The links sparkled on her bracelet as she set the ruby in her navel.
Always wear the ruby in the navel, she used to say.
Melody’s stage name was Links and she lost that loving feeling one summer’s afternoon in a well kept English garden whose lawns denied the possibility of anything other than a strict moral order. Sometimes she thought she’d never left the garden and at night when the bed creaked she smelt flowers whose perfume was vaguely urinous, filled with the brackish pungency of ruin. A bird flew across the sky in the garden. She could feel the grass against her back.
She bought Agent Provocateur and the knee length boots that became her trademark. She listened to the leather creak and sat among the daisies again.
She wore a jangling gold chain on her wrist just above the faded scar. It made music as she moved. She often heard The Righteous Brothers croon of a loss that ran through her veins like tangled silk. She fingered it slowly in the whispering dark. It kept nothingness at bay. No more prison chains for her. She told herself they were garlands. Strung by a hand that touched her skin in the dark. But she felt she had no melody in her soul. Someone had stolen her song and one day she would reclaim it.
When she did it that first time she stood looking at the prison gates as they closed. Alone at night in her cell, she kept hearing the noise his flesh made as she cut it. And she saw a daisy chain set by a callused hand on her white shoulders. The hand was hard and she felt the existence of a hostile world tapping at the hem of her being. She used to look at herself in the mirror and say don’t close your eyes, don’t kiss. She was a small girl playing in her daddy’s garden with a mouth was full of an acrid taste. She gazed to the future, an ocean of alienation.
Melody looked at herself now as she set off to work, her body dark and toned. She was nobody’s daughter. She was the flesh mistress.
Daddy wore gloves. He hid his hands. He rubbed rich cream into the leather until it shone. He liked to change things. He clenched his fist when he spoke.
Yet she was as unaltered as smoke. You cannot penetrate smoke, she used to say. She sometimes thought she had disappeared. The show kept her alive.
She looked at the neon signs of the club and strode in with her knee length boots and short red skirt and applied Valentino lipstick, ignoring the other girls, and went on stage.
All the sad men clutched their beers as she stripped. She could see their eyeballs bleed as they watched her flesh, a slow descent like red snow in the summer, a wounding of desire. They knew her body but not her soul, never her soul.
They all looked the same. She ran the flesh parade, and she stuck her finger in her cunt, taunting them with need. She saw one tired old man bow his head and look away.
As she finished her act Mick the manager called to her.
‘Hey Links there’s a guy wants a private dance says he’ll pay a lot.’
Links drew on her cigarette, disappearing into the blue smoke. It rose to the ceiling and she felt herself on her back, a sharp pain inside her like something tearing a long time ago.
Mick was wearing a T shirt with a daisy in the corner and her eyes crawled all over it.
‘Are you listening to me?’, he said.
‘There’s a guy wants you to give him the private treatment.’
‘Well what you waiting for?’
She walked through to the back, seeing the daisy and tasting it in her mouth. A snake uncoiled inside her, the dark snake of knowing that hissed to her in the dark in an alien tongue.
In the soiled room the old man sat looking at her, arms crossed, waiting, and she began to strip, thinking of chains and their iridescence in the moonlight when blood looks blue. The gold links held the chain together, for nothing would happen so long as the chain held.
She remembered being hungry as a girl. And the daisies her father put on her and the smell of the room when he would feed her. She had to earn her food.
And so she danced.
She could smell him watching her. And she fingered the rich jewel of her navel, seeing the light glance off the ruby. She went over to him and he reached out. He grabbed her by the wrist with a hard hand. She stood there looking at him and saw daddy and pulled away. His finger caught in her bracelet and it broke.
He was moving towards her with a clenched fist and behind him on the chair she saw his gloves and she reached into her purse and saw it move there through the air, like the wing of a bird.
‘You like your ejaculation?’, she said, as he sprayed her with blood.
Links rubbed it all over her face as daisies climbed around her skin like tendrils. They seemed to her the most sensual of all flowers. Soft, fragrant and feminine, beyond the reach of man.