Notre Dame Cathedral. It was a majestic, yet sombre-looking building. The wind whistled through the dark empty halls and passages, echoing throughout the place like the mournful wail of a disembodied spirit. Shadows seemed to come alive.
"Trust Gambit to go and have fun with the women-folk while we're sitting on a ticking time-bomb. Oh well, guess it's up to Jubilation Lee, X-woman Supreme to scope out the meeting place." mumbled Jubilee as she looked up at the immense building.
The chill bit into her, she pulled her yellow coat tighter around herself. "Lookee here, this is your last warning, I'm giving you 5 minutes to warm me up before I trade you in for a wintercoat." She muttered to her yellow coat.
She was starting to regret being there. "Maybe it wasn't such a good idea to come here alone. There isn't much here anyway. Nobody around, just a big ole spooky-looking building." The wind howled once more. "Think of Quasimodo. Think of Quasimodo. Cute little Quasimodo." she chanted. A tree to the right of her sighed. "I think I'm going home."
Just as Jubilee was turning tail to make a dash back to the hotel, she heard a soft mocking voice, "Are you afraid, chile?" The voice belonged to a dark hooded figure gliding out from the deeper shadows. It cautiously avoided the lights, staying only in the shadows, seeming to be part of the shadows themselves.
"Who are you, lady?" There was a slight tremor in Jubilee's voice.
"'Ave you heard of de story?" At the lady's voice, the temperature took a sudden plunge. Cold seeped into Jubilee's bones.
"W-what story?" Despite her bravado, Jubilee was plainly frightened of the hooded figure.
"De story of a murder most foul..." the voice sang. "Somebody died 'ere, a few years ago. A girl. Dey say her spirit still roams...searchin'...seekin'...for de man who killed her...de man who rend her heart asunder..."
Somewhere in the night, a woman screamed.
"Don't know what you're ranting about, lady but I am outta here." Jubilee turned and walked away briskly.
"...de man wit' de eyes of de DEVIL!" There was no mistaking hate in her voice.
The voice screeched. It sounded like the Gates of Hell had opened to release hordes of shrieking demons. Jubilee covered her ears and ran, tears streaking down her cheeks. She wanted to go home, back to the X-mansion, back to Wolvie, away from that horrible voice, away from the terrifying hooded figure that would continue to haunt her dreams in the nights to come.
Back in the hotel...
"They took me away when I was six."
"The Bad People." Sapphire shuddered.
Remy slipped an arm comfortingly round her. "Go on," he told her gently.
"They took me to Thailand. There they sold me to a teahouse owner for 10,000 baht. Do you know what a teahouse is?" Remy nodded. She choked out, "Teahouse is another name for brothel in Thailand. They are centres for child prostitution. Th-they..."
"Easy cherie. You don' 'ave to tell me anythin'."
"I want to. I've never told anyone before, not even Miss Dar...but I want someone else to know, I can't keep it within myself anymore." She paused, tears trickled down her cheeks as she forced herself to go on. "We received only 5 baht per day serving 3 or 4 customers on a normal day and 10 on a holiday. The first night I cried and begged the teahouse owner to release me and he beat me. Then a fat Chinese man entered the room. I don't want to recall his face but I can't forget it...I never will. I was purchased by this man for 5,000 baht."
Sapphire halted once again and pulled herself away from Remy before continuing on her story, one filled with fear and humiliation, "In Bangkok, during the Chinese New Year, young virgin girls who have not menstruated bring a very high price. There is a Chinese belief that having sex with a young girl will enable a man to become younger. My second customer paid 3,000 baht; the third, 500. The price dropped sharply each time until I could be had for only 80 baht, the usual price."
Sapphire's words caught in her throat, tears flowed freely. "The flesh merchants would have nothing if we ran away, so we were locked in. Even if we were permitted to go out, we would be lost in a big urban jungle like Bangkok. There was nowhere for us to go, no one to turn to. Life was a living hell for us. They fed us birth control pills every day and we had no holidays, even during our menses. We were beaten if we refused to take a customer even when we were sick."
Stopping once more to wipe her tears away, she continued, "When Miss Dar...when my mistress bought me from the Lost Horizon, I was completely ravaged in both mind and body. She took care of me, made me whole again, I owe her a debt which I will never be able to repay in this lifetime. I can only hope to serve her to the best of my abilities, till the day I die. Yet, I wonder, what would I have become if she hadn't picked me. Why me? Why not others?"
Remy was seldom at a loss for words to say, especially to someone of the opposite gender. This, however was one of those rare occasions. Finally he settled for, "You're safe now chere. No one is ever goin' to hurt you again. You go ahead an' rest. I'll watch over you."
Sapphire cast him a grateful look, then obediently climbed into bed while Remy tucked her in snugly. Just as he was about to leave the room he heard a tiny questioning voice, "Remy?"
"I want to show you something."
Remy went over. Sapphire gestured for him to sit down. He did so. She bit her lip and eyed him shyly, then said, "You must promise to stay and keep the Bad People away first."
Remy chuckled. "Well?" she asked impatiently. He nodded, still grinning broadly. She pulled out a tattered photograph from her pocket, presented it to him and said proudly, "My family."
It was a family photograph. A Caucasian with brown hair and a set of deep blue eyes in his early thirties had his arm wrapped lovingly round his Asian wife's slim waist. "See. Mummy has black hair...like me. She's Chinese."
"Dat skinny little runt wearin' an awful pink frilly dress wit' her hair in braids..."
Sapphire hit him over the head with a pillow. "That's me! Me! Me! Me!" she squealed. "I'm not a skinny runt. Everybody ALWAYS mentioned how pretty I was."
"Dey being polite." BOING! "Ouch! Dat hurt! Wat's dat?" Remy was pointing to a white bundle cradled in the Chinese woman's arms. "Your housecat?"
"No! No! No! It's not a what. It's a who. My sister. I named her myself."
"Her name is 'Myself'?" Remy gave her a dubious look.
Sapphire returned his dubious look with an annoyed one. "You're being silly on purpose. I named her after a big word that I had just learnt in school."
"Which is?" Remy pressed.
"Jubilation. Jubilation Lee."
End of Part 7