How can you dream of freedom when you can’t remember ever being free?
“I’d always known that that auction block was in my future. The schools that train us are outside of town, so I’d never seen one before it was my turn. But the mothers who take care of us there try to prepare us, to reassure us that it is over quickly, that we will get a better Master if we stand up straight and even smile a little.”
James looked down at Lydia, kneeling on the concrete below his park bench. She was drawing little circles on the hard surface with a stick.
“All of us who had turned eighteen in the past month – I think there were six of us? – got to pick out what we wanted to wear. That was exciting, because we’d worn a uniform our entire lives. We knew, of course, that at some point during the auction we’d have to take the dress off to show the bidders our bodies. But for a little while, it was fun.”
She tossed the stick away and folded her hands in her lap, staring off into the distance.
“They don’t feed you the day of the auction, because you’re so terrified you’d throw up. It happens sometimes anyway. We were kept in a large room with the groups from a couple of other schools, so the wait was endless. One by one a girl was selected and would disappear out the door. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be the last one left. We held each other’s hands, the six of us, knowing we probably wouldn’t ever see each other again.” She was trembling.
“Lydia, you don’t–”
“The hotels are always at the auctions, looking for deals, the girls that for one reason or another are going cheap. They need maids, restaurant workers, and if you are lucky, front desk staff. If you aren’t, you clean bathrooms for the rest of your life. The hospital needs cleaning staff. The restaurants need cooks, and they’ll even pay to get good ones.” She chuckled once. “Some of the wealthy homes want good cooks, too. Sometimes there are bidding wars. The fortunate ones don’t go to the restaurants.
“I was lucky. I stood up straight and even managed to smile. A good Master bought me. He paid a lot of money for me. His First Slave, Bena, is like a mother to me, and the other slaves have become my sisters. Someday I hope that I’ll meet a man who will want to buy me and make me a First Slave. We all dream of that. But if not, I hope that Master will keep me around for a long time. He’s older, though, and after he dies?” She shrugged. “Who knows.”
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