Chuck: A Ghost's Story

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Chapter 3

When I said that driving Rodge’s piece-of-shit car to Vegas would be an “adventure,” I wasn’t kidding. We broke down on the side of the road three times and blew out a tire before we had even crossed the state line! The 5 ½ hour drive to Vegas ended up taking closer to 13, and the sun was already setting by the time the Mama-Mobile limped its way into town and sputtered to an exhausted halt.

“Finally!” Gracie cried, dropping her forehead to the steering wheel. “I thought we were going to have to start a new life in the desert.”

I smiled.

“Nah there’s no life to be had, out there. Here, on the other hand,” I said, gesturing to the bright lights of Las Vegas Boulevard, “there is every manner of life experience just waiting for you, Gracie…Gracie…what is your last name, anyway?”

The woman looked surprised.

“You don’t know my last name?”

“Weird isn’t it?” I replied, thinking on my toes, as always. “When Big-G gives us an assignment he just hands us a card with somebody’s first name and where to find them. It can get pretty confusing when you’re sent after a guy named ‘John’ who’s somewhere in the middle of Times Square!”

Gracie nodded, climbing out of the car.

“I can certainly see that,” she said. “And its James, by the way.”

“What is?”

“My last name,” she laughed.

“Gracie James,” I repeated, thoughtfully. “I like that.”

“Thanks,” Gracie replied with a slight blush. “So, we’re here. What do we do now?”

“Now? Now we live! We are gonna party it up like rock stars, you and I. Starting with something I know you’ve never done! Let’s run into the hotel here and check in, then we’ll catch a cab to greener pastures. I’ll let you know where we’re headed when the time comes.”

“Um...okay,” Gracie said uncertainly, before heading obediently toward the towering casino.

In my life, and afterlife, I had yet to visit Vegas (or as I liked to call it, Adult Disneyland), but I knew that if I was ever going to get my Gracie to shake up her puritanical lifestyle, this would be the place to do it. After all, when in Rome you do as the Roman’s do, and when in Vegas, you go to the strip club! Now, I know what you’re thinking, and no, I honestly did not expect to get a girl like Gracie up on stage for some amateur strip-off…though that would have been a sight to see. My real intention was just to expose her to a different type of woman, show her that it was okay to embrace her sexuality and let it all hang out, so to speak. I thought it might be, I don’t know, empowering or something. I had never been more wrong about anything.

My first inkling that I might have made a mistake came on the short cab ride up Industrial Avenue, when Gracie’s face kept twisting with some unpleasant emotion every time we passed a billboard for one of the city’s many “Gentleman’s Clubs.” She’d wrinkle up her cute little nose, and shake her head, and I wondered briefly if I should have told her exactly where the address I had given her led to, rather than just “to a bar.” To be completely honest, I didn’t tell her because I figured she would refuse to go, and I had an agenda to meet. Complete immersion seemed to be the best bet at forcing Gracie out of her comfort zone, and doubts or no doubts, I was sticking to the plan!

It surprised me when, though she paled at the sight of our destination, my companion obediently stepped out of the car and walked on unsteady legs toward the strip-club’s entrance. But that’s where she stopped.

“Chuck,” Gracie whispered, turning her back to the bouncer checking IDs. “I don’t think I can go in there.”

“What?” I asked, thoroughly annoyed. “Of course you can! You have your driver’s license. Just hand it to that beast of a man behind you and he’ll let ya right in! You won’t even have to pay a cover, since you’re a chick.”

“A chick?” Gracie teased, with a nervous laugh.

“Okay, a lady. Better?”

Gracie smiled but her feet remained planted as she eyed the club entrance, with obvious disdain.

“That’s all that’s in there, you know,” I continued, gesturing to the building behind us. “Ladies. Working ladies, doing their thing. That’s it! Nothing to be scared of…”

“That’s not it at all! I’m not scared…

“I think you are.”

“I am not!”

“Prove it!”

Apparently, I wasn’t the only one annoyed with the conversation. Gracie turned and stomped right through me on her way to the bouncer. I shook off the unpleasant sensation, grinning wickedly.

Ha! Chuck wins.

The bouncer at the door gave my Gracie the serious fisheye as he checked her ID (no doubt because she was still dressed like a nun on her day off), then pushed open the padded, red, vinyl door to allow us entrance. Gracie paused for only a moment, then stepped inside, like a good girl. I passed before her and surveyed the tantalizing scene, smiling in triumph at my first official guardian angel accomplishment. I, Chuck Butkis, had succeeded in getting pure, little Gracie James to walk on the wild side! I soon realized that Gracie was not walking anywhere, however, as she froze just past the threshold to the club, her wide, brown eyes taking in the room. For at a few minutes, she said nothing, and her expression was unreadable. I couldn’t tell whether she was in shock, in awe, or (dare I hope) aroused? I know that I certainly was! These girls were way hotter than the strippers back home…

“Chuck?” Gracie whispered, barely audible over the thumping music. “Where are you?”

“Right here,” I replied, reluctantly shifting my attention from the luscious spectacle before me.

“I need to leave.”

“What?! We haven’t even left the freakin’ entryway! Now, get in there!”

Gracie blinked in confusion.

“Get in…where? And do…what? Why exactly did you bring me here?”

I took a deep breath to calm my temper.

“I brought you here, child, because I want to help you. I want to show you that there is no need to bury your beauty. No need to hide all of the gifts that the Big-G bestowed upon you.”

Gracie looked in my general direction with an expression of pained disbelief, and my frustration began to get the better of me.

“Look!” I exclaimed, gesturing to the athletic blonde and curvaceous redhead grinding with all of their might on the floor and on the stage in the center of the room, surrounded by admirers literally throwing money their way. “Those girls own this room. All of these men, what, 50 or so at least? All falling over themselves and emptying their wallets just to get a tiny taste of what they have to offer. That’s why we are here, Gracie! So you can learn to embrace your god given power, as they have done.”

My gal looked as though I had slapped her in the face…and I had no idea why.

“Power?!” She exclaimed, obviously not caring who overheard her. “Look at those men, Chuck! Look at their faces, their expressions! Does that look like respect and admiration to you? Those men aren’t worshipping these women for their beauty, aren’t under the influence of some mystic, feminine power. They’re just staring at their naked bodies, licking their lips like mongrel dogs! Look again, Chuck. Really look. Who actually has the power, here? The dollar bills! And who has the dollar bills? The men! The men have all the power and the women do whatever they want! Those women are powerless. He with the money owns the woman, and no one should ever have the right to own another person, to use them…to buy and sell and treat their body like a ...toy…”

Gracie made the unmistakable gurgling sound of someone who’s about to toss their cookies, then ran out of the club and into the parking lot…where she dropped to her knees to do just that. I shook my head in confusion, as she puked. I knew the girl was “conservative” but never expected this reaction in a million years. It was just a titty-bar, for Christ’s sake! What was the big deal?

“I’m sorry,” Gracie apologized suddenly, grimacing at the vomit dribbled down her chest. “I just…don’t understand why we’re here. I don’t. After what happened to me…how could you bring me someplace like this, Chuck? I mean…you know what I’ve been through…”

Sure, yeah, of course! I’m an angel, I know everything…except when I DON’T.

“Can we please just go home now?” Gracie asked, smoothing her hair back from her flushed face.

“No way,” I replied, crossing my invisible arms. “Absolutely not. In retrospect, this stop may have been a bad idea. I should have considered your…past…when I planned this outing. But what can I say, Gracie? Even we angels make mistakes, from time to time! But there are still lessons to be learned in this town! We have other places to go, other things to do.”

“I’m afraid to ask where and what,” Gracie replied, still kneeling on the pavement.

“Well, first things first,” I replied, with a shrug. “We’ve got to get you a new outfit. No good adventure begins with a barf-stained blouse.”

Gracie laughed weakly and took a deep breath, obviously centering herself. I smiled, feeling somewhat better about the situation. So maybe pushing Gracie straight into the deep end of the pool wasn’t the most brilliant idea I’d ever had. Especially since I apparently knew nothing about her former life. But this trip could be salvaged yet! As she stood up and brushed off her dirty knees, Gracie’s expression told me that I was on my way to being forgiven for traumatizing her, and there was a hopefulness in her eyes that told me a part of her was still up for some action. Gracie James wanted to come out! It was glaringly obvious. I just had to get her back into a cab and off to a clothing store for something clean…and sexy.

Getting my girl Gracie to ditch her usual granny-garb proved harder than I thought. It took three stores and 12 trips to the dressing room before we finally agreed upon an outfit, and if I do say so myself, it was a stunner. Not quite as revealing as I would have liked, but still a vast improvement.

“You know,” Gracie said, admiring her reflection in the mirrored wall of a crowded casino, “I actually look…pretty.”

“Pretty?” I replied. “No, not pretty, Gracie. You look hot! Smokin’ hot! Look at how that slinky, red dress hugs those curves you’ve been hiding. And the shoes?”

I whistled approvingly and Gracie blushed and smiled, beautifully.

“Now, you stop that,” she scolded, softly. “You’ll embarrass me.”

“You have nothing to be embarrassed about. You look amazing, Gracie.”

She looked toward the sound of my voice with an expression that would have resulted in a kiss…if I’d still had real lips. I felt a well of frustration rise up within me. Here I was, with this beautiful woman looking at me like that and unable to do a damn thing about it! I couldn’t wrap my arms around her, couldn’t kiss her pretty little mouth or cup her sweet little ass. It just wasn’t fair.

“Thank you, Chuck,” Gracie replied, startling me from my silent tantrum. “So now what do we do?”

“Well,” I replied as we began walking, “I was thinking that since my first attempt at empowerment failed miserably…”

“Empowerment?!” Gracie interrupted with an astonished laugh. “That filthy strip-club was supposed to be empowering?”

“Yeah, yeah,” I scoffed, “stupid Chuck and his stupid strip-club idea, whatever! Anyways… I was thinking that I know another place that might fit the bill, without making you puke.”

“Oh yeah?” Gracie asked nervously. “Where’s that?”

As if on cue, we arrived at our destination and I gestured toward the entrance of the karaoke bar gracefully…though Gracie couldn’t see it, of course.

“Ta da!” I sang.

Gracie looked confused and I sighed.

“See that mic up there, on the stage in the front of the bar? You’re going to sing us a little song, my girl!”

“What?! No way!”

“Yes, way!”

Chuck,” Gracie begged desperately, “look at all of those people! I can’t get up there and sing in front of all of them! I’ve never sung in front of anyone…ever!

“You sing in front of me,” I corrected. “In the shower, when you wash the dishes or vacuum the rug…you sing constantly.”

“That’s different,” she replied, eying the crowd in the bar, nervously.

“Gracie James,” I said, firmly. “You can do this! You have a nice voice. A very nice voice…”

“Really?” She interrupted, hopefully.

“Well duh! Do you think I would tell you to get up there and sing if you were gonna stink up the joint? Don’t you think I have better judgment than that? What kind of guardian angel would I be then?”

“I don’t know…the kind who takes their flock to strip clubs?”

I whipped around to find a positively devilish grin on my Gracie’s face and I returned the expression.

Well-played, Gracie. Well-played.

“Will you let that go already?” I replied, with mock irritation. “That strip club thing was like, hours ago! Give it a rest. Sheesh.”

Gracie laughed merrily…until she heard her name called over the loud speakers, inside the bar.

“Gracie Jaaaaames,” the disembodied voice called. “Yooooou’re up!”

My companion turned to me accusingly, her expression panicked.

“I slipped your name into the pile when you were in the ladies’ room,” I explained proudly. “Don’t worry, I picked a song you know.”

“Chuck,” Gracie breathed desperately. “I can’t…”

“Sure you can! Just get your ass up there and sing!”

Gracie stood frozen, like a deer caught in headlights.

“Do we have a Gracie James in the house?” The announcer called again.

“We are not leaving until you do this,” I spat, genuinely annoyed, until I saw Gracie cautiously raise her hand and creep into the bar.

“I’m here,” she called timidly, as a spotlight shifted to illuminate her entrance.

“Graaaaacie Jaaaaames, everybody!” The voice announced, to a round of polite applause, approving whistles, and catcalls.

Gracie made her way up the stairs and onto the small stage on visibly trembling legs. She looked a bit ill and I feared, for a moment, that she might throw up again. That was all I needed! But the girl held it together, gripping the microphone like a life preserver, her eyes scanning the audience for…me? I gave her a double thumbs-up, though she couldn’t see it. So unfair…
The music started and when the song title popped up onto Gracie’s lyric screen her expression went blank for a moment. I didn’t know why she looked so stunned. Did she honestly think I would give her something lame like, “I Will Survive?” This was go-time here, Gracie James! No more comfort zone for you! Besides, the Divinyls’ “I Touch Myself” is a classic…a hands down crowd pleaser!

The first line of lyrics scrolled across the screen without Gracie uttering a single sound.

“Open your mouth, Gracie!” I yelled at the top of my lungs. “You can do this, come on!”

Her head popped up at the sound of my voice and she obeyed, automatically.

I search myself,” she sang, softly. “I want you to find me…”

“Louder, Gracie!” I commanded.

I forget myself,” she sang, louder now, “I want you to remind me…”

“Wooooohooo!” I shouted, applauding like a proud dad at a Little League tournament.

Gracie smiled at the attention and I saw her visibly relax and actually vamp it up a bit!

I don’t want anybody else,” she sang, strutting across the stage. “When I think about you, I touch myself! Ooooh, I don’t want, anybody else. Oh no, oh no, oh no!”

I continued to hoot, holler, and clap wildly as my girl continued to sing, and watching her come alive on that stage, well…it made me feel alive, for the first time in a long time. By the end of the song, Gracie was positively glowing as the audience made their approval clear, and I raced across the room to embrace her…before I remembered that I couldn’t. I stopped in the middle of the bar, and just stood there like the jackass I was. Maybe getting this involved with the living had been a bad idea.

Gracie left the stage and passed right by me without realizing it, heading back to the entrance of the bar.

“Chuck?” She called softly, looking left then right.

“I’m here,” I replied as I approached.

“That was…amazing!” Gracie squealed, clapping her hands delightedly, like a small child.

“Yes,” I agreed. “It was. You were great out there.”

Gracie looked perplexed.

“Is everything okay?” She asked. “You sound funny. I mean, I did what you wanted, didn’t I?”

“Yes, yes, and then some. Everything is wonderful, I’m just a little…tired…I guess.”

“Not me! I can’t remember the last time I had this much energy! I cannot believe I just did that. Did you see me? I was like an entirely different person! I was like…like…the way I used to be. I feel like I could conquer the freakin’ world right now!”

I smiled, cheering up a bit.

“Well, how about conquering the casino?” I suggested.

“Yeah,” Gracie replied thoughtfully. “Why not? I’ve been making pretty good tips lately. Let’s see if we can double them!”

I watched in surprise as she practically sprinted toward the slot machines, her stilettos clicking and clacking across the marble floor. I had never seen the girl quite this…vivacious. It was as if in stripping off those extra layers of clothing I had freed an exotic butterfly from a stifling cocoon. When we got back to Utah, maybe I’d set fire to the rest of her wardrobe, force her to start fresh. I was finally starting to achieve my goal of breaking Gracie out of her shell, and I liked the girl who’d been hiding inside. I really liked her.

Gracie really liked the free cocktails flowing endlessly into her hand, as she gambled.

“Oh yeah!” She shouted, after about four rum and Cokes. “This slot is hot! I’m gonna…I’m gonna make us freakin’ rich, Chuck! You just watch me. I’m up fifty smackers already!”

“Great job,” I replied, supportively…ignoring the fact that the girl had lost over $300 to win those fabulous fifty smackers. After all, who was I to kill her buzz? This was Vegas, where you party tonight and pay the price tomorrow! It was nature’s way.

“Oh my God!” Gracie shouted, turning abruptly from her slot machine. “I love this song!”

“What song?” I asked, before catching the faint, thumping rhythm of distant dance music. “You mean that Euro-dance-crap coming from the club?”

“It’s not crap!” Gracie slurred, emphatically. “It’s great! It reminds me of the kind of stuff they used to play in the nightclub beneath me and Rodge’s old apartment. We used to go down there and dance and…”

You dance?” I asked, genuinely surprised that the pretty but uptight girl had it in her.

“Me? Oh hell yeah! I love to dance! At least I used to…before…”

A shadow fell over my companion’s face and for a moment her eyes lost their previous sparkle. I wanted it back.

“So, let’s go dancing then,” I suggested, startling her from apparently unpleasant memories.

“You wanna take me dancing?” Gracie asked, excitedly. “Really?”

I shrugged.

“Sure, why the hell not?”

I couldn’t dance for shit, to be honest, but there were perks to being invisible.

“Yaaaay!” Gracie sang, clapping delightedly again. “You’re the best guardian angel ever!”

A passing couple gave my Gracie a dirty look as she talked seemingly to herself, drink sloshing in hand. I didn’t like it. Sure, the chick looked bat-shit-crazy, but that was none of their business! I “accidently” knocked one of Gracie’s empty glasses into their path, sending ice cascading onto the carpet…followed by their fat asses, as they slipped. My girl missed the show, however, as she had turned away toward the beckoning night club entrance and drifted forward like a sleepwalker.

As she zig-zagged across the casino, I worried for a moment that the nightclub doorman would refuse my visibly intoxicated girl entry. But, of course, he let her right in without so much as a cover charge or ID check. It was rather predatory of him, when you think about it, but seeing as how it furthered my agenda I looked the other way…though I couldn’t resist knocking the VIP lists out of the man’s hand as we passed into the club.

Once inside, I watched in awe as a Gracie I had never seen came alive in the sea of swirling lights and churning bodies. She pushed her way through the crowd and made her way directly to the dancefloor. My naughty girl paused here and there to bump or grind against some stranger or another, before continuing her way to the very center of the floor, where she threw her arms into the air and spun in a clumsy circle.

“Chuck?!” She shouted, over the melee. “Where are you?!”

“I’m here!” I shouted back.

It was obvious that she did not hear me over the thumping music, her eyes searching the crowd anxiously. I stepped forward, bringing us nearly face to face, then leaned over to speak directly into her ear. Breathing in the scent of her skin, of her hair, I had to clear my throat before I could speak.

“Here,” I said, into her perfect, pink ear. “I’m right here, Gracie.”

Her eyes lit up and I smiled, helplessly.

“Alright!” She cried, throwing her hands into the air again. “Dance with me, Chuck!”

A greasy-looking fellow in a shiny shirt heard Gracie’s invitation and must have thought she’d said “dance with me, schmuck,” because he practically leapt onto her back, dance-humping unapologetically. Too drunk to notice the repulsiveness of her human backpack, Gracie allowed him to remain attached to her sweet rump until I decided enough was enough. I scanned the dance floor for a more fling-worthy partner for my Gracie, and quickly found one hanging by the bar. About 5’10” …broad shoulders…nice, athletic build…thick, black hair and heavy but shapely brows…not bad at all. In fact, he looked like…me!

I laughed delightedly at the realization and was surprised that Gracie distinguished the sound among the nightclub ruckus.

“What’s so funny Chuck?” She slurred, pushing away from the troll behind her.

“Oh nothing,” I replied, leaning in to be better heard. “But I have found your next Vegas mission.”

“Oh yeah? What’s that?”

I pointed toward my doppelganger by the bar, forgetting for a moment that I was invisible.

“That guy!” I said. “Over by the bar.”

“Which one?” Gracie asked, craning her neck.

“That handsome scoundrel with the dark hair and the leather jacket,” I answered.

“Oh,” the girl replied, locking eyes with the stranger across the club. “Wow…he’s hot! I mean…seriously…”

My ego expanded a bit as Gracie exchanged a flirtatious smile with my twin, and I decided then and there that it was finally time to see my girl in action! And I didn’t mean on the dance floor.

“Why are you just standing over here making goo-goo eyes at him?” I asked, when Gracie remained stationary. “Get over there!”

The intoxicated girl surprised me by obeying immediately, only questioning the command a few feet from her target.

“Wait,” she said, pausing. “What am I doing, again?”

“You are going to invite that dashing fellow up to your room and have your way with him.”

“I am?!” Gracie exclaimed, with obvious surprise. “Now, that doesn’t sound like me at all.”

“Yes, I know! And that’s why you’re going to do it, understand?”

Gracie shook her head.

“Nope,” she said. “I don’t think that’s a good idea. I don’t even know that guy. He could be, like, a sex-pervert…or something…”

“Yes,” I quipped. “That’s kind of the idea, Gracie.”

“No…I mean…in like a bad way! He could be a bad guy, Chuck! There are a lot of bad people out there…trust me, I would know.”

“Oh, for God’s sake,” I groaned. “Don’t you trust me?”

My girl turned toward my voice, stumbling slightly, before catching herself.

“Oops!” She laughed, forgetting my question. “Did you see that? I almost ate it, right in front of the hot guy! How embarrassing.”

I smiled and shook my head.

“Gracie,” I sighed, “when was the last time you even had sex?”

The girl cast her big, brown eyes to the ceiling, then appeared to count her fingers, clumsily.

“Honestly,” she said, finally, “I couldn’t tell ya.”

“Precisely my point!” I all but shouted. “That sweet little body is way overdue for a servicing, Gracie girl! Go get ya some! Thy Lord commandeth!”

My Gracie furrowed her lovely brow and for a moment I thought she was going to refuse. Then, away she went. Though I could tell she was trying to strut, the girl teetered forward with the unmistakable gait of the truly smashed, and I wondered if that would deter the man at the bar from accepting her advances. After all, a gentleman would never take advantage of a lady not in full-charge of her faculties. Lucky for us, however, the stranger was no more a gentleman than I, and immediately accepted Gracie’s slurred invitation to her room.

I snapped my fingers in satisfaction of a play well-executed, and followed the couple out of the nightclub and through the casino, watching Gracie drape herself across her companion as they walked, her pretty hands running across his back and down to his (I must admit) nicely defined rear end. Her boldness impressed me and I felt my former curiosity give way to the very human desire to be on the receiving end of those caresses. You wouldn’t think the dead had libidos but, trust me, we feel lust as much as the living…we just can’t do anything about it. It’s no wonder there are so many stories about we ghosts breaking shit and downright terrorizing the living. “Spiritual blue balls” are a bitch!

As the couple climbed into an empty hotel elevator and made their way toward Gracie’s floor, the man who looked like me, but wasn’t me, pressed my girl roughly against the wall and kissed her with an impressive ferocity. She returned his passion in her booze-induced haze, and I began to wonder whether they were even going to make it to the hotel room before the guy unzipped. As it was, they were practically screwing right there with their clothes on! I should have enjoyed the show, but…strangely…I didn’t like it. I didn’t like it at all!

“Alright, alright,” I exclaimed, reaching out to shove the lecher, before I remembered that I couldn’t. “That’s enough of that!”

Gracie pried her mouth away from a sloppy kiss to reply.

“What?” She panted, as her partner’s mouth moved to her neck.

“I didn’t say anything,” he slurred against her skin.

“No,” she replied, obviously enjoying herself, “not you, Chuck.”

“Who?”

“Me, mother fucker! She was talking to me!”

Gracie wrestled free of the stranger’s arms, a look of concern on her flushed face.

“Chuck…are you mad? You sound mad.”

“Damn right, I’m mad!”

“Why?!”

Good question.

“Because…” I stalled. “Because…because I just found out that this creep has crabs!”

“What?!”

“Yep, crabs! Pubic lice! You boink this guy, you pay the price!”

Gracie’s face twisted into a horrific grimace.

“Eew!” She cried, leaping across the elevator from her visibly confused companion.

I felt kind of bad for my poor, horny twin, but what can ya do? Besides, it wasn’t that bad of a lie. I had crabs a few times when I was alive. Not that big a deal. Unless you’re damn near phobic about bugs…which I knew Gracie to be.

The girl shivered with revulsion and continued her conversation, oblivious to the very disturbed expression on her companion’s face, as he abruptly exited the elevator, and disappeared down a hallway. The doors closed and as the elevator began to rise again, Gracie covered her flushed face with her hands.

“I can’t believe that I almost…” she groaned, before physically gagging at the thought.

I couldn’t stifle a laugh.

“It’s not funny, Chuck!” She spat, stumbling through the elevator doors as they opened again.

Gracie took a single step before tripping on her stiletto and crashing face-first onto the hallway floor, where she lay and laughed, hysterically.

“I can see why your mama named you ‘Grace!’” I teased, as I leaned over to offer her my hand.

The girl rolled over and pushed up to her feet, oblivious to my foolhardy attempt to help her stand.

“You…just…shush,” she said, then laughed again and continued stumbling down the hallway toward her hotel room. “You can’t make fun of me! You’re not so perfect! You took me to some…skanky strip club…then tried to give me crabs! What kind of angel gives you CRABS!”

An elderly woman had stepped out of the elevator just in time to hear my Gracie’s rant, and rushed past her nervously as she hurried into her hotel room and audibly locked the door.

“What’s her problem?” Gracie slurred, jutting her thumb toward the old lady’s door.

“You mean, besides the crazy, drunk woman in the hallway yelling to herself, with her panties hanging out? Probably nothing.”

Gracie glanced down to see that her skirt had ridden up after her fall and pulled the fabric back down, giggling.

“Oopsie!” She sang, then crept toward the door of her hotel room, sneakily. “Shh! That’ll be our little secret, Chuck. No one needs to know I was showing off my panties in Vegas! Promise you won’t tell?”

“I don’t believe in promises,” I replied with a shrug.

“You’re a butt,” Gracie responded, requiring three attempts to finally get the hotel room door open.

“A butt?” I laughed, as we entered the room.

The door slammed shut behind us, and I turned the lock.

“Yep,” my girl said, struggling to pull her dress over her head. “That’s what I said! You’re a butt. I have a butt for a guardian!”

Gracie laughed as she fought to remove her dress, her arms and shoulders twisted within the clingy, red fabric. She stumbled around the room comically, everything from her delectable breasts on down left delightfully exposed.

“Chuck!” She called, from inside of her dress. “Help me get this thing off!”

I sighed.

“Torture a guy, why don’t ya?” I said, grabbing the edge of the fabric and pulling it over Gracie’s head, leaving her hair a tangled mess.

“I’m freeee!” The girl sang, doing a quick spin and falling onto the bed.

I smiled down at her nearly naked body, sprawled across the mattress and marveled at her hedonism over the past few hours. There was hope for Gracie yet! Who knew? Maybe this would be the start of a whole new life for her! One where she spent her Friday nights out in the world partying it up, seeing men, getting laid (God forbid) rather than cooped up at home drinking herbal tea and reading her bible or chatting it up with some… ghost in angel’s clothing…

As the girl on the bed suddenly began to snore, I felt a knot of tension form in my remembered gut. If Gracie did break completely out of her shell and, well, got a life…where would I fit in?

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