Forever by Your Star

By LeeAnn Whitaker


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7 mins

Flat Broke

“Jen, you’re on!” Phil barks.
I ignore him like always. I’ll go out there when I’m good and ready. I just need a couple more minutes sat at my dressing table, coaxing my reflection not to run away from this dump. I pull out a wet wipe and scrub the bright red lipstick off my lips. I hate wearing makeup, but for my job it is a requirement. As are the six inch patent platform shoes, and the skimpy bikini. It doesn’t matter what I want here. It’s all about the customers. They pay, and I rouse them using the talents I thought one day would become some fantastic career for me.
“Give me a minute,” I yell.
I flick my long auburn hair over my shoulders, and switch off the lights around my mirror. Like every day, my butt fuses to the chair with my modesty screaming out at me- you can do better than this Jen, scrubbing toilets is more rewarding. But scrubbing toilets will not pay off my debt, put food in my baby sister’s mouth, or keep a roof over our heads. So, this is my life right now, dancing at Venus club for Berkley’s elite slime-balls.
I stand up in my clear platforms, making sure that the straps are tight so I don’t fall on my butt. Would I be wearing this god awful shoes if I was dancing with the Royal London ballet company? Hell no. But even I know that it’s no good thinking of what could have been and holding grudges. For now, the most important thing since Dad passed away, is to make sure my baby sister, Flick, wants for nothing. It was a promise I made to him on his deathbed, after he suffered a massive heart attack. A promise I have to keep.
I climb the blue lit stairs, and walk up onto the runway. Lisa has just finished her set and trots her way by me, wearing her sailor suit. She rolls her eyes. We all do it. It’s like a silent way of saying to each other the joint is full of sleaze tonight. With a weary sigh, I pick up my microfiber cloth and anti-bacterial spray, then begin to clean every inch of chrome so it’s grease free, and safe to work on.
Tonight, I have six guys sat around the base of my podium. Four are regulars, and are well known cheapskates. And there are two middle age business suits, drinking whisky, eyeing me up and down. So there is the possibility of a good earn tonight. I hang the antibacterial spray and cloth on the waistband of my gray hot pants, and quickly shimmy right to the top of my pole.
“Come on baby, I’ve been waiting for you all night.”
I wrap my hand around the cloth, release my leg grip, and quickly slide down as I wipe. Now, I bend with straight legs to enhance my butt (purposely to please my clients) then seductively, I wiggle and rub to the base. Yes, it’s all slut and smut with these moves. And yes, it’s all an act. It’s not really me at all.
With a reverse body wave, I roll up, and kick away the cloth and spray. Okay, here goes. I flip my hair back, with my shoulder-blades against the warm sticky metal. I slide to the floor, and then grind my hips upon the tiles before rolling into the splits. Like always, the guys appreciate me gyrating and using my flex. As I crawl on all fours, I see the randy eyes and money appearing. Money I desperately need. Money which I have to literally work my ass off for.
This is the part I hate the most. Yeah, I have my bodyguard watching my back. But when the money is placed on my podium, there is always one pervert who will try and cop a feel. And there he is, arched over, with his frisky fingers out waiting. I quickly snatch up a twenty dollar bill with my teeth, and scarper away smoothly. But I’m not fast enough, and his hands are now clutching at my pants. Zane, my gargantuan mute guard steps in and yanks the scum-ball through the bar.
I stagger up to my feet as my remaining clients begin to dwindle away- because I no longer reassemble their fantasy, but more a frantic inexperienced kid. All I want to do is grab my clothes, and get the hell out of here. There is no chance I can put on a show now. What kind of dough is a sobbing pathetic pole dancer going to make?
I’ve had enough, so I breathlessly charge down the runway to see Phil (the manager) giving me the evil eye. He nods his head toward my pole. I turn to see just one guy sat there. He’s different. We don’t usually get decent looking guys in here. It’s usually the kind of men who struggle with the ladies. Or the ones who will offer more money for extras, because they’re not getting any at home. This guy, well, he’s sharp, fresh-faced, and good-looking. I can tell that the gray suit he has on is designer, and not made from the cheap material you get at tailors discounts in the mall. His skin is clean shaven and smooth; a cut throat sleek. And his dark blonde hair is full and styled. I could earn good here. But I still can’t do it- not now.
I continue on my escape route, despite the furious look Phil is giving me. I don’t understand what’s gotten into him anyway. He could just throw Cara out here. She’s the sluttiest one of all, and never says no; if you catch my drift.
“Get back up there.” Phil grabs my arm.
I wrestle against his grip. “Get off me Phil, you know Zane will kick the crap out of you.” I dig my fingernails into his hand until he releases. “All I have to do is call.”
I’ve never seen him so stressed out over a girl leaving the stage before. And boy, we’ve had plenty of them come through here. Poor sweet girls, thinking they can work in a joint like this and earn good, without being harassed, touched, or tarnished. To work here, you need a thick skin; to be able to block out the scummy characters you encounter.
The only reason I’ve stuck around for so long is because of my background. Since the age of three, my dad encouraged me to pursue my dreams. Especially after Mom died of breast cancer when I was only seven, and Flick was barely out of diapers. He wanted me to remain grounded, and not go off the rails. God, if he could see me now huh? He spent every dime to ensure my talent was nurtured. Ballet school till the age of seventeen. Then I joined Berkley’s dance academy, while studying art at college.
After he died, I had no choice but to drop out. The money I earned on stage as a background dancer wasn’t sufficient. I had no choice but to put my dreams on hold, using my talents in a sleazier environment; I have bills to pay. And as much as I loved my dad, he didn’t prepare for his death. After the funeral, all that was left, was enough to cover a week’s grocery shop. He had no life insurance, and the only savings available, were mine and Flick’s college fund. My fund diminished, and fast. But I’ve managed to leave Flick’s well alone.
“Do you know who that guy is?” Phil grunts.
“Look, I don’t really care.” I peer down the stage to see him patiently waiting with a whisky in his hand.
“He’s the son of Winston Crane.” He’s presuming I know that name, but I don’t, or particularly care. “Oil tycoon?” He adds
I look at the guy again. Yes, he does look the part, and yes, there is probably a big chunk of cash in it for me. But all the pros aren’t going to make my mojo return. It’s gone out the door, with that jerk and his roaming hands.
“Look Phil, I’m not feeling it,” I grumble. “I really don’t mind if you give this one to one of the other girls.” The guy is now staring right at me, tolerantly. “Why don’t you ask Tina, she needs a break?”
“He asked for you only.”
I glance over my shoulder again. This has to be the most uncomfortable that I have ever felt up here. And now he’s seen me arguing with Phil over it, he can see I’m more than reluctant to strut my stuff for him.
“Jen, this is payday… go work you butt round that pole,” Phil orders. “Or your slots for the rest of the week are gone.” He storms off.
I blow out in complete frustration. I can’t afford to lose a week’s work. So, with my hands on my hips and my head down, I will my body to get this done.
Phil whispers in Grayson’s ear as I approach. He’s probably apologizing for my uncooperative behavior. I breathe in, swallow my pride, and with my head held high, I shimmy down the catwalk.
After I’ve completed the cleansing of the chrome ritual, I stand with hands wrapped around the metal as my signature song plays. Phil knows this is the one that will get my back into it. I pirouette so the pole runs down my spine. I close my eyes briefly, and hoist my straight leg high into the vertical splits- always with pointy toes. With a head roll and hair flick, my eyes fall onto my only customer, and immediately I regret it. I anxiously spin and climb away from his searing stare. It’s not the kind of look I’m used to receiving. No leer or smirk. The guy is actually studying my work, and intensely.
I fold my legs and grip with my thighs, letting my body fall back with my spine arched. Now, he’s rubbing his jaw, deep in thought. I let myself slide to the lit floor, and with a pensive sexy smile, I crawl to his crossed legs. I see his black shoes; classy, real-leather, and polished. I swallow down my stupid nerves, perform a back-roll, and rise up onto my open knees.
As soon as I flip my head up, I see he is bent over with his elbows on his thighs. I’m only a foot away from his face, panting, as his solid pale blue gaze lances the control I usually have. Decisively he stands, picks his jacket up from the back of the chair, and drops a thick wad of money between my open knees. I gawp at the notes as he walks away. I don’t want to pick it up. How on earth has he made me feel so cheap?
He’s gone, and now Phil is bouncing across the room energetically.
He frowns at me. “What’s wrong with you?”
I scowl. “Nothing.”
I whip up the cash and jump to my feet. I just need to get the hell out of here, and shower this crappy night off me.
I have never got home so quickly. A big chunk of money in my bag on a dark night, in the slump district of Berkley, of course had me on tenterhooks. Out of breath, I rummage in my jean jacket to pull out my keys. Dammit. The cheap fabric has it fraying tentacles wrapped around them. I yank until I rip them free, and swiftly unlock the front door.
The lounge is in darkness, and it shouldn’t be- Flick should be home. Usually she’s on the couch with her earphones in, completely ignoring me. I’m more than angry because I know exactly what she’s up to. I told her she’s not to see that little jerk Jimmy again. Not after I caught her with a spliff in her school bag. Again she hasn’t listened to me; but then there’s no surprise there. I slam my bag on the phone unit, and switch on the lamp by the door.
“Flick,” I yell.
Clearly that was wishful thinking. She wouldn’t be tucked up in bed by 9pm. I take my cell out of my bag and call her number, only to get her voicemail.
“Felicity Rose Conner, if you’re not home in ten… you are going to live with Uncle Richie out in the sticks… and I mean it Flick!”
I stab the screen and drop my cell in my bag, noticing the money I earned from Mr. mysterious. I eagerly take it through to the kitchen.
Well, it’s sure nice to see that the leak in the kitchen sink has fixed itself while I was out working.
I grew up here, and I should love this house, but I don’t. It’s damp, moldy, and everything is broken one way or another. From the damaged roof, to the makeshift flush handle on the toilet. This damn leaky sink, and the dirty puddle I’m now stood in. I was paid well tonight. But I doubt very much it will pay off the arrears I owe, and fix everything in this hole.
I place my cloth bag on the wonky kitchen table, and pull out the money Mr. Rich paid me, in return for my self-pride.
My jaw drops open. It’s all in fifty dollar bills. I wet my finger and count it over and over again. I frown in disbelief. There’s thirty of them, and if my math is up to scratch, that’s one thousand-five-hundred dollars. Jeez, it takes me a month to usually earn that. This is enough to pay off half the arrears I owe. It’s not perfect, but it will cut me some slack I guess.
I should be relieved. I am a little. I just don’t get it. What kind of guy (especially one who is obviously loaded) would go into a low class joint like Venus, and pay this amount of money for something he wasn’t pleased with? Perhaps he just stumbled through the wrong end of town, and felt he had no choice.
I open the kitchen cupboard above the toaster, and elevate on my toes to retrieve the biscuit tin I keep my cash in. All that’s in there is twenty-two dollars. I shove the fifty dollar bills to the bottom, push down the lid, and slip it right back so it’s out of sight.
The front door shuts with a bang, and in waltzes Flick with not a care in the world. She drops her jacket on the table, and opens the fridge as I glare right at her.
“You not been grocery shopping yet?” She slams the door.
My hearts booms and face inflames. “No I haven’t.”
She turns so her blonde ponytail swishes with attitude. “What’s up with you?”
“You’ve been out with Jimmy?” I ask in anger.
Her pupils spool as the sulky air emerges from her lips.
“Flick, I told you I’d call the cops on him if I found out you were seeing him again.”
She smirks. “You’re so patronizing Jen,” she yells. “You’re a stripper who shakes her ass in dirty freaks faces. So don’t lecture me on guys, like you’re some perfect moral queen.” She stomps to the door.
“Don’t you walk away,” I yell. “I’m not done yet.”
She jogs upstairs. “Yeah you are… night sis.”
I take a cheap bottle of wine out from the fridge. It’s been in there for over a month, and there’s only a quarter left. I unscrew the cap and sniff; it will do. I don’t own any wine glasses, so I use my green coffee mug instead. I stare at the dripping tap over the sink, taking a deep breath, wondering if this is it for me. A life full of struggle and stress.



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