Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid
--William Ernest Henley
The room in this lounge was dim and smoky. Cheap perfume and the smell of alcohol filled nostrils of the people inside. The music was deafening, playing some tasteless type of music though it did not stop the crowd to keep on coming.
At the corner of the seating area, Lara accompanied a man who was sitting at the table in front of her. He was around late forties, wearing dark suit. And though Lara was so exhausted, she could not just liberally show tiredness as she furtively smothered a yawn before she turned it into a smile and muttered some facile inconsequential talk to him. She really did not know what kind of conversation they were having.
God, she when could get enough just proper rest? She understood she ought to be grateful for this job…If grateful was the correct word to describe this job.
The couture of her face hardened momentarily. After almost one month since her mother had passed away, Lara must have had to accept the reality. She needed money, badly. Badly enough to work as sales assistant at day and then work here until the early hours.
The loan for their house needed to be paid otherwise she would be kicked out. The money she got here was good, though what she was doing was soul-destroying and demeaning.
Which meant, her long wavy hair was sprayed for volume, her face was put too much, atrocious make-up that layered over her skin with thick mascara, her eyes were caked in shadows with addition the crimson lipstick was sticky like jam and her figure was molded tightly in a cheap satin short dress.
“So, what do you say, we go to the hotel?” The man’s voice slurred as he opened the invitation.
The invitation she hated the most.
But Lara had to pretend and give the rejection with fake smile. “I’m sorry but I don’t take private hire.”
“Why not? I paid for your fucking service. I’ll pay more.” He said, his eyes raking down her body and strained on her breasts that were slightly sticking out from her tight, strappy blue dress. “I’m willing to pay for that lovely tits.”
Lara felt nauseous and really wanted to flee, yet she needed to be polite when she rejected him for second time. “Like I said, I don’t take private hire, perhaps I can call other girl.”
“I don’t want other girl!” He grew impatient though the lecherous gleam stayed. “Don’t play hard to get, doll. Name your price. A hundred? Two hundred?” He cajoled, one of his hand already reached her thigh before he squeezed it hard.
Her cheeks burned, she immediately shoved his hand and stood up. “Like I said. I don’t take private hire.”
Instead of being annoyed with her rejection, it seemed he found it very challenging. He smirked as he stood up also. “Well, well, well, such a feisty you are, eh?” He approached her before he grabbed her shoulders. “It really I want to fuck your brain out for more.”
Lara backed up until she felt the velvet wall on her back and this man already cornered her. “Let go of…”
“Lara…” Suddenly there was another voice came to rescue her.
Both of them looked at the woman who apparently was also a hostess in this club.
“The manager wants to see you now.” The Polish accent that belonged to Sasha, Lara’s Slavic beauty colleague in this club, informed her.
“Hey, we’re in the middle of something here!” The man protested for being interrupted while he was just about to get what he wanted.
Sasha, swiveled her head that made her blonde hair heaved unevenly. She then smiled sweetly. “Oh, don’t worry, Sir. I’ll send another girl for you.”
“I don’t fucking want another girl!” He growled, releasing his grips on Lara’s shoulders.
“Sir,” Sasha’s voice though was sweet but there was a stern of warning. “I said, I’ll send another girl, be patient, otherwise my dear bouncer friend, Jason, has to escort you out.” She then turned her attention to Lara who was already freed herself. “Let’s go.” She said and pulled her hand.
From Lara’s peeved expression, she was more than happy to oblige. “Yes, let’s go.” She said and without even bother to give polite goodbye, she walked passed the annoyed man.
Relief was the feeling she had once that man was out of her side.
“Are you okay?” Sasha asked. Her voice exclaimed, beating the loud music. They were trying to get through at the dancing floor that was swarm with dancing crowds.
Lara nodded. “Yes. Thank you.”
“Next time, if you don’t like it, just call Jason.” Sasha said, pushing a person that bumped into her.
“I’ll keep it in mind.” Lara replied and didn’t say another word until they were freed from the crowd and now at the less people around.
“Let’s get our jackets, I need you to help me to throw the garbage.” Sasha said and walked to rearward of the club with Lara tailed behind.
Soon, Lara took her own brown jacket and helped Sasha who was already covered her body with her black faux fur coat. Lara then grabbed one of the plastic garbage from the trash bin as she was stepping out to the back alley.
It was chill and raw once they were outside. But Lara felt relief, after the smoky air inside, the dirty New York air smelt fresh and clean in comparison.
Sasha threw the plastics into the dumpster and waited until Lara took her turned before she spoke. “Can I ask you something?”
“Yes, sure.” Lara responded. “What do you want to ask?”
Sasha did not reply immediately, instead she dug her purse and took a pack of cigarette. “Do you want to smoke?” She proffered, opening the package.
“I’m not smoking.” Lara refused softly.
“Suit yourself, darling.” Sasha said then she lit the cigarette with one fluid movement.
Lara only stared at her beautiful face, though also like her, Sasha’s face was covered with tacky make-up. The only difference was, her outfit. Beneath the coat, Sasha was wearing a leopard printed mini dress with fish net stocking adorned her long legs.
“What do you want to ask, Sash?”
Sasha blew her cigarette the smoke came out from her mouth. “Why you don’t want to take private hire?”
Lara stiffened as she heard the question. It should not have been come as a surprise. “I just don’t feel like it.”
“Darling, when you’re interviewed I thought you need money. And there’s no better money than having private hire.”
Lara lowered her head. She did not know how to say to Sasha without sounding demeaning. “I just feel that it’s not right.”
Sasha snorted. “Does it matters? What’s right and what’s wrong? There’s only one thing that matters, Lara. And it’s called money.” She smoked her cigarette for a moment. “If you only work as hostess, there won’t be enough. You said last time that you need money to pay the loan, how long does it takes for you to get it all if you only depend on tip and salary as a hostess? Being an escort pays more.”
Lara’s mouth tightened momentarily. “It’s more than just being an escort, Sasha.”
“Hey, who’s being a judge here?” Sasha lifted both of her shoulders. “Don’t be naïve. Of course is more than just an escort. But who cares. You won’t do it forever, because I won’t. Maximum I’ll do it a year. After I finish my university, then I can get a job and close my past behind. No one needs to know.”
Lara clasped her fingers forcefully, she didn’t say anything.
Sasha, threw the cigarette on the wet ground and killed it with her heel. “Just think about it. The money is good and honestly most of the man are drunk and they only perform so badly and won’t remember anything the next day. One person easily you can earn three hundreds. Imagine if you can have three guys in one night.”
“I’m scared, Sash.” Lara admitted quietly. “I mean I’ve never done it, you know like…” She paused momentarily taking a deep breath. “Like that.”
Sasha smiled, understanding. “I know, Lara. Believe me, I was scared also, but after awhile I got used to and the money is good. All I do is to do the medical check up every three months to make sure I’m okay and I insist to used condom. And that’s very important.”
Lara leaned her body against the cold steel dumpster. She did not say anything though at the back of her mind she was contemplating the pros and the cons if she were about to live her life like, like an escort or worse as a prostitute.
“Look,” Sasha touched Lara’s upper arm gently to get her attention. “Let’s start with this one first.” She then tapped her lips with her delicate fingers. “I have one client. He’s very nice. Old but nice. And he won’t do sex with you. All he needs is for you to be his companion wherever he goes out socializing.”
“Why he doesn’t want sex?” Lara asked incredulously.
Sasha grinned widely. “Because, Joshua, my client is totally gay. He needs to disguise his sexual preference in front of his acquaintances as they still haven’t accepted it that.” She lifted her shoulders indolently as if she didn’t care when Lara eyed her questioningly before she continued “Hey, he will doll you with nice clothes and he’s willing to pay you one thousand Dollars for one appearance. Think about it, the money is good!”
Yes the money. That always came to that point. One thousand Dollars was really good. It would cover the loan for this month, as well as, couple of other bills. She might also be able to save some of it to pay for next semester of her study. Still, she would earn this money would be more degrading than as a hostess at this club. It would be just a morally condescending.
Conflicting emotion flashed through her as she articulated the thought but she managed to ask Sasha. “What should I do?”
“Simple.” Sasha replied. “Just hold his hand, kiss him on his cheek or lips. You know, just act that you’re madly in love with him.”
“If you’re already with him, why you want me to take your position? I’m sure his friends already know that you’re with him.”
Sasha shrugged again. “Joshua thinks that if we’re stuck together for too long, his society demands marriage. That’s why he needs to break up with me and found another girl.”
“And are you okay with that?”
Sasha nodded vigorously. “Yes, I’ve another clients, darling. Don’t worry about me. Like I said, it’s just a starter until you get used to. And like I said, it’s just a trade, if you have to do it with any man. Money for sex, no feeling involvement needed.”
Lara nodded. “Can I think about it, Sasha? I mean I’m grateful with the offer but…”
“Psshhh, darling…” She waved her red nail-polished hand in the air. “Don’t worry, glad I can help.” She then took a step closer towards her. “Just think about it, okay? Though please, hurry, the offer won’t last forever, darling.”
“I will. I’ll think about it over a night and let you know by tomorrow.”
“Alright.” Sasha agreed and passed her. “I think we’d better get back to work.” She then suggested and as kept on waking back towards the door.
“Okay.” Lara took a deep breath. She followed Sasha footsteps though going back inside was not something she liked to do.
Well, she only needed to endure for tonight, just like any other night before and any other night after.