by Elaine Joy
Jessica finds that things are getting a little bit strange even for Vegas.
The first step is my only moment of doubt. Bright lights form an arsenal of brilliance that fires off an internal heat and excitement swirling around within me. A dazzling smile washes over my face as the familiar persona drowns out all other thought and builds upon its own power. Every movement is intentional and effortless. The posture of a queen on a walk to her throne. Each step commands the attentions of those surrounding. The smallest of motions, the slightest tilt of the head, demands an understanding of absolute authority. The flow of the music quickens the pace. A flex of muscle, a calculated motion, flings a curving body into a spiral, round and round.
My audience, those slightly dumbfounded faces with big wide open eyes, stand beside the stage with fistfuls of dollars hanging limply in their hands. I smile down at them, my true feelings hidden behind a carefully crafted wall. They've all become unknowing participants in my strategy. Pawns spread before me with goofy looking grins.
The voice coming from the massively expensive top notch audio equipment croons "spin spin sugar" as I drop myself into an enticing rotation, blonde hair flying from the speed, my face a serene calm hiding the fact that my eyes are rapidly searching for my first target. I lock in on the face belonging to the man holding the most money. I turn my eyes into smoldering fire as they engage his with a look specifically crafted for hypnosis. His body is rigid as if he'd just gazed upon a lingerie clad medusa, frozen in stone as I lower myself down in front of him. Poor boy. I position my hips in a way that emphasizes each subtle curve and change my smoldering to a soft approachable warmth. Breaking down his barriers is as easy as asking his name and giving him one of mine. It only takes a moment for him to lay down all his cash and I float over to another eager face.
Rotating between targets and overall marketing is key. I balance out my time between keeping those near the stage happy and using my center of the stage performance to draw the attention of those sitting in the back. A quick flash of a smile to establish a connection with those that look my way.
The DJ makes a few comments glorifying my performance as I scoop up armfuls of cash to be hastily shoved in a large bucket. A suited arm juts out from the darkness besides the stage, helping me down the descent as the next girl makes her way up.
I give apologetic looks to those trying to catch my attention, miming that they are so important to me but I will be right back. I stay in character as I quickly walk through the rows of suits and pass bellow the sparkling chandeliers, till I make my way through the lush velvet curtains that signal the barrier between two realities.
"F- these heels!"
A real smile crosses my face as Parker's distinct voice escapes through the double doors leading in to the locker room. Stepping inside is like a trip to a high school from another dimension, rows of floor to wall beige colored lockers take up most of the space in a very plain looking room. Bright and shiny teenagery stickers of flowers, stars, and sassy sarcastic statements like "I can't Adult today" or "I'm not bossy, just right" are plastered all over their metal frames.
Rounding the corner I find Parker sprawled out on the floor near my locker, her long legs jumbled up with all her attention focused on a plastic strap around her ankle.
"Holly!" She calls me by the only name she knows, her big doll eyes full of over dramatized frustration. "I just bought these tonight and I can't," she gives the strap another tug, "friggen," another theatrical tug, "get this on."
"Let me try." Crouching down to the floor I do my best to hold in my laughter while trying to figure out the high heeled bright pink contraption she had forced onto her foot. My relationship with Parker is the closest thing to a real friendship I've experienced in this highly competitive industry. Physically she is my opposite, tall and slender with brown volumous hair, like the living brunet version of a Barbie doll with seemingly impossible proportions. We had slowly become friends merely by our habit of showing up to work at exactly the same time, ten till nine.
"I tried them on at the shop and they fit just fine, damn it." She flops down completely on her back, only her right foot, which I'm holding, still in the air.
Rolling my eyes I give one more pull on the strap before calling it quits. "Wear your black ones."
"Fine." One more mock sigh is let out before she bounces back up and instantly regains her bubbly composure. "How is it out there?"
"Easy. Nothing too much going on, but there's a big bachelor party that's tipping well around the stage." I glance at the clock reading 10:30, "it's still early."
"Good. Last night sucked ass. Where were you? I thought you were going to come in?"
An imagine of Michael leaned back on a bar stool laughing so hard he almost shot whiskey out of his nose flashes across my mind. "Some things came up."
"Ugh. You'd better not have been with that Drew dude again. Did you know he was in here on Tuesday? I think he was looking for you."
"God no." Drew was a guy I had been off an on with for a few months. A bartender I had met when I first when I first moved to Vegas and had unexpectantly reconnected with at a grocery store. We had tried to date. It got all weird. I was still in the midst of trying to avoid his calls. "No. I just had a few drinks with a new neighbor of mine."
"Was it a cute neighbor?" Parker's affinity for gossip was unmatched by anyone else I've ever met.
"Maybe." I answer in a tone that heavily implies she won't be getting any more information. "What was wrong with last night anyway?" It was a rare thing for her to ever complain.
"This dude was freaking me out. He came out of no where and grabbed me for a champagne hour which was awesome, but then he kept saying it was all coming to an end and that he better spend his money now because it's not going to mean anything soon. That's ALL he would talk about. The dude was batshit. It threw me off for the rest of the night."
"Weird. Sounds like the guy chose a bad night to try crack for the first time." Vegas was prone to people trying out substances in a reckless fashion. "At least he paid you though."
"True!" Her expression brightens up again. "I think I'm going to go rock that bachelor's world." A devilish smile and mischievous eyes meet mine before she grabs her black stilettos and saunters over to a mirror to straighten out her silvery outfit.
If I would have met Parker a few years back I would have hated her. I would have judged her and written her off as bimbo at first glance. As it was it took me a while to get used to her over the top ways. She grew on me though. She turned out to be much more clever than I had originally given her credit for once I got past the ditzy facade.
It takes me a few moments to unceremoniously stuff over a hundred dollars worth of ones in a dingy black bag in my locker before joining a group of girls busy in front of the massive mirrors. I scrutinize my reflection, and watch as my green eyes dart over my tiny petite body. My highly polished makeup'ed self still looks unfamiliar to me. One little adjustment on the strap of my bright seafoam green bra before I decide it's good enough.
Back out through the double doors and past the velvet curtain I begin my familiar walk around the crowded room. There are certain things you look for in this industry. Watches, shoes, things that are subtlety nice, not flashy. It's a game of calculations. Who has money and how much will they be willing to spend.
I take a moment to introduce myself to the handful of guys who smiled at me on stage. A few minutes of conversation is all that it takes to figure out they aren't spending money yet. They just got here after all, I'll give it an hour before they'll start emptying their wallets.
It took me a few months to get my strategy down. Put out tons of lines but don't go after the little nibbles. Patience. Wait for the big fish.
Parker bounces past me headed towards the stage, but not before pinching my butt and letting out a high pitched giggle. Damn her. I lean back against the wall to watch the show since there's nothing else going on. Everything happens later in Vegas, I probably won't be busy for another hour or so.
The night moves on in a whir of movement, sweat, red bulls, and little too much alcohol. My head feels fuzzy after spending two hours drinking champagne and eating chocolate covered strawberries with a wealthy investor from Denmark. Its five in the morning before I call it quits and cash in my ones and credit card money for more acceptable currency. I don't even count. It's well over a grand which is all I care about, my goal for the night.
The sky is barely hanging on to darkness as my Uber driver drops me off outside my apartment. Dawn is threatening to reveal itself above the jagged mountains. With great care I pull my tired legs up the stairs holding on to the rail and counting down the moments before I can escape into the comfort of my mattress.
It takes my sleepy, intoxicated self an extra moment of fumbling with my keys before I manage to open the door. I take a step into the room and instinct slaps me with a sickening feeling that has nothing to do with the booze.
Wrong. Somethings terribly wrong. I can hear movement coming from my left. I don't know what. A large body tackles me, throwing a tremendous force into my center of gravity, knocking me down as I scramble to reach the light switch. A bag over my head, or my body, I can't tell. I'm pinned to the floor and feel a sharp prick against my thigh before everything's gone.