“Latina girls don’t seem to mind showing skin,” Dareen said to herself as she looked out the window of the Hostos Branch Library. Sweating in the tiny, poorly ventilated reading room, she almost envied the teenagers and young women jiggling by, though she knew she could never go out like that. Little halters, backless blouses, tube tops . . . everybody showing navels and several inches of skin below, some in tiny little red shorts that seem to be the new fad, some walking along the dirty, litter-strewn sidewalks with their boyfriends who wore loose tank shirts, long, long shorts and oversized sneakers with untied laces. There was a wealth of female skin out there, in all shades of brown and black, all colors except white.
As Dareen waited for her first appointment with Lourdes she looked around inside and appraised the library. In her professional opinion it was very inadequate, though there was nothing she could do about it because this was a City library, not connected to the State system. A few tables, out of date reference materials, only a few stacks, and just two computer stations, both of which seemed to be out of order. A real shame. No wonder there were only a few people here besides herself, old folks reading Spanish language newspapers.
She briefly reflected on the past few days. She still couldn’t believe she actually told Billy her bra size. Yet it was a relief in a way, to share her experiences with someone besides Elly. Elly seemed a little distant recently. At first amused by the NakedGirl business, she had been unnerved by that time she was insulted on the way home from work by that gang of white guys. Not that Dareen could blame her for being uneasy, any Muslim was these days. But Dareen felt she needed a circle of friends, not just one.
And Billy was right about her identity as “NakedGirl” being found out. It was just inevitable. On her last call, two nights ago, she thwarted a shooting outside a disco. There must have been twenty people out on that sidewalk who saw her. Staring right at her, calling other people out, as usual the full force of shame hit her all at once, it was all she could do to keep from covering her breasts and crotch with her hands, but of course she needed her hands to grab the offenders and turn them in. Unfortunately two more black guys, and of course Cobb News put their mug shots next to their idealized white masked girl the next day. And once again she found someone fumbling with a camera and once again she knocked it out of his hands with a lightning-fast kick of her bare foot. Someday soon, someone would succeed in taking a picture. Mary Shin and her “Friends of NakedGirl” group were still around, urging people not to take pictures because NakedGirl didn’t want to be photographed, but they had little influence. Dareen still read about them occasionally in the back pages of the “Democrat-Argue”, but they still hadn’t managed to get on TV.
She should tell Jamal. Or maybe not. She kept going back and forth about that. And about Billy’s forceful suggestion to offer her services to the War on Terror. Certainly the government would keep her identity a secret if she wanted. Governments love to keep secrets. And they probably would allow her, when possible, to do her super powers alone where no one could see her. Yet how would it work? Would she just sit around naked in some room waiting to get a sense of a terrorist attack? How would they decide where she should hang out? And how would she keep her job at the library? On the other hand, her country needed her. And then yet . . . she thought of her time with the horses in Texas, and wondered if she was really equal to what she had decided, that being NakedGirl was her role in life. When there were people to see, she hated being naked, hated the shame. She really was a Muslim woman through and through, who wanted to stay covered.
It was a relief from all these tortured thoughts, when something told her to look up and here was Lourdes coming down the street, noticeable for her skimpy covering. Even in this parade of scantily-clad Latinas, the almost total nakedness of Lourdes turned heads, as well as her undeniable beauty of both face and figure. Lourdes had the narrowest tube top Dareen had ever seen, a white strip maybe three inches wide that just held the bottoms of her apple-sized breasts, her little nipples poking through, then the long, long expanse of clear, brown skin, past the navel, the wide “V” of her delicate hip bones, and then, finally, the little denim shorts, so low that it was a wonder no pubic hair was showing, and so short that as she turned to go into the library entrance Dareen could see the delicate “Y” below her tail bone and beginnings of the tops of the rounded bottoms of her small butt cheeks. The clunky strapped sandals were gone, replaced by platform flip-flops. The way she slouched, her unhappy look, the wilt of her shoulders along which she slung her little white purse, the way she seemed all too aware of the stares of the guys. Dareen’s heart went out to this poor girl.
As Lourdes came in and turned to look around, Dareen had a closer view of the dimple over her butt, framing what was now a very minimal orange thong, just a “T” made of tiny string. Reflexively the girl tugged up her low-rise shorts but the thong was still visible. Dareen recognized all these skimpy items from the bargain table at the outdoor mall. Fortunately, Dareen mused, even with her very limited budget Lourdes was able to buy the increasingly minimal clothes she was forced to wear.
Lourdes saw Dareen and slunk over to sit across from her, sliding the purse strap off her bare shoulder, seemingly glad there was the back of the chair to hide her almost totally exposed backside. “Hola,” she said, “I am happy to see you, Dareen.” Though she didn’t look happy; she was trying to keep her composure. “I lost my job.”
Dareen clasped Lourdes’s hands across the table. Then Lourdes said, “He said I was a puta.” Dareen knew this meant “whore”. And now the tears came. Dareen went around to hug Lourdes from behind, covering this poor child with her wealth of clothing, her sweater and blouse and long skirt no doubt feeling welcome against the all but bare teenage skin.
The library was no place for this. “Let’s go to my place.”
As Daeeen explained to the teenager in the car, Elly just had to be told something, to explain why Lourdes went around wearing so little. It was tricky, because Dareen wasn’t ready to tell Lourdes the truth about herself, at least not yet. She felt like she was being unfair, she knowing about Lourdes, but not vice versa. They agreed they would say that Lourdes had gotten allergic to clothing and was being treated for it. It was a very unsatisfying solution, no doubt temporary.
But it worked for now. When Elly saw the heavily clothed Dareen come in followed by the nearly naked Lourdes, even more scantily clad than the first time she was there, she said playfully, “You sure know how to keep cool,” but then got sympathetic when told about the “allergy”.
They watched Lourdes loosen up as they turned on Spanish TV for her again, the young women looking on in bemusement as Lourdes asked to use the phone, and at their insistence she was given a bowl of chips and told to just hang out as they went about separating clothes for the laundry. Dareen and Elly stopped once and watched from a distance. Lourdes, slouching cross-legged on the chair, picking out chips with one hand, phone in the other, jabbering in high-speed Spanish to one of her girlfriends, interrupted by an accented “Ohmigod!” as they talked about what was happening on the screen. She had kicked off her clunky sandals, and her toes, hanging over the side of the chair, wiggled excitedly as she spoke. From behind she looked almost totally naked, the tube top having carelessly gotten a little folded up, only two inches wide, over the gentle arc of her backbone, and way, way below, just above the wooden seat of the chair, two inches of butt crack were visible, bisected by the little orange string, with no sight of the super-low-rise shorts she was sitting on.
Elly had been thinking of Lourdes’s job misfortunes and had an idea. “The bikini shop in the outdoor mall,” she said during a commercial. “I saw a help wanted sign there yesterday. It would be perfect; they wouldn’t mind hiring someone with your fashion sense.”
After Elly explained where it was, Lourdes’s face showed a flash of recognition. “Si, I go there sometimes with my girlfriends. Bathing suits good, but expensive.”
“Good selection,” Elly said, too tactful to mention that, though not exactly well-off, she was gainfully employed and had the money to have bought suits there several times. They had a large variety of thongs, which Elly favored. She had tried to get Dareen to buy some bikinis (they had ones with bra-type tops that gave support to big breasts) but she knew it was a lost cause. Dareen was dedicated to one-piece suits and was hesitant to appear even in those.
Elly said she would take Lourdes to the store the next day. Dareen thought of something. “She’s undocumented.”
This caused Elly to pause only momentarily. “I don’t think Hank cares. We’ll see. Anyway he won’t report if we asked.” It was a new law; employers had to report any undocumented aliens who even applied for jobs. Of course, many employers didn’t comply; no one wanted to dry up the large pool of people who were willing to work off the books for below minimum wage.
“Gracias. You are like my sisters big, I don’t see Cruz too much now,” Lourdes said, referring to her sister who had been straightening her life out after adventures with drugs and prostitution, but who was busy raising her two little kids in another part of town. Lourdes’s butt crack turned with the rest of her as she did something unexpected which affected Dareen and Elly a great deal: she reached over to hug one and then the other. Then she went back to eating chips and watching the novella, where the heroine was having another confrontation with her boyfriend during which she cried streams of tears, something she did every seven and a half minutes.
It got dark out and Dareen drove Lourdes home. After she came back she was met with Elly’s constant questions about this “allergy” to clothes. Finally she decided to tell Elly the truth, Lourdes’s story about being in the park and surrounded by lightning.
“Wow, you two really are sisters.”
“Yes, but . . . I’m a super hero. She, on the other hand, is a defenseless kid with a big problem.”
They were going to talk about it more but then there was a knock on the door. It was Pedro the super, finally showing up with the new door to Dareen’s room and some lumber to redo the jamb. Dareen felt hot in the face, remembering that he had seen her naked that time she was holding the old door up, her huge new breasts sticking right into his face. She crossed her arms over her chest as she said hi. She then excused herself to go out on a drive while he did his work. Not that he was likely to do it quickly, what with Elly flirting with him.