A week later, Sophie is back from Cuba but still hasn’t called me. Even if she didn’t want to talk to me I had expected her to try to get the Carmen cell phone back by now and I’m surprised that she hasn’t. I wonder if Jeff has convinced her to give up her profession, is that why she hasn’t bothered to get her phone back now that she’s home?
by Sarah Brooke
Previous episodes of A glimpse into the shadows: An insider’s adventures in the world of escorts:
I didn’t even know that she was back in town until Carrie called me this morning to let me know that her and Sophie went out for drinks last night. Sophie must not have said anything about our fight because Carrie asks me if anything is wrong and wants to know why I didn’t come out with them last night. I tell her that nothing is wrong and that everything is fine. Carrie then tells me that we’re all going out tonight and that I have to be there. She tells me to invite Mike because she’s bringing Steve and Mel is bringing Fred. I wonder if they’ll be bringing their friend Scott for Sophie but I don’t bother to ask. I just tell her that I’ll be there and that I’ll talk to Mike about it.
It’s only been a week but things have been going well with Mike. I didn’t expect that he’d want to see me again after I brought him home from the bar only a few hours after meeting him but he’s called or texted me every day since then and he’s already came over to my place three times so far. The more time I spend with him the more I like him but I’m determined not to let myself fall for him. I have a nasty habit of falling hard for guys that show the slightest bit of interest in me and after the last time I’ve sworn to not let it happen again. I had anticipated that Mike and his friends would be a one night stand for all of us but to my surprise Carrie and Mel actually seem to like the guys and vice versa. This will be our first group date but from what I’ve heard from Mel, Fred has been at her place almost every night since they first met. I haven’t bothered to tell her to be careful and take it slow, she needs a rebound romance and I’m happy that she’s found one. As Carrie would so eloquently put it, ‘The fastest way to get over an old dick is to grab hold of new one.’ She really has a way with words.
I haven’t bothered checking Carmen’s emails or putting up ads for her. What would be the point, I have no idea if she is even taking appointments anymore. Maybe she’s decided to get out of the business entirely. Carmen’s phone has been off since the last time I spoke to Sophie, I haven’t been in the mood to talk to her clients and pretend to be her. This is the longest Sophie and I have gone without talking to each other but I’m not willing to be the first one to make contact. I quickly send Mike a text asking if he wants to come hang out with us tonight and he responds almost immediately. Definitely. Should I come pick you up or should we meet at the bar? I respond telling him to meet us as the bar and maybe we can split a cab back to my place later. I bite my lip waiting for his reply. I’m not usually so forward but I’ve been feeling much more brave lately. He writes back in under a minute. I like that plan. See you in a few hours.
I check the time and I see that it’s already 3pm. It won’t take me more than an hour to get ready but I want to apply for some jobs before I head out. I have enough money saved up to get me through a few more months of rent and bills but if Sophie is going to leave me hanging like this I won’t have any choice but to find a new job. I spend an hour and a half looking for work and applying to postings. I’m hoping to find a receptionist job somewhere but if it comes down to it I’ll start applying for work as a waitress again. I wonder if Sophie will be coming tonight but I try not to think about it, instead I put on some music and do a quick clean of my apartment since Mike will be coming back tonight and I want him to think that I’m a responsible adult who is capable of keeping a clean house. After I’ve tidied up and showered I blow dry my hair, deciding to curl it. I end up spraying an obscene amount of hairspray all over my head in an attempt to make sure the curls last and even then I’m sure that my hair will be straight again by the end of the night. I call a cab and get to work on my makeup. I try on a few outfits and decide on a pair of tight jeans and a hot pink sweater and before I can change my mind and try something else on I head outside to wait for my cab.
Twenty minutes later I arrive at the bar which is quite busy for a Wednesday night. I look around until I see Mike, Fred and Scott waiting at a large table in the middle of the room. As soon as Mike sees me he jumps up and walks across the room, meeting me at the door.
“Hey, you look great.”
“Thank you! I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that I’m the first girl here.”
“Carrie and Steve are on their way and Mel should be here any minute apparently.”
“Do you know if anyone else is coming?”
“No, just us four guys.”
“No, I mean, do you know if there is supposed to be another girl coming tonight?”
“Oh, yeah, one of Carrie and Mel’s friends is coming, they’re going to try to hook her and Scott up. I don’t think it’s very likely though, he’s head over heels in love with some girl he goes to school with.”
“Sophie?” I ask but I already know the answer.
“Yeah, I think that was her name. Do you know her?”
“Yes, she’s my best friend.” Or at least she was.
“That makes sense, I should have guessed that she’d be your friend too.”
“We aren’t exactly talking right now.”
“It’s a long story.”
“Well If you ever feel like telling me, I’m a good listener.”
“Thank you, that’s sweet of you. Let’s claim our spots at the table before everyone else gets here.”
I sit us at the end, facing across from each other. Scott is directly on my left and Fred is seated in front of him so there’s no chance of Sophie sitting near me. Mel arrives and gives Fred a big hug and sits down next to him, her arm through his.
Carrie and Steve arrive next and I can tell that Carrie is pissed off about something just by the look on her face. Steve greets everyone and takes a seat. We’re all looking through at our menus when Sophie arrives. I’m the first one to notice her coming through the door but I pretend not to see her and keep my eyes on the menu in front of me.
“SOPHIE!” Mel yells and leaps from her spot, practically launching herself at Sophie. “I haven’t seen you in so long! You look great! When did you start tanning?”
“Oh I just decided it’d be nice to see what it’s like to be tanned during the off season.”
“I love it, it looks great. What salon did you go to? You should come with me the next time that I go. I get a discount at the salon next to my work because I go there so much.”
“Sure, sure I’d love to go with you.” She completely avoids answering Mel’s question about which salon she went to and I doubt that Sophie would have been able to think of a tanning salon name on the fly.
“Hey!” I try to sound excited to see her and I stand up to give her a hug.
“Hey hun! Great to see you.” She gives me a big bear hug and for appearances sake I hug her back. Neither of us want Mel or Carrie to know that anythings wrong between us or we won’t hear the end of it for the rest of the night.
Mel introduces Sophie to the guys and when she gets to Scott’s name she gives Sophie a little nudge which is not in the least bit discreet. Scott blushes and stands up to shake her hand. Maybe he’s rethinking his dedication to his crush now that he’s seen what Sophie looks like. She’s looking especially beautiful tonight with her long blonde hair and unseasonable tan.
We make small talk while deciding what to order. Mike and I decide to split an order of fajitas and close our menus, waiting for everyone else to make their choices. He reaches across the table and grabs my hand and I can’t help but smile. Out of the corner of my eye I catch Sophie staring at us and I look her way. We make eye contact and she hastily looks away, refocusing on her menu. I’m wondering if she’s feeling a huge pang of curiosity, wanting to know all the juicy details of Mike and I’s dalliance. It’s strange that she hasn’t heard every detail about him yet, Sophie has always been the first person I talk to about anything, especially romances.
The waitress comes back and we all give her our orders. Mel is telling a story about some drunk guy who showed up at her work and started break dancing in the middle of the sales floor. Everyone’s laughing and distracted so I take the opportunity to run to the bathroom. Typically if Mel or Carrie weren’t distracted they’d make an excuse to come to the bathroom with me and we’d end up gossiping about our dates.
I’m reapplying my lipstick in the bathroom mirror when the door opens and Sophie walks in. My heart stops for a second and I cap my lipstick and toss it in my purse, taking my sweet time before turning around and facing her.
“What reason do you have to be mad at me?” I say, leaning up against the bathroom counter, arms crossed in front of my chest.
“I should ask you the same thing!”
“You come back from your trip and you don’t even text me? I don’t understand where you get off being mad at me. I did nothing wrong here.”
“Oh and I did? What did I do?”
“Seriously? Sophie, you are not using your head. Jeff is bad news. I have every reason to be worried for you.”
“But what reason do you have to be mad?”
“I can’t believe you don’t get it. You called me the first day of your vacation freaking out because that psycho went through your stuff to find out your real name. Your privacy used to be your main concern. How could you let him get away with doing that?”
“I didn’t let him get away with anything…”
“You absolutely did. He betrayed your privacy and trust and you’re just brushing it off like it’s not a big deal.”
“I’m not brushing it off. It’s just what do you expect me to do?” She says.
“Come home! You should have left his crazy ass at the resort and came home.”
“But if he did write down my address and knows where I live then it’s a good idea to keep him happy. If I piss him off he has all the more reason to do something stupid.”
“Then you move! Let’s find you a place tomorrow and move. If he doesn’t know where you live you can cut contact with him.”
“It’s not that simple.”
“What do you mean?”
“The address on my passport is my parents house.”
“I don’t know, maybe because I was living there when I got the passport? It doesn’t matter, if he wrote down the address, it’s my parents address. If he were to show up there looking for me he might end up telling them what I’ve been doing for work. That would ruin my life, Sarah.”
“So basically you’re letting this guy blackmail you.” I say.
“He hasn’t blackmailed me, I’m just worried about what he could do if I cut contact with him. I don’t think it’s worth the risk.”
“So what happens when his money runs out? Where the fuck does someone his age get that kind of money, anyways?”
“A big fat inheritance. His grandparents were extremely wealthy apparently.”
“Or he’s been stealing the money to feed his addiction to you.”
“No, it’s not like that. He’s got more money than he knows what to do with.”
“You do realize that you have no way of knowing if he’s been telling you the truth. Every word out of his mouth could be a lie.”
“I don’t think so but honestly I don’t care. What does it matter anyway? Sarah, there is no safe way out of this situation. If I stop seeing him, he could ruin my life.”
“You’re not afraid of him?”
She doesn’t answer right away. “I don’t think he’s capable of actually hurting me.”
“But he’s capable of verbal abuse, right? He called you a WHORE.”
“News flash Sarah, I AM A WHORE.”
“Don’t say that.”
“But it’s true.”
“If any of your other clients said that to you, what would you do? And don’t lie.” I say.
“I’d stop seeing him. I already know that. I know that this is a fucked up situation but I don’t know how to get out of it.”
“Let me talk to him.”
“And just what would that accomplish? Besides pissing him off.”
“Maybe if he realizes that you aren’t alone in this endeavour he’ll think twice about trying to strong arm you?”
“He already knows that I have a friend helping me out.” She says meekly.
Her admission that she’s told him about me takes me back for a second and I can’t hide the surprise from my voice. “Sophie, how much have you actually told him?”
“Not much. I don’t know. We spent a lot of time together when we were in Cuba, some stuff just came out.”
“Thanks to the margaritas?”
“No, not really. I didn’t tell him anything big or important, I just mentioned a few small details. Nothing incriminating.”
“So you blabbed about even more personal details after he pulled that shit? Really, Sophie, what were you thinking?”
“I don’t expect you to understand. I also don’t need to explain myself to you.”
“Sophie, you’re falling for this guy. I don’t know why you keep denying it but I can see it plain as day.”
“Am I? I don’t fucking think so.”
“Even if I was it’s not your fucking business.”
Neither of us says a word, we just stare at each other, the tension in the room building.
“I don’t even know what to say to that, Soph. I thought we were in this together. I thought that you valued my help and my opinion. I have done my best to try and look out for you and make sure you’re safe. I lie for you, I cover for you, I quit my fucking job for you. And this is how you treat me. If you want to fall in love with a rich client and pretend you’re living in a Pretty Woman-esque fairy tale, go ahead. But I’m not going to stand by and say nothing while you put yourself in danger.”
“You’re wrong, Sarah. I’m not in love with him and he’s not in love with me.”
“If you really believe that then you are even more delusional than I thought you were. It may not be true love, of that I am certain, but that guy is obsessed with you. How long until the next appointment, huh? You can pretend like he’s just a regular but you are not stupid, you must know the truth.”
She says nothing.
“Here’s your phone, I brought it on the off chance that you would be here tonight. You can deal with this on your own from now on, I’m not going to bother.”
She takes the phone in her hand and stares at it for a moment. I wait to see if she will say anything but she doesn’t, she just puts the phone in her purse and leaves, letting the door slam shut behind her.
I give myself a minute to cool down and then I head back out, determined to act like nothing is wrong.