A playful smirk graces my red velvet lips as I run the tip of my fingers across the hand of a man up to his shoulder. He's sitting across a metallic chair while his eyes are hooded with visible lust, seemingly can't wait to devour me. He bites his lower lip and closes his eyes as I lean my head forward and slip my hand inside his T-shirt.
“f**k,” I hear him hiss.
Him trying to restrain himself is so satisfying to watch but from what I've heard, this man is married already. The question is: do I feel guilty? No. I'm just doing my job as a stripper and no one forces him here to come; it's his own volition. I only care for the money he paid for my performance.
I straddle him and start unbuttoning the buttons of his long-sleeve shirt. I've been doing this for a year and half that I know already what drives each of them mad.
“Can't I really taste you, babe?” he asks, begging. I just smile seductively and slowly and gently grind on his lap. I'll never let anyone taste me. I promised myself not to go that far even if they pay me ten folds.
A minute after, voice sounds in my earpiece, indicating that my time is up. I get off of him and wink at the sea of people gawking at me below the stage before I pivot and head for the changing room. I hear the man call me but I don't pay him a heed anymore;my job with him is finished already.
“Hey, I'm nervous,” Jessica utters when she sees me enter the room. She is, I can tell. She's sitting in front of a mirror. She's been a stripper at this club for two years already but according to her, she'll never get used to this job. Who will anyway?
“Just do what I always told you,” I say and take the seat beside her. I roam my eyes around the room. Cheska is staring at me. The b***h who slapped me earlier because her boyfriend kept looking at me. She said that I seduced him. I wouldn't even have known his boyfriend's existence had she didn't confront me. Did she really think that I was after his boyfriend? I sneer inwardly.
I eye her up and down before I take my gaze off her. She's not worth my time.
Jessica's parents abandoned her when they found out that she got pregnant, and unfortunately it ended in miscarriage due to stress and depression. This club has been her home since she started working here. I mean it literally since she doesn't have any place to sleep in other than the club.
I furrow my brows when I notice that she is staring at me through the mirror. “What?” I ask, raising an eyebrow.
“Why?” What does she mean?
“Why are you here? I mean why did you choose to work here? I just realized that I don't know much about you.”
I bite the inside of my cheek. She doesn't know much about me because I've been avoiding her questions that will lead me to the topic that I've been trying to forget and I just don't want people to know that my parents are dead already because I know they are going to use it against me.
I trusted once but just ended up regretting it.
I'm about to say something when a voice suddenly sounds in her earpiece, saying that it's time for her to show up on stage. I put my hand across the back of her hand and squeeze it. She nods, acknowledging my encouragement before she slowly stands up and heads outside.
It's already two in the morning and my shift has ended already. I'm going home in fifteen minutes after I wash my face and change clothes. I'll just rest for two hours and work again as a cashier. Yes. I work as a cashier in the morning and stripper in the evening. If I want to survive, I have to push through my limits.
After I take my makeup off my face and change clothes, I make my way outside the club but I halt my steps when someone blocks my way. It's Nick, my suitor. I've rejected him many times but he is relentless; he never stops. He is kind and handsome but I don't think it's appropriate for me to have a boyfriend given with my current situation. It will be unfair and I'll just hurt him, but let's see how far he can go.
I flash him a smile. “Hey.”
“Hey,” he says and shyly smiles.
“Hmm are you going home? I'll drive you.”
I want to reject his offer just like what I usually do but since I'm itching to go home already I take his offer. “Sure.” his eyes brighten at what he heard, not expecting that I would accept his offer for the first time.
“You don't want to?” I arch an eyebrow.
“Huh? No. Of course, I want. I'm just caught off guard. I thought you're going to reject me again. I was bracing myself for it,” he quickly says, afraid that I will change my mind.
He steps forward and is about to hug me but I block his arms and step backward.
“Sorry. I got carried away. Let's go,” he says and turns around. I feel bad but I know I did the right thing to do. When we're outside, I notice a man in black on the road take a picture of us. Well, he takes a picture of every stripper who goes in and out of the club. According to Nail, Nickʼs brother and the owner of the club, it's for our own safety. I found it weird at first but I got used to it.
Nick opens a door for me. “Thank you,” I say and slip in.
The drive towards my apartment is the most difficult situation of my life. Nick keeps on talking and talking. I force myself to appear like I'm interested even though in reality I'm not. When we reach my place, it's like a building is lifted off my shoulders.
“Thank you so much, Nick,” I say and rapidly open the door and get out. Unfortunately he gets out too.
“No. Thank you, Valeria. You don't have any idea how happy I am.”
I smile. “Do you want to stay for a while?” I hope he will say no. Please just say no. I'm exhausted and I want to rest.
“I wish I could stay for a while but I still have something important to do,” he says sadly.
Thank god. I let out a breath of relief mentally.
“Are you sure?”
He smiles. “Yes. But can I hug you for a sec?”
“Huh? Ahh Y-yes.” I step forward and wrap my arms around him.
I knit my brows. Why do I feel like someone is watching us. Actually, in the past years, since I moved away from that family who treated me like a dog, I feel like someone has been watching me wherever I go.
Nickʼs voice snaps me back to my senses. I didn't know we broke our hugs already.
“I'm sorry. What did you say?”
“I'll go now.”
“Ahh, yes. Thank you for the drive,” I say awkwardly. When he's finally out of my sight, I heave a huge sigh of relief. However, just when I turn around, a voice suddenly sounds from across the road. I close my eyes and curse under my breath before I turn to face him. Didn't I tell him that I'm going to fully pay the apartment in two months and from what I've remembered, he agreed. So, why is he here this early in the morning?
“Good morning, Bryan,” I greet him and it leaves a bitter taste on the tip of my tongue.
He smirks. “Well, I think you already know the reason why I'm here.” he crosses his arms across his chest.
“If you're not going to pay your remaining balance in one week, you will see all your clothes on the ground.”
“What? We already have an agreement!” I roar.
He laughs. “Well, guess what? I changed my mind.” he turns around before I can retaliate.
Fuck you bald man!
“Hey. Are you okay? You're zoning out.”
I tilt my head to my colleague. “I'm fine. I'm just thinking about where I'm going to sleep starting next week,” I say listlessly and yawn. I'm behind the counter and Luz is at the other side, assisting a customer.
I'm resting the side of my head across my arm while I formulate a plan in my head. What if I'll just seduce Bryan? I shake my head. I will never do it. Just the thought of it makes me vomit.
Luz furrows her brows. “What do you mean?” she asks as she hands a customer her change.
“The landlord of the apartment I'm staying only gives me one week to pay my remaining balance. Where am I going to find that huge amount of money?” I sound like I'm about to cry.
“I can lend you, Val. How much do you need?”
“Thank you, Luz. I appreciate your kindness. But I swear you don't want to hear the amount I need,” I say and stand up when I see a customer approaching my counter. Finally, I thought they could see the negative aura surrounding me that's why they avoided my counter.
“How much do you need? Ten thousand? Twenty?” Luz asks. How I wish I only need ten thousand or twenty.
I heave a sigh. “Two-hundred thousand dollars, Luz. Two hundred.”
Luz is quiet for a moment before she says, “I'll just pray for you, Val,” she says, sounding helpless just as I am.
I think I should start packing all my belongings later or else, I'll pick them up outside the apartment. Why did Bryan change his mind anyway? I really thought my charm worked to that bald man.
“Just don't think too much about it because the more you think about it, the more it will just become unsolvable.”
“Too late. I already thought too much about it that I didn't sleep,” I say as I gift-wrap what the customer bought.
“You're so pessimistic. Believe me you will be able to pay for the apartment. If not tomorrow, then tomorrow after tomorrow. Just be positive,” she reprimands.
When my shift ends, I immediately go home to sleep. Usually, I head straight to the club but today I really need to sleep. My eyes feel so heavy that I'm afraid they will come out of their sockets. I already texted my boss that I will be late for an hour because something came up. However, his response baffles me. He texted me back that someone is looking for me but I don't respond, I'm too tired to type.
But who might be it?
When I reach my place, I drift off to sleep the moment my body touches my bed but after about thirty minutes, I'm disturbed by my phone going off. I reach my phone across the nightstand and answer the call without looking at the name caller because I already know that it's my boss. He asks me if I'm on my way to the club already and I say yes even though it's obvious that I'm still in my bed, wrapped with my blanket.
“Okay. Good. It's important, Val. It's a big offer and I want you to think thoroughly about it before you say no. Bye. See you.”
“Wait—” he ends the call before I could respond. What did he just tell me? I think an angel listened to what Luz told me earlier. My lips curve into a wide smile. I hope so. I rapidly get out of the bed and take a bath. Whatever that someone offers to me, I will accept it. Except if he requests for my body. When I'm done taking a bath and dress up, I run my way out of my room.
After about twenty-minutes, I reach the club. At the entrance, Nail, my boss, is waiting for me. He looks like he's been waiting for eternity based on his expression.
“I'm sorry I'm a bit late. There's a long traffic jam,” I reason out while I catch my breath and firmly hold the strap of my shoulder bag, feeling excited about the big offer he told me on the phone.
“It's okay. Come follow me. Let's discuss it inside.”