“Do you think your cunt is worth two eighty?”
Ricky “Cash Money” Mouton
Thursday night, 31 March 2016, AM
GM: “Zoe,” says Christopher.
He gets down on one knee before her and clasps her hand in both of his.
“I’m sorry what I said to you. I’m so sorry. It was humiliating, it was cruel, and I didn’t want to do any of it. Your family put me up to it. Can you forgive me?”
Zoe: Zoe whimpers. She feels tears well up in the corner of her eyes as he takes her hand.
“W—why. Why would you d-do that, even if they…?”
GM: “It was all part of a plan,” Christopher says, still kneeling. “They’d think we were done with each other. So they wouldn’t be on our backs as much, after I let you move in with me.”
Zoe: She doesn’t remember walking—driving?—back to Pequod’s. Yet, it feels so natural. Maybe she’ll buy one of her favorite blondies.
“You… really mean that?”
GM: “Absolutely, Zoe,” Christopher answers somberly.
He doesn’t see nervousness in his eyes. But she sees the question. The hope, that her answer is yes.
“Are we still an ‘us’?”
Zoe: She draws her hand back, biting one of her fingertips, her nerves causing her to tense.
How can she forgive him after what he did to her?
“What about… that girl?”
GM: Christopher frowns.
His face twitches. Sweat starts to bead down his brow.
He stares ahead at Zoe, though, as if unconscious of anything happening.
“Zoe… there’s something you need to know.”
Zoe: She feels a pit well up in her stomach, and she begins to sweat herself. Oh no. Don’t puke. Don’t puke.
GM: Christopher opens his mouth.
Nothing comes out.
He gives a silent gasp and collapses forward against Zoe’s legs. His hands seek purchase along her blouse. His eyes are wide and feverish.
Zoe: “Ch—chris!” she stammers, clutching at his shirt. She steps forward, catching him as best she can, sinking to her knees with him.
“Are you all right?!”
GM: His mouth opens and closes. Nothing comes out. It reminds Zoe of a fish out of water, gasping its final breaths. The coffee shop’s lights haphazardly flicker. Shadows swim over the other customers, and there’s sounds and exclamations and people rushing up, but Zoe probably isn’t paying attention to them. Chris’ eyes bulge.
Then, just like that, they go blank and still.
His hands slacken.
Zoe: Then, just like that, she turns and runs from the shop, abandoning him in her fear to his fate, just as she did the first time.
Zoe Kelly isn’t who she claims to be.
Zoe Kelly is a coward, alone in the world, just like she deserves.
GM: Rain pours over her in thick and relentless sheets. The city’s streets are dark and long and eerily unfamiliar. Pedestrians jostle into her, tall and hard and uncaring. No one moves aside. She’s going the opposite direction as everyone else. She stumbles blindly, buffeted by the uncaring crowd. Hair gets in her eyes. Is it rain or tears that blurs her vision?
She’s swiftly soaked to the bone beneath freezing rain. She’s cold. So cold.
Then, like a flash of lightning, he’s there. Chris’ face. Staring at her through the crowd. Bulging eyes, gasping mouth, waxy pale face and sunken eyes. Like he’s been dead for a day. The other girl is there, too. Her eyes blaze with hate, but her mouth is set in a ghastly and utterly incongruent rictus grin.
Chris seizes Zoe’s hand in his. It’s ice cold. His body presses into hers as his voice croaks into her ear, a death rattle against the pouring rain,
Zoe: “N-NO! I’m—I’m not a murderer!”
She tugs with all her might, but he has her, as if a wolf took her wrists between its hungry jaws.
But she is a murderer, isn’t she? Somewhere, somehow, she knows it. It was when she willed it—when she wished he would die—that his eyes bulged.
GM: Zoe desperately tugs and flails. Hollow, heartless laughter rings in her ears as the rain pours over everything. Sight and sound dissolve beneath a deluge of misery and cold. Even Chris’ pale features swim out of focus, and for a moment she could swear they aren’t Chris’ features at all, but Rosalyn’s.
“I’m so disappointed in you.”
Her boyfriend’s corpse seizes her in its arms. Envelops her. Crushes her. Squeezes the life from her. It’s all she knows as the final blackness overtakes her. She kicks and screams and thrashes. Her skin is slick with sweat as she feels the body pressed against her with its cold feet pull away, as she flings blankets off Chuck’s bed.
Zoe: As the corpse that clings to life holds her, draining the heat from her body as if it were one with the icy rain above—one purpose, one drive—she struggles.
And then she doesn’t. She gives up. For the first time in her life, she accepts her defeat, and the punishment she deserves.
It’s easier that way, isn’t it? To just give up?
She sits up with a panic, cold sweat drenching her bare form. Her hands press to her face, blocking out the light of the room.
Or is there no light? The black of her dream is so strong that she can’t tell.
She feels around for Chuck.
GM: There’s a flush of the toilet, and then a door-shaped outline of light as a bleary-eyed Chuck walks into the dark room and plops down on the bed.
“The fuck you throwing off the blankets for?”
Zoe: Her breathing is ragged. She’s cold. Maybe he’s sleeping with a corpse.
GM: Chuck mutters something, picks them up, and hogs them around himself as he lies down, face-first against the pillow.
Zoe: She tugs on the blankets and tries to cuddle under them.
GM: Chuck seems too lazy to stop her and grunts something under his breath.
His feet are warm.
Zoe: Good. She was considering finding a lighter if he didn’t let her under.
She looks past him, checking the clock.
GM: There is no clock.
They are millennials.
It’s on their devices.
Zoe: She whines. Stupid modern era. She taps one of their phones to activate the screen.
GM: 3:36 AM.
Zoe: She huffs. Can’t sleep. Not after that. At least he didn’t yell at her. Plus, he’s warm.
Still can’t sleep.
She rolls out of bed, takes a few minutes to collect herself in the bathroom, then dresses.
Or, goes to examine what rags are left.
GM: Many of her delicates are good for little more than cleaning rags at this point. Sturdier clothes like jeans better survived their prolonged soaking in dirty water. She’s lost probably half of what she packed.
She has a particularly distinct shortage of underwear.
Zoe: “Fuck me…” she mumbles, sorting through her things. Whatever. She can live without underwear for now.
Jeans and a t-shirt it is. Top a hoodie on it, and she’ll be fine.
And an umbrella. Just in case.
She steels herself and steps into the hallway—taking the spare key he gave her for the month—and takes the elevator down.
Where does she intend to go? She isn’t entirely sure. She can go to Pequod’s, though it isn’t open this time of the night.
It only takes her a moment to realize: she doesn’t particularly care where she ends up. A bar. A club. A basement. She steps out into the night, turning left and focuses no further than one foot before the other.
April night, 2016
GM: New Orleans nightlife scene is never quiet, especially on weekends. She finds herself at what looks like a hole in the wall strip club called the Barely Legal. It’s stuck in between the plethora of restaurants and shops that line the partygoer-filled street.
Zoe: Her stomach rumbles. She’s still only had a few mozzarella sticks since she puked her candy bar up.
They have food, don’t they?
She heads inside.
GM: Unlike many of the topless establishments of the French Quarter, Barely Legal asks for no cover charge, ushering patrons straight into a neon-red world of scintillating lights, thumping music, and pole-dancing, ample-breasted women in various states of undress. Frat boys, dirty old men, sleazebag cops, and washed-up losers variously cheer, gawk, and leer at the strippers as they stick dollar bills between g-strings. An omnipresent musk of cheap perfume, sweat, pre-cum, dollar bills, and cigarette smoke suffuses the dimly-lit place. A fully-stocked bar lurks in the corner, offering a “wacky” party menu that lets patrons do everything from having the staff refer to them as “master” for $100 to managing the club for a day for $25,000.
There’s no food that she can see.
But this is the first time she’s been inside a strip club.
Zoe: No food, unless she develops a sudden hunger for eating ass, as is being borderline-demonstrated by a portly man in the corner to a woman whose ass could store a bank vault. She is sure it won’t be quite so secure, nor hard to get into.
Still, for the moment, she finds herself interested in what’s unfolding around her. Perhaps not the sweat. Or the precum. Or the— did the find that perfume in the gutter?
She crosses the room, seating herself at the bar, probably the most out of place creature in the establishment.
GM: The bartender is taking care of other patrons’ orders. He looks pretty busy. Most people here look like they’re drinking.
A middle-aged and dark-skinned man plops down next to Zoe and swings an arm around her. He’s fat and has a stained and partly undone shirt that shows off graying chest hairs.
“Lesh’ have a smoochie!” he grins, holding up a dollar bill as he leans in close with puckered lips.
He smells like the rest of the place, except even stronger. Especially of booze.
Zoe: Maybe this midnight wandering isn’t such a great idea. She cringes at first at the touch, then the thought, and finally the smell.
“I’m not a worker! Just looking for… a drink.”
That was probably a mistake to say.
GM: The man gives a drunken hiccup, then wetly plasters his half-open lips across Zoe’s face. His slimy tongue sloppily pushes into her mouth while his yellowed smoker’s teeth grind against hers. The man makes gumming-like motions as he tries to envelop his mouth all the way across Zoe’s. It feels less like he’s trying to kiss her than he is attempting to slurp down her face.
“Mm-uh-hff-uufff!” he exclaims in something like a guffaw, his nictone-flavored drool freely running down Zoe’s chin.
Even Chuck wasn’t this bad early in their relationship!
She tries to struggle out of his grip and away from him, disappearing into the crowd if she can.
GM: The man is flabby and out of shape, but he’s drunk and horny. Zoe’s head painfully clonks against the bar as the man shoves her all the way back onto it, then half-throws himself on top of her, his fat chest pressing into hers. Zoe is pinned beneath his bulk. She feels his hard cock pressing into her thigh through their pants. His hands tear at her clothes as his slobber leaks over her face.
Zoe: She can already feel the bruise that will be there tomorrow, just above her eye. That fucking hurts!
He presses her into the wooden countertop, the breath forced out of his lungs by the hundred pounds or more he has on her.
And that cock.
She wants it gone. She wants it to disappear; to explode into chunks and shrapnel and seed and become nothing.
GM: The man guffaws something past his mouth, which is still caught wetly swallowing down Zoe’s face. His fat, fumbling hands unzip her jeans and hungrily press against her sex.
Then he makes a little choking sound.
A gurgle, from the back of his throat.
His eyes bulge.
The man doesn’t get off. He collapses face-first onto Zoe, his body completely slack and motionless. Nothing stares out of his wide-open eyes.
The same nothing that stared out of Chris’.
Zoe: Zoe shrieks. She feels those grimy, sweaty palms, coated in a night of beer and unclean women and probably shit from the last time he didn’t wash his hands snaking into her pants.
He falls into her, holding her—pinning her—to the countertop, his fingers invading her.
Or is he?
With a thought—a single tower of hatred dominating her mind—he stops.
She looks, side-eyed and drenched in a vile mixture of his and her own sweat.
…and she finds a blank face. Just like Chris. As if his mind was never there at all.
“WH—WHAT THE FUCK?! HELP!”
GM: At Zoe’s scream, or perhaps the man shoving her onto the table, the Barely Legal grinds to a halt. People shout and make exclamations of alarm. Hands descend on the body, pulling it off her. Hands descend on Zoe, too. Holding her in place against the bare, her clothes rumpled and her sex exposed for all the world to see.
“What the fuck is this shit?” comes an angry voice.
The speaker resembles a beanpole that decided to grow limbs. His narrow head is only slightly widened by his black sideburns and ‘70s style coiffure. His puffy lips are pressed into a permanent smile, as if life is a joke whose punchline he alone knows. He smells of deodorant, hair tonic, tabasco sauce, and contagious sleaze that gives his tan skin an almost iridescent sheen. His outfit consists of a ballooning lime silk leisure shirt, a long brown leather coat, bell-bottom dress slacks, and crocodile wingtips. All things told, the man looks like a self-appointed Casanova who’d have a pretty hard time with the ladies… but somehow, Zoe gets the distinct impression, he’s used to sticking his cock into whatever he wants.
“He ain’t breathin’,” says a large man who looks like a bouncer, touching his palm to the man’s neck.
“He have a fuckin’ heart attack?” asks the bartender.
The strippers have stopped dancing. The men in the audience are gawking, but not at the girls anymore. Many sets of eyes come to rest on Zoe.
“You,” says the beanpole-faced man. He makes a fist in Zoe’s hair and yanks her head up to meet his eyes.
“The fuck happened?”
She spots a crescent NOPD badge clipped to his belt.
Zoe: So is streaming more tears than Niagara Falls on its worst day. Between the sudden bouts of attention, and the state of her (newly washed, barely survived) clothing, her nudity, and the fact that she seems to be the one in trouble out of this whole mess, she can’t quite handle it.
“He—he…he was forcing himself…on me, and—and—and…!”
Her words devolve into hiccups and sobs. Poor thing. What a day. What a night.
“He—I don’t know! He just fell! I—I was just looking for s-something to—directions.”
She has a feeling asking for something to eat in here will get her exactly that, and after Chuck, she doesn’t want to earn another mouthful.
GM: The beanpole-faced man looks over the body.
Then he looks back at Zoe.
There’s a dangerous look in his mud-colored eyes.
“Get the little bitch upstairs,” he says, waving at the bouncer.
Zoe: Oh. Maybe they’ll just get her out of sight.
She tries to pull her pants up once she’s let go. If.
GM: She’s not. She doesn’t have time. Zoe’s grabbed by a dark-skinned man wearing a tight black t-shirt that smells like cigarette smoke. He tromps off towards the stairs, yanking Zoe along by her upper arm. Her bare ass and pussy are exposed for all the world to see, when her pants slide down her legs, but not for overly long. The man pulls her up the stairs into a ratty-looking office, then all but throws her onto the ground.
He crosses his arms and silently stares down at her.
Zoe: She scrambles to pull her pants up, eyes locked to the floor, counting the cracks in the flooring.
GM: The man doesn’t stop her.
The clock on the wall slowly ticks.
Zoe: She murmurs, half to the bouncer and half to herself.
“I just wanted to buy some food…”
GM: The man does not answer Zoe. Just stares with his arms crossed.
The clock ticks by.
Finally, there’s footsteps coming up the creaking stairs.
One is the puffy-lipped and beanpole-headed man with the NOPD badge.
The second man might be called handsome. Might. He’s dressed in a leather jacket, dark pants, and tight black shirt. His head is shaved bald. His features are comely enough, but his too-wide smile doesn’t quite meet his eyes. His eyes don’t quite meet Zoe, either. They’re just a few inches off from her face. He slowly runs a tongue across his teeth.
Both men sit down on chairs. Zoe is left on the floor.
“You’re gonna explain this shit,” says the beanpole-headed man.
He idly takes out a handgun from a shoulder holster beneath his coat and turns it over. He doesn’t point it at Zoe.
Zoe: Why won’t the Worst Day Ever end? She could be safe in bed, even with Chuck.
He isn’t that bad.
She lifts her eyes from the floor when they enter, acknowledging the men with implicit deference in how she keeps her face largely down.
Mom, you could have given me another chance. Now…
Now she might have her brains paint the walls.
She swallows, steeling herself.
“I… don’t know. I just… tried to fight him off. I didn’t want what he did, and his heart gave out. Or something.”
GM: “Or something,” says the beanpole-faced man.
“The fuck were you doing in my club?”
He turns the gun over in his hands again.
The smiling man tilts his head, staring to the patch of floor several inches to Zoe’s left, and licks his lips.
Zoe: Zoe’s eyes flit between the wall behind the man, the man, and his shirt. She can’t seem to maintain eye contact with his face.
“I—I was just looking for directions. I—I was hungry. I’m staying with a friend. I don’t want to eat all his food.”
GM: “What is this club?” asks the beanpole-faced cop.
Zoe: “A—a—a strip club, I guess. It s-seemed cool. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to a-ask about the area, especially if I b-bought a drink or something.”
GM: “Are you a muff diver?” asks the cop.
Zoe: “A… what?”
GM: The man idly aims the gun at her.
“Do you like to slobber over girls’ cunts?”
“Do you like girls slobbering over your cunt?”
Zoe: She yelps like a wounded dog when the gun rotates toward her.
“P-please! I’m b-being honest! I won’t c-c-come by ag-gain!”
She knows that not answering probably won’t make him happy.
“I-I don’t know! I… I’ve kissed a girl once. I haven’t thought about i-it more than that.”
GM: The gun does not point away from Zoe.
“So you’re not a muff diver.”
Zoe: “I-I-I don’t know that I’m n-not one!”
Which is true, though he probably understands that Zoe will give any answer to not get shot.
GM: The man with the off-kilter gaze lets out a giggle.
The cop tilts the gun away from Zoe, then back at her.
“So you’re not sure if you’re a muff diver, you got partway there to slobbering over some slut’s cunt, you haven’t thought about slobbering over other sluts’ cunts, and you came to my club because you thought it was cool,” he says.
“Did you come here to watch sluts take their clothes off?”
Zoe: “N-n-no! I—I came because I was hungry. I thought you might h-have food, or that I could get directions to s-some; but, I m-mean. I’m not opposed to—”
She gestures around vaguely, meaning clubs, probably being misconstrued otherwise.
“It s-seems cool. Without the… what happened.”
GM: “Cool,” says the man with the gun.
“It seems cool.”
“But you didn’t come here to watch sluts take off their clothes.”
“You wanted food. From a strip club.”
“You wanted directions. From a strip club.”
“So you went to a strip club. Where you didn’t want to watch sluts take off their clothes.”
“When you could’ve gone anywhere else.”
The man suddenly leaps to his feet, clamps a wiry hand around Zoe’s throat, and presses his gun’s barrel against her head. His puffy-lipped features are set in a furious snarl, like he’s just discovering eggs pelted all over his house.
“How big a fuckin’ idiot do you take me for, you stupid whore? Why the fuck are you here?!”
Zoe: Her lips part to answer when her his hand wraps her throat, cutting off and killing any words that would have been given life.
The gun sets her to crying again.
GM: Zoe’s throat burns.
“You have ’til the count of ten before I blow your fucking brains out.”
Zoe hears the gun’s safety click off.
Zoe: “IT’S THE TRUTH!” she shouts, forcing her throat open enough to croak an answer.
“HONEST! I’ve had a real shitty day, and… I just wanted to fucking see something new!”
GM: The gun doesn’t withdraw from her head.
“Yeah? Then why’d you say you aren’t a muff diver?”
The fingers around her throat squeeze.
The other man runs his tongue across his palm.
Zoe: “I d-didn’t! I s-said I haven’t! I never tried! B-but honest! I’ve walked by this place every d-day for years, a-and I’ve never… b-because I n-never… a-and I’M JUST SHY, OKAY!”
Why, yes! I came here to rob the place. All 120 pounds, unarmed, untrained. Captain Nefarious, at your service.
GM: The other man licks his index finger, seemingly oblivious to Zoe’s presence.
“So you are a muff diver who came here to watch sluts take off their clothes,” says the cop.
Zoe: “W-well, I r-really did j-just come in t-to look! I am h-hungry.”
She is. She really, really is.
“I g-guess? Will you not sh-shoot me if I am? I r-really don’t want to be shot.”
She puts her hands up, as if swearing before a court.
“I m-meant nothing bad.”
GM: The cop lets go of Zoe’s throat.
Then he smashes the barrel of his handgun over her head. Zoe’s skull explodes in pain as she crashes face-first onto the dirty carpet.
“That guy died,” sounds the cop’s voice.
“After you tried to fuck him.”
“Dead guy scared my customers.”
“Scared customers spent less money.”
The cop’s voice is a dangerous snarl.
“You cost me money.”
Zoe: “S-sorry! It’s—it’s not my fault. H-he tried to f-fuck m-me and his h-heart..”
How is this HER fault?!
GM: With her face still pressed against the dirty carpet, Zoe can’t say the cop’s face.
But she hears the venom in his voice.
“You owe me money, whore.”
Zoe: “I-I’m s-sorry! I—I’ve got $50! Th-that’s it! I c-can get some from my p-parents!”
A crocodile wingtip suddenly comes down, hard, on Zoe’s fingers, with a grown man’s full weight behind it.
“You owe more than that, you stupid fucking whore.”
Zoe: The scream that fills the room is fit for a movie.
“I-I’ll pay you b-back! I’m s-sorry! I’m sorry!”
GM: “You sure will,” says the cop, grinding his shoe down on her fingers.
“Aaron, get this whore dancing with the others. We’ll collect what she brings in.”
“I— D-d-dancing? Like… on stage?”
GM: The cop lifts his foot off Zoe’s hand, painfully yanks her up by her hair, and shoves her at the bouncer.
The bald man’s eyes flash as he licks his fingers.
The bouncer grabs Zoe by the arm and starts tromping down the stairs with her.
Zoe: This has to be a nightmare. It has to be! She’s still at school—at Tulane, or Chuck’s apartment, or at home—and she’ll wake up soon.
Her family still loves her, and she’ll wake up soon.
She clamps her eyes shut as she’s tugged down the stairs, and opens them again.
No. Still here. Still living a nightmare. Maybe she did die. Maybe she is the one who collapsed and died in that little coffee shop.
She doesn’t struggle. She doesn’t scream. She simply follows, arm in hand.
Thursday night, 31 March 2016, AM
GM: The man’s heavy footsteps creak down the stairs. Zoe finds herself dragged into a mostly empty-feeling locker room. It smells like sweat and perfume. There’s less pre-cum and cigarette smoke. There’s around half a dozen girls in various states of undress. Most of them look like they’re putting their clothes on rather than off. Most of them look dead exhausted. They sound as if they’re gossiping and sharing stares about their shifts, but mostly they look like they’re going home.
A posted sign reads, Entertainers must stop crying before returning to the floor.
The bouncer drags Zoe up to a 30something black woman with a pixie cut and three piercings along each of her ears. She’s dressed less revealingly than the other girls in a black halter top, dark jeans, and lace-up boots.
“Cash Money wants her started,” says the bouncer without preamble.
The woman gives him a frank look. “Everyone’s leaving. That’s not happening tonight.”
The bouncer shrugs.
The woman looks at Zoe. “You danced before, hon?”
Zoe: Zoe shakes her head, pauses, then nods.
“Not, uhm… Not like this. In school. They taught us ballroom dancing. Things like this.”
“I’m really sorry. I didn’t mean to cause any problems…”
GM: “This ain’t ballroom dancing, hon,” the woman says dryly.
“All right, you’re a baby stripper. You got shoes? Clothes?” Her gaze passes over what Zoe has on. “Thong? Makeup?”
Zoe: She shakes her head.
“I—I don’t have anything. Just what I’m wearing.”
GM: “‘Kay, get those things by your first shift. For shoes you want Pleaser brand, not just whatever heels you’ll find in any girl’s closet. Those’ll kill your feet and you’ll probably fall over. Glitter is good, but you don’t want too much. Married guys don’t want it getting all over them.”
“Also, tampons. If you’re having your period, you can’t dance.”
“Other shit you don’t need but will want. Baby wipes, superglue, baby powder, mints, painkillers.”
“If you don’t have money to buy all that, you can buy it from me. Cost’ll come outta your earnings.”
Zoe: “Wh-when would my first shift be?” she asks after a moment.
GM: “Today. 6 PM.”
Zoe: And they’ll just let her walk out right now…?
“Can I… ask an obvious question?”
Zoe: “What’s to make me come back once I leave?”
She sounds nervous. She is nervous. She knows there must be something that will make her return.
GM: The bouncer grabs Zoe by the arm again and hauls her away. He marches through some back rooms and opens the door to what looks like a closet. It looks like it’s for cleaning supplies. It’s one of the most cramped, dingiest, dirtiest little rooms Zoe has ever seen. It smells awful and there are funny stains over the ground.
Zoe: “O-okay! Okay! I’m honest! I d-don’t break my word! I cost you money, and I will be back to pay you back!”
And she will pass any lie detector in the world with that.
Still, she steps in.
GM: The door slams shut in her face.
She hears a lock click.
Zoe: She huffs. She knows better than the bang on it.
“I meant what I said,” she calls through the door.
GM: Her only answer is the sound of retreating footsteps.
It’s pitch dark. It smells horrible.
Zoe: She’s not going to stand all night, so she sits, despite the grimy grossness of the closet. She can feel something sticky beneath her left foot.
They won’t leave her in here all night? All day? Right?
No one can dance and be chipper and cheerful after a full night in a closet.
She has her phone, but should she try using it? Not yet.
GM: It’s cramped. There’s no room to spread out her legs, just squat. Her company is bleach, brooms, paper towels, and rags.
Zoe: She knocks on the door. Just gently.
GM: There’s no answer.
Zoe: She huffs. She could be in bed. In luxury. With Chuck. Even with their deal, he still provides her access to the life she enjoys.
It’s uncomfortable, and she’s already getting sore, but she tries to sleep.
GM: Her task swiftly proves futile. She’s never slept in surroundings like these before. She’s not lying down. She has no blankets or pillows.
She already woke up at 3 AM.
She was assaulted. Watched a man die. Was threatened, repeatedly, with death, and beaten like a cheap whore.
By a sleazebag cop who says she owes him money.
Now she’s being forced to sell her dignity to washed-up losers like the dead man who tried to swallow her face.
She’s being held captive against her will.
In the shittiest little cleaning closet her mind could conjure.
No food. No water. No bathroom.
Nothing to do but squat until whenever they let her out.
What would her mother think? Her father? Grandpa?
Sleep does not feel as if it will come easily.
Zoe: And so she doesn’t sleep. Perhaps a wink. Perhaps a blink. No real, deep, restful, dream-filled sleep.
Like she would have had with Chuck.
She cries at points. Her stomach rumbles. She has to pee. She’s had to pee so often today.
Why did her life flip on its head so suddenly? It feels as if she really has died and gone to hell.
GM: Time crawls.
No one comes for her.
Squatting in the same position for so long becomes intolerable. Zoe has to stand up. There’s nowhere to move. Nowhere to stretch her arms. She stretches her legs, then she squats back down.
At several points, she hears light skittering sounds.
Zoe has no idea how much time passes. The pitch dark closet eventually gets lighter, though.
No one comes for her.
Maybe they’ve forgotten she’s there.
Maybe they’re just leaving her to die of thirst.
She’s so thirsty.
Zoe: Time loses its meaning when one is so long without sensory input, let alone an actual clock. Her tongue is dry. Will she be made to kiss someone? They won’t like it.
How can they like it? How can she be anything to be liked at all, caged and unfed and abused like an animal?
Is that what you want, Mom? For me to become an animal?
On and on.
The light outside dims.
There’s a clicking sound. The door opens. It’s the same bouncer.
“You’re up,” he says.
Zoe: Zoe is covered in sweat, and her stomach is roaring, and she has to pee, and she wants to puke. Her heart has been racing for the last few hours, and it’s made her exhausted.
She’s so thirsty, when she speaks it comes out raspy.
She’s still wearing her hoodie and jeans.
GM: The man grabs Zoe by the arm and yanks her to her feet.
“No, you dumb bitch, after you change.”
Zoe: She’s dragged along, and for what it’s worth, she’s compliant in that much.
“I d-don’t know how! And I need a shower! Do you want someone who sat in their stink all night—day—to dance for them?”
They probably won’t smell her over themselves.
GM: “I donno how, I donno how, I donno how!” mimics the bouncer in a shrill, whining voice.
Zoe’s hauled into the strippers’ dress room. It’s got a different vibe than last night. There’s more girls, some naked, others changing into costumes. A couple of them of them are snaring down fast food. More of them are putting on perfume, makeup, deodorant, pole grip, hair wax. Zoe sees one woman inserting a tampon inside herself.
The woman from last night is helping another upset-looking girl glue a broken heel back onto her shoe. She turns to regard Zoe as the bouncer hauls her in. A frown crosses her face.
“Right. I’m guessing you didn’t get the stuff. What’s your shoe size?”
The bouncer leaves without a word.
Zoe: She shakes her head.
“No. They left me in the closet. I’m a six-and-a-half.”
“I really have to pee. And I’m starving. Can I…?”
GM: “Oh, yeah. Cash Money does that sometimes,” the woman says absently.
She turns around, rummages through a bag, then slaps a wrapped O’Tolley’s cheeseburger into Zoe’s hand.
“Bathroom’s that way,” she says, pointing. “Give yourself a sponge bath.”
Zoe: Sometimes?! This is normal behavior?!
And not even a shower?!
Her eyes droop. She can fall asleep. She really might.
She takes the hamburger and moves toward the bathroom, stuffing as much of it down as she can before she gets there.
She strips—silently questioning herself as she does—and bathes herself. She can run. She can fight. She can do try to escape, but she knows that if she does, she might be met with an even worse scenario.
What’s a little dancing? What’s a little groping? What’s becoming the animal dear Mother wants her to become?
She isn’t good enough for her? Fine. Zoe Kelly isn’t beaten. In the battle, perhaps, but not in the war.
So what is the cost of a little groping?
The bath is quick, the burger consumed even quicker, and she returns to the room naked, looking for her guide.
GM: The bathroom is filthy. It makes the one at Tantsy’s look clean. The cracked ceramic tile floor is caked with so much filth that it shines. Toilet paper (some used) and tampons (used) are littered everywhere floor. Everywhere but the actual toilet. The inside looks like it’s never been cleaned. It’s caked almost completely brown, and smells to match.
Zoe also observes, as she squats down to relieve herself, that the door has no locks.
Mid-way through her piss, another girl walks in, glances at Zoe, then pulls down her thong. She proceeds to urinate right into the sink.
“New?” she asks conversationally.
Zoe: Zoe nods, looking around. She gathers her soiled clothing, holding them to her chest sheepishly.
“I—I guess. I’ll be working here tonight.”
GM: “Trying it out, huh?”
Zoe: She shakes her head.
“I made Cash Money mad. Now I need to make him cash.”
She amuses herself, even in the darkest times.
“…got any tips? I’m Zoe.”
GM: “Audrey,” says the girl, grabbing some toilet pepper to use on herself.
“Is that your real name?”
Zoe: She nods.
“Should I not use that?”
GM: “You’re green,” the girl remarks amusedly as she tosses the soiled TP onto the ground.
“And no, never. Not even just your first name.”
“My mom gave a guy her real name once, when she was young. Just her first name, but he tracked her down. Dunno how, but he did.”
Zoe: Zoe shudders, grimacing as if she’d just been forced to lick the bathroom floor.
“What should I call myself? Like… anything at all?”
GM: “Well you want something that’s gonna make money,” says Audrey. “Y’know, bold, exciting.”
“And also something that’s hard to get wrong.”
“Like we had a Ruby once who guys mixed up with Rudy.”
“We had another girl who was Aries, ’cuz that was her sign, and customers thought she was Harry.”
She washes her hands as she talks.
Zoe: She thinks about that. What do strippers call themselves?
“Isn’t Rudy a—guy’s name?”
She shakes her head. If the man she killed—
Did she kill him? She wished he would stop existing, just like Chris. Just like Chris before he—
No. She feels her panic spiking her heart rate.
Stop thinking about it, Zoe. Not now.
But if she did, does that mean she can…?
GM: “Yeah, Rudy is a guy name, that’s why Ruby’s bad.”
Zoe: No. Fairy tales aren’t real, Zoe. Wouldn’t it just be perfect if she could make someone’s brain leak out their nose when she wants to?
“…how about Winter?”
GM: “Winter, that’s not bad,” says Audrey as she pulls her g-string back on.
“You should have a fake real name, too.”
“Lotta guys who wanna know.”
Zoe: "I like Ruby! But I like Winter more. Can’t mistake that. Hmmm… I’ll think about a fake real name. What other advice do you have?
She’s almost forgotten that she’s naked. Almost.
GM: “Hm, smile a lot, like you’re having fun. Customers aren’t gonna wanna tip if you don’t look like you wanna be here.”
Zoe: “What if they get too handsy…?”
Is she really going to do this?
GM: “They aren’t allowed to touch,” says Audrey. “You can touch them, though.”
“I mean some will, and duh if you go upstairs, but not on stage.”
Zoe: “O-oh! So if they break the rules…? Is there a signal?”
GM: Audrey pushes open the bathroom door and walks back out towards the lockers.
“Well security’s watching, and you can tell them to knock it off, or yell. They’ll usually warn the guy and kick him out if he doesn’t stop.”
Zoe: She dips her chin. She really is going to do this.
But what’s wrong with that? Why should she care? She won’t be paid for it, but…
Maybe today will stop being the Worst Day Ever when she accepts that Zoe Kelly died, and something new rose from her ashes. Something better. Something stronger.
Wouldn’t that be something, Mom?
GM: Audrey walks up to her locker.
“Also, no offense, you kinda smell… you should go heavy on the perfume.”
Zoe: Not even the sponge bath helped. Drat.
“Borrow a spritz?”
GM: “Yeah, sure,” Audrey says as she slips on a fishnet see-through top that matches her thong. She starts doing up her face in the mirror. The lipstick she uses is very red.
Zoe: “Thanks! I’ll… be back after I get dressed.”
She wonders in what, but at least for tonight, that isn’t her decision.
She looks around for her earlier guide.
GM: She finds the woman helping another girl with her makeup.
Zoe: “Hey. I’m… Ready. Bathed as best I can.”
Which isn’t well at all.
“What can I wear?”
“And… I’m Ellie.”
GM: The woman looks her over.
“Brooke. You’ve got a ways before you’re ready.”
She shows Zoe a couple spare costumes:
Zoe: Zoe picks a black number from the bunch; the one of the lot that fits something close to her style.
She slips it on, if only to erase the fact that she’s still naked.
“Do you have any… tips?”
GM: Now she’s only mostly naked.
“Wear shoes,” says Brooke. She’s got two pairs of shoes in Zoe’s size to pick between. They’re sky-high heels with ankle straps and tall platforms.
Zoe: This one is much quicker. She snatches up a pair of pretty, pastel, and black shoes.
Is that a bubble of excitement she feels?
“That’s it? Just wear shoes?”
GM: They add at least six inches to her height after she fits them on. The combination of non-slip outer sole, heavily cushioned inner sole, and ankle support from the strap makes them deceptively comfortable to wear.
“Nah. Makeup’s next. You want bright lips and long lashes. I can sell you makeup and jewelry, or you can ask the other girls to share.”
Zoe: “I’ll see if Audrey will let let me borrow some. Be right back.”
And so she scurries back to Audrey.
“Hey. Can I borrow a bit of makeup? I’ll have some of my own tomorrow, and you can make free use of it in exchange.”
GM: Zoe nearly trips in her haste. These shoes are not conductive to running. The grip at the bottom makes her feel balanced, though, and they give her hips a very noticeable sway as she walks. Her legs have never looked better as she stares down at the world from over half a foot up.
She finds Audrey getting her own face touched up by a woman who looks maybe a decade and a half older than the 20something girl. Both of them are dressed in the same revealing apparel and platform heels as Zoe.
“Yeah, sure, no big,” says Audrey. “This is my mom, by the way, Aubrey.”
Zoe: “Nice to meet you, Aubrey! I’m Z—Ellie.”
She holds a hand out to the woman, her professional history not forgotten yet.
“You really mean it, Audrey? You’re the best!”
GM: Aubrey shakes her hand with an amused look.
“You don’t use your fake name in the dress room, by the way. That’s for customers.”
Her cheeks flush madly.
Why does she feel sorry?
“I… guess I’m up. Say, if you do well, do they let you go home…?”
GM: Aubrey laughs.
“You’re a baby stripper. It’s fine. And depends how pissed Cash Money is.”
“There was that one girl he kept for a week,” said Audrey.
Aubrey shakes her head. “Wasn’t a week. Three days, tops.”
“That’s true,” says Audrey. “I mean, if he’s really pissed, he can al…”
Aubrey mutely shakes her head.
Audrey finds a spot of makeup on her mom’s face that needs touching up.
“Earn some money, don’t cause a scene, and you’ll go home,” Aubrey says to Zoe.
“Just look like you’re happy to be here. If you see him, be friendly, and he’ll forget about you.”
Zoe: She nods. “I’ll be good.”
Be a good girl, Zoe. You’re my girl, aren’t you?
Her mother’s voice echoes in her head as if she stood right behind her.
She bites her tongue. Gently.
“Okay. Look like I belong her. Don’t cause a scene. Smile. I can do that.”
Is she telling it to them or to herself? She’s not sure.
Don’t wish for anyone to disappear.
She’s not sure she can do that.
What if she makes Cash disappear?
With Audrey’s offer, she applies her makeup to her face, taking care to paint herself a good bit more than her aesthetic calls for, but such is this strange culture.
She could have just made more mozzarella sticks.
“Thanks!” she calls, walking more carefully back to Brooke.
GM: Would Rosalyn be calling her a good girl if she saw her daughter here in a strip club?
She could have just made more mozzarella sticks.
Brooke looks her over thoughtfully.
“Looks good. You need to do your nails, though. You want every part of you to look good.”
“I can sell you polish or you can get some from another girl.”
“You need perfume, too.”
“And to pop a mint. You don’t want cheeseburger on your breath.”
Zoe: Zoe looks down at the faded pastel blue of her nails, bitten down and flaked and picked, all breaking her promise not to do any of that. She sighs.
“I’ll see if Audrey will loan me some. I’ll pick up my own for tomorrow.”
And back to Audrey!
GM: Audrey has red polish and cotton candy perfume. Her mom has Calgon body spray. Up to Zoe which she wants. They mentioned that most strippers fall into two camps, in that regard: Calgon I’m-not-even-going-to-try types, and those who swear by their Pink Sugar/famous celebrity/Viva La Juicy I-can’t-believe-she-stole-my-signature-scent-even-though-it’s-readily-available-at-Nordstrom variety.
Both women say she get manicures and pedicures regularly, if she wants to keep doing this. Part of taking care of her body.
Neither of them has a mint, but they know another dancer, Neveah, who usually has a pack of them.
Zoe: Zoe is a simple woman with a simple mission: don’t fuck this up, and don’t end up pissing off Cash. She’s fine with red polish, fine with cotton candy, and fine bugging Neveah for a mint. It all goes into the list of favors she owes in the future.
“Maybe we can go together sometime?”
She can’t remember the last time she got a manicure with anyone. Sami wasn’t ever into that.
GM: Audrey and Aubrey are both amenable to. There’s a nearby salon on Royal Street they really like.
Zoe: In the end, she approaches Brooke, and if she figure herself out, she might even look like she belongs. How strange that such a terrible, horrible, really-bad day could turn into one that makes her feel good.
Even if she won’t be paid today.
Thursday night, 31 March 2016, PM
GM: Zoe’s made to sign an extremely casual if not sloppy-looking employment contract before she’s up. A bouncer glares over her shoulder the whole time she reads it. She’s also given a locker to store her things in. Audrey and Aubrey have some last tips.
“Play up how it’s your first time, guys will love that.” “Don’t be pushy, make a little conversation if he’s into that.” “But if he doesn’t buy anything in 10 mins you’re wasting time.” “If you mess up, just keep going like nothing happened. The guys are too drunk to care.”
Zoe: Zoe stuffs her soiled clothing into her locker, slamming it shut and locking it, speaking to Audrey and Aubrey as she does.
“Okay, be a salesman. Got it. And know who’s a buyer and who’s a moocher. But don’t say that.”
She nods again, mostly for her own self-confirmation.
“What if they want to buy me a drink?”
GM: “That’s great, you want them to buy you drinks,” says Aubrey. “The bartender will just serve you water. The money will go towards the cut the club takes from your dances, so you’ll make more from those.”
Zoe: “Ooooh, I figured it’d be non-alcoholic. Oh well. Water is fine.”
GM: “They don’t want you getting drunk on stage,” confirms Audrey.
In short order, Zoe and the other strippers are ushered in. Deafeningly loud music with the beat of a jackhammer blares in her ears. Brass and chrome accents glint along her peripheral vision, from the poles where strippers try out for the nudie Olympics to the rails around the stages and bars. Pulsating neon lights illuminate just enough—and hide even more. A few TV screens show sports, just in case the live action gets boring.
There are a lot of guys. Some are there at booths along a back wall. Others by tables with upholstered chairs, which look like good spots for lap dances. Last are chairs ringing the stage, where up close and personal takes on new meaning. There’s more of them than last night. They all look the same. Washed-up middle-aged losers. Younger losers, who maybe can’t get a woman anywhere else. Drunken frat boys. Average-looking husbands and dads, maybe, if on the seedier side. Some guys look like mobsters. There are even two in police uniforms. There’s also a few women, some on their own, some with guys. Everyone is drinking. Cigarette smoke is everywhere. So is last night’s musk of sweat, pre-cum, and cheap perfume.
Meanwhile, the DJ announce the next set of girls, his voice barely audible over the vibrating bass of the music, “Cinnamon, Kaylee, Gem, Jewel, Winter. You’re up."
Zoe: Zoe wishes she had a drink in hand right now, but knows that’s only another errant thought to procrastinate her inevitable march onto stage.
In front of a crowd.
At least it won’t be a crowd that shares a circle with her mother.
She draws a steadying breath, and walks out into the booming music.
GM: Maybe Rosalyn is there, among the crowd. It’s hard to tell under the dim neon lighting, or amidst the sea of unfamiliar faces.
But Zoe has a hard time seeing her mom tolerating cigarette smoke, drunkenly waving dollar bills, making lewd jeers and catcalls, and yelling for the girls to bare their asses and take it all off.
One guy blows a wet and sloppy kiss at Zoe. Another one mimics cunnilingus. “What’ll you do for this!” yells a third, waving a $20. “What’ll you do for THIS!” exclaims a woman, waving a $50, to the laughter of her girlfriends. “I’m gonna fuck your ass ’til it bleeds black!” shouts a fourth man, loudest of all. He gets sharply told to “knock it off, buddy” by a bouncer.
Most of the men are actually fairly quiet. It’s the women who seem the rowdiest.
But all of their eyes are on Zoe, her fellows, and the brass and chrome poles they attach themselves to.
Zoe: The sheer number of women in the crowd—really, that the number is more than 0—surprises her. The rowdiness that they present surprises her a step forward. She expected to see boisterous men, and frat boys, and those well past their prime or so out of shape that a strip club is their only inlet for flirtatious accommodation.
She draws a breath, and steps out with a swagger to her poise, a smile on her face. She throws her arms up and out, jutting a hip.
They’re naked, not you. It’s them. You’re just putting on a show, right? Don’t worry about you. Worry about them.
It only works a little bit. Her heart is hammering as if a ball dropped on a taut drum, faster and faster and faster and faster.
She finds the pole, and spins as if it’s her partner, and begins. It’s sultry, and pretentious, a coy, but shy and telling of her first time dancing such a scandalous dance. She isn’t trained, and it shows, but her untrained dance is interlaced and interwoven by juts of her hip and sliding down the pole and grasping her chest and crawling toward whichever victim deigned to lock eyes with her and engage her spell.
Maybe her novelty is something endearing!
GM: Zoe’s pole dance receives a few drunken claps and exclamations. Whistles, too. The other girls are also getting attention, Audrey and Aubrey among them, but Zoe feels like she’s doing all right for herself. Especially considering it’s her first time. It’s easy to feel above all of the men, on the stage in her 7-inch heels as she swings and shakes her assets around the pole. The music thumps past the floating cigarette smoke, and staring down at her neon-painted flesh, it’s hard to imagine that Zoe Josephine Kelly was ever a girl on the straight and narrow.
She sees the other strippers leaning close to the audience so that men (and a few women) can slip dollar bills into their g-strings. A couple ‘rain cash’ over the girls and laugh as they get down on their knees to pick it up.
Zoe: The other girls are masters of their craft. At least, it seems that they are to someone so new to dancing before such a large crowd. Her focus drifts to the other dancers, taking in their various ticks and nuances as quickly as she can.
She dips to the floor, chest to the polished material and hind to some lucky gentleman—or lady—to pick up an errant pair of bills, stuffing them into her top.
GM: The other girls are doing more elaborate things with their poles. Aubrey and Audrey have a move where they grips it with both hands and splay both of their legs in the air, above their heads. That seems to draw a lot of attention. They and the other girls do more things with the pole. There’s a grace born from simple experience with it.
Zoe’s knees swiftly hurt on the stage’s hard surface, but it’s hardly as if she can collect the money by another means in 7-inch heels. Guys hoot and holler as she gets down on the floor. People stick dollar bills along her g-string and down her cleavage. Some do just that. Two get more handsy, though. One man gives her left breast a solid grope. Another guy runs his finger down along her asscrack, then smiles and licks it.
Zoe: How can he find that acrid taste arousing?! She hasn’t had a real shower in over a day! And there is—ewwww….
She wants to try more intricate incorporations to her dance, but she wants even more not to cause a scene by splitting her head on the floor.
…of course, that might turn them on more, and life would be easier if she isn’t part of it. Hmmmn.
Zoe keeps to what she knows is safe and what seems to be working: light exposure, ample movement of her hips, slipping her own hands to her chest and nethers, and collecting bills when they arrive.
She tolerates them. She may not in the future, but she doesn’t want to earn ANY ire this evening.
GM: The increasingly liquored customers all seem to like what she does and money comes in relatively steadily. It’s tricky to hold onto, past a certain point, though Zoe notices some of the other girls setting their cash down on part of the stage that’s out of reach to the customers.
Eventually, though, the song concludes and the DJ announces the next set of girls is up. The ones on-stage clamber down and head back to the dressing room to put away their money in their lockers.
Zoe: Zoe collects her winnings and moves off-stage, offering a little wink to some of her more generous donors.
When did she start sweating so much?! It was hot in the main room, but most of it is from nerves.
She shivers, thanking Audrey, and moves to store her money in the locker. It’s not hers—not tonight—but nor is she done for the evening. She’ll settle up with Cash later.
GM: “You did good, honey,” sounds Aubrey. “Just put it in the hours and you’ll get used to it.”
A quick count of Zoe’s money reveals that she’s pulled in $102.
Zoe: “You really think so? I’d love to learn some of the tricks you two did!”
One day. When there aren’t gawking drunkards.
“Do we… go back out now?”
GM: “Yep,” says Audrey as she stores her cash. “You’ll make most of your money from lap dances. And if you do really well, the VIP room.”
Aubrey checks her makeup in the mirror.
Zoe: She flushes a light shade of crimson.
“What do you… do in the VIP room?”
GM: “Pretty often you give a blowjob,” says Aubrey.
“Sometimes just more lap dances.”
GM: “It pays really well,” says Audrey. “You wanna do the VIP room.”
Zoe: “Y-yeah. Okay.”
How much does she owe Cash, anyway?
GM: “But with a condom,” says Aubrey. “You dunno where these guys have been.”
Zoe: “Blowjob with a condom too?”
GM: “You can ask for more to do without. Your call.”
“But you dunno where they’ve last stuck their pricks.”
Audrey starts running her mom’s body over with baby wipes to get rid of sweat.
Zoe: She shakes her head vigorously.
“No money is worth that risk.”
Especially because it’s all a pittance compared to…
Will she ever be taken back if this wild day gets back to her mother?
“…can I borrow one of those? I can’t give you any of what I earned yet. I don’t know how much I owe Cash, but I’ll be good for paying you back.”
GM: “Yeah, sure,” says Aubrey, passing her a wipe. She starts wiping down her daughter’s body too.
“You wanna spot yourself up after every song,” says Audrey. “You’ll probably be sweating a bit.”
Zoe: A bit? She feels like a beached whale after a sponge bath. She takes a wipe and begins to clean herself.
“Hey, um… what do we do if they touch you on stage? More than they should.”
GM: “Call a bouncer,” says Audrey.
“Well, tell them to knock it off first.”
Zoe: “How? I don’t want to cause a scene.. Or seem unfriendly to the rest of the crowd.”
GM: “Yeah, you should just let it slide if it’s not that bad,” says Aubrey.
“But just grab one’s eye and wave him over, you don’t wanna scream or anything.”
Zoe: She doesn’t want to let it slide. She doesn’t like how it felt to have that man swipe a finger through her cheeks; to see him lick and suckle as if he were a greedy child stealing a taste of someone else’s cake.
Yet, she does. She does because she’s the new girl, and she’s the one who might find herself with broken fingers or a smashed nose if she’s even perceived to cause another scene in Cash’s club.
For now, she suffers. For now, she endures.
“I guess I’ll go back out now. To the floor. Mingle, right? Sell?”
GM: “Yeah,” says Audrey as she and her mom finish wiping. She gives her makeup another inspection in the mirror.
“You just wander around the floor while the other girls on stage dance. You chat and give lap dances, see if they’ll buy you drinks, and get them up to the VIP room if you can.”
“For privacy, and more fun,” says Aubrey.
Zoe: Privacy. Fun.
She isn’t here to have fun, and she isn’t going to escape with any money, but if she keeps this up, she will escape.
Is it so bad, though? She made more money in a few minutes than many did in a full day. It’s less than her family makes in the same time.
Not her family. Her past. Her birth family.
The thought brings a note of sadness to her, which she dispels with a shake of her head and a brushing of fingers through her hair. She smiles.
“Right. Privacy and fun.”
With that, she steps out into the front.
GM: Her fellow strippers don’t sound as if they regard this as particularly fun either. Just a job.
But for the customer it’s all about the fun. The fantasy.
There’s a new song belting out over the speakers when Zoe leaves the dress room. There’s new girls dancing up on the stage and sensuously swinging against the poles. Customers are already slipping bills into their g-strings.
Zoe’s fellows from the first song are already making their rounds around the club. One girl is already giving a lap dance. Most customers not sitting up along the stage, and presumably more interested in the dancers there, are seated back along booths or at tables by the bar. They aren’t close enough to tip the stage girls.
“Remember, you’re a saleswoman,” says Aubrey, patting Zoe’s shoulder before approaching the guys at a booth alongside her daughter.
The crowd is the same one she saw earlier—it has been only a few minutes. Washed-up middle-aged losers. Younger losers, who maybe can’t get a woman anywhere else. Drunken frat boys. Average-looking husbands and dads, maybe, if on the seedier side. Some guys look like mobsters. There are even two in police uniforms. There’s also a few women, some on their own, some with guys.
Zoe: Zoe mulls over her options, keeping a faint smile on her lips as she does; something pleasant, yet simple enough to be genuine.
The younger men look to be a poor source of income. Maybe if others turn her down.
Loser. Loser. Another loser.
The fathers-probably are a healthy target. She can play the role of exactly what they aren’t getting at home; though, she’s sure that highlighting anything of the sort is as sure a way as any to be sent right to Cash’s office. Hm.
The police are a fair option, though it’s sure to be a gamble. They’re likely to be Cash’s friends, given the badge she saw the night before, and so are sure to highlight her performance—for better, or for worse.
For the moment, she saunters over to one of the male-female couples, exuding confidence.
“Hi there! Having a good time?”
GM: The man looks in his mid-late 20s. He’s brown-haired and dressed in a button-down and jeans. The woman looks around the same age, with longer dark hair. She’s got on a club dress.
“Yeah, pretty good,” he grins.
He looks Zoe up and down.
“You’re hot. How much is a BJ?”
“Trip!” says the girlfriend, swatting his arm.
“I’m just asking,” he laughs.
“We don’t want a BJ, we want a lap dance,” says the girl.
“Well, I wouldn’t say no to a BJ,” says Trip.
“I just said we wanted a lap dance,” says the girl, more crossly.
Zoe: She winks at Trip, once he says his last bit.
“We can start with a lap dance,” she hums, tapping a finger nail against the rear of his seat, taking careful care to ensure her skin finds his shoulder on the way by.
Her eyes find the girl next.
“…but for who, hmmmn? You, or… you?”
“…twenty dollars for a song, either or.”
GM: “Yeah, I want a lap dance,” says the girl. “Me first.”
Trip looks a little annoyed at that.
Neither one blinks at the price she asks, though.
Zoe: Okay. Reasonable price. That’s a good sign. They weren’t surprised, whether for cheapness or expense.
Zoe draws her fingers back, brushing the tips along his cheeks as she sweeps over to the girl.
She settles into her lap, one leg on either side, facing her.
GM: “I dunno, just do what you do,” says the girl, leaning back in her seat.
Her eyes sweep up Zoe’s body. “What’s it like to wear those costumes?”
“I thought you wanted a lap dance,” says Trip.
“Shut up, I’m talking,” says the girl.
Trip mutters something rude-sounding and takes a pull from his drink.
Zoe: Zoe slants her eyes toward Trip, her rear grinding toward into the nameless girl’s lap. Her fingers clasp around her neck while she gyrates.
“Don’t act like you get nothing out of this,” she teases the man.
“What’s your name, darling?” she asks the girl.
GM: Trip permits himself a smile, or at least less of a glower, as he watches.
“Delaney,” says the girl.
She’s still underneath Zoe, as if not sure what she’s supposed to do at this point. Her eyes wander along the other girl’s torso.
“I asked you what those costumes are like.”
Zoe: She takes Delaney’s hands, pressing each of them to her ribs, just where her skin meets the fabric of her top.
Her lips find the girl’s ear and she murmurs breathily, “…you’re welcome to feel for yourself. Just don’t get too adventurous.”
A wink, and she leans back, exposing her torso in more full for her to view—and explore, if she wants.
So Trip can hear too, “They’re fun! This is my first night in this one.”
First night ever, but they don’t need to know that.
Her gaze drifts to Trip again.
“You’re welcome to raise a bid for the next song.”
GM: Delaney feels up along Zoe’s body. She limits herself to the other girl’s stomach at first, since that’s what’s there. Then she slowly works her way up to Zoe’s breasts, squeezing them back and forth, rubbing her palms over Zoe’s nipples. The costume’s fabric is very thin.
Trip’s getting a bulge in his pants as he watches his girlfriend feel up Zoe.
“Okay, $30,” he says.
“Your dance isn’t over,” says Delaney, crossly. “Do more lap dancey stuff.”
Zoe: “Oh no it’s not,” she purrs, slipping off the girl’s lap, down down down to the floor, her fingertips dragging lightly down her arms, Zoe’s face pressing to her stomach, then her crotch, eyes angling upward.
She kneels on the floor at the end, a minor dramatic flare, then stands, turning away with a sway of her hips
“…when I’m done with her. $30.”
Tips welcome, though…
GM: Delaney looks notably more into it at that. Especially when Zoe doesn’t break eye contact. She runs her hands along Zoe’s head, pressing the other girl’s face into the space between her legs. Is she wet down there? All Zoe would need to do is pull up her dress just a bit.
Trip’s bulge gets bigger as he watches the exotic dancer entertaining his girlfriend in motion.
Delaney wraps an arm around Zoe’s shoulder and pulls her back onto her lap.
“You’re not done, you stripper,” she breathes.
Zoe: Zoe falls elegantly into her lap, her left hand finding the bare skin of Delaney’s thigh. A little higher, a little higher…
She looks back, up from under the girl’s chin.
“…you could have everything you want back there,” she breathes heavily, flicking her eyes toward the VIP section.
She kisses the underside of her chin.
“You could make him watch, or… you could have him join.”
For a moment, Zoe wonders what the fuck happened to her. It comes naturally—these words, these actions—as if she were with Chris, or with any of the other number of fantasized encounters she’s had over the years. Playing it out for real upon this woman—a customer, and her boyfriend—draws her out from why she’s here.
For a moment, she is having fun.
She doesn’t want that fun to die.
Delaney’s tug into her lap is foreign, and strange, and some not-entirely-ignorably-small part of her wants to shrug away at it; yet, in the same breath, it’s the first piece of positive validation Zoe has in what will be the worst two days of her life.
In two days—a little less—she’s gone from the pinnacle of society with dreams in the stars and a free ride to them to rubbing her ass on a horny guy and his horny girlfriend.
She’s asked many a time, but: What the fuck?!
“So you want to come upstairs, hmmmn?”
She makes a show of thinking while she slips from Delaney’s lap into her boyfriend’s, her crotch finding his—his jeans and her underwear separating—and grinding them together.
The suddenly-stripper whispers into his ear.
“…another $50 and I’ll make her cum upstairs. Another $100 and I’ll do it naked.”
GM: Chuck wanted her to suck his cock.
But that was extortion, wasn’t it, next to this? He was dangling what she wanted, shelter, in front of her, in return for sexual favors.
These two just want her.
These two will pay to have her.
Boyfriend and girlfriend grow all the more aroused at Zoe’s touch, at her kisses, at her sensuously murmured words. Delaney moves her hands down from Zoe’s breasts, and starts to fondle her ass an work towards her sex, until the other girl slips away to straddle her boyfriend. Zoe can feel her glare, but Trip pays his girlfriend barely a second glance as his and Zoe’s loins meet. He’s very hard and Zoe can feel his manhood quivering through his pants.
The man immediately reaches into his wallet produces five $20s, which he sticks down Zoe’s cleavage.
“Make her scream,” he breathes.
The two can’t head upstairs with “their stripper” fast enough, hands hungrily roaming along her scantily attired body with every step. A pale club employee directs Zoe to a comfortably seated mirror-lined room with TV screens in every corner. Past that is a private room with magenta lighting and tiger print furniture.
Trip shoves Zoe backwards onto the couch cushions. Delaney plops down next to her, planting kisses along Zoe’s neck as her hands steadily knead the other girl’s breasts in clockwise motions. Zoe’s nipples are already stiff under the thin fabric. Delaney looks like she’s wet too, judging by the stains along her panties when her dress comes partly up.
“Ah yeah, our stripper’s gonna show us a good time…” says Trip, starting to unbuckle his pants.
“Our stripper,” breathes Delaney, giving Zoe’s nipples an emphatic squeeze.
“We’re buying her. Aren’t we?” she grins, shooting a look in her boyfriend’s direction.
“You guys want some Jameson or whatever?” the club employee asks casually, sticking his head in.
Zoe: “Oooh, do you want a drink?” she asks, feigning excitement—and doing so well—while her fingers find the hem of her top, pulling it over her head with shameless haste. The timing is intentional.
“I know I do!”
Just like that, she’s back to the girl, kissing her throat, pushing her down into the cushions with unabated hunger! The longer she does this, the easier it is to slip into a natural state. She’s never slept with a woman, but it doesn’t feel quite so strange an idea in here.
When in Rome, right?
Zoe lifts Delaney’s legs up, hiking her dress and dragging her panties down her thighs. She doesn’t intend to let her answer.
GM: With her panties out of the way, Zoe finds Delaney wet and ready.
“Eat me out, you stripper,” she breathes, grabbing the back of Zoe’s head and forcing the other girl’s face against her pelvis. She looks like she’s been waxed fairly recently down there.
“Eat me like you’re getting paid for it, stripper! God! You’re so fucked up!”
“Bet your daddy molested you,” breathes Trip. He’s gotten a bottle from somewhere. He takes a glug from it one hand and strokes his dick with his other.
“Bet you’re on crack, aren’t you, with a toddler at home!”
Delaney grinds her pussy against Zoe’s face, holding the other girl’s head firmly in position with both hands. Trip holds the bottle to her mouth.
“Stripper. Stripper,” she pants, pausing to take a pull of booze. “You’re our stripper. You’re just some stripper!”
Zoe: Zoe shoves Delaney’s legs further upward, forcing her head between her thighs, her lips brushing softly against the outer lips of her sex. She wishes she’d thought to read an article on how to please another woman; but, here she is, and here she’s left with only her own imagination.
What does Zoe like?
She likes to be teased.
Her fingertips seize into the flesh of her thighs, controlling and taut, yet without pain. Her lips part, her tongue running along that lip; a hint of a presence, but only a hint.
She doesn’t answer the words. She’s busy. She tells herself she’s focusing. They’re not true, of course, but their intent doesn’t help her state.
GM: Chris ate her out before. She liked that. Just do what she knows she likes, right? Easy enough.
“Lick me, stripper!” Delaney moans, yanking Zoe’s hair as the other girl’s tongue draws teasingly closer to her clit. “Lick me! I bet you’re a lesbian! I bet you do this a TON!”
“Most strippers are lesbians,” says Trip. There’s another glug from the bottle.
Without warning, Zoe feels him enter her pussy from behind. Trip grabs her neck with one hand as he thrusts in and out.
“Ah, yeah! I’m fucking a stripper! I’m fucking our stripper!”
“Fucking our lesbian stripper!” pants Delaney.
Trip delivers a sharp smack across her ass.
“Ah, yeah! You like that? You like having a dick in you, lesbo stripper? Doesn’t it feel good?”
Zoe: Bit by bit, the words eat through her shell. Lick me. Fuck me. Lesbian this. Easy that.
Then she feels him enter her, and she nearly rockets off in revulsion.
No, Zoe. No, no no, no no no. The very worst thing you can do is anger cash, though it seems like everything is pining to make you do that.
She does pull off him just as the first thrust hits, but it isn’t with revulsion. With a faintly forced smile, she turns on her knees.
“You want to fuck me, huh?”
She checks for a condom on him.
“How much do you think that’s worth?”
GM: There is no condom.
“’Fine, ’nother $100,” Trip says impatiently.
He takes another swig from the bottle.
“Stripper! Get back and lick me!” demands Delaney.
Zoe: “Uh, uh, uh,” she answers, waggling a finger. “You want to fuck me, you need a condom, and it’ll be another $200.”
“And you can put it in whatever hole you want.”
GM: “I don’t have a condom,” Trip grouses.
Zoe: She shrugs. “I’m sure they have plenty here. And… the cost?”
GM: “Well where the fuck do we get a condom?” Trip asks impatiently.
His erection is starting to sag a little.
“Yeah, fuck that. Bareback, stripper!”
He sets down the bottle, grabs Zoe by both shoulders, and moves to re-enter her just as the male employee sticks his head back in.
He tosses one to Trip.
Trip looks a little disappointed.
So does Delaney.
“Oh. All right,” says Trip.
He fits it on.
Delaney impatiently swats the couch.
“Lick me, stripper! Eat me out! I want a lesbo stripper to eat me out!”
Zoe: Zoe breathes a quiet breath of relief when the bouncer interrupts to deliver a condom. The thought of him entering her again at the word ‘bareback’ nearly makes her hamburger rise.
Composing herself, she slips a finger between Delaney’s lips, entertaining her sex while she addresses Trip for the third time.
“Why don’t we have a race, hmn? Let’s see if you finish first… or her. After you agree to the price.”
GM: “Okay, okay, $200,” Trip says impatiently.
“Trip! Look at the lesbo stripper fingering me!” says Delaney, spreading her legs wide as she leans back against the couch.
Trip doesn’t answer his girlfriend. He just grabs Zoe’s shoulders and moves to enter her again.
“Yeah, you dirty lesbo stripper, gonna teach you to like cock…”
Zoe: If I was a lesbian, I wouldn’t be working in a primarily male domin—oh, why even waste space in my head on them? Ingrates.
She adds them to her mental journal of names she’ll hang from the ceiling when she rules the word, and moves her face forward.
Delaney’s sex has an acrid flavor to it—something salty, and sweaty, and wrong, but not so wrong that it’s repulsive. New? Strange? Foreign? She’s never tasted another woman before. Maybe it’s that. Maybe she needs a shower. She doesn’t care.
She knows what she likes—liked—from Chris, and uses those thoughts to guide her while she feels Trip enter her again.
The first time she’s been mounted by another man since—
A long time. She can picture faces, but not names. Scents, but not dates. Emotions. Mostly emotions. She doesn’t like these emotions. She doesn’t like these people. She doesn’t like their names, or their attitude, or their smell, or their feel, or how they touch her…
But they pay her—pay Cash—and so she continues.
Chuck Pavaghi. Maybe.
Delaney and Trip.
The list is growing quickly. She doesn’t even plan to let the dead rest.
GM: But not until then, neither does she.
Trip fucks her doggy style, with relish, cock steadily pumping in and out of her cunt. He grabs Zoe’s hands and pins them behind her back while she eats out his girlfriend, juices running over her mouth. Delaney growls and pins Zoe’s face against her crotch with both hands. It makes what she’s doing less, she supposes, delicate than how Chris ate her out. She can’t teasingly circle the girl’s clit with her tongue, pick how fast or slow or in what direction she goes. She just has a cunt unceremoniously shoved against her mouth. It makes her think of how Cash Money described ‘muff divers.’ “Slobbering over girls’ cunts,” he said. Zoe is definitely slobbering. She’s sloppy. She’s having it done to her, not doing it to them.
“Look at our stripper go!”
Between her pinned hands and head, Zoe is completely immobilized. It feels like she’s being used, for the two’s pleasure. She can’t talk, not really, with her face buried in Delaney’s cunt, but the girl and her boyfriend shout over her.
“God! Look at her! She’s such a slut! She’s a fucking stripper!”
“Takes off her clothes for money!”
“Fucks people for money!”
“Look at those fuck-me shoes she wears!”
“She’s a whore!”
“Bet she’s a high school dropout!”
“She’s on heroin!”
“She’s a drug addict!”
“Lost her kid to CPS!”
“She’s a stripper! Our stripper!”
“Our lesbian stripper!”
“We fucking bought this stripper!”
“Stripper! Stripper! Stripper! SHE’S A FUCKING STRIPPER!”
Zoe: Stripper. Stripper. Stripper. Stripper. Stripper.
The words echo in her head, as if she’s four years old on the playground again. Her knee bleeds, and three girls and a boy hold hands dancing and skipping a gleeful ring around her.
Clumsy! Clumsy! Clumsy! Clumsy! You know what rhymes with Zoe? CLUMSY!
She wants to cry, and she can’t stop her eyes from welling up, nor tears from flowing down her face. Is it their words? Their chiding? Or is it the sweat dripping into her eyes, searing them to moisture?
Her cunt tastes like ocean water and battery salad. She doesn’t like this. This isn’t a good first experience. She could like this.
But not like this.
Stripper. Stripper. Stripper.
She wants them to disappear.
But she blankets that thought, stifling it to blackness. The last two times she’s wished for people to die or disappear, they did. They did, and if these two do, Cash will blame her.
At least he isn’t big; smaller than Chris was.
No more Chris.
More Chuck to come.
She takes the verbal abuse in silence, servicing the girl and allowing her boyfriend to pump her.
Delaney and Trip. Remember their names.
Friday night, 1 April 2016, AM
GM: Zoe’s two customers never even ask for her name. She’s just “the stripper” or “our stripper” to them. She needs a long shower by the time they’re done with her, and pay her for the sex like a literal whore.
A long shower and her old life back.
But she’s getting neither. She’s up for her next dance. Her top needs to come off for this one, she’s told. So the men can all stare at her tits.
She does okay, she supposes. Her heart’s not really in it. She’s groped and pinched and molested and demeaned as a sex object. And paid for it, even if the crinkled bills lining her g-string feel all-too few.
The lap dance, she supposes, goes okay. The fat middle-aged guy doesn’t keep his hands to himself—so much for no contact—but he doesn’t bite on the VIP room. Maybe part of her doesn’t want him to. So she grinds against his body, and feels his erect cock through his jeans instead of in her pussy. He pays for her for the privilege, and then she finds that all of the money she made from last song’s table dance is gone.
Who stole it?
Doesn’t matter. She’s up for her next song.
That one goes better. She’s desperate to make up for the missing money. The crowd is drunker, three songs and two lap dances in. The fact she’s completely naked but for her shoes no doubt helps. The money flows as freely as the drink—even if the wandering hands and lustful touches do as well.
She winds up on the lap of a young loser who looks as if he’s never touched a breast before. He ejaculates in his pants mid-way through the dance. Zoe only gets a little wet from it.
Only a little.
She’s paid for that, too.
By the time the club closes down for the evening, at too-late-o-clock in the AM, Zoe is dead on her feet. Her shoes are comfortable enough, for seven inch heels, but her calves are stretched. Her knees are really sore from crawling along the stage’s hard flat surface to collect her money. The only thing she’s had to eat in…. 24 hours (?) is an O’Tolley’s cheeseburger that digests in her stomach like glue. Her borrowed spritzes of perfume do little to cover up her sweaty body or the fact she’s not bathed all day. The club’s odor of sweat, pre-cum, and cigarette smoke clings her like a lustful patron wanting to cop a last feel. Her nipples and ass are sore from the number of times they’ve been pinched.
The work is physically and mentally exhausting. Zoe’s not sure how any girl makes a career out of this.
But like any job one hates, there’s money to show for it.
$351, for her second set of songs and dances.
Missing at least $100 from the money stolen earlier.
$102 from her first song. $20 from Delaney’s lap dance. $30 from Trip’s. $100 to fuck Delaney. $200 to fuck Trip. $350, to be “our stripper,” undeserving of even a stage name.
$701 total, for her dignity tonight.
That’s when the Barely Legal’s manager, a sleazy-looking man with a receding hairline, pencil mustache, and an oily grin, explains the concept of “house cut.”
First, the club takes 50% of everything she makes.
She’s left with $350.50.
Then, she’s responsible for tipping the DJ and the bouncers. 10% of everything she brings in.
She’s left with $315.45.
Then, there’s something called a “house fee,” which is a fee charged by the club just to dance on their stage, no matter how much she makes or doesn’t make. That’s a flat $50.
She’s left with $265.45.
The club takes the 45 cents, because they round down and aren’t paying her in literal dimes and nickels.
She’s left with $265. For her dignity tonight.
Also, if she wants to keep dancing for the club, her costume is $50 and her shoes are $100. Brooke is “kind” enough not to ask for a payment tonight, if she comes back tomorrow, though she’ll need to leave the costume and shoes at the club.
Zoe brings up the Jameson ordered by Delaney and Trip, a detail the manager seems to have conveniently “forgotten.” He tells her that half is credited towards her earnings. $30 bottle, so $15. That brings her up to $280.
All that’s left is to see whether Cash Money is satisfied with that much.
Zoe: She doesn’t like this. She doesn’t like any of this. Not the touching, nor the staring, nor the grouping, nor the feeling that she’s no more than the inverted perversion of a ‘Where did the bad man touch you?’ doll. She’s meant to be touched. She’s paid to be touched. She’s not smart Zoe Smart Zoe died, remember? Strong Zoe died, too. Successful Zoe was hit by a car. Loving Zoe had a heart attack. The garou-that-was has become the garou-no-more; the wolf beaten and abused as if all the abusers-to-be collectively decided to explore their depraved fetish at the same time.
Then they sold tickets.
She isn’t even good at this. Not really. Not as good as she can be; as good as she thought she would be. This isn’t like school, where everything comes naturally; or, in the later portions of her educational career, with enough of a push to succeed.
Maybe that’s what she needs; to be pushed.
Hasn’t she been pushed enough?
She stares down at the palm full of grimy bills, not even bothering to count them. All that work. All that perversion, and depravity; all the poking and prodding and fucking and sweat and grease. All for the price of a nice dinner.
And she isn’t going to keep any of it, is she?
She grabs her clothing, soiled as it is, and knocks on the door to Cash’s office.
“Hey,” she calls. “Paying up.”
GM: “So come in.”
She opens the door and finds the police detective reclining on his seat, unbuckled pants lying in a pile below his hairy legs.
Audrey is giving him a blowjob.
Up close, the beanpole-faced man smells even more strongly of deodorant, hair tonic, tabasco sauce, and contagious sleaze that gives his tan skin an almost iridescent sheen. She’s not sure if the lack of neon lights makes it better or worse.
But he sees her, and his mouth spreads in a half-leer, half-grin that gives new definition to the term ‘shit-eating.’ She’s not sure if he’s sexually aroused at the sight of her, enjoying the sight of what she’s been reduced to, or both.
“How much you got, slut?”
“How much did guys pay to oggle at your snatch?”
Zoe: Zoe marches inside, stopping just shy of his desk.
“T-two hundred and eighty dollars,” she stammers, holding the neatly folded wad of bills out to him. She’s taken enough care to order and stack them. How kind.
She feels an angry spark crack inside her. She wants to lash out—to reduce him to pulp—but that spark has only ever gotten her in trouble.
Besides, it isn’t real. That would be absurd.
She shivers. Gross.
GM: “Two eighty,” drawls Cash Money as he plucks the wad of wash from her grasp.
Audrey keeps sucking his cock.
“That’s how much your cunt is worth.”
“Do you think your cunt is worth two eighty?”
Zoe: She doesn’t answer right away.
“I… I don’t know. They had fun, though—the customers—and they paid, so it must be worth something.”
“But is it… enough to make up for…?”
GM: Cash Money idly picks up the gun on his desk.
“That’s not what I asked, whore.”
He doesn’t turn it in her direction.
But he does turn it over.
“I asked whether your cunt is worth two eighty.”
Zoe: Sparks become a small, crackling fire.
“I—I think it’s worth more! ’Cause I learned! I got better! And I can get even better!”
GM: Cash Money points his gun at a bag of white powder on his desk.
“Snort some of that or you’re under arrest.”
The NOPD descent badge glints from the pants at his feet.
Zoe: He’ll probably charge her for this, too.
But she’s needed something to take the edge off for more than just these two days.
She falls to her knees, scooping some of the nefarious powder out and snorts it.
GM: It’s like coming home to an old boyfriend. Casually lying there on her bed, naked, seductive, confident that he’ll fuck her silly and she’ll beg him for seconds, and text her current boyfriend that maybe he shouldn’t come by tonight.
At first she feels her heart beating faster, and faster, and faster. Then she gets this sudden rush wash over her, both inside and out. Her body feels tingly. She’s sweating a little. She has a a drum inside of her limbs and her mouth and her brain that’s moving in sync with her heart. She has the sudden urge to talk, to explain, to listen, to DO. She wants to dance and sing and go somewhere, and take on the world. She’s on top of the world. She’s Zoe Kelly!
Oh, how she’s missed this.
How could her mom cast her out for this?
“See my junkie whore tomorrow,” leers Cash Money, cock still pumping back and forth in Audrey’s mouth.
Zoe: “H-how much do I owe you?” she asks, trying to keep her focus off the fact the fact that she suddenly wants to be happy.
GM: The leer spreads across Cash Money’s face like a cumstain through tightey-whities.
“You’ll pay us back.”
“Now get out before I throw you in the OPP male ward.”
Zoe: “Y-yes sir.”
She scurries out of the room.
And down the hall.
And down the stairs.
And across the room, pausing long enough in the changing room to put on her regular shoes and soiled clothes.
And out the door.
And only once she’s out in the Louisiana pre-dawn fog does she stop to think.
All of that—all her pain and suffering, being locked in a closet, and starved, and forced to dance, and being made to please men she wouldn’t give the time of day—is because she made a decision to stop somewhere new.
What if she doesn’t come back tomorrow? What if she chooses not to?
He’ll put our a warrant for her, probably. Somehow.
Daddy isn’t going to bail you out this time.
Neither is Mom, or her sister, or Chris. Definitely not Chuck.
All alone in the world, indebted to the worst cop she could have met. What a day.
Maybe tomorrow she’ll wake up to a cancer diagnosis.
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The dream at the start was a fantastic way to give her a little bubble of hope to burst.
The whole “I’m not a murderer!” was a great unintentional bit of foreshadowing. She’ll get there eventually. Something I’d like to have her struggle with is learning to need to kill, post-Embrace; but, we’re a good way away from that. Something to keep in mind for the future.
My initial thought in having her wander out into the night wasn’t some contrived way of getting her into sex work, but the character’s desire to force some feeling into her to balance out the rampant negativity. All the things that happened to her, she just wanted to feel the rain, focus on one foot in front of the other, and try something new.
She did intend to go in there to find something to eat. I wasn’t expecting a drunk to shove his hand down her pants, or Cash to find a way to blame her, flawed as the logic was.
I find myself both with thoughts of avoiding having her do things that would set Cash off knowing what happened to Emmett, and not wanting to let her use her telepathic blast to remove a central character because murder-hoboing isn’t really interesting, especially in a story-focused game. Those two thoughts fight with who the character is in a vacuum, and I think that affected her play in the rest of this chapter. To the point that I think I’d rewrite it, if it were my own story; but, what happened happened, and it is what it is.
I can justify her sudden interest and compliance in working there in a ‘convince yourself you like it and it isn’t so bad’ farce, and I think she would probably be interested in the work, but not in such a grimy place, and not under such heavy force to do so.
She’ll go back, for now, because she’s afraid that Cash would contrive some reason for having her arrested, and that would be the end of that, but getting out of this work will be something she wants to do soon unless it changes.
I’d like to find some way include a return to finishing her PhD and other academic interests, but that’s simply not a plausible thing to do until some balance returns to her life.