That evening, Zach couldn’t stop worrying about Zoe. Instead of waiting for Paige to call, he called her.
“Jesus Christ, Zach. I know this is serious, but try to calm down.”
He ignored her comment.
“What did you find out?”
“First of all, you’re an asshole.”
“A stupid asshole.”
“She’s forty-two fucking years old!”
“Yeah. I figured somewhere around there.”
“Did you really think a sixty year-old, or older, man knocked the shit out of her?”
“It’s plausible. And that’s what she indicated.”
“Please. She’s adopted. Like you,” Renee said. “And he’s dead, anyway. Died when she was five. Mother lives in Georgia. Also, she was married for ten years. Divorced now for five. Did I mention you’re an asshole?”
“Once or twice. Thanks. I’ll do some checking and keep you on retainer.”
Zach hung up and considered his next move. All he could really do was try to talk to her. He already felt like a fool. And a stalker, besides.
The next morning he swung by Zoe’s Starbucks.
“What can I do ya’ for, Mister,” she said, violating company policy and procedure. Her manager was out of earshot.
“Large,” Zach said. “But I really just came to check on you…”
He looked behind him to make sure they were alone.
“You said your father hit you. Impossible.”
“Silly! I said my daddy hit me.”
“What’s the difference?”
“Super silly! I’m a middle. Sometimes a little…”
The mirth and little girl quality left her voice.
“An adult, in my case female, that identifies as a child.”
“So who hit you?”
“My boyfriend. It happens. Probably my fault. LOL!”
“Why are you with him?”
“I love him! Why else?”
“And he loves you?”
Her face fell.
“I guess. Don’t you know about daddy doms and babygirls?”
“No. Can’t say that I do.”
“It’s so fun and sweet.”
“So the black eye was consensual? Accidental?”
“Okay,” she lied. Tried to.
“You should leave him…”
“Oh, I can’t do that.”
Someone walked in.
“Four sixty-four, sir…”
Zach gave her a twenty. She scrawled a name on the receipt before handing it back.
“Zoe The Bratty Princess,” it read.
“Fetlife.com,” she whispered.
Zach was pissed off for the rest of the day. At Zoe. At her boyfriend. Most of all, at himself. At Zoe for tolerating a low life. At her “daddy” for being a scumfuck. And at himself for wanting her. Obviously, it was really none of his business. But he wanted it to be. Badly. He wasn’t even sure why. He was butting in where he wasn’t wanted, or belonged. Then again, she had taken a step toward him. Bratty Princess. He smiled in spite of the situation. Even under the circumstances, she was fun. He hardly remembered fun anymore.
Pleasure, yes. But fun was for children, he thought. His was a life of hard work and pressure relief. And working was fun, in its own way. Not for a normal person. But for Zach, it was as close as he got.