New Orleans, Louisiana
Monday, October 6, 1902
“Are you a virgin, Estella?”
The girl’s eyes widened at the question and her thin hands, already clenched together in her lap, whitened at the knuckles. The child squirmed in her chair and her gaze skittered around the room, bouncing from the crown moldings to the barge board floors to the enormous gilt-edged mirror that topped the marble fireplace mantle. It finally landed on the view of the deserted street through the floor-to-ceiling windows. Estella’s thoughts were written like words across her young face; she was trying to decide upon the right answer.
The girl stared at Trula’s chin and said, “No, Miz Boudreaux, course not.” Then, her eyes slid away. She was lying.
At least, Trula hoped she was lying. Had she ever been so young? Estella was hardly older than a baby. Perhaps thirteen, more likely twelve. Saints only knew what hell her home had been if she believed a whore’s life would be better. Trula leaned forward and caught the girl’s pointed chin between her fingers. She turned the young face from side to side. The child had thick chestnut hair in need of a wash and wide-set brown eyes flecked with gold. If she had a bit of meat of her bones, she’d be pretty. Still, unless she stumbled across a madam willing to sell her virginity to the highest bidder, the best an undeveloped child could hope for was a crib on Robertson Street where she might earn a few dollars a day.