Desiree clutched the ticket in her hand. Twenty-four. The LED lights shone sixteen. Not eager to guess her upcoming fate, her mind drifted to the events of the past two months.
“Fuck! Trish, that was awesome” he said as he pulled out and laid beside her.
Desiree liked her pseudonym. It sounded fun, not trashy like her given name.
“You know what?” he continued. She lit a cigarette, ignoring him. “You’re not like the other girls. I really like you.”
Desiree had two kinds of repeat customers. There were the men who had a particular kink that she was willing to oblige. And then there was this type, the lonely ones who genuinely thought they could fall in love with a few thrusts and a hundred bucks. There was really only one way to deal with them, and that was to pretend not to know them the next night.
“I need to shower,” Desiree said without inflection, avoiding the inevitable attempt at cuddling. Kicking off her heels, she got out of bed.
“I gotta leave, hun” he said, jumping up and putting on his slacks. “Conference downstairs, but I’m here all week. Can I see you tomorrow?”
“Sure,” she lied, grabbing her purse off the bathroom door and then closing it behind her. She enjoyed her shower more than usual, knowing he wasn’t going to be there when she was done.
The night still young, she reapplied her makeup before slipping on her dress and heels. On her way out, she saw a hand-written note on the bed:
I COULD LOVE YOU. ASK FOR ANYTHING YOU WANT.
There was a blank line underneath. Desiree smirked. Grabbing the pen, she wrote “a fucking tip”.
The LED display now said eighteen.
The next day, Desiree had received a shock when a tobacco shop clerk outside her usual corner delivered an envelope. “AS YOU WISH” was on the outside. On the inside, a thousand dollars.
Her tempered excitement didn’t last long, however, as later that night her pimp had found out about the extra money. He took it, of course, but not after taking it out on her.
“I’m sorry,” she told him, shivering. “I’m just too sore. I can go down. With a discount, of course.”
Shaking his head, he sat up beside her. “What’s wrong, Trish?” he asked, not out of annoyance but with genuine concern. Desiree did not know what came over her, but she told him everything. Not just about the night before, but troubles and
feelings she hadn’t shared with anyone. By midnight, she found herself next to him, her head on his chest.
“You know I can’t have sex with you anymore.” she said, somewhat embarrassed.
“That’s okay,” he said. “This is better, anyway.”
“Maybe. If only I could charge you for talking.”
“Look. I have plenty of money. I can make sure you always bring home the right amount.”
She squeezed his hand. A tear fell.
“Twenty-one!” a voice called in the distance.
Their arrangement had worked really well for a while. Even on nights when he was not around, he gave her enough money to make it looked like she was doing business. And she felt like she was slowly developing a friend. The following month had been one of the best of her life.
But eventually word got back to her pimp that she was noticeably absent on the streets at night. She cracked under interrogation and spent a night in the hospital for “falling down the stairs.”
“Now why did I have to pick you up at the corner tonight?” he asked. She told him.
“We can’t continue like this,” she said. “You’ve been amazing, but it’s just too risky. This has to be the last time.”
He was visibly frustrated, but held her closer. “Dez, do you think we could be more?”
She looked into his eyes. “Than friends?” She paused, then couldn’t finish her thought. Averting his eyes, she choked up. “I wish he was dead.”
“I’m better for having known you,” he said through his tears. Turning her chin, he kissed her. There was no hesitation. And for the first time, they made love.
It hit the front page two days later. Double-homicide. Two men, their connection unknown to everyone except Desiree. Both dead from gunshot wounds.
And now, a week later, Desiree was broke and homeless waiting to speak with a welfare worker. She felt a tug at her sleeve, breaking her thoughts of self-pity.
“Mom, when is Daddy coming back?” His brown eyes looked up at her.
“Daddy’s not coming back, hun. Not ever again.”
Her boy hugged her leg. “Are we going to be okay?”
She found the strength to hug him back. “I hope so, sweetie. I hope so.”
The counter changed to twenty-four.