Maggie sprayed another cloud of perfume into the air and stepped into it. It cost her a hundred pounds a bottle but still smelled cheap, brassy almost. That’s why she’d picked it. It was the sort of detail her regular bookings appreciated.
Tonight’s client was fresh out of prison and his friend, the one who arranged the session for him, asked for her specifically. He actually used the line “Show him a good time” as if she hadn’t heard that a hundred times before.
“I just dance. Nothing else,” she’d said.
“Uhuh,” he’d said as if he’d heard that one a hundred times too.
It wasn’t a bad way to make a living, not really. The money was good and the hours were short. Still, it wasn’t what she’d grown up thinking would happen. She’d taken it up after her brother was murdered, with no man in the house she did anything she could to put her younger sisters through school.
She painted her toenails in the attic of a sunbed parlour with her foot propped up on a crate of busted tubes. The Chinatown neon washing against the back of the blinds made it hard to see where she’d missed.
Once she was satisfied she hopped out of the window onto a fire escape, and from there across into the kitchen of a Fugu restaurant. The chef nodded to her as she passed, he didn’t mind her working his club but he drew the line at her using the front door. They had a reputation to maintain.
The maître d’ showed her through the deserted restaurant to a booth and slid the bamboo screen closed behind her.
Three men sat around a table full of empty plates. Two of them leant back in the shadows, rubbing their bellies and smiling. Her client sat on a chair beneath a spotlight with his narrow hands clamped against the armrests. His thinning hair was raked across his head, wormy veins wiggled beneath the papery skin at his temples. He looked older than the forty-six they’d said he was.
Something cold popped behind her eyes. It wasn’t a face she’d soon forget. Sixteen years ago he’d killed her brother. Strangled him with his bare hands over something trivial. She’d spent every second of the nineteen month trial staring at him, hoping he’d turn around so she could look into his eyes. He never did.
He recognised her. She could see the same cold thing behind his eyes that she felt in hers. It couldn’t be a coincidence. He’d taken her brother and now he was here for her. She was probably the reward he’d promised himself to get him through his sentence. She hoped he didn’t realise that she’d recognised him.
She pushed herself forward between his legs as the music started, then put her hands on his prison-yard biceps. He was already hard and breathed in choking sips. She laid her boa across his shoulders and tracked her hands down his body until her forearms trailed across his thighs. His breath caught. His friends stubbed out their cigarettes and left the booth.
They were alone. Nothing between them but the smell of her perfume.
“I’ve waited a long time for this,” he said.
“Me too baby.” She ran her fingertips across his collarbone and slid around behind him. She suppressed a shudder as his lips trailed across her ribs.
She crossed the ends of the boa and pulled softly, schoolgirl giggled and bit his ear so he’d know it was all part of the act. He laughed too, nervous now, not so sure of himself.
She yanked the boa tight and dropped onto her back, pulled on the twisted ends and pressed her feet into the chair legs to stop him toppling. The cord pinched a folded line in his skin. His ears flushed red. His hands flailed at the air and his legs danced.
She pumped her hips to the music and hoped she’d be done before his friends came back.