Overcrowded streets packed with tourists and families out for a night of glamour and fun made the walk to the interview significantly longer. I hustled around the clusters of people and hauled ass down the sidewalk.
Pink Cherry didn’t strike me as the name of a family friendly establishment and the address confirmed my original assumption. When I turned the final corner and came face to face with the more ‘pleasurable’ side of the city, I froze.
I processed what decisions led up to applying for a job on the side of town that made parents shield their child’s eyes as they walked by.
I pushed myself down the street as the sunlight started to fade and neon night lights flickered on. I glanced over each storefront in search of Pink Cherry. The other stores and bars seemed to attract a vast crowd.
A river of people headed in the same direction as me. Mostly men out on the town with the boys or a few women who already looked too drunk to walk. Yet they continued to stumble along and so did I.
I weaved through the crowd, trying not to step on someone’s toes with my heels but not apologizing when I did. I couldn’t afford to miss the job opportunity. If I stayed unemployed any longer there would be no choice but to move home to Florida with my mother and her new husband, Walter. I shook the memory of walking in on them in the shower at Christmas out of my head.
A pink spotlight illuminated the sidewalk and led the crowd passed the strip clubs and to a brick building with no windows. A bouncer stood at the door and selectively waved people through the large doors with no interest in anything anyone said to him. I squirmed my way to the front of the line and stood in his way so he’d have to take notice.
My mother always told me how there is nothing to fear but fear itself, my mother the notorious quote thief, but it stuck with me while I struggled to pluck up the courage to address the behemoth bouncer. They way I saw it there were two choices. Either I demonstrate a little bravery or start packing my bags for the trip down to Florida
“Hey,” I choked out beside the bouncer. My drama teacher’s nagging voice clawed its way into my head. Project your voice, Tara. You’ll never be a successful performer.
Mr. McNabb turned out to be right but I wouldn’t stop trying to prove him wrong four years later. “I’m here to apply for the open position.” I reached shouting level by the time I got the bouncer to turn his head in my direction.
“There’s a lot of those.” My eyes darted over the faces in the crowd while I tried to put together what he said. His eyes were hidden under a pair of shades which had no purpose other than intimidating people. “Name?”
“Do you have a last name?”
“Holloway.” I fiddled with the ends of my hair and forced myself to stand up straight, “I spoke on the phone with someone named Kat.”
He waved me in and instructed me to follow the blue lights. The large doors led into a porn star’s technicolor imagination with more penises scattered around the more I looked.
Shelves of dildos and straps were pushed against the walls. My eyes widened when I saw the stage lit up with black lights in the center of everything. Dozens of people danced around covered objects on the floor with a drink already in their hand. I located the bar in the farthest corner of the room with a line longer than the one to get in.
I swallowed down the urge to drink away the nerves twisting my stomach into knots.
Once I absorbed my surroundings and remembered what I needed to do I started looking for the blue pathway under the feet of the crowd. Neon posters of half-naked girls highlighted the wall above the main desk. No one stood behind it to answer the many questions bouncing through my mind. A mixture of awe and a considerable amount of confusion rushed through me when I realized how little I knew about a job so vital to my adult life. Still, I propelled myself forward and followed the traces of the blue lights that marked my path.
The lights stopped in front of a dark red door with a sign posted on the wood. Big red letters declared only ‘Cherries’ were allowed any further, I scanned the room to look for someone to explain what Cherries were in this context and what the punishment would be if I ignored the sign. No one wore a uniform or carried a badge. As far as I could tell no one actually worked in the building.
I took the lack of information as reasonable enough excuse if caught and asked why I trespassed. I took a deep breath and pushed open the red door.
“Has anyone seen my green thong?” A redheaded girl shouted from across the room while I stood in the doorway. I quickly came to the conclusion that I somehow managed to stumble into a harem. When someone pushed passed me to enter the room I decided to get out of the doorway. I watched over a dozen girls bustling around in sheer lingerie.
Two of the four walls were painted the same hot pink my mother forced me to wear on every holiday or family event until I turned twelve. The room reminded me of a Victoria Secret, a darker sexier one at that.
“Who’s the prude?” One of the girls yelled. It took me a minute to realize I stuck out like a fully dressed woman in a crowd of naked ones, literally. I decided to wear my job interview outfit to look professional but in light of all the new information, I realized I could have dressed down, way down.
“I’m here to see, Kat.” I said to the girl who wouldn’t stop staring me down. Her boobs were pushed up in a corset so tight it gave me claustrophobia just looking at it. Could her waist actually be that small?
She rolled her eyes, “Of course you are.”
“Be nice, Amy.” Another skimpily dressed girl spoke up from in front of one of the many mirrors. All of her bold features were highlighted with neon paint; I couldn’t help but stare. Amy huffed and rammed passed me without responding. “Don’t mind her, she’s just grouchy because Aunt Flow showed up early.”
“Aunt flow?” I questioned the first guess that popped into my mind.
“Satan’s sacrificial waterfall.”
Eventually, she took pity on me and gave up on being slick, “Her period.”
“Oh.” I nodded and tried to remember why I never bothered socializing more with girls. If I did I wouldn’t be standing in a room full of them unable to speak in their code.
“Kitty is checking the water supply for the show,” I didn’t have time to ask questions before she waved for me to follow her, “Come on.”
I stayed close as she walked across the busy room and pushed back a curtain of beads. I swore that kind of home decor died in the sixties. “Go on.” She motioned towards a door down the narrow hall. I gave her one more look before walking towards it and turning the knob.
The door hinges whined as I entered and gained the attention of Kat. I walked over to where she stood with a clipboard in one hand and a pen in the other. “I’m Tara Holloway, I called on the phone.” Finally, Someone with answers.
“Call me Kitty.” She swung her pink hair over her shoulder and I stuck out my hand for her to shake, “We don’t do stuff like that around here, honey.” Her southern accent peeked through her words.
Chains hung from the ceiling with collars attached to the ends. Clamps with wires and large metal cages were stacked in one corner of the room. I didn’t even bother looking at the rest, “What exactly do you do here?”
“We store the merchandise for the BDSM customers in here.” She answered while scanning my body. “What size are you?”
“Six. Did you say BDSM?” Her eyebrows raised, “As in leather crops, handcuffs, and spreader bars?”
“Sounds like you have some knowledge on the topic.”
My eyes widened, “Not really.”
“If you want to work as a Cherry you’ll either have to stop lying or get better at it.”
“A Cherry?” She shook her head and groaned.
“Technicality,” She mumbled with a slight smile, “Just answer the question so I can decide if you move on to the next part of the interview.”
I sighed and nodded, “I read a few books and they didn’t suck.”
Kat circled me and hesitated when she saw my ass. An image from shark week flashed into my mind before I shook it away. “When can you start?”
My heart pounded, “I got the job?”
“You got an audition.” Her smile put my mind at ease.
“What do I need to do?” A job description would have been a nice addition to the newspaper ad, not that I would have been able to see it.
She smirked, “Just put on some lingerie from the closet next to the bathroom and meet me by the vanities in ten minutes. I’ll give you instructions after that.”