Never too Late

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Chapter 1

Dawn’s point of view:

September 2017: The Present

“Can I get the bill, please?” The business man in the expensive, too tight suit asked.

“Just one moment,” I offered him my best fake smile.

This was not how I’d imagined my post college life. I’d graduated almost four months ago, and I’d still not been able to find a job in my chosen field. I’d gone to an excellent school, gotten nearlyp perfect grades and put myself into tens of thousands of dollars of student debt, the true American dream, only to find jobs paying thirty thousand dollars a year. In New York City. There was no way to live off of that, even if I wasn’t still living with Kira. She’d been my assigned roommate freshman year of college and we’d been best friends ever since.

She was trying to crack into the movie and film industry as a producer, having gotten an art degree with a minor in film studies. The best she’d been able to find was a few unpaid internships. That obviously wasn’t realistic. We had bills to pay - rent, electricity, groceries, student loan bills.

“I hate this job so much,” she said, coming up to me while I was printing the check for the customer who’d asked for it. “We work six days a week and still don’t make enough money to cover all of our bills.”

“We do,” I said. “We just spend it all on expensive clothes and food.” She snorted her agreement.

“No wonder our generation is so depressed,” she said. “We both graduated from college, but we’re still working service jobs.”

There wasn’t anything wrong with service jobs. But it wasn’t what we wanted to do, which is why we’d both paid so much to go to college.

“I was serious,” she said.

“About what?” I asked, my brows furrowed as I closed the check inside the sleek leather binder.

“Becoming strippers.”

“No way,” I snorted.

“We’d make triple what we make here.” The thought was appealing. “I can see you thinking.” Of course she could. She knew me better than anyone. “And I also know that the reason you won’t is because of him.”

She said him, knowing better than to say his name to me. It had been nearly a year and a half since he’d broken my heart. I was pretending to be over him, but I hadn’t dated anyone since.

“Which is exactly why you need to. You need to finally forget that asshole once and for all.”

“Not that way,” I told her.

I walked away before she could say anything else, not wanting my customer to be more frustrated having to wait too long for his check.

But I was thinking about what Kira had said the entire time.

“Here you are, sir,” I said, setting the leather binder onto the table. Before I could walk away, he had his credit card set on it, otherwise completely ignoring me. Grabbing it, I scurried away and ran it through, not letting Kira distract me this time. “Have a nice day,” I said, setting the binder back down, his card tucked safely inside.

I checked on my other tables before going back around to collect the check.

The man had dropped one hundred fifty dollars on lunch by himself. But had only tipped fifteen bucks. Ten fucking percent. Cheap ass.

“I hate this job,” I groaned, going to the register and taking the fifteen out of it, and setting the check in the proper spot so that the count wouldn’t be off after me having taken cash from the drawer.

“Another bad tip?”

“Of course.”

“Cheap assholes.”

“Ladies,” our manager, Phil, said. We immediately stopped complaining, but he’d already busted us.

“Please come to my office when your shifts are complete.”

“No problem,” Kira answered for us. I groaned internally.

We couldn’t afford to get fired. Hopefully, he hadn’t heard us call a customer an asshole. The rest of my shift passed the way the first portion had. I was beckoned by the rich elite of Manhattan’s upper east side, refilling wine glasses, water glasses and taking orders. Only to be tipped poorly. Why were the rich so cheap? If they could afford to drop more than a hundred bucks on lunch, they should be able to afford to tip twenty percent.

Kira and clocked out at the same time, taking off the stuffy black ties that I forced us to wear before exchanging a look and heading back to the office.

Kira knocked three times. “Come in,” Phil called. “Ladies,” he greeted us, leaning back in his chair and setting the pencil in his hand on his desk. Closing the laptop in front of him, he leaned forward, a serious expression on his face. “I would like to preface this conversation by saying that what I’m about to ask is in now way required of either of you, and if you turn down the offer, it will not negatively affect your employment here or the hours you are given to work.”

I’m sure he’d meant for the words to be comforting, but they weren’t.

“I’ve heard you complaining about the tips. And if it was a matter of you being poor servers, you would no longer have jobs here. Unfortunately, our clientele is just cheap. But there is one place where they’re very generous with their wallets.”

I could feel Kira giving me a sideways glance, her curiosity just as piqued as mine.

“The owner of the restaurant is also the owner of a very exclusive gentleman’s club. It’s got a hidden entrance off the street and caters to the same customers who eat here, the rich Manhattan elite.”

“Strippers?” I squeaked out.

“Yes. They’ll shell out more in tips there in one night than an entire week’s worth of meals here.”

Kira wasn’t just giving me a sideways look now; she was staring right at me, her mouth open a little in disbelief.

“You two are very beautiful young women. I have no doubt that you would make a killing working there. They’re open in the evening and late into the night so it would not conflict with you working during the day here.”

“And if we say no, no harm, no foul?” I asked.

“We never even had this conversation.”

“And if we were interested,” Kira asked, completely shocking me.

“Tonight is open night. Anyone who knows about the club, which is also an exclusive list, can come in and audition. If Tony likes you, you’ll be hired on the spot. If he doesn’t, you still get to take home all the tips you make tonight.”

My head was spinning. No way was I taking my clothes off for money. I wasn’t going to judge the women who did, but still, it was not for me.

“Here’s a card with the address and password to get in. Tell the bouncer you’re there for an audition and he’ll bring you to the employee entrance.”

“Thanks,” Kira said taking the card from him.

“Hopefully I’ll see you ladies tonight,” he smiled. It didn’t sound like a creepy invitation. Mostly because Phil was actually happily married to his husband.

“Oh, I have a question,” Kira said before we could get leave the room. “Is it a full nude club? Or pasties, or just topless?”

“Fully nude.”

Kira nodded, not giving away whatever she was thinking before we were both walking out of the office. She looked at me with a look that said to not to say anything until we were out of the restaurant.

“Oh. My. God!” She exclaimed as soon as we were thorough the employee entrance and walking out of the alley. “We have to!”

“Are you nuts?” I asked her. “You can go, but not me. No way.”

“Don’t be such a prude. If we were in Europe, nudity wouldn’t even be an issue.” I sighed. “Is it because still to this day he’s the only one to have ever seen you naked?”

“No,” I said, shaking my head. I’d long given up the hope that Miles would be the only man to see me naked, the only man to ever touch me. No one else had, not yet, but after what he did, there was no way he would be the only one.

“This might be just what you need. You’re sexy as fuck.” She slapped my ass for emphasis, not caring that people were walking the streets with us. “Let’s make a deal. We’ll do it. This one time. If you love it, we keep doing it. If not, we don’t.”

“Even if I don’t, you still can.”

“Please,” she scoffed. “As if I’d take this adventure without you.”

“Okay,” I conceded, giving in too easily like I always did with my best friend.”

“Let’s go!” She said, suddenly changing other directions.

“Where?” I asked.

“We need to get waxed. Fully.”

“No, that’s so painful.”

“It’ll be worth it. And we need to get outfits for tonight- sexy ones.”

“And how are we paying for all this?” I asked her seriously.

“Credit cards. Duh. We’ll make it all back and then some tonight.”

I shook my head at her. She was my best friend, my person, the other half of me. After Miles had broken my heart, Kira had put me back together, helping me out of the deepest low I’d ever known. She’d made sure I’d actually gone to my classes senior year, that I actually graduated after working so hard.

She hadn’t steered me wrong yet. Sure, she’d made me do some crazy stuff, and this would definitely top list. So, I let her drag me all over town, the salon for a wax, the lingerie store, and a kink shop for a costume.

~~~~~

“What are you looking at?” Kira asked me, looking over my shoulder as I sat at our kitchen counter looking at YouTube videos.

“Pointers on how to strip.”

“Oh! Good idea.” She sat down next to me while the next video loaded. “Also, we shouldn’t say stripper. We should say dancer or exotic dancer.”

“Oh, good call.”

We watched intently as the dancer on the screen showed us how to do some basic moves with the pole. She then went on to say that the pole took a lot of upper body strength and if we were new, to minimise it until we could practice with it. Guys loved watching the pole dancing, but in the end, if you were standing there naked, moving your body for them, you’d get tips anyway.

“Are you nervous?” She asked.

“Of course I am. Are you not?”

“Not really, no.”

“But what if our regular customers see us?”

“So what if they do? They’re the ones paying for the entertainment. They’ve got no room to judge us.”

“Thats true, but I doubt if they think that way.”

“Who cares?”

Kira was obviously the freer one out of the two of us.

“Come on, let’s get dressed.”

We didn’t get dressed in the costumes we’d bought, instead just classy dresses and heels. Our hair and makeup were already done in case any of the men saw us walking into the club. We’d touch ourselves up and apply heavier makeup once we were backstage.

We grabbed our oversized totes that were stuffed with our costumes and headed out into the street. The sun was already setting behind the skyline as we walked briskly to our destination.

Once we arrived, I let Kira take the lead, hiding slightly behind her as she approached the handsome, muscular bouncer. “Hi,” she greeted him. His eyes raked up and down her, and she didn’t seem to mind. He wasn’t her usual type. She preferred shorter guys, but if she wasn’t interested, she would have already told him off for checking her out so openly. “We’re here for auditions,” she said.

“Password?”

“Glitter.” He nodded once before walking away from his position and guiding us deeper into the alley.

“I’m Dominic,” he said. “If anybody gives you any problems, let me know.”

“Oh, I definitely will,” she winked at him. He grinned at her.

She was going to sleep with him.

We had different philosophies about dating. She’d gone out with a few customers from the restaurant, and if we ended up working here, she’d definitely broaden her dating pool. I, on the other hand, didn’t like to shit where I ate, keeping business and personal separate.

Stepping inside the threshold was like stepping into another dimension. We walked towards the commotion. “Two more!” Someone shouted.

“You must be here for auditions,” someone else said.

“I’m Kira. This is Dawn,” she said, pointing to me. “And yeah, we’re here to audition.”

“Find a mirror to dress and change in front of.” She glanced down at the list in her hand. “You’re going on at 10:15 and 10:25. Who wants to go first?”

“She does,” I volunteered Kira before she could try and do the same to me.

“Right. If you need anything ask mama,” she pointed to an older looking woman with a cigarette between her fingers. “She’s our stage mother.”

“I’m Sandra,” she said. “My stage name is Candy.”

“Nice to meet you.”

“You need stage names.”

“Skyla,” Kira said. She must have already thought about it because she answered quickly. I hadn’t given it any thought.

“And for you?” Sandra asked me.

Biting my lip, I contemplated. “Star,” I said, my voice betraying me and showing the emotion I felt. Kira turned to me, a shocked expression covering her face. Star was what Miles had always called me. His shooting star. His once in a lifetime, up close, Star.

“Neither of those is already taken. Good.”

“Go get ready. Don’t be late!”

“Who decides if we get jobs?” Kira said before she could walk away.

“Mama and Big Tony.”

“Is there a little Tony?” I asked, unable to stop myself.

“Yes. He’s his son.”

With that, she dismissed us. “Are we in a mafia club?” She asked.

“No. Phil wouldn’t do that to us. The owner is the same as the restaurant.”

“Right.”

We found two mirrors side by side and started getting ready. There were girls of all shapes, sizes, colours and backgrounds walking around in varying stages of undress. Some were completely naked standing in front of the mirror; others were in lingerie, and some already had their costumes on.

After our makeup was applied a little heavier, we changed into our costumes. We hadn’t been very original. I’d gone with a sexy school girl outfit, reminding me of one I’d used with Miles before he’d ruined us. Kira had gone with a sexy maid costume.

“I need music choices for the two of you. You’re on in fifteen minutes.” I was on later than that. Kira was first.

“Pretty Ricky. Grind with me,” Kira said. She’d given this so much thought.

“Did you set this up?” I asked her before mama could ask me what song I wanted.

“What?”

“You’ve given this a lot of thought. Did you help Phil with this idea?”

“Maybe,” she admitted. I inhaled sharply. “I knew if it came from me you’d never agree to it!” She defended herself. “My deal still stands. If you hate it, we never come back.”

“Fine,” I said.

I didn’t like that she’d deceived me, but she was right. If it had come from her, I wouldn’t have agreed. And worst-case scenario, I had an experience I could laugh about one day and horrify my children with. Except I wouldn’t use it to horrify them. I’d use it to teach them bodily autonomy and sex positivity.

“Song choice?” Mama asked when we were done.

“Ride by SoMo.”

She jotted it down before disappearing.

We stood there nervously watching girls come and go from the stage. Some of them looked worse for the wear and some of them looked like they’d just experienced the best high of their life.

“Skyla, you’re up,” mama said. I gave her an encouraging smile. Once she was on stage, her music cued and the lights came back up. Creeping forward, I watched her. She looked completely and totally in her element. She spun on the pole, doing a split in the air as she held herself up. Wolf whistles went up from the audience, a mix of men of all ages and a few women.

Climbing down from the pole, Kira turned her back and looked over her shoulder before taking off the top of her maid’s uniform. She wasn’t wearing a bra. Once she was naked from the waist up, she turned, revealing herself to the crowd. She danced to the beat, rolling her hips and letting her chest bounce before dropping to her hands and knees and crawling across the stage. She collected bills as she went. Men in the front row were standing, cheering for her. She crawled towards them, sitting on her knees and giving them a view of her body.

Rolling to her back, she lifted her legs in the air, cycling them slowly and seductively like she was riding a bike. When they were back on the stage, she pushed her ankles together before spreading her legs. She rolled her hips a few times, getting more wolf whistles and cheers. Rolling to her knees, she crawled away. Her maid’s skirt was so short that I was sure everyone could see her ass.

Gracefully, she stood, standing tall and pushing the skirt down. She was left standing in just a thong. But that didn’t last long. Bending at the hip, she pushed the thong down her legs, letting it fall before stepping out of it.

Her song was almost over, but she kept dancing, completely naked on the stage, with hundreds of strangers looking at her. She looked powerful, and happier than I’d seen her in years.

When the song cut, everyone was on their feet for her, throwing bills onto the stage. One of the bouncers started sweeping them into a pile, helping her collect them.

“Two minutes,” Mama warned me.

Kira raced off the stage, a happy giggle escaping her. She threw her arms around me and hugged me. “That was amazing. I really think you’re going to love it.”

She’d been an absolute natural.

“Good luck. You’re going to do great.”

“There’s no way I can follow that,” I told her.

“Look at you. You’re gorgeous. They’re going to love you. Just do what feels natural.” None of this felt natural.

“Thirty seconds!” Mama called.

Kira took her naked body further away and started getting dressed while I walked towards mama. I shook my entire body, trying to rid myself of the nervous energy. “Go now,” mama said.

I walked onto the stage, surrounded by darkness and near silence. The crowd made some anxious sounds, waiting for the next dance. Waiting for me.

When the lights came up, my song started. When someone let out a loud whistle, my nervousness slowly disappeared. I usually objected to being objectified, but up here, on stage, it made me feel as powerful as I thought it made Kira feel. Slowly, I walked towards the pole. I hooked one leg around it and spun, letting my head fall back and my hair flow wildly around me.

More whistles.

I pulled myself up, wrapped my legs around the pole, and spun until I was back on the ground.

I walked down the stage, dancing to the music as I went. I made eye contact with a few of the customers, one of the tips from the video- eye contact equated to more tips.

More whistles.

I undid the knot tied into the white button down I was wearing and shoved it off my shoulders. My bare chest was on display, a red tie falling perfectly between my breasts.

I turned and sauntered back towards the middle of the stage. Once I was in the middle, I bent over, letting everything hang out since I was going commando under my skirt.

My confidence spiked further when more whistles went out, this time combined with cheers and yells. Puling my skirt down, I turned, standing naked in front of the crowd. More people were on their feet now, beckoning for me to get closer again. I dropped to my knees, opening and closing my knees as I crawled down the stage.

Feeling emboldened, I sat on my knees at the front of the stage. One man was close, so I wrapped the long end of the tie that was still hanging loosely around my neck around his, too. I used it to pull him closer before pushing him away. He landed back in his chair, eyes blazing fire as he looked at me and licked his lips. He shot back up out of his chair and slammed a hundred-dollar bill on the table. I scooped it up, tossing him a wink before sliding to the other side of the stage.

As the song was reaching its end, I worked my way across the floor and back to the middle. Once I was there, I sat on my knees, waiting for the song to end. Right before it did, I let my shoulders fall back. My knees and shoulders were on the stage, my chest pushing into the air.

I giggled when the song ended, and more cheers rang out.

Rolling to my knees, I stood up, thanking the bouncer who was sweeping up the bills that I’d collected. Hands full of cash, I rushed back to Kira.

“Oh my god!” I exclaimed.

“You loved it, didn’t you?”

“I did.” I’d never felt so powerful or desired in my life.

That wasn’t true.

Miles always made me feel like I was the sexiest woman in the room.

But it was the most desired I’d felt since we’d split up.

“You two want jobs?” Mama asked.

“Yes!” We said at the same time.

“You’re hired. You start tomorrow night.”

Kira and I let out excited shouts, annoying the girls still around, but we didn’t care.

Tomorrow night was the night we’d official be dancers.

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