As the leaves fell from the Autumn trees in a biting gust of wind, Ginger wrapped her moth-bitten scarf tightly around her slim, pale face. She walked along a deserted street feeling just as cold and empty. Her Daddy, that’s what he made her call him, had forced her out the door in her jewellery and threw some clothes after her. Ginger stood on the icy step, her knees quivering whilst she hurriedly pulled on the orange leggings and thick black jacket Daddy had dumped at her feet.
“Come back with some gold or you’re dead,” he spat at her before she turned to start her search. That’s what he liked to call it—gold. It was just as precious.
Ginger’s life hadn’t always been this way but the sweet home-cooked dinners and warm soft beds were now just a fragmented memory tucked away behind the spiraling existence that she now found herself in. The only evidence of such a life remained in the golden necklace and ruby ring that was left to her by her grandmother. None of that mattered now. Daddy wanted his gold and that’s what mattered. Not her aching legs, or the sickness that came creeping up from her gut to infest every cell of her body. She had a roll of cash tucked deep in Daddy’s jacket and now Ginger needed to find a dealer.
It was getting late, far too late. The moon was rising and the stars twinkled on a purple backdrop. Ginger loved the stars, they reminded her of a chandelier she had once seen as a child. The stars however, also meant that Daddy had been waiting far too long. Ginger could feel a lump grow in her throat as she flittered around grizzly men huddled around burning trashcans. When they proved useless she worked the parked cars peering dangerously from dark alleyways. Ginger’s blue eyes welled with tears as she stumbled down to a garden shed in the park where she planned to sleep, too scared to return to Daddy empty handed. After she picked the lock to the small shed, she crawled into a ball on the damp ground and began to weep.
The crack of a match and the smell of cigarette smoke was accompanied by a burning ember in the dark. Ginger gasped and sat upright. She scrambled into a ball in the corner and whispered a terrified “Who’s there?”
“Don’t be afraid girl,” a voice said from the shadows, “I’m here to help you.”
Ginger’s breathing came in rapid bursts but she made herself continue. “Tell me who you are. I really doubt you can help me.”
The mysterious stranger stepped into the moonlight streaming from a pane glass window. He was short. Shorter than the average man but still oozed danger. “You don’t need to know my name, but I know yours, Ginger,” he said.
“How did you —”
“And I know that Daddy is looking for some gold,” the little man continued. “As I said I can help you out, sweet Ginger, but the question is what can you do for me?” he asked. Ginger scurried to her feet and produced the roll of bills Daddy had trusted her with. She thrust the money toward the little man with outstretched palms. “That’ll do.”
When Ginger eventually made her way back to Daddy’s house she was greeted with the usual violent threats and a sore cheek from his hand. This was the longest time she had taken to find Daddy’s gold and he was not pleased. His rage subsided when Ginger threw a little plastic bag to the floor and slumped against the wall. Daddy turned his attention to the baggie and went about his ritual. The prick of the syringe a few minutes later was Ginger’s reward. Her last thoughts before slipping into pure ecstasy were of the little man in the garden shed.
Three days later Ginger was once again roughly handed out the front door of Daddy’s run down house and back on the streets to look for gold. Again she stumbled down the frozen footpaths and once again she could not find anyone who would sell her gold. Ginger decided to run down to the park shed in desperation looking for the little man. Ginger smashed the window to the shed and crawled in, glass ripping at her clothes. Ginger waited for the moon to be high amongst the stars before she was rewarded with the familiar sound of a struck match. The man asked Ginger what she had for him. Ginger, with tears in her eyes ripped off her grandmother’s jewellery and flung it at him. Three days later Ginger was once again in the small shed and this time she had nothing to give the little man for his gold, but her body. He took her that night in the shed for a handful of Daddy’s gold.
Ginger eventually escaped from Daddy and his gold as the year grew colder. A fire burned within her to do better for herself and the baby she held in her stomach. She had put that life in her past. The little man had attempted to retrieve his son when she nally gave birth but Ginger wailed so terribly that he left but not before vowing to return in three days time for his son. Ginger asked about the man to the few friends she had made whilst under Daddy’s wrath. She ran for the phone when it rang on the third day. A voice told her the little man’s name was Rufus Stiltskin. When she heard this she howled with joy and relief.
Her next phone call was to the police with Rufus’s name and more tears of liberation fell as Ginger was assured that he would be tracked down and arrested. Ginger took to motherhood with love and compassion, living a wonderful life with her son, without Daddy or Rufus Stiltskin.
Words by S.Z. Telford
Image by Sash Corowa