South Ural State University, Russia
Cassandra entered in her university and started walking towards her department when a boy approached to her.
“Hi, I am Brandon Petrov. You must be Cassandra Christou……. Umm…” The boy kept on stammering when Cassandra decided to not torture the boy with her long surname.
“Christodoulopoulos. You want to say that right? It’s ok.” She gave a genuine smile while saving him from getting embarrassed.
“Yeah, I mean your surname.”
“It’s fine. Call me Sandra. I will be more than happy. But actually I don’t have……” She tried to explain herself as the boy was not known to her.
“You don’t know me, right? It’s fine. I am from Mechanical Department. Actually I came here with a request.” He was still not sure how to speak as he found her quite professional in the field in which his request was about come.
“Yes, please tell me.”
“See we know you are quite a famous photographer. Actually I have seen your street photography too. So I was wondering if you could spare some of your time for our upcoming event. Like we are going to organize an event which would include some dance performances. So I thought if you could…” The boy stopped in his track as he knew asking her to cover their event was not a good idea. She is already a wildlife photographer who undergoes paid assignments of National Geography. Telling her to cover a dance show is surely a mishap.
“Do you think I can do that? I mean I am based on some other areas.” Cassandra tried to explain herself. Of course she has her footprints in street photography and landscape too. But her favourites are aerial, underwater, geopolitics and cultural. Taking up that invitation was not a big deal but she was under confident about her own perfection.
“We all know that you can do it. After all you are a famous one in…….”
“Wild life photography not in human.” Saying so she gave a heartily smile to Brandon.
“So you are accepting my request right? We would like to pay you also. Please let us know your charges.” Brandon said when Cassandra raised her eyes brows gave a wicked smile.
“Well then my payment would be grand dance performance from your team.”
After that they both burst into laugh and exchanged their contact numbers for further communication and planning.
Cassandra took her path towards her class and also tried calling her friend Lizabeta. She knew if Liza was not informed as earlier as possible she would start creating a fuss like a child. Once she was done informing her to meet in class she checked her schedule properly.
Entering in the class before she could settle in her seat Liza came running to her with open arms like a little girl who just saw her favourite teddy bear.
“Sandra, Sandra, Sandra……… Oh love.” Cassandra understood Liza had definitely done some shits which now she had to cover up. She straighten at her place and looked sternly at her face.
“Don’t tell me you drove your car without licence you did something and I need to cover up.”
“Why do you think I would be so selfish? Come on actually I need a help.”
“Please shot.” Cassandra replied looking at her with her pleading voice. No way had she wanted to see her in a grave problem as this girl always found something mischievous around her to entangle herself.
“Babe, listen. Do you remember the girl Marlin, who was rescued by my sister’s NGO?” Lizabeta opened her eyes like a big saucer while speaking about the girl.
“Yes, last year only. Wait a minute, not even a year just six months back maybe she was rescued. What had happened to her?” Cassandra seemed quite concerned as for past one year she had also become a part of that NGO.
“Nothing had happened actually. Do know who she is.” Liza asked Cassandra in which she replied back with her facts.
“Yes, a sex worker. So?”
“Yes, that’s the point. Actually I want your help in it. See I know it is a bit tough but I am thinking….” Lizabeta was gulping down her words before blurting them out. She was not so sure about Cassandra’s reaction.
“You are thinking what? Tell me.” Cassandra looked at her face.
“See Sandra. Don’t say no. I am thinking to make a story on them. I mean on this industry. I mean you know. Like Sugar daddy, prostitution. I mean ok their life. Their story.” Liza shot all her words in ago when Cassandra found herself completely shaken. She was hammering her own brain to register what Liza just said.
“Sugar Daddy”, “Prostitution”, what all such things Liza was speaking was going above her head. She calmed her down and took her to take deep breath.
As the professor arrived so their shocking discussion stopped in midway. Rather it did not get the fuel to start. She told her to attend the class first. Though the professor was teaching the easiest chapter but Cassandra was understanding nothing. She was still trying to figure out what Lizabeta was trying to make or create.
Once the class got over they came out and walked towards the café. In the entire walk none spoke a single word as both were digesting their thoughts to speak up for their own ideas.
After getting two coffees and two chicken sandwiches they both settled on a table far away from the crowd. Cassandra had less friend in Russia compared to Athens. One of the major reason was she came here for study and she wasn’t a resident. Lizabeta had more admires and friends but whenever it came down to boyfriend Lizabeta pulled her leg. For past one year she had been dating the golden bachelor of the country, Alaric Zeitsov.
Of course their meeting was unexpected. But some sparks had been felt by Alaric which resulted them falling in to the nice frame of made for each other couple. Alaric visited one of the photography exhibition where Cassandra’s photography were on display. That was the day when Alaric took interest in her and they started seeing each other. The major reason why Cassandra called Alraic oldie was, he was 5 years older than her but always behaved older in terms of anything.
Once Lizabeta opened her mouth Cassandra stopped her and spoke first.
“You want me to film the real lives of the sex workers who are into prostitution or any other escort services right?”
“How do you know that? “Liza spoke with an astonished face.
“Come on. It is easy to read you. Did Marlin say do?” Cassandra wanted to know.
“No. She just told about her story so I was wondering if I could bring out more of the stories of such people. My sister’s NGO is already working for their welfare.”
“That’s good actually. But I haven’t made any documentary over such sensitive topic. Do you understand the situation Liza? People won’t take it nicely. Prostitution is legal is 15 countries. There are far more pathetic stories than what we see. Do you think it wouldn’t be a risk?” Cassandra stated her facts.
“Sorry, I did not mean to involve you like this. You can drop. Our characters would fall in front of other people.” Liza mumbled in her low tone.
“Well I don’t bother about what people think. We should remember one think. The world runs with demand and supply chain mechanism. The supply comes when the demand is present. So prostitution is there because there are people who demand that.”
Cassandra put on her best smile to console Lizabeta. She knew Alaric would jump once she would expose this big bomb. But as she had worked on the habitats and on the life of other animals, she should give it a try too. If the documentary could bring some of their stories to the outer world, people would know the other side of the coin too. Not everyone chose the journey by their choice. Some were forced, some were manipulated and at the end the white collars people remain the cleanest one. So why not bringing out their life to the society.
“So, when to start? And what about your prince charming? Would he agree to let you get involved in it?” Lizabeta spoke.
“Now, someone is talking senses.” Cassandra did not leave the chance of taunting her.
“Shut up Miss Wild Life Photographer. I know your prince charming is too wild in bed.” Mocked her.
“I haven’t get the chance to know that by the way.” Cassandra winked. Of course she was 18 but barely was she aware of all such facts. She was brought up with so much care and love that until she stepped out of Athens for her work or study, she didn’t see most of the reality of the society. She always found forests and woods better in terms of city. For her animals are the best companion compared to human and her parents agreed upon that too. And with Alraic things did not move much beyond kiss. Sometimes she felt that Alaric might be frustrated with her and very soon he would be asking her to get married to take their relationship to the next level.
“Get a room girl.” Lizabeta poked her and laughed.
“Will see, now tell me, how it would be solved. Next week I am moving to Swan Natural Area. So after that we would have our semester. We can start after that. What do you suggest?” Cassandra jotted down the plan partially.
“Yeah. Anyhow we would be needing some leads. Marlin won’t be enough. We have to actually travel because Marlin told some of them were not even given phone or anything to communicate.”
“Yeah, read that somewhere. Especially those who were abducted and forced into prostitution.” Cassandra added.
“See we have two major point. One I have done partial research on Sugar Daddy business and Escort services. Like the legal one, I got some contacts. They decided to speak up how they are involved. I found two or three Sugar Babies, who agreed upon sharing their story. I am planning to go to Canada also to meet one of the site owner.”
“Wow girl that means you have already walked a lot. How did you know I would say yes? The way you are describing I can see you already knew about my future decision.”
“Come on. Do you remember the club incident? You slapped a boy who tried to touch one girl? He said that she was whore and you said even if she then also the boy didn’t hold any authority to touch her beyond her will. I knew you would never say no. You helped my sister a lot since you join the NGO.” Liza hugged Cassandra suddenly.
Cassandra no doubt helped her sister and the NGO. Whether it was about arranging fund or rescuing abducted girls or providing them proper shelter, she was always there with her open arms. She did fight with few club people who tried to keep few girls forcefully in their clubs in Russia. Sometimes Lizabeta felt scared of her. She did not want her to end up being someone’s sworn enemy.
“Fine. Enough of the bear hug. So tell me about the second place. Sugar Daddy business is done.” The moment she spoke the word a bit loud a passer-by girl looked at her with wide eyes. Cassandra felt like she had spoken something really against Russian Government, seeing the expression of that girl. Ignoring the fact she decided to concentrate on the next part.
“There is only one place is left. I hope you know. The biggest red light area. The famous tourist spot and also the hotspot of criminal activities.” Lizabeta spoke in such a way that if anyone would hear, he or she would think of listening to some age old thriller story.
“The area where the cafes serves the illegal things legally. The area which contribute a nice part of money in the income section of the country. Girl don’t tell me you are thinking the same that I am thinking.” Cassandra looked at Lizabeta with wide eyes and open mouth.
Finally they spoke together one common statement.
“De Wallen, Amsterdam. The world’s most famous notorious red light area.”