I nod. “I get it.” My voice is totally flat.

All the happy vibes from earlier are gone. I feel guilt tugging at me every time my eyes glance at my boots or my hand touches my leather pants. She’s right. Mel’s so right and I’ve gotten so careless. I push off the chair and tell her, “Thanks. I’m glad you’re on my side. I need to go study for a test in the morning. I’ll catch you at lunch tomorrow.”

I walk away wondering what horrors Mel’s been through that I don’t know about. Whenever she’s warning me, I see the memories replay on her face. There’s fear in her eyes and nothing can take it away. I don’t want to get like that, and the best way to prevent it is to do what Mel said—suck up to Black, kiss Sean good-bye, and start taking new clients.

I just don’t want to…


The rest of the week passes slowly. I go to classes and try to focus, but it takes an ungodly amount of coffee. I don’t see Sean. I try not to think about him. I do my work and keep my nose in my books until I get a call from Miss Black. She has a client for me. I have to go in and chat with her before she forks over his name. Black sounds more irritated with me than normal. I tell her that I’ll be in tonight and hang up before I say something stupid.

I’ve been sitting in the diner across the street from the college, working on the outline for my semester project in Psych. I have a textbook open with colored highlighters on the table, and Post-It Notes stuck all over the book. They stick out of the sides like rainbow colored bunny ears. I’m not paying attention to who’s around me. When the waitress comes by, I order more coffee and a slice of apple pie.

“Do you want ice cream with that, hun?” She stares down at me from under a boat-load of blue eye shadow.

Marty appears from behind her and answers for me. “Hell yes. And double that. I’m sick of watching my figure. Today has pie and ice cream written all over it, honey.” The waitress looks at him like he’s smacked his head one to many times. Marty makes a face at her and she leaves. “Long time, no see. Whachya doing, slut?” Marty leans forward and tries to see my notes from across the table.

I smile at him. “Term paper. What’s new with you?” I look him over. He’s not dressed in his normal decade-specific attire. Instead, Marty’s hair is sort of messy and he has a little stubble on his jaw. He’s wearing a button down shirt with a dark brown blazer. It makes his eyes look like chocolates. “Got a new boyfriend?”

He smiles awkwardly and shakes his head. “Nah.”

“What’s with the new threads? Trying to channel GQ?”

Marty tilts his chin up and grins. “Something like that. You like?”

I nod and let my eyes slip over him again, before returning my gaze to his face. “Yeah, actually I do. It’s hot. Sure to turn a lot of heads.” I smile at him and glance back down at my outline. I’m almost done and I’ve been working for hours, so I push the book aside and take a break.

“Mmm. Maybe, but there’s only one head that I’m interested in turning.” He stretches and places one of his arms along the back of the booth.

“Does he notice you?” Marty doesn’t talk much about his love interests. I’d started thinking he was asexual. I’m glad we’re talking. It feels like it used to, before things got weird between us.

“Not so much.” He holds my gaze.

“That’s too bad.”

“Maybe. Maybe not. Everything happens for a reason, right? Maybe it’s not time to be noticed, yet. Maybe when I am noticed, things will go better because I waited. At least that’s what I tell myself when I’m crying into my pillow at night.” He winks at me. Before I have a chance to answer, the waitress sets down our plates. Marty sits up and inhales. He sighs, “My God. Ecstasy on a plate.”

The waitress snorts and walks away.

I dig in and shovel the pie into my mouth. The apples are warm and the crust is light and buttery. I think I moaned because Marty’s laughing. “Easy there, Little Miss O. I’m not into that kind of public display.”

I nearly choke on an apple. I sputter for a second. “You’re such an ass. You can make sexual remarks about dessert, but I can’t?”

“Yes.” Marty shovels more pie into his mouth, while watching me with a smirk on his face.

“Why is that?”

“Double-standard, honey. I can do a lot of things you can’t. I don’t have boobs. Get over it.” He glances around and holds up his hand. The waitress comes over. “Can I get a glass of milk? Thanks, hon.” She smiles this time and disappears. A few minutes later there’s a huge glass of milk next to him. I salivate, staring at it. “Go ahead and have some. I don’t have cooties.” Marty shoves the glass toward me. I put the cold cup to my lips and guzzle. When I put it down, there’s hardly any left. “Well, that was sexy.”

“Shut up,” I say, smiling at him. “I can be sexy. I just chose not to be.”

“Who said that wasn’t sexy? A girl tipping back a glass of milk like that? Very alluring.” He waggles his eyebrows at me. “Any girl that can swallow that much milk has gotta be good at—”

I cut him off, pointing my spoon at him. “Don’t say it.” There’s a warning tone in my voice.

But Marty is still smiling. He shakes his head. “You’re such a prude. You can put out and get paid, you little tramp, but we can’t talk about it. I thought I’d hear all about your sexual encounters. I’m starting to think your job is bogus.” Marty leans back in the booth with a self-assured look on his face.

“It is not bogus. And who uses that word anymore?”

“Nuns and cool kids. Stop dodging the question, princess.” He leans forward and puts his arms on the table. Marty reaches forward and places both of his hands on top of mine and pats me.

“Uh, there was no question.”

He cocks his head to the side. “Avery, are you seriously going to make me say it. Fine, the blank look on your face is enough. Are you going back to work this weekend?” He slips his hands back.

I nod. “Yeah, Black wants me to come in tonight. I think she’s going to kill me and leave me in the alley. She sounds pissed. I’m not really sure why.”

“You’re a high-maintenance pain in the ass, that’s why. Every time she gives you another chance, you screw it up. It’s like you’re doing it on purpose.”

“I am not! I want this job. I need this job.”

He studies me for a moment. “You really don’t mind the idea of it being some random guy this time?” I mind. I mind a lot, but it’s the best I can do. It’s like he can read my mind. Marty leans forward and lowers his voice, “Then, don’t do it. Quit.”

“What? Did you hit your head? I can’t quit. I’m going to get hit with a ton of hospital bills, plus my regular stuff. My car is totaled. I don’t have enough money to replace it and eat. It’s not like I have a choice, Marty.”

He sighs and watches me for a moment. “Then, tell me how I can help.”

“I don’t think you can, not unless you want to go shopping again. I have to but a slutty outfit tomorrow. No more wholesome girl stuff. Mel isn’t around tonight. She took a midweek client. You want to come?” Marty’s eyes drop to the table. He looks at my hands and seems like he’s lost in his thoughts. “It’ll be the same as last time, well, without Mel calling you names.”

I realize that I want him to come. Marty is one of the people that puts me at ease, and this stuff with Black has me strung out. I don’t want a new client. I want Sean, but I can’t have what I want. Besides, Sean probably had a different girl every day this week. They’re probably all tied up under his bed.

Marty touches the back of my hand. He trails his finger over my smooth skin. The touch pulls me from my thoughts. I look up at his face, into those dark eyes. “I’ll come. Anything for you, Avery. You know that.”

I let out a rush of air. I didn’t realize I was so tense about everything. I slip out of the booth and go around to his side. I slide in next to him and give him a hug. He doesn’t hug me back. Instead he puts his arm behind my neck and rests it along the back of the booth.

Marty pushes the rest of his pie toward me. “Here, finish it.”

I release him and sit up. I devour the rest of the pie like I haven’t eaten in weeks. My life is finally getting under control again.


“What about this one?” Marty asks, pulling out a tiny hanger with a red string on it. Seriously, it’s a string. I don’t even know what it is. A bottom? A bra? A shirt?

I walk over and touch it, then look up at him. Leaning in close, I ask, “What is it?”

He laughs. “I don’t know. I was hoping you knew.”

We both giggle quietly and put it back. I’m in one of the shops that Miss Black said to buy my lingerie in, but I don’t know what I want. It’s weird. Last time I did this, I thought of Sean and bought things that I wanted him to see me in. This time, I don’t even know who I’m going to be with. I guess I should pick out things for me, but I’m not really into it.

Marty wanders away, browsing racks. He picks up something white and I shake my head. I’m not making that mistake again. I tell him about the rules and he nods and wanders off. When I turn around, I see a red satin bra that seems cut so low that it wouldn’t contain my girls. I lift the hanger and hold it up.

A salesgirl comes over. “Do you like it? That’s one of our bestsellers.” I turn around. The salesgirl is a little taller than me, wearing a stunning blue dress that makes her hair look like gold. She’s smiling at me. “Would you like to try it on?”

I nod, “I think so. It seems a little low in front.”

“It’s supposed to be.” She smiles at me and must recognize the blank look on my face, because she explains. “It’s a hybrid shelf and peek-a-boo bra. It holds you up, creates beautiful cleavage, but is still revealing. The panty you had before is the matching bottom.”