“Are you okay, Whitney?” My friend, Brianna, asks as I stare hard at myself in the vanity mirror. “You’re looking a little green.”
I’m feeling a little green as I regard my reflection. I look like a total slut.
“I don’t think I can do this,” I choke out and close my eyes.
I open my eyes again slowly, hoping that somehow, miraculously, it was just a bad dream. Or just bad lighting. But nope, the reflection is still the same.
What the fuck am I doing? I wonder as take in my getup.
Well, these aren’t actually my clothes, they’re on loan for the night from Brianna, but still… ugh. I’m not even sure this little plaid skirt or white top even legally qualify as clothing. I feel like if I were to step outside and try to walk down the street, I would be arrested for indecent exposure.
“It’s too late to back out now,” Brianna lowers her voice to a hiss and casts a worried glance over her shoulder. The other girls filling up this dressing room though aren’t paying us any attention. Their voices are just a buzz of background noise as they dress and talk among themselves. “Ray will have my ass if you bail.”
My chin drops in defeat and I stare down at the counter. Yes, I know it’s too late, and I can’t get out of this without screwing over my friend—who is just trying to do me a favor. If I don’t do this after she vouched for me, she might lose her job. She has a baby to take care of, and the father isn’t around to help her, so she can’t afford for me to chicken out. And I need the money, I really do. I have two ravenous teenage brothers to feed, and an empty refrigerator. It’s either sell my pride for the night and walk away a couple of hundred dollars richer, or go begging on the corner.
This actually feels like the safer of the two choices.
I feel Brianna’s hand land on my shoulder, giving me a comforting squeeze. “Oh, I know, I was…”
Out of nowhere, a loud, feminine voice booms out mockingly, “Oh, is the poor little new girl getting cold feet?”
I twist around to see another girl breaking from the group across the room and approaching us. She’s dressed in short booty shorts with a neon green thong sticking out and a matching neon green bikini top. She’s somehow balancing on top of the highest pair of black platform heels I’ve ever seen.
“Is that a promise?” Naomi smirks at Brianna as she struts confidently towards us. She sways her hips so sharply it looks almost painful, and completely unnatural.
“Bitch, please,” Brianna rolls her eyes and shakes her head. “I don’t swing that way and you know it.”
Naomi laughs as she joins us at our mirror.
Naomi cocks her hip and lets out a sigh, looking Brianna up and down with exaggerated longing. “A girl can always dream.”
They both erupt into more laughter as I just stand here, not quite sure if they’re joking or not.
Brianna’s laughter cuts off suddenly and she shakes her head. “Naomi, no.”
Naomi’s eyes flick towards Brianna but she addresses me again, ignoring her. “It’s perfectly normal. We all feel it. I can give you something to feel better…”
“Thanks, but I don’t do drugs,” I frown.
That is one road I definitely do not want to go down. Even if I’m starving, dying of thirst, or living on the streets. My mother has succumbed to addiction, and that’s how I’ve ended up here in the first place. If she was clean and sober maybe she’d have her shit together, and I wouldn’t have had to fill her shoes and raise my brothers for the past ten years.
Naomi’s smirk is as sharp as her sway. “I bet until tonight you didn’t strip naked for guys either.”
She’s got a point, and I can’t help but feel a chill in my bones as I realize just how far I’ve pushed my own moral boundaries.
I’m just taking off my clothes for money, it’s not like I’m actually going to have sex with any of them, I keep trying to convince myself. What’s the big deal?
But it is a big deal. It’s a huge deal to me. Not only have I never done anything like this before, something so… daring and revealing. I can count on two fingers—two—how many guys have ever seen me naked, and that was in the dark.
Naomi rolls her eyes at me, dismissing me, and turns her attention back to Brianna. “How about you, girl? You need something?”
I gasp when Brianna shrugs her shoulders and holds out her hand. “Sure.”
Naomi shakes a couple of blue pills into her palm and Bri plucks one up.
“It’s just a little Valium,” Brianna says then pops the pill into her mouth. She picks up her bottle of water off of the counter and chases it down. Sighing at my scowl, she goes on to explain. “It helps me relax. It’s not a big deal. If it wasn’t your first night, I’d suggest you give it a try.”
I shake my head in displeasure. Bri doing drugs has just made my bad night even worse. I can’t even explain how much it upsets me and pisses me off. I want to grab her and give her a hard shake while asking her: What the fuck are you doing? She’s a mother now, she needs to look after her son. She’s witnessed firsthand what happened to my mother, what’s still happening to her. I thought she was better than that.
“Your friend is going to need to pull that stick out of her ass if you don’t want Ray to come down on you.” Naomi snickers and pops her own pill into her mouth. She holds her hand out to Brianna, and I’m even more disgusted as Brianna shares her water with her.
“Five minutes, ladies!” A male voice calls out from the door, and then he snickers more quietly. “Ladies, my ass.”
Brianna regards me worriedly; she can probably tell just from looking at me that I’m about ready to bail. “She’s right, Whitney. You need to relax. There’s a whole football team out there…You sure you don’t want a Valium?
I shake my head and cross my arms over my chest.
Naomi tips her head back, slapping her thighs and laughing. “Oh, Ray is going to have your ass now. And you know he’s just been waiting for a reason.”
“Whitney,” Brianna huffs and her eyes meet mine. We stand there having a stare down.
I swing my stare towards Naomi and narrow my eyes further.
“Don’t tell me you don’t drink neither,” she scowls.
“Do it, Whitney. Please,” Bri pleads with me.
Fuck. I wish I never asked for this favor.
“Fine,” I huff and nod at Naomi. “I could use a shot.” Then I swing my gaze back to Brianna. “But you and I are going to talk later.”
As Naomi struts away, Bri grabs my arm and pulls me close. She whispers, “Thank you,” softly.
I nod sharply, this isn’t over, not by a long shot. But later is later.
She smiles and starts fussing with my hair. It’s hard not to stare at my reflection as she parts my dark hair and then pulls it up into girlish pigtails. I used to wear pigtails, back when we met in grade school. My mom used to tie them up with brightly colored elastics with pompoms on them.
I mentally shake off that memory as soon as I hear Naomi clicking up behind me, and stiffen my spine. Naomi grins at me in the mirror, looking over my shoulder.
“Here you go.” She pushes a silver flask into my hand.
She rolls her eyes. “Who the fuck cares? It’s alcohol and it will get you drunk. Fuck, you’re a snob.”
Brianna gives me a sympathetic look and silently mouths, You kinda are a snob.
Gah. I resist the urge to pinch my nose because that would only reinforce my image as a snobby bitch, and bring the flask to my lips.
Naomi erupts into peals of obnoxious laughter. It takes all the self-control I have left to keep myself from throwing the flask at her.
“Here, drink this.” The flask disappears and Brianna pushes her water bottle into my hand.
I gratefully gulp down the rest of the bottle.
“You heard him,” Naomi grins at us. Her grin is so damn big, so wicked, for a moment she looks like the Cheshire Cat.
“Just stick close to me,” Brianna tells me and winks as we head for the door. “I’ve got your back.”
I don’t know why, perhaps it’s because of what just went down, but I don’t quite believe her.