two escaped, for they were virtuous and uncompromising. Yes, they resisted temptation, but they lacked the will or the strength to take her back into the light. The one thing Eva realized in her twenty-five years of life, is that no man could ever be trusted, even the tiny handful who managed to escape her.
She barely had memories of men before being sold by Mama. Papa had been one of the many who had shared Mama’s bed and comforts and then left, a nameless, faceless horde of needy genitals and money. There was one though, an old man, or so he seemed. Eva called him Jid. He smiled, gave her candy, told her she was pretty, and never, ever hurt her. He only wanted to hear her laugh.
Eva was walking down the avenue. It was a cool morning but the day would become hot and oppressive.
She wouldn’t have noticed him if he hadn’t spoken.
Eva was dressed in the latest fashion, belying the poverty around her. She couldn’t have told you why she had returned to the old neighborhood that morning. Something called to her. She thought it was ego. She had escaped. Her old life, the one that dominated what she bitterly referred to as her childhood, could no longer enslave her. Eva came back to laugh at all the fools who would never leave.
Such a one was the old man, the beggar. He sat in the shadow of a cafe which had not yet opened. He was thin and bent. A small bowl sat at his feet. It was empty.
“Please help an old man, Hafida.” He called her granddaughter and certainly he was of that age.
“Why should I?” She surprised herself again that she’d actually stopped and spoken to him. He was less than nothing.
“No reason. I know there is no kindness in you. I can see it in your eyes. But you have so much, and I have so little. Would it hurt for you to spare even a few coins?”
“What do you see in my eyes?” She wanted to leave, but curiosity rooted her in front of him, standing tall and haughty in contrast to his brokenness.
He didn’t answer right away. As she looked down, he struggled to lift his head more, looking up. His body was old and faded, but his eyes still sparkled.
“What I haven’t seen in a long time, Hafida.”
“Why do you call me that?”
“If you will not spare me the price of a simple meal, can you instead nourish my soul?”
“You are too old and too poor for my sort of nourishment.”
“All I want to do is to hear you laugh one more time before I die, my little Hafida.”
Eva looked closer and then remembered she wasn’t always called Eva. She bent down and then crouched, studying his face. She couldn’t recall what he looked like, but there was something in the voice and eyes.
“It has been so many years. Is it really you? Are you the Hafida I lost? Am I the Jid who once loved you? How could we ever know?”
He was crying, and watching his tears idle downward through the wrinkles and crevices of his ruined yet kindly face, Eva felt emotions that had become alien to her long ago.
“When did you last eat, old man?”
“It doesn’t matter. Just go. I endure hunger more easily than grief.”
Was he the old man she recalled, the only one who loved her? Maybe it didn’t matter.
“Get up.” She took his arm and began pulling.
“What? Oh. Be careful. These old bones are fragile. Where are you taking me?”
“Someplace where you can eat,” she paused as he rested his weight upon her. “And bathe.” Eva wrinkled her nose.
He didn’t require much, for there wasn’t much left of him. Jid lived another three months, but in the tiny march of days he remained in the world, he was cared for, and the day he died, Eva discovered that her salvation and redemption wasn’t something she needed to receive from a man, but something she needed from herself.
The voice of Asmodius never returned, nor did his presence, nor anything else about him. It was never about who or what she needed to save her, it was about what she could do for others. In loving the broken, she finally learned what it was to be worthy of love herself.
Yesterday, in response to a different challenge, I wrote The Downfall of Eva, however I realized I couldn’t surrender her to such a fate. When I saw the type of photo for today’s challenge, I thought of a way back, but not the stereotypical one (Okay, the inclusion of a Grandfather was probably contrived).
Even someone drowning in the sea of their own despair can still wish for a rescuer, but in Eva’s case, her salvation was the act of saving someone else.
Oh, as far as Google is able to tell me, “Jid” is Arabic for “Grandpa” and “Hafida” means “Granddaughter” in the same language.
Eva’s story continues in Flowers and Scars.