Marise sat in the bright dressing room, staring at her reflection, wondering the man knew it was her. Marise scoffed at her naïve thinking. Of course he knows! When will I stop being so innocent? How did this happen to me? How will I ever face that man again? She shook her head as if she could shake her thoughts away. This wasn’t the time to pity herself. She had to make a plan. There was no way she was going to go back to Montgomery Advertising. Eyeing her reflection up and down, Marise resolved that after Mr. Montgomery saw her like this, he would fire her anyway. Still, a small part of her sent up a small prayer.
“PLEASE God, if you hear me, please don’t let him recognize me.”
For eight long months she had been at this and all was about to be lost because of him. Think, Marise, FUCK! Taking deep breaths to calm herself, Marise tried to be rational. She knew she did not look like her normal dopey, dowdy self. It would be impossible for him recognize me! He couldn’t have. I don’t not look like this at work. At her day job, she ensured her black and brown tresses were pulled back into a tight bun. She hid behind her tortoise shell glasses, and maybe a little lip gloss.
At Harem, her whorish alter ego took over. She looked at herself in the large wall mirror. Here she was Destiny, exotic dancer. The bright white bulbs surrounding the mirror mocked every line, wrinkle, freckle and mole on her face. Her make up was so heavily applied she looked like a mannequin. Her jade green eye shadow contrasted with black kohl eyeliner surrounding her eyes. She added a dot of eyeliner to her upper lip for a misleading beauty mark. She changed her normal subdued burgundy lip-gloss to a garish deep red outlined with a black lip liner.
Oh yes, she looked the part of a stripper. She fit in with the rest of the dancers as far as her looks, but only she knew the real reason she was here. After looking in the mirror, she could always pretend that it was not her up there on that stage. It was her alter ego, Destiny, on the stage. She curled her lips in disgust, almost forgetting about the man out there, her other boss, and her destined downfall. She didn’t want to lose the money that she made working for Montgomery enterprises; it took both jobs if she was ever going to pay that loan shark back. But she knew she had to quit. She could find a second job. She was a bright, college educated woman. She had the whole future ahead of her. She always felt like every day was a gift, until she met Darryl. Now it seemed like every day was a fight to survive. She needed both jobs to save her and Darryl. She wished Darryl was home enough so she could talk about this with him. She wished she could tell him that she was stripping to pay back his debt. Our debt, she chided herself. Remember that girl. He is your husband. Yeah. A husband I wish I could get to come home at a decent hour.
Marise knew her Darryl didn’t used to be the out all night type. Darryl, the smart, handsome sophomore was interested in her at their in college. He charmed his way into her heart with his sense of humor and ambition. Their final year of college, Marise discovered she was pregnant. When Darryl proposed, she should have been skeptical then. Marise winced at the thought.
She should have known something was off when he produced a ring from his pocket; sans the box she thought all rings came in. The smooth talker that he was, Darryl told her not to have any worries. Marise tried to help him with his plans to be the best entertainment agent around and his promises have them set for life, and she believed in him. They married in a quiet ceremony at the county courthouse and everything seemed to be on its way to that dream life. Sighing and rubbing the almond oil from body, Marise tried to shake off the haunting memories that always made her faint.
Too late, Marise bit the inside of her cheek as she remembered miscarrying seven months into the pregnancy. Every time she remembered seeing the small form taken from her body, she felt fresh pain. She could never stop the one tear that escaped her eye when she remembered. And she could never stave off the anger she felt at Darryl for not being there. But that is another reason that she was doing this stripping thing. Perhaps I am atoning for this marriage. If I do this right, maybe just maybe this marriage will be more of a marriage. After the miscarriage, Marise wanted to throw herself into getting her graduate degree, but Darryl disagreed. He told her she had to wait until he signed the next big star, because they would need two incomes. Marise reluctantly agreed and after bouncing from job to job for two years, she found an opening at Montgomery Enterprises.
She was the assistant to the CEO and partner, Kasen Montgomery. Now, that same CEO had just seen her mostly naked. A small shred of hope started in her stomach, as she muttered to herself “Maybe he didn’t recognize me,” so the room full of changing women didn’t hear her. Several women that had the same mocha colored skin as hers, and a few had on blue wigs and green wigs done in the same bob hairstyle. There were at least fifteen girls working tonight. It is possible that he didn’t even know. That hope started to die when she heard Fatima, the infamous house mother and lady pimp clicking down the stairs in her light-up platform shoes. She snapped her fruit flavored gum in a motion that always reminded Marise of a cow chewing cud. Fatima scanned the dressing room with her artificially blue eyes. Marise found herself praying, hoping that she would not hear her name. Fatima flicked back her golden weave and put her hands on her hips. Marise could hear her two inch nails tapping against her metal belt.
“Destiny, you got business in the VIP.” Marise swallowed and sighed. So much for him not recognizing her.
“Can’t one of the others do it? I just finished a set.” Marise urged. Her eyes drifted to Fatima’s face. He golden lips were scrunched into a scowl and her ebony toned skin shined almost blue in the bright lights of the dressing room.
Please God, show mercy, Marise thought.
“Hell no. You better get your stuck up ass out there and make that money. He specifically asked for you, Miss high-n-mighty. You betta shake your ass.” Fatima said with a sneer.
Marise shuddered and mentally shook herself off. She wiped her arms and legs free of sweat and slowly reapplied her lipstick. She felt like she was preparing for her own execution. She had been nibbling on her bottom lip as she contemplated her dilemma. She needed time to think about what to do, but she heard a grunt coming from Fatima. Glancing at the woman, Marise muttered “I’m going.” Marise stood up and stretched. She adjusted the skimpy sheer skirt and made sure her breasts stood firm in her red bikini top. Each step up the stairs and to the lounge Marise felt like a death row inmate. Dead woman walking.
Every click of her heels sounded like a gun shot in her ears. The lounge might as well have been an executioner’s block. Marise shook as the red velvet curtain to the lounge came into view. It is just another dance. It is no more humiliating than the other dances. You won’t go into work tomorrow…She tried reassuring herself as she inserted her hands into the folds of the curtain to unveil her executioner. She parted the sea of red curtain slowly and stuck her head in. She scanned the room expecting to see a room full of gyrating dancers and drunk grabby men, but it was empty. Except for him. Sitting on the velour couch, like a king on his throne, was Kasen Montgomery. For the first time, Marise was glad the room was only dimly lit with a solitary faux burning candle. He wont be able to see my body shake, Marise thought as she struggled not to tremble. Fear, she told herself, gave people an advantage over you. She walked towards the reclining lion and tried to appear nonchalant. She knew there was another bouncer watching from the double-sided mirror across from the couch. Kasen could be pegged as a cop if she wasn’t careful.
“What can I do for you Daddy?” Marise said in a pouty voice. Oh God, I am never going to be able to look at or be around this man again. No need, I’ll quit tomorrow, and at least bow out before he fires me.