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I really needed my own place. If this story has to start anywhere, it’s at that point.
My name is Catherine. My mother calls me Catherine, everyone calls Kate, and Bobby calls me Katie. Tom calls me Cat because I hate it. Otherwise he calls me Catherine. I’m twenty-two, I’m smart, I’m not lucky. Not lately.
When I graduated from college I moved back home to Chicago to get my resume in order and apply to business school. But then the economy busted, then my parents lost an impressive amount in both stocks and real estate, and then, slightly later, my car died.
I’ve worked almost my entire life. I got a permit when I was fourteen and worked in restaurants, in bars (I was too young to work in them but that wasn’t really a problem – which I’ll get to later), I’ve worked in shitty jobs and really good jobs and usually I’ve come out ahead. I didn’t get a scholarship to college. I paid for half; my parents paid for half. It was going to be the same thing for graduate school. My parents’ half was wiped out in a few short months. My car still needed to be paid off even when it was a useless piece of junk on the street. I got so many tickets just trying to figure out what to do with it.
I did manage to get a part time reception job in the city that paid fine so long as I didn’t need rent or gas or new shoes or clothes or a computer. In a year or two I would have saved up enough for about half of what I needed, and since I was still living with my parents I was willing to wait. I’m not really that patient but I didn’t really have a choice. I’m good looking, not stupid.
But for all my patience I was still a twenty-two-year-old receptionist with an economics degree, and living with my parents.
Bobby is my boyfriend. We met at the beginning of Junior year; he was a TA and is amazing at microeconomics. Since leaving college though he’s gone off to graduate school in Michigan and I’m still stuck here, so it’s a long distance thing. Which wasn’t a problem. The problem is that I’m not really sure how I feel about him now, or how I’ve ever felt about him.
Allison is my best friend. She was a liberal arts major and wants to be an actress. I think she actually just wants to be famous, but I won’t fault her for that.
We met Tom in college.
Tom was older; he was a third year when we were just freshmen. I think somebody told me once that he had three majors in college, in three different schools. I don’t know if that’s true and I’ve never asked him but it certainly sounds like it could be true. Because that’s the kind of guy Tom is. I don’t know if he’s smart. I used to think he was smart, and he isn’t dumb, but now I think he just works hard. I say Allison and I met Tom in college but we knew him before that. He did go to our high school but we never saw him much. He wasn’t in student council, he didn’t work on the paper, he wasn’t in theatre, he definitely didn’t do sports. I think Tom worked all the time. He was usually on the fringe of school, but he always had some connection. Either we had a friend who was friends with him or gym with a girl who was dating him. I think Allison said he worked at the dock. It would explain his hands. How do I explain that, other than the obvious?
I’ll put it this way. Allison says that learning how to move on stage actually requires a class, it actually requires practice. I guess it makes sense. Being up there people are watching everything. It doesn’t make sense to see you twitching or moving around aimlessly or shuffling your feet. And your hands have to be somewhere. When Tom talks, or when he moves, you don’t realize it but he doesn’t fidget, doesn’t bounce. His hands do exactly what he says he’s going to do. Or they show you. They don’t waste time.
And Tom doesn’t waste time, as most people come to find out.
I had been back in the city for about a year. I was saving money and hating how useless I felt. Allison was looking for work and not having much luck in theatre. We got together at the gym Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (I also went on alternating Saturdays or Sundays when I could). I love Allison but we hit the gym more because we were friends than we had the same goals in mind. Allison was more fond of the stairmaster and the track and talking to guys she knew (she has been looking for a boyfriend since she and Ryan broke up two months ago but she is exceedingly conservative and better at flirting than saying yes to a date). So here’s where I got myself into trouble, maybe.
I’m good looking. I said that before and I’ll say it again to get it out of the way. I’m 5’7″, I’m a brunette, and my breasts are not as big as Allison’s. She has full, heavy boobs that droop lower on her chest. My breasts are Cs (bigger when I’m on my period) but they’re higher on my chest and rounder than Allison’s. Some guys prefer hers. Most guys prefer me. I have long legs. I’ve never measured but it always seems to me when I squint in the mirror that my legs are longer than the rest of me. To compensate canlı bahis for that (I was self conscious when I was younger – still am), I went to the gym a lot. And then my ass got really round. Which I was self conscious about. So I started doing sit ups every day. And I run. A lot.
I also eat a lot, but nobody knows that. I say a lot – for a girl that just means more than you’d think. I used to purge in high school but I gave that up when I found out that my girlfriends were idiots. I do occasionally feel the urge to throw up but I don’t. I eat carrots instead. Or I run. I spend an inordinate amount of time working out. In fact, when I’m not working, I’m working out. I seldom drink anymore because I don’t like to count calories when I’m drinking. I won’t lie; recently, I have developed more of a tummy than I’d like, but my sides are still flat and Bobby tells me it’s sexy. I’m not really sure now.
I have green eyes. Dark green eyes, and long lashes. And my arms, for what it’s worth (and guys don’t know) are extremely strong. I can pin Bobby to the bed with my legs, but I don’t because it makes him nervous.
So I’m pretty, but I’ve always been pretty and it’s been very helpful getting jobs. It has not been helpful getting hit on. When I was younger I was embarrassed, when I was in high school I was flattered, in college I would either feel empowered or weird about it. Now I wish every job interviewer would stop staring at my chest, or my neck, or my shoulder, or my ass. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for the way I look, but I look this way because I work hard. Allison is my height and nearly the same weight, but she’s not toned, anywhere. Though guys don’t seem to mind unless we’re standing next to each other.
I guess that’s sort of my point, in that you can look however you want to look, but you’re considered attractive for any number of reasons.
How do I feel about sex? I like sex. Girls that look like me get reputations for being sluts or ice queens. I’ve been called both. I’ve also been called “whore” and “bitch” and “cock tease” and I didn’t like that either. Bobby once told me, as a joke, “Girls don’t get to be hot and have feelings, too.” It certainly feels that way sometimes. Bobby waited for me to laugh. I didn’t.
But I guess I’ve been all those things. I had sex with the boys I wanted to have sex with, my boyfriends. I didn’t talk to guys that were slobbering over themselves or who were so deluded by their own bravado that they thought it was a real big honor for them to even notice me. And I didn’t have sex with the boys I didn’t want to have sex with, and sometimes those were my boyfriends too.
I don’t know how much sex is too much. I don’t know how much is too little. (Bobby and I pretty much stay in all day whenever he gets back from Michigan, and when he’s gone I definitely feel like I’m deprived.) I had more sex with the boys I enjoyed it with. But almost all of the sex I’ve had is either a fast and furious affair or a long but repetitive process. I’m not that creative myself. I’ve never really been sure what boys expect, and I’m beginning to fear that because of how I look, or what I look like, boys don’t want to tell me. (I have had the distinct displeasure of being “told” what to do in bed by a guy or two who thought he was being my “daddy.” I wasn’t impressed and I don’t like being hit. I stepped on his balls when he tried it again and I guess that’s where the “cock tease” nickname started.) So though I’m no stranger in the bedroom I’ve never really done anything you haven’t done. I’ve just probably done a lot more cardio. (Usually a lot more than the guy who’s showing me a good time.)
But when boys are so nervous just talking to you you tend to stick with your girlfriends and like what they like, diss who they diss, learn what they have to say, try to say it back. I’ve often wanted to experiment but I don’t think I’ve ever been sure what it means, or what I mean by that.
I guess I just have an open mind about it.
In the meantime, stuck at home and working, aside from Allison I’ve had a lot of time by myself. My parents are there in the mornings and late at night (and the weekends; but I work weekends) and Bobby’s in Michigan.
I used to love Bobby. He’s smart, he’s tall, he’s got the whole ten year plan thing covered. I still love Bobby, in a way. But I don’t love him the way I did two years ago. We’re moving apart, and we feel that, but it’s a steady thing at least having somebody, even when they’re gone for months at a time.
So my schedule is pretty set. Work as much as my part time job allows; save as much as I can; go to the gym with Allison in the early mornings or evenings. That’s it, really.
That was it.
And then, well, things took a turn.
* * *
Tom worked in the city, too, and he went to the same gym that we did. Allison and he had a few classes in college together and had struck up a friendship then. She invited him to our sorority parties and he bahis siteleri came, sometimes with a girl, sometimes with a few friends from his job, had a few drinks, and disappeared politely. It’s my suspicion that Allison and he hooked up sometime in our senior year. Allison denies it, but I always thought she had a crush on him.
But Tom was Tom. He wasn’t bad looking. He wasn’t handsome like Bobby was but he didn’t look bad. He didn’t slouch, he had dark hair and he was in good shape. And he was usually pretty quiet. At some point after his graduation he had ended up working for a major law firm (or so I heard). He did well for himself, and that was why we never had any compunctions against him taking us out for smoothies after the gym.
If that seems unlike the picture of Tom I’ve painted before, it is. The smoothies were Allison’s idea, and Tom seemed to like to listen to her talk about theatre. Again, I thought it was because there was a crush going on, either one way or both ways. But I honestly think Tom just liked listening to us talk. He was 25 or 26 at this point and he was always busy. He worked seven days a week, and at strange hours. We all usually ended up at the gym at the same time and afterwards we’d walk across the street.
It was almost June, almost a year since I’d graduated college, and one fairly ordinary day when Tom made his “indecent proposal,” as Allison called it. I wasn’t listening to the first part, idly sipping at my raspberry smoothie and thinking about the last time I’d seen Bobby – then thinking about the last time I’d talked to Bobby, which was last night, and the argument we’d had. I didn’t remember what it was about, only that I was feeling pissy and vindictive.
Suddenly Allison covered her mouth and made a deep, histrionic gasp. I turned from her to Tom. “What?” I said.
“You don’t think that’s sick?”
I had completely spaced out. I glanced at Tom. His expression hadn’t changed. He seemed as reserved and measured as always. I looked back at Allison. She was flushed. “What?” I said again.
Tom cleared his throat. “Allison is reacting to an idea of mine, one she finds distasteful.”
For the third time I said, “What?”
Tom studied me. Our social interactions up till this point had been a handful of small talk at parties and this past month or two of half hour smoothie chats. I watched him trace my forehead and nose and stop at my eyes. “I work a lot,” he said. “I don’t have time for a girlfriend. But every time I get to the gym I see women everywhere.”
“Women are everywhere,” I agreed.
He smiled. “True, but in the gym there is a particular kind of woman, a woman, or a girl, who’s in shape, someone who’s taken care of themselves.” He sighed. “Just beautiful girls, really.”
Allison made another disgusted sound and he seemed to enjoy it. He continued, “I have a lot of respect for hard work. I was thinking how much dedication it takes to get that way-“
“It does,” I said.
“Well you’re an excellent example, Catherine. It’s why I seldom have anything to say to you. You’ve sculpted yourself, inside and out maybe. What would someone like you have to say to someone like me?”
I rolled my eyes. He still watched me intently. “It occurs to me that while I don’t have the time to find a girlfriend, I would love to be able to pay a girl, someone who’s taken care of themselves, to be with, on a weekly basis.”
“What?” I said, for the fourth time in as many minutes.
He raised his hands in a semblance of embarrassment, but I knew he wasn’t. He was doing it to be polite. “It was just a thought, one I’m sure many men before me have had.”
Allison pulled her hands away from her mouth. “You want a harem.”
“I should be so lucky,” he said. “But no, actually, it’s very different.”
Allison rolled her eyes. “Whatever, Tom.”
It looked like he had more to say but he could see Allison was upset, so he didn’t say anything, just sat back in the booth and stirred his drink idly. I didn’t really think much of it. It seemed like a pretty average fantasy of a lot of men. Wasn’t that basically prostitution? Yet he’d said it wasn’t like that. I was still stewing about Bobby so I didn’t pursue it either.
* * *
A week later, Allison and I were leaving the gym and wiping our foreheads with our towels. Instinctually, I headed for the crosswalk and Allison steered me over to her car.
“We’re not getting smoothies?”
Allison bit her lip. “Um, no, let’s get going.”
“Is something wrong?”
As we approached her car she gave me an exasperated smile, and then laughed. “You’re not going to believe this.”
“Do you remember what Tom was talking about last week, his prostitute plan?”
She gave me a knowing look.
My eyes widened. “You’re doing it?”
She gasped and reached out to pinch me. “Oh my God, no! I can’t believe that’s the first thing you thought.” She unlocked the car and we got in. I threw my towel bahis şirketleri and shoes inside and eagerly sat beside her. “He did ask me though,” she said.
She started the car and explained what had happened as she backed out. “He totally had it all mapped out. Yesterday he called me and I think he just wanted to hang out – which we don’t really do but I was free so…” She swiveled the steering wheel and moved slowly out of the lot. I thought then that she must have been disappointed. She hid it well. “Anyway, he brings it up again and I got mad and I said, like, why are you talking about this and he says, is it something you could do? And I just said no! Who would do that?”
She shook her head. “Then he tells me, this is how it would work – like I even asked – and he says one hour a week or every two weeks, for $250 an hour or $500 an hour, depending on if it was one week or two. Either way, the girl makes $1000 a month.”
I swallowed. On the one hand, that was strange that he’d put so much thought into it. On the other, that was definitely a plan. Tom had the money, we knew that much, but it was still a lot. It was a lot.
“He mentions some more about how he’d have some special things he’d like to do, but the girl would always have the chance to say no or back out and she’d always be paid up front and I finally just tell him to stop and I say, Why are you telling me this?” She glanced at me with wide eyes. “He says, because I was wondering if you’d want to.” She shook her head again. “God, how sick is that?”
“He was probably just joking with you.”
“I don’t think so,” she said. “Maybe. He’d do that. Don’t you think that’s sick?”
“Sure,” I said.
She eyed me in the rearview mirror. “I can’t believe you’re not more weirded out.”
“It’s totally weird,” I said.
“You wouldn’t do that, would you?”
“Of course not.”
The deeper thing, what I wouldn’t tell her, what wriggled within me and set my mind to work was this: I thought it was a sexy idea. For someone else, I thought. For some girl who didn’t mind risking herself, or her body, to some enigmatic stranger. Five hundred dollars. For nothing but sex. It was prostitution but it didn’t seem like prostitution to me. It was sexy, and I bet Allison thought it was a sexy idea too. But the problem was that I knew about it and it was Tom doing the asking. Tom wasn’t a stranger to her. They were friends – or at least they were before this incident. I wondered if that would change now. Knowing what little I did know of Tom, he’d probably just shrug off the “no” and come to her tomorrow with a smile and a fresh start. Allison wasn’t like that.
But I wasn’t Tom’s friend. And I needed to either get out of my parents’ house or fix my car. No, I thought, I wasn’t leaving Chicago for a while, so the car was unnecessary. But my own place, that was something I could work for.
To have a down payment in a month, rent in the next. I could save from the lousy reception job and… I realized suddenly that I was already calculating, which meant, more or less, that I was willing to do it.
Could I do that to Bobby? Could I do it to myself? Sex twice a month? Or four times, at the most?
It didn’t have to involve Bobby. If anything Allison made it sound like Tom wanted to keep it as business like as possible. And I could do that. But wouldn’t it bother me, sleeping (okay, fucking) another man behind his back? Yet no matter how many times I turned it over in my mind, I couldn’t feel bad about it. Maybe I still loved Bobby, maybe I didn’t. But this was for my future.
And I’m not going to lie, it was sexy. I squirmed in the seat of Allison’s car. My juices had started to flow between my legs. I hadn’t had sex in five months and hadn’t felt like I’d wanted to for at least that long. But I needed to get out of my yoga pants and into the shower as soon as Allison dropped me off. And even after I’d showered, even after I’d gotten rid of the sweat and washed my hair and wrapped myself up and gotten into bed, it was still hot down there. Five hundred dollars.
* * *
Allison didn’t mention Tom that week, so I didn’t mention Tom that week. And I didn’t see him the week after that. But the next Saturday, the one day I went to work out without Allison holding me back, I saw him. He was running on a treadmill. So I grabbed one in front of him and started to run too.
Thinking about this now I wonder if I was putting myself on display for him, getting him to think about what I looked like under the tight clothes, watching my ass as it jiggled back and forth, watching my tits bounce inside my sports bra when he thought I wasn’t looking. I knew I had this effect because Bobby told me once when he came to pick me up at the gym that every guy behind me was looking. Gross, I said. I wonder if Tom was looking?
After twenty minutes Tom left the treadmill and worked over in the free weights. I watched him. Then I got off the tread and worked my thighs on the expander, worked my gluts on the ball, did some basic leg toning. Nearly an hour had gone by when he packed up his bag, said goodbye to some friends and walked out. I packed my stuff and followed him.
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