“Hey, are you working tonight?” Victor asked Ingrid. He leaned against the door frame of the master bathroom and watched as she applied a coat of mascara to her lashes.
She glanced at him, then returned her attention to the mirror. “Yeah, why?” She teased her lashes with the brush, building up the volume.
“This bar’s really got you dressing up, huh?” He studied her tight jeans, heels, and her black, silky tank top.
“What are you trying to say?” she snapped, whipping her head around to face him.
“Oh, now I have your attention?” He pushed off the door frame and stomped out of their bedroom.
She rolled her eyes and returned to her makeup routine. Her hands shook as she unscrewed the cap of her liquid eyeliner, remembering a night years ago when they walked out of a movie theater, hand in hand. The movie had been about a guy’s bachelor party, and she jokingly asked Victor what he would do for his.
“I’d never go to Vegas and fuck a bunch of strippers, if that’s what you’re getting at,” he’d said, squeezing her hand. He scrunched up his nose. “I like good girls. Clean girls. Teachers.”
She blinked back tears at the memory and capped the eyeliner. It’s only temporary, she reminded herself. She tossed the liquid eyeliner into her makeup bag and pounded down the stairs, brushing past Victor. She’d have to finish her makeup at the club. She slammed the front door behind her.
* * * * *
Ingrid crawled into bed, her ears ringing with the music from the club and her knees sore and bruised from practicing on the second stage. She smiled, thinking of the piles of ones and twenties in her purse. Prez hadn’t been completely truthful; on a weeknight, she could only hope to make $200, but on a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday, she might see almost $600. As they practiced simple pole tricks, Bambi recommended she come in every night. “You’ll get better at pole tricks that way,” the dark haired girl said with a wink.
Ingrid was quickly learning they were called “pole tricks” for a reason; the pole itself spun on its own, and the girls were really only limited by their fear of heights. “I mean, there’s more to it,” Bambi called as she climbed to the top upside-down, her bare breasts poking down at Ingrid. “You’ll get the hang of it.” She turned herself right-side-up, then spun rapidly down the pole, her body moving to the music, her legs out. The crowd around Stage 1 thinned as people gathered around Stage 2 to watch the girls who didn’t seem to care whether anyone watched. Even though she fell more than anything else, Ingrid made around $250 on a Tuesday night.
She lay on her side next to Victor, whose chest rose and fell rhythmically. She fell asleep smiling.
* * * * *
When she woke up the next afternoon, she made herself a bagel and sat at the kitchen table, her laptop open in front of her. Her email was empty except for a few advertisements from Victoria’s Secret, where she bought some lingerie to fit in with the other dancers after a few nights of dancing in her own boring underwear.
She called Josalee. “Hey,” she said when Josalee answered. “I’m sorry I let you go so fast the other day. I have to tell you something.” She heard Josalee sniffle on the other end. “Jo? Is everything okay?”
“No,” Josalee sobbed.
“I’ll be right over,” Ingrid said, standing and grabbing her car keys.
She found Josalee with her head down on her own kitchen table. Ingrid sat next to her and rubbed small circles on her back. “What’s wrong?”
Josalee laughed bitterly and lifted her head. “I knew I shouldn’t have told Kimie. I knew it.” She sat back in her seat and looked at Ingrid with large, watery eyes. “She told my parents, and then my father called me. He yelled at me mostly in Japanese, but I know the words for ‘whore’ and ‘bastard.’ And then he said whatever’s wrong with my baby is my own fault.” Tears flowed down her cheeks and snot burst from her nostrils.
Ingrid glanced around the kitchen table for a napkin or tissue. The screen of Josalee’s laptop caught her eye. “Are you pregnant, Jo?” she asked, gaping at the WebMD page.
Josalee nodded, blotting her eyes with the corner of her tee shirt. “And something’s wrong with my baby,” she wept. Through her tears, she told Ingrid about her blood work.
Ingrid ran a hand through her hair, biting down on her lower lip. She stood and grabbed a paper towel off the roll above the sink and handed it to Josalee. After pacing for a moment, she took a deep breath and sat once more. “Damn, Jo.” She rubbed her friend’s back again. “I’m sure it’ll be okay. Your parents will come around.” Josalee snorted. “Well, okay, maybe they won’t, but fuck ’em. You’ve got us. I bet David’s excited!” She tilted the other woman’s chin up and smiled. “Right?”
Josalee pulled her chin away and looked down at the floor. “David doesn’t know.”
“Why not?” Ingrid asked. Josalee broke down again, tears splattering onto her clothes. “Are you guys fighting? What, he doesn’t like the guy?”
“No, Ingrid, David is the guy!” Josalee spat.
Ingrid’s blue eyes widened. “What? When?!” she blubbered. “I thought he was gay!”
“He is, Ingrid. That’s why my father said my baby is cursed.” Josalee stood and turned the burner underneath her tea kettle on. The stove clicked and flames burst around the metal, hissing. She pulled out two mugs and set tea bags in them.
Ingrid stood. “So why did you guys hook up? How does that even happen?”
“Tequila,” Josalee said, leaning against a counter.
Ingrid half smiled. “Tequila,” she repeated, shaking her head. “Yeah, that’ll do it. So what are you gonna do?”
To Be Continued…
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