The word wasn’t even a word anymore, it had repeated and played in my head so many times over the last month. A month ago, I was Jade, the pretty, slightly nerdy, well-read premed student. I lived in my childhood bedroom and absorbed not only the free room and board, but the love and closeness of my mom and dad while I took the challenging premed courses I would need to qualify for the MCAT medical school testing.
My parents had been wonderful people. They were loving and supportive, and they had been totally great about letting me continue to live with them while I held down a side job at a cafe and went to school. It’s not like we didn’t fight. All families do...it’s just that we didn’t fight often. I had a good, stable life, with a bright future.
Until that word, fatal, entered my life. I had been getting ready for bed at about 11pm when my phone had rung, making me smile and think that maybe my boyfriend, Jin, was calling to say good night. I was shocked when the cold, impersonal voice on the other end of the line told me that I needed to get to the hospital....that my parents had been in a bad accident, and that the resultant injuries were going to be fatal.
I don’t remember driving to the hospital. I don’t remember anything other than sitting with my mom and holding her hand while she breathed her last breaths on this earth, her chest crushed in, and no amount of medication or surgery able to stop her inevitable death. My dad had died on impact, suffering what the doctors gently told me were “catastrophic head injuries”.
So my whole world shattered in one night. My happy, idyllic bubble burst with that one word....fatal...
“Goddamn it! This fucking thing....” I mumbled under my breath irritably. I was currently doing battle with the broke-ass dryer, that had decided it should eat and destroy my favorite pair of panties. I sighed down at the burnt and torn fabric, really at this point, just wanting to have a working dryer again. This had not been a good period in my life...
It had been about 3 months since my family had all been taken from me in one fatal accident. I was currently on the floor of the small apartment that I had been able to rent 6 months in advance thanks to the small amount of money my mom and dad had put into a trust for me. The money was almost gone. I was totally screwed and had no way to continue to pay for college, because, lets face it, waitresses make next to nothing. Certainly not enough to pay for room and board and then also pay for medical school.
The one bright spot I had was my Saturday nights out with Jin, my boyfriend of just over a year. He was already in medical school, and we had met when I was a freshman and he was where I was now, getting ready for the MCAT. We had started out as friends, just hanging out and flirting, but the relationship had deepened over time and we had ended up dating, eventually. He had ended up getting accepted, very luckily for him and for our relationship, into a medical school that was only about 2 hours away. This meant that we could only really spend the weekends together, but that was ok. He usually would come to town, take me out, and then make love to me all night in a hotel room he would rent for us. It was magical...Ok, well...maybe not magical, but pretty damn good.
Jin was hot, and intelligent, and although he could sometimes be bossy and maybe a little cold, he always found small ways to tell me that he loved me. That is, up until the last two Saturdays, when he had apologetically called off our date night. He told me he had alot of homework, and that he missed me, but he just didn’t have time. I tried to be understanding. I loved him, and I knew he loved me. I just needed to be patient and hope for the same kind of understanding from him, when I was in medical school....
Tears stung my eyes as I sat on my knees in my crappy little apartment. I might not be able to ever go to medical school....not at this rate....
My friends, and Jin, had all told me that this didn’t need to be the end. I knew they were right. I could take student loans, and I was a good student, so scholarships were a legitimate option as well. I was just still so...broken. It was hard to plan for my future, knowing that I would probably be riddled in debt when I finally came out the other side.
I needed to pull up my big girl panties and get the fuck on with things, I told myself, trying to get my shit together. I would do whatever I needed to. It was going to be fine. I was going to make it fine.
Jin canceled on me again....I tried to act like it was ok. I didn’t let him know that I was crying on the other end of the line as he explained that he was just too busy right now to drive all the way here. I really wanted it to be ok. He had told me that he missed me, and that he loved me, and that he was sorry.
When I hung up the phone I gave myself a minute to mope. Another Saturday night....alone. Shit.
About half an hour later, my night turned around though, when Jin texted me, telling me that he would meet me at this club that was about an hour away, and that he couldn’t wait to see me. I didn’t question why the sudden change of plans, or even react to the fact that he was using a new pet name...honey bear...which kind of made my stomach turn. I was just excited that he had made time for me.
So I got all dolled up, putting on a sexy little club dress that fit my form and came to mid-thigh. I curled my hair and let it fall down my back, doing smokey eyes and sparkly red lips. I looked at myself in the mirror and decided that this would do. I looked cute, and I looked like I belonged in a club....so that was a good thing.
I jumped in the car, after locking up, and happily texted Jin that I was on my way to meet him. My phone immediately rang, and I picked up happily as I pulled over to talk to him.
“Hey, baby” I said happily.
“Hi, boo....what do you mean you’re coming to meet me? I thought we talked about this? I’m pretty busy with studying...I’m so sorry....” Jin said softly, seeming genuinely remorseful. I was just confused as fuck at this point, even going back into my messages to be sure that he had really texted me.
I smelled a rat. “Wait...baby...are you sure?” I asked, feeling like there was something really wrong happening.
“I’m so sorry, boo....I”ll make it up to you next weekend. I promise” he said warmly, sounding so sweet and honest that I almost believed he wasn’t lying right to me, right now.
“Ok, baby...study hard. I love you” I said, sweetly.
“You too, boo. Talk later” he said, hanging up abruptly.
I sat behind the wheel of my car and thought hard. He had texted me....and then had called me and acted as if he hadn’t. There was only one logical explanation in my mind. He hadn’t meant to send that text to me. Maybe I was being paranoid and psycho....or maybe I was right. I shook my head and pulled back out into traffic, headed for the club he had texted me about. There was only one way to find out what was going on.
I pulled into the parking lot of the trendy club, a place that normally I would like going, enjoying the music and dancing. I was a nerd, but an extroverted nerd, and I liked to dance. I had a knot in my stomach as I walked up to the bouncer, who clearly liked what he saw enough to let me in ahead of a few other girls, who gave me vicious looks on my way by.
Whatever, hoes... I walked in and went straight over to the bar, ordering a drink and leaning against it as I searched the crowd for Jin...or anyone that I knew. While I waited, I sipped my drink, just kind of bopping to the music and relaxing. This place was nice. The dance floor was big and the bartender made a mean lemon drop.
A pretty older woman sat next to me at the bar and smiled over at me. I returned her smile and finished my drink. She was clearly well taken care of. She was thin with a pretty face and bright blue eyes and her dyed red hair looked like it had never been styled outside of a salon. Although she was older, she looked as good as, or better, than even the girls my age who were running around this place. I liked her instantly as she struck up a conversation with me and bought my next drink.
It was a little weird that she was so friendly, and I wondered, in the back of my mind, if she wasn’t trying to pick me up. The thought made me giggle a little and I decided that this should be my last drink, especially since I would probably need to drive home after this, if my suspicions were correct about Jin.
The lady, who’s name was Kate, continued making small talk, sharing things about herself as she asked me unobtrusive questions about my life. I told her that I was in college, premed, and that I was struggling to pay for it, but that it would all work out somehow. For some reason, she seemed very interested in my money issues.
“Kate...can I ask you something without offending you?” I asked, trying not to be rude, but needing to know what the hell.
Her eyes widened slightly, but she recovered and smiled. “Sure, don’t worry. Ask away” she said genially.
I bit my lip nervously and jumped in. “Look...you seem really nice...but..why are you talking to me? I want you to know that I’m not a lesbian, although you’re pretty and there’s nothing wrong with that. I just can-” My awkward rambling was cut off my the bell-like tone of her laughter. She seriously almost fell off of her bar stool. That made me giggle too.
She recovered and gave me an amused look, extending a business card to me. “You’re cute. No, I’m not a lesbian, although I agree with you that I’m pretty, and there’s nothing wrong with that” she teased.
I blushed and grinned at my lap as I looked at the card she gave me. It had her name and a company name on it, Executive Choice. I gave her a questioning look.
“I’m a scout, Jade. I work for an escort company based here in town, and I think you would be a perfect addition to our little team” Kate said, smiling winningly at me.
“An...escort...isn’t that illegal? Like...prostitution or something?” I asked, trying to decide if I should walk quickly in the other direction before I got caught in a police sting operation or something.
Kate laughed and looked at me as if amused and charmed by my innocence. “Escorting is completely legal, and there is no sex involved at all. In fact, it’s absolutely against the rules for you to be anything other than friendly and, if you choose, flirty, with the men who hire our services.”
I gave her a skeptical look. “What kind of a guy needs to hire a date? Especially if he’s not even getting any at the end?” I asked, not believing that this could really be a thing.
“The kind of man who doesn’t have time to meet people and has events to attend, or the kind of man who wants to appear to have a girlfriend...without actually having one. These men are usually wealthy and successful, with nice manners. They know what they are getting...and what they are not getting, well in advance of your date...so don’t worry about having that conversation” Kate said, smiling at me. “What does it pay?” I asked, not really considering it, just killing time at this point with someone I liked as I scanned the room for Jin...maybe I was wrong. Maybe there was some kind of weird cell phone mix up or something and he really hadn’t texted me. I was pulled from my thoughts by Kate answering my question.
“The contracts are all negotiated separately...but it’s usually roughly $2000 per date...more for over night trips and things that are out of the ordinary. You just keep track of how long you are with the guy. Anything in excess of 8 hours is a premium fee of $500 per hour. So, I’m sure you can see that this business could be quite lucrative, if you were to sign up. That money is what you take home, by the way...we get our cut before you even see it” Kate said and then pointed to a group of men who were dancing and clowning on the floor about 20 feet away from where we sat. “See those guys over there?” She asked conspiratorially.
I looked where she pointed, shocked to see that Jin was behind the group of guys who were dancing....my heart kind of cramped as I watched him dance and be happy...completely oblivious to the fact that I was here. At least he wasn’t with a girl. That would be the absolute cherry on a fantastic night...
I focused on the guys she was actually pointing to and had to admit that they were all very good looking. They looked like they had money and probably power too. Expensive. I nodded to her. “They’re good looking” I said noncommittally.
“Those guys all have used Executive Choice at least once, some of them are frequent customers” Kate said, grinning at me.
I nodded my head, getting ready to go over and confront Jin, who had disappeared from my line of sight behind the group of men. “I’m sorry, Kate...I just don’t think I’m the right person for this...” I said, trying to hand back her card.
She shook her head and smiled at me, insisting I keep the card. “Just...give it some thought. No hard feelings” she said, getting up and abruptly disappearing into the crowd. It was definitely a skill to disappear that quickly.
I got off my bar stool and paid the bar tender, smiling at him as he tried to flirt with me for a bigger tip. I walked toward where I had last seen Jin and stopped short.
I felt nauseated.
This was horrid....
I couldn’t take my eyes off of my boyfriend...sitting on a couch....all over some girl I’d never seen before. It was fucked up in the extreme. He was practically fucking this girl, right here in front of everybody. So this was why he had been so busy...that asshole.
My blood boiled, and while the smart thing would have been to walk out, I decided to make it clear that I never wanted to see his lying, cheating, skeezy ass, ever again. I tapped on his shoulder as he was practically mounting this girl, and he looked over his shoulder irritably, but then froze, eyes going wide as he registered who I was.
I smirked at him and took off the dainty silver promise ring he had given me...the ring that had not left my finger once since he had given it to me 6 months ago. I handed it to him, and when he started babbling shit that I wasn’t listening to and tried to refuse to take it, I lost my temper and threw it at him, bouncing the damn thing of his stupid forehead. He winced and the girl he had moved off of sat up, eyes narrowing to slits.
“Who the fuck do you think you are?” She slurred, clearly drunk.
I shook my head at her. “Nobody important. I was just finishing something up that has needed to be done for a while now, I guess” I said, still not listening to Jin babble at me.
I turned and started walking away and he came after me, grabbing my wrist and making me turn to him. He looked shocked and he looked sad. I knew now thathe was a very good actor. I was positive, as I took in his woebegone face, that he was only sorry that I knew, and that I couldn’t be his side hoe, or whatever, anymore.
“Boo...I’m sorry...I know-” he sighed, exasperated. “Look, lets go somewhere. We can work this out” he said, as his drunken friend, walked up and possessively draped herself all over him.
“Come on, daddy...come back and sit with me. This bitch isn’t worth your time” the girl slurred, looking like a completely trashy hoe. Apparently, that’s what Jin was into these days...
I snorted and wrinkled my nose, turning to walk away again, but Jin grabbed me again, even with his drunken slut hanging all over him.
“Jin!” I said in frustration, yanking my hand away, “We’re done. There’s no fixing this. Leave me alone” I said.
The girl got in my face at this point. “You had better not be messing with my man, whore...” she slurred in what I’m sure she thought was a very threatening tone.
I shook my head and suppressed a laugh. “Oh please...Honey, I have far too much class to get in a fight with some girl I don’t even know, over a guy who clearly thinks so little of me, that he would cheat on me with someone like you” I said.
The girl looked like she was having trouble tracking what I said, and Jin just looked pissed that I wasn’t playing along. I turned on my heel and walked out, happy that he wasn’t following me anymore.
I got all the way to my car before the tears spilled out. I had been pissed off and incredulous at first...but now I was just hurt. I had loved him.....he had been all I had since my parents died. I felt so alone it was sickening.
I wiped my eyes and drove home, trying to hold it together. Jin clearly hadn’t loved me the way he said he had. I studiously ignored my phone as it blew up with calls and text messages as I drove. There just wasn’t anything to say. What he had done had ended things so completely that there just wasn’t any way to go back...not even though a small, lonely, desperate part of me kind of wanted to.
I got into my apartment and collapsed on the couch, feeling like complete dog shit. I had no idea what I was going to do. This was a mess. My life was a dumpster fire of epic proportions. There was only so much fuckery a girl could be expected to handle in a short period of time and come out the other side sane.
I sadly looked down at my broken remote and then glanced around my shitty little apartment, my eyes finally coming to rest on that goddamn dryer that had murdered my favorite panties earlier. I sighed heavily and took out the card that Kate had given me....
Was I crazy to be thinking about this? Could I even pull it off? Could I really pretend to be attracted to random men, and get paid to be escorted to events and parties? The guys at the club has been hot...maybe I wouldn’t have to pretend that hard...and the money.... fuck me...the money would be so worth it.
I made a snap decision and called the number on the card. It was late, but I somehow knew that she would pick up.
“Hello” I heard on the other end.
“Kate” I said, “It’s Jade...we met earlier at that club? We need to talk...”