Bloodlust: Excerpt

 

Mary Chang watched the Fraser River slide under the plane as the big jet sank toward the green and grey of Vancouver airport. The flight from Singapore had been a long one and not very exciting. What was exciting was travelling to a strange place with a different language and customs. For someone like her, seventeen years old and out from under her parents for the first time, even a dull, long, eventless flight was tolerable when it led to somewhere like this.

The plane thumped down, tire screech audible even in the cabin. Engines roared with reverse thrust. Slowing sufficiently, the 747 jumbo lumbered off to the side strips in the long run to the terminal. Even though she wanted off, Mary sat after the seat belt sign went dark to let the others jostle their way, stop and go, up the aisle and out the door. She wanted her entrance to be singular and to involve only her, so she let the crowd bunch up and disperse before she got up.

With her carry-on trailing behind her, she made her way alone up the aisle, thanked the smiling stewardesses, and walked slowly up the ramp, glancing out the tiny windows at the busy concrete apron.

The terminal was what she’d expected, very much like Singapore’s except that the walk to the luggage area seemed like miles. She watched the loading gates through the glass wall as she passed along the endless corridor, wondering where all these people were going. As the arrivals corridor opened up, she paid particular attention to the shops to see if she recognized anything, but they were all foreign. One of them selling pastries and coffee had a large red sign that said Tim Hortons. She’d heard of that one, and the green Starbucks she knew.

By the time she got to the luggage carousels, the crowd had mostly dispersed, and only a few stragglers remained. Six or seven suitcases still circled, awaiting their owners, one of which had an orange scarf tied to its handle. Mary reached for it and struggled to get it off the conveyor belt. One of the remaining passengers, a young white guy, pulled it off and set it beside her.

She thanked him. He blushed and mumbled something that sounded like “okay”. She found that strange. Young men in Singapore were far bolder. Mary smiled to herself, thinking that this country would be fun if men were so easily embarrassed. She would have more power here and that pleased her.

Granted, she thought, her English was rusty, her pronunciation accented, and her phrasing a bit odd, if her English-speaking friends were right. But she did speak the language. She could use that awkwardness to charm the men.

Mary’s family was traditional and her parents strict, but her school was a way out for her and her friends, free from parental disapproval, and if you were careful, free from the strictures of the staff. She had quite early begun her own emancipation and had practised using her beauty and intelligence to get what she wanted from the older boys. She wasn’t very successful with her teachers, although there had been one. But with the boys she was, and she’d managed so far to avoid any unpleasantness.

Mary had dressed conservatively for the flight since her parents had seen her off, but she wasn’t planning to stay that way. She left the baggage area and went directly to the nearest women’s lavatory. Inside, the fixtures were different, but that’s not what she was there for. She sat on one of the western-style toilets and changed her clothes.

No one was meeting her here; she’d insisted on that. When her parents objected, she’d pointed out that part of the reason for the trip was to allow her some independence, and that having her met was treating her like a child. She’d won that battle, but not easily.

She had three days in the big city, well two nights anyway, and she was planning to make good use of the dark hours. Her Canadian friend in Singapore, the special one she’d had an affair with, had lived here. From him she knew all about the city’s more interesting places.

When Mary left the stall, she had on her mini skirt, her heels, and her special top, the tight one. She looked at herself in the mirror, smiled at her reflection, and dug in her carry-on for her makeup. Twenty minutes later, she left the women’s washroom a different person. She walked differently; she seemed older and much more sophisticated; and she saw the reactions of the younger men, even some of the older ones. It was all good. She was here, she was free, and she was sure of herself.

The SkyTrain was noisy compared to Singapore’s subway, but it was taking her to the city center so she forgave it, even for its slowness. Eventually, she got out at Burrard station, just one stop past the change at Granville, and once up the escalator and out on the street, she could see her hotel.

Only her second day was spoken for, and on her third day, she’d be back at the airport’s south terminal for a seaplane ride to Harbour City. There was no time to waste. Mary marched up the street, crossed Georgia to the Hotel Vancouver’s front doors, and went into the lavish lobby. She registered, took the elevator to the tenth floor, dumped her suitcase and carry-on, and checked her appearance in the floor-to-ceiling mirror.

A half hour later, Mary was back on the street, headed up Burrard from Georgia toward Davie, the street her friend in Singapore had talked about. It was still light, but she wanted to know where to find the special places, and this was a perfect way to see what was there.

Seven blocks up, she strolled along and looked at people and restaurants. It wasn’t much in daylight, and it was a lot dirtier than anything in Singapore. Still, it was full of people just like the streets at home. Coffee houses pushed out into the street, the patrons inches away from the passing crowds; well-lit restaurant windows revealed full houses; a few cheap sex shops were empty, the come-on too glaring for most afternoon customers. Mary smiled at the outfits and could feel the fine lacy black lingerie she had on.

She wandered through the Two Sisters Bookshop, Priapus, and a couple of the better clothing stores. She ate a hotdog from a street vendor, one with fried onions, popped a breath mint afterwards, and sauntered back down Davie. She picked up a copy of Georgia Strait from one of the racks parked along the street.

In the daytime, she thought, the street was not just dirty; it was almost lifeless, even with crowds of people. Every street in Singapore sang with spirit in comparison, the great shops on Orchard Park busy with custom, the small ones equally so. Here, everything was sort of low rise except for the apartment buildings, and full of noisy traffic. She realized that’s what the difference was: the endless flow of cars and trucks and buses. Mary’d never seen so many cars on a street, either parked or moving. She was familiar with the congestion of Malaysian cities like Georgetown, with its overflowing streets and the roar of motorbikes, but this was a different kind of busy, somehow tamer.

Mary found one of the hotspots she intended to return to that night. Maybe the streets changed at night, she thought, as hers did back home, a kind of metamorphosis as the night people emerged. She’d soon see.

She returned to the hotel and spent time in her room comparing outfits and deciding which one she’d wear. She wanted a club filled with music and light, pounding with a beat, jammed with a more deviant crowd. There, she knew, the possibilities were endless.

Having picked her outfit for the evening, she passed the time until darkness came by ordering room service and reading Georgia Strait. The paper was more like what she’d expected. All the clubs were there and the ads in the back covered the spectrum of sexuality she intended to explore. This was the city she had come for, the night city, the clubs, the music, and the beat of streets filled with people like her, young and ready for anything. Tomorrow was for Chinatown and duty, parents and relatives, and more quiet behaviour. But tonight was hers.

Mary didn’t return to the hotel that night. She didn’t return until the stores were open the next day and the streets were busy with shoppers and traffic. She would always remember the night: the club, the music, and especially the girls and boys and kathoeys who danced with abandon and carried her with them when they left, moving from club to club. She remembered leaving in a van. She remembered a room, hands, lovely wanton touching, ecstasy, and darkness, but she remembered little else.

She’d awakened while the others slept, climbed over various pairs on the floor, the bed, and the furniture, cleaned up in the bathroom, and let herself out. An elevator had carried her to a street she didn’t recognize, and she had begun to walk. She found a cab a few blocks down at a busy intersection. She was due in Chinatown in the early afternoon.

In her room, Mary cleaned herself thoroughly and chose a conservative outfit, much like her school uniform but with a longer skirt. She ordered lunch from room service, and was now on her bed studying a map of downtown.

Chinatown was small, she thought, and not very far away. She’d take the SkyTrain to Main Street and walk the few blocks. Her aunt’s address was on a street called Pender and since that crossed Main, it would be easy to find. But first, she’d call her parents, as she had when she arrived.

The afternoon at her aunt’s house dragged as she answered endless questions about her parents and family and friends. Dainty hors d’euvres and Chinese specialties were served by two young Chinese women. She didn’t want anything, but she also couldn’t refuse. That would be rude, she knew. Mary’s cheeks ached from smiling and her head began to tire from nodding. She felt dreary and plain and tired from lack of sleep. The endless servings of tea kept her going.

Finally, in the early evening, Mary left her aunt’s small house on Pender and walked over a block to Hastings. She knew about the street and the infamous East End from her friend in Singapore. So of course, she had to see it. The street itself was wide, but it was also nondescript, scruffy and unattractive, with ugly

neglected hotels and lines of two-storey shops of all kinds, most of them with barred windows and doorways.

More interesting than the street was the cast of characters, including drug addicted women and men, drunks, and working girls. There were also some people who looked dirty and neglected, as if they slept on the street. It was just what her friend had said it was. Singapore was not at all like this. In her city, druggies were rounded up and taken north to treatment the first time, and there wasn’t a second. Bugis Street had been cleaned up, so the kathoeys had to disperse and find tiny niches of their own. Now the street sold backpacks and other knockoffs. This Hastings Street would not have been allowed to exist in Singapore.

Mary walked along the street up to Main, turned north a block to Cordova, and walked back down. This street was equally wide but more residential, and less filled with human refuse. The girls here were obvious and a few of them attractive. The costumes they wore, brief and suggestive, were what interested Mary the most.

She loitered around the corners on the north side and watched the action on the other side. When she crossed over at Heatley to go back up to Hastings and then to Pender, she was followed by a large black car. It pulled in to the curb ahead of her and the window went down. Mary smiled to herself and sauntered over. The man was nicely dressed and friendly, and as Mary leaned in the window, he offered her a good time for the evening at a private party. She played out the contact as long as she could before she declined and the man drove off.

She finished her walk up to Pender and turned toward Main. That had been fun. She could have a good time on a street like that just soaking up the flavour, feeling the dark currents of the place, taking pleasure in her own appeal.

As she continued walking, she thought back to all the aunts and uncles and friends of her parents who had gathered in the tiny living room. She’d suffered through all the polite enquiries, all the feigned interest, the endless banal stories, until she was finally out once again and free. She shivered in anticipation; the night had just begun and already she’d touched the city in places she’d never dreamed about. She intended her second and last night to be even better.

By ten, Mary was back on Davie Street at the same club she’d started at the night before. She knew she wouldn’t be there long, but she’d enjoy the

throbbing music and the activity for a while. She danced with various boys and girls, ended up with another group, and in the early hours found herself once again at someone’s home. This time it was upscale, a high-rise apartment many floors up with a view across Coal Harbour and the black bulk of Stanley Park. To the north were the twinkling lights of the cities of North and West Vancouver and farther up the mountains, the trails of lights of the ski runs. There were adults here, and drugs, more than she’d ever seen.

Everyone was snorting or smoking, some were shooting up in the bathrooms and bedrooms. The hosts seemed to be the suppliers and were themselves users. Bowls of pills sat around on the tables, clothes of various kinds trailed across the floors, and anyone could sample anything. Those who were not too wasted were making out wherever there was space. Others watched, and some joined in.

Mary stood in the doorway of the living room, a little high, amused at the debauchery, and very much liking the hands of the girl standing behind her. She spent the night, what was left of it, with her new friend, and as morning light filled the great picture window, she put herself back together in one of the lavish bathrooms and let herself out.

She had only a few hours before she had to appear at the south terminal of the airport for the seaplane to Harbour City. Her sister was expecting her, and she was eager to see her again. Olivia Chan lived with her husband in an upscale condo townhouse by the water somewhere downtown.

Mary cleaned up and had some lunch before checking out and taking a limo supplied by the hotel. She enjoyed the ride out, watching the changing streets until the limo hit the bridge at the bottom of Granville and turned toward the airport.

Mary sighed. Her time in the big city was over, and it was much too short a stay. She smiled to herself as she thought about her return trip. She had another two days in the city to look forward to, and she would take advantage of what she knew.

The limo turned off before the main terminal and took a side road to the edge of a broad, slow-moving river.

It was a twenty-minute flight across to the island, maybe around fifty kilometers. The hotel driver let her off at the entrance to a small building housing Harbour Air, carried her luggage in, thanked her, and left. She’d given him what seemed to her a reasonable tip, but his pleasure was obvious.

After her luggage was weighed and her ticket issued, she waited in the small coffee shop and watched a number of seaplanes take off. She’d never been in anything so small that flew. This was going to be an experience.

After she lined up and boarded with seven others, she was directed to a window in the front. The small plane taxied out to the river’s center, the single engine loud in the passenger cabin. The takeoff was noisy, but the engine settled down once they were airborne, and Mary watched the Salish Sea running beneath the plane. They flew so low, she could see the men in the sailboats below them. The sea between the island and the mainland carried freighters, but it was nothing compared to the shipping channels at home. Here, there was mostly water; back home there was mostly large ships.

They began their descent only minutes later, and Mary watched the island she’d spotted become larger and larger, the trees suddenly beside them as the plane entered the harbour area and touched down. As the engine roared to slow their approach, Mary thought how similar it was to landing in a jumbo, just on a different  scale.

Olivia hugged her sister. It went on too long and Mary struggled to get free so she could talk. She gave her a carefully edited account of her crossing and her time in Vancouver. They moved off the dock end onto the walkway and crossed a bridge that joined the building to the seawall. Mary looked back at the harbour. Four planes lined the dock near the terminal building, and on the far side, sailboats filled the basin of the harbour, their masts bright in the sun against the wall of green trees covering two islands.

Olivia waited patiently. “That’s the main harbour out there. See that long dock way down? That’s where the cruise ships dock, and on this side are the docks where the fishing boats come in and the tourist boats dock. Let’s get your suitcases into the house, and we can take a walk around, unless you’d rather have a rest?”

Mary shook her head. “I’m fine. I’d like to see the town a little. Maybe we could get a coffee and sit for a bit?”

Olivia took the large bag and began to walk down the seawall. Mary followed. They hadn’t gone more than a half block before Olivia turned in at a small wrought iron gate and climbed the steps to one of the townhouses that lined the seawall. Mary stood for a moment, then followed.

The interior was rather small, but the great room was high-ceilinged and elegant, the furnishings modern but classic at the same time. Mary liked it. The two women parked the suitcases in the foyer, toured the house, and left again to look at the town.

Down the seawall from the townhouse in one direction was Maffeo Sutton Park with its arched pedestrian bridge. The other direction, the one they took, led past a row of shops on one side, mostly tourist traps, and long docks filled with fishing boats mixed in with other small craft. The seawall was about ten feet above the level of the water, the tide just beginning to come in, and it led toward a small marina for larger pleasure craft, the type that ostentatiously scream wealth. There the seawall ended and they crossed Front at the concert hall and walked up through the arched cobbled street to Commercial, the heart of downtown. Olivia pointed to a Serious Coffee on the corner and they went in.

Mary got her usual dark roast and looked at her sister, who had a skim latte. “It’s a very small city, isn’t it? Is this all there is to the downtown, this one street?”

Olivia took a sip of her latte. “Yes, this is about it. The town is fairly large but spread out up and down the highway. There are plazas all over the place, but the downtown commercial district is here.”

She smiled at Mary, patted her hand, and drank coffee. Mary sighed deeply, realizing that this was not going to be much fun. There were no clubs that she could see and if there were, she couldn’t ask Olivia about them. Few of the restaurants or bars looked interesting, and the shops, well, from what she could see just looking up and down the street, there was little to redeem the place. She was trapped for two weeks.

She smiled at Olivia. “So tell me about things. When did you get the townhouse? What do the two of you do? And why do you live here instead of Vancouver?”

“Look, I sympathize. Harbour City isn’t very big for someone like you, and certainly not very interesting, but there’s a larger, more interesting place down the highway only about a hundred kilometers. It won’t be as bad as you think. You can go to Victoria whenever you like. It’s your vacation, so we won’t hold you to anything. I can show you what we have here in the way of fashion and entertainment. There are a few clubs, the usual sort of thing. The ones on the main street are pretty cool, but I’d stay away from the one on Victoria Crescent. It has lots of fights, and the cops practically live there. There’s one good restaurant, a very good one, just up the hill a bit from that club, but the street’s not somewhere you want to mess around. Too many drugs, too many hookers, and too many bikers.”

Olivia looked so concerned that Mary burst out laughing. She didn’t have the heart to tell her how disappointed she really was, so she nodded and smiled. “It’ll be good to look around, and we can have a good time. I’ll be fine here, and as you said, there’s Victoria.”

“Victoria’s big in comparison. We’ll go down together and I’ll show you around. Then you can go back on your own and have some fun. There’s a ferry over to Port Angeles that you can take the car on and drive down to Seattle in the States for a couple of days. All you have to do is keep in touch by phone, okay?”

Mary thought the south end of town and Victoria down the highway might just do the trick, and she intended at the earliest opportunity to spend an evening on Victoria Crescent and hike up the hill to see what the hookers were up to.

Olivia saw the look and recognized it. She’d been there herself and had been lucky enough to escape unscathed. Her little sister was in for some trouble. She saw in her the same touch of arrogance, the same lust for the edge, the same sullen, knowing sensuality. She knew Mary as well as she knew herself and wondered how to protect her, shy of locking her up. Try to stop her and she’d push even harder; try to reason with her and she’d listen politely, eyes blank, and let it all flow by; try to stick with her and she’d find a way to wiggle free. There was nothing to do but let her go and try to pick up the pieces.

They finished their coffees and wandered up the street, past the Flying Fish and the Modern, and turned down toward Pacifica’s tower on Front Street. It was early afternoon, the sun throwing bright spots around like confetti as the sky carried in clouds from the west.

That evening, Olivia took Mary to the Cactus Club for dinner. They enjoyed their meal and planned a drive to Victoria the following day. They’d have fun together, they decided, while Olivia still had time off work. After that, Mary would be on her own. “You think you can handle that?” Olivia asked.

Mary grinned. “Just watch me!”

Mary Chang wasn’t impressed with Victoria. Olivia had tried hard to sell the place, but it was still small. The harbour was nice and there were a lot of the English colonial-style buildings she knew from the port area in Singapore. There was also a tiny Chinatown, and even a few clubs she’d investigate when she was by herself, but really, the day with Olivia had been a bust.

Victoria Crescent in Harbour City, though, that was closer to what she was looking for. Olivia had warned her away, and that was promising.

So here she was, back in Harbour City, and it was late, just about midnight. She sauntered across the highway, looked in the shops on the other side where Victoria Road began, and made her way slowly around the crescent.

She found the club Olivia had talked about by the noise and the voices raised in argument. She took a look in the window, didn’t particularly like what she saw, and crossed at the crosswalk. On the other side, she found a used audio equipment store, a couple of stores closed up, and a scruffy-looking restaurant full of equally scruffy young people like the backpackers who hung out at the mission back home.

Next door was more interesting. It was a pool hall full of big chunky guys in leather jackets drinking what looked like beer and playing pool while they filled the place with smoke. There were no girls she could see, which was a disappointment. Nothing but the big guys and the tables. She moved on and sauntered up the hill toward the restaurant on the other side, the one Olivia had mentioned. There was a second storey and a tower on one end, but the upstairs was dark.

Mary had planned this foray carefully. She ducked into a small parking lot across from the restaurant, slid behind a panel van, and took off her jeans and top. That left her in the lacy black bra and panties. Out of her large purse, she pulled a short red mini and a matching blouse. She left the top buttons undone. Next came fishnet thigh-highs and black four-inch heels. She put on a perfume she knew the club girls back home favoured, checked herself in the little mirror she carried, and stepped out.

She wandered slowly up the street, lots of hip sway. She felt her heart rate jump. Ripples of pleasure coursed through her. She smiled. This would be a gas, she thought, and she might just do what she looked like she’d do.

She saw three other girls working the street farther up the hill and went that way. One was a tall blonde showing a lot of leg. She had on tight shorts, knee-high boots, and a white sweater tight enough to highlight her large, high breasts that Mary thought would stop anything on the road. Then there were those great legs that went on forever. She not only had a lot to offer, she knew how to offer it.

Mary smiled at her as she passed, and the girl, all six feet of her, stopped and asked her for a light. She held a cigarette in one hand, the other wrapped around her own large bag.

“You’re new here, aren’t you? Haven’t seen you out before.” She reached over and felt Mary’s blouse along the edge, brushing the smooth skin along the top. Her fingers lingered, sliding back up the edge of the blouse, then down again.

“I like this,” she said and moved closer, her thigh brushing against Mary’s. “Forget the light, I’d rather have you.”

She shoved the cigarette back in the pack. “It’s real slow tonight, not much happenin’. Let’s leave it to those two.” She nodded at the other girls Mary had seen, who were now together at the corner of Prideaux and Victoria.

“Come back to my place. I’ll tell you how to work the street. You can try on some of my stuff. Got a few things’ll fit a little cutey like you, and you can show me what you got. Come on, we can hit this place later, see if it’s any better. I’ll give you first dibs.”

Mary looked up at her, then past her down the street. She reached up and slid her hand down the girl’s neck and across her breasts, stood on her toes, tipped up her face, and waited. The blonde leaned down and kissed her, one hand circling Mary’s waist. They walked up to the lights at Milton together, neither talking, taking pleasure in each other.

“I’m Sally. What do I call you?”

Mary thought for a moment. “Call me Cat.”

“Suits you, with that hair and you being so small. I’m up here a block.”

They walked up the street to a spot that had a bit of grass, some shrubs, and a walkway to another street. At the second house in, Sally fiddled in her bag, pulled out a key, and led her down the side of the house to some stairs leading to the basement.

“Careful here,” she said. “The steps’re steep, especially for heels like ours. Try sideways. Let me go first.”

They got down the stairs without incident and through the door. When Sally turned on the lamp, they stepped into a room with a large bed, a couple of chairs covered in clothes, and a small kitchen and bathroom on the side. All the doors were open, and Mary could see into the bathroom, where there were more clothes and nylons strung around, some on the tub edge, some over the shower door.

She felt Sally come up against her back and reach around her, pulling her close. Mary was so much smaller and delicate that she seemed lost against so much girl. Sally’s hands slid up to her small breasts, teasing her nipples, then down to the short hem of her skirt.

Mary turned to face her and began to unbutton her blouse. Clothes could wait. She wanted this girl to see her, to want her, to use her. There was so much of her. Mary finished removing her clothes and stood naked. Sally murmured something and began to caress her.

Later in the night, Mary slipped from the big bed, dressed quickly, and let herself out without disturbing the sleeping girl. As she walked down Victoria Road, she thought about how tender Sally had been, as if she were afraid of hurting her, and what she would think about her disappearance. Mary intended to come again the next night, wear the same clothes, and wait for Sally where she’d met her.

She smiled to herself as she walked down the hill.

The night had been so much more than she’d expected, and tomorrow would be better. Sally’d show her how to manage the street, they’d be lovers and share a bed, and Mary’d become what she pretended to be—for one night at least. She was very excited about that. Maybe for a few nights she’d be a street girl. Olivia would never know. It would be hers alone, and she shivered at the thought of someone paying her to do what she enjoyed beyond anything else. She’d carry this secret inside her. It would make her superior to her lovers. She’d like that. A lot.

She stripped in the same place she’d dressed. She wasn’t aware of the two men who watched her from the top of the rock wall that formed one end of the lot. They had a tiny nest in the tall grass on the top of the hill, had heard her heels on the pavement, and had crawled to the edge and peered over.

The men watched as she changed, watched her walk away, and listened to her fading footsteps until they disappeared into the sounds of the night.

Mary let herself in to her sister’s place, tiptoed to the bedroom door, and peeked in. Olivia was asleep with one small lamp burning, and Mary knew she’d tried to wait up for her. She made herself a snack in the kitchen, thought about her new name, the pleasures of the night, and the promise of the next. She tiptoed to her bedroom, cleaned up, and went to bed.

In the morning, Olivia asked how the evening had gone and mentioned that she must have been very late. Mary smiled and explained that she’d been to a club downtown, had made some friends there, and had stayed with them for the evening. In fact, she said, she’d made plans to join them that night, so she’d be late again.

“It’s your vacation, girl, you do what you want. Just don’t do anything that’ll make me have to bail you out, okay? You do, and I’ll have to call Mom and Dad, or Auntie in Vancouver. That would be a pain in the ass, right?”

Mary was a bit surprised. Olivia was usually prim and proper, but when she was younger, she’d been a hellion back home, she knew. Mary grinned at her and shook her head in mock seriousness.

Olivia chuckled. “Okay, I gotta go. You want dinner, be here at six, if you don’t, get something yourself. I’ll see you later. You need anything, you call. You good with that?”

Mary nodded. “Thanks. I’ll be out for the day and likely not home for dinner. Don’t wait up.”

After Olivia left for the law office, Mary cleaned up. She sat in the living room looking out at the harbour, wishing the day would simply disappear so she could return to the stroll and Sally.

I’m gonna shop, find some sexy stuff for tonight, she thought. Maybe later, Sally would show her the stroll and Mary could take a trick or two, see what it was like to get paid. She felt so excited, but it wasn’t even noon.

Mary found the phone book in the kitchen and looked up stores. She found a sex shop on Terminal, but she knew they’d have cheap crap. She found a shop in the old town that seemed possible, and it wasn’t more than a few blocks away. There was also one right downtown she’d seen last night. Then there was a string of them up the highway she could drive to. She loved shopping, but she hated malls with the mommies and kids, the crappy music, and the junk shops.

Mary spent some time in the bathroom getting ready. She left Pacifica through the door on Front Street, walked over past the Anglican church and the Modern Café, and turned up Bastion. From the stoplight, she could see the shops of the old town up the hill a block or so.

Mary found the lingerie shop on the corner of Fitzwilliam and Wesley. She found what she wanted easily, bought two lovely sets of lingerie, one blue, one red, and a couple of tops she liked. She walked the rest of the old town just to see what was there and stopped for lunch in a small café.

Back home, she put on her new lingerie, lacy and deep blue. She added one of the new tops, a short mini, and a pair of knee-high black boots she’d bought in Vancouver. She retouched her makeup and studied herself in the full-length mirror in Olivia’s bedroom. She was pleased with her outfit, and the boots gave the extra inches she wanted.

Four o’clock found her back downtown. She found Victoria Road and drove slowly up the hill. One girl was out, a plump, dark-haired one in jeans and a low-cut top. She sauntered along the sidewalk, but it was clear she was working.

Mary drove all over the area, watching the streets, seeing what they looked like in daylight. She made sure she passed Sally’s place, figured out how to get to the street on the other side of the walkway, and walked by the white frame clapboard bungalow. She found the walk on the side and stared thoughtfully at the door at the bottom of the basement steps. No, she thought, she’d wait and find Sally on the street later.

Mary spent the next half hour driving around and decided this section of town was a bit of a dump. There were mostly neglected houses, crappy yards, and junk in the driveways. She drove away.

She took the long hill past the bypass highway, drove up around the curve near the university, and slowed as it opened on the top of the high ridge. The view was breathtaking. The whole city lay below her and she could see across the Salish Sea to the coastal mountains, their peaks covered in snow. She could even see the ski runs and Vancouver’s lights just beginning to twinkle down near the water.

Mary sat entranced. This is where she’d live, she thought. She pulled away from the curb and drove along the top of the ridge. The houses, large and mostly new, were interesting, but it was the view that captivated her.

Olivia’s place on the seawall had its own kind of charm, but here was the real thing. Mary found a spot where she could park off the road that gave her a clear view of the city and the water. She stayed and watched the light fade into dusk. She could still see the mountain peaks reflecting the last of the sun’s rays, see the deepening colour of the sea, but it was the lights that held her. She stayed until everything turned dark and only the lights were visible, twinkling in the distance.