Chapter 17

By Anj (A.k.a. Azurenon)

Introduction: At the age of seventeen, Darby Jennings is once again running away from a very abusive home life. This time, however, she's dressed as a boy. Along her rather short journey she meets up with a "call girl" or "lady of the evening". This story follows the early trials and tribulations of their rather unique relationship, as well as, their struggles with the malevolent human forces attempting to tear them apart. It is part romance, part drama, with an attempt at suspense and/or mystery. This is NOT an Uber story. Although I love the daring duo (and written fan fiction with a partner, under the pseudonyms "Azurenon and Savanna Mac" posted on this very site) you won't find them here.

DISCLAIMERS: No copyright infringement is intended by the use of titles, artist's names and/or lyrics of the songs contained herein. These have merely been used for entertainment value and possible storyline continuity. All the characters are fictitious. Any resemblance to persons living or deceased is purely coincidental.


Violence: This story contains scenes and/or references to physical, emotional and sexual violence.

Sex: It centers on an explicit sexual relationship between two women. It is intended for MATURE AUDIENCES. So if you're under age 18, this is illegal where you are or this just isn't your cup of tea, then you have been forewarned, please exit stage left. If you are mature enough and I've captured your attention, then moving right along here...

AUTHOR'S NOTES: Be it known the author has no firsthand knowledge concerning physical or sexual violence. Nor does she even pretend to know anything about "call girls" or "ladies of the evening". Therefore, I ask that the reader please forgive any mistakes and/or oversights. Especially so in the area of giving the healing process of such aforementioned experiences the in-depth attention they so richly deserve. This story is complete fiction, written merely for entertainment. In its entirety, it contains 23 chapters: at around 10 pgs per chapter.

Thanks go to all my friends for their support and encouragement over the years.

(Written 1993. Revised 2001)

        "Alright," she announced, slinging her clothes over on the sofa in the dressing room. "Let's have it. And don't mince words with me, neither."

        I told her the whole sorted tale, while she paced in front of me. When I got to the jacket, she glanced over at it, hanging in the closet. She was mad as hell, I could tell.

        "That it?" she asked, when I finished.

        I nodded.

        She marched over to the closet, snatched the jacket off the hanger and threw it at me. "Get rid of it!"

        "What do you want me to..."

        "I don't give a flyin' fuck what you do with it! Just get it the motherfuckin' hell outta my sight!" She then stormed out of the room, slamming the door behind her.

        I sighed heavily and sank back onto the sofa. The door opened again a few seconds later and Candy flew in.

        "Darby, get the hell out of here!" she exclaimed, approaching me very fast.


        "Don't question me, get the fuck up and get out of here. The fuckin' cops are on their way."


        "Somebody called the cops on us. Tiny just got a call from one of Anna's old... ah shit, Darby, just go!" She yanked me up by the arm.

        "Why? I'm nineteen... accordin' to my driver's license."

        "That's just it. Want them to find that it ain't for real and bust Anna for hiring a minor?" She reached over to the vanity and grabbed Jasmine's robe, placing it around my shoulders. "Now, get out! Go out through the storeroom."

        "And go where? Anna has the keys to the truck," I said, putting my arms in the robe and tying it.

        "Shit! Then here..." She raced over to her small purse and pulled out a set of keys. She tossed them to me. "Take my car, just go!"


        "Home, where else. I gotta go call Dora," she mumbled on her way towards the door.

        "Dora? Why..."

        "'Cause all hell is about to break loose out here, Darby, now go!"

        I followed her out the door and ran into Anna. She was still fuming and yet frightened to boot. "Get your ass home, now, Darby!" She pressed the keys into my hand.

        "But, Candy gave me hers to..."

        "Give'em here." She snatched the keys from me.

        "Anna, what's gonna happen...?"

        "I'll call you or somethin'." She glanced down at the jacket on my arm. "Gimme that." She snatched it off my arm. "Now go, baby!" She pushed me towards the storeroom. I glanced around. "GO!"

        I took off towards the dark storeroom and out the back door, which locked behind me. Then I hurried around to the side of the bar where the blazer was parked. I got in, fumbling with the keys. I finally got them in the ignition and turned the engine over. I was out on the road, when the first Alviston police car passed me. I had a sick, sick feeling in the pit of my stomach that Barbara had a hand in this.

        I was pacing the floor, still dressed in Jasmine's robe, when the phone rang at 1:30 am. It was the wrong number. I slid down the kitchen wall with the cordless phone in my hand. I was too weak to stand.

        Anna didn't walk in the door until nearly 3:30. And she looked beat to hell and back.

        "What happened, sweetheart?" I asked.

        "They fuckin' closed us down," she said calmly, as she made her way over to the refrigerator.

        "For what?"

        "You were right, that asshole was sellin' blow. And they tore the fuckin' joint apart lookin' for it in my place." She snatched open the door of the refrigerator.

        "But, you didn't..."

        "No, but that fuckin' new waitress I hired had a dime bag on her. Put my ass in a sling over a fuckin' dime bag of pot. Shit!" She popped the top on a beer and slammed the door.

        "Who... called'em?" I hesitated to ask.

        "Who the hell knows? Coulda been that rich bitch. Coulda been anybody. Tell you one thing though, her ass wasn't anywhere to be found when they showed up."

        "Can they... close you down for good because of...?"

        "No. But, they can sure keep my ass in a sling for a while. Tomorrow they're gonna have the fuckin' health department, fire department, you name it, out there going over the place with a fine tooth comb."

        "Is that bad?"

        "Yeah, if they find somethin' that don't come up to code, ya know." She flopped down in a chair. "But... I don't know of anything that won't. I've tried to keep things up. Knowin' them though, they'll find somethin' to cite me for. Then I'll be shut down until I can fix it." She guzzled the beer.

        "Anna, I'm sor..."

        "Don't!" she said, slamming the beer down on the table. "I don't wanna hear it, Darby. Just.... leave me alone. I'm not in the mood for no more shit."

        I wandered around behind her, feeling guilty and ashamed. I wanted to reach out and touch her, then thought better of that idea. I didn't want her to push me away. Instead, I walked out of the kitchen and went upstairs. I had my hand on the doorknob of the bedroom, when it hit me that maybe she didn't even want me around anymore. I had more than likely caused all this and was sure she would not want to be near me now.

        I turned on my heels and went into the room across the hall. It was a bit musty and dark inside. I'd never slept here before, but I would this night. I crawled in beneath the musty sheets and cried myself to sleep.

        I was awakened by the sound of her voice, "Darby! Darby!" she called. She sounded like she was in our room. "Darby, Goddammit, where are you!" I heard a bump, then a hiss. "Shit!" she exclaimed. I sat up in bed. "You bet-er not have fuck-in' left me... bit-ch!" she shouted, slurring her words. Then I heard her clunking through the hall, headed for the stairs. "God-damn you!" I heard her start down the stairs, then there was a loud bump, followed by a series of clunks, sounding as if she'd stumbled.

        I jumped up and ran out in the hall, then down to the head of the stairs. "Anna?"

        She was leaning over the rail, her long hair dangling down shielding her face.

        "Anna, are you alright?" I started down the stairs, still wearing the shirt and jeans I had on when she got home.

        "So-o-o, there... you 'er," she slurred, straightening up, then stumbling back against the wall.

        "You're drunk," I said, drawing nearer and reaching out to catch hold of her, to keep her from falling. I knew she wasn't this drunk on beer. It had to be from either brandy or vodka.

        "Where... the fuck... were you?" she asked, straightening up again. "Hid-in'?"

        "No, I... thought you'd rather not be around me, right now. If ever again." I took hold of one arm.

        "You... leavin' me?" She snatched her arm away from me.

        I hesitated to answer; hardly able to believe the condition she was in. My mind threw images of the past in my face.

        "You're fuck-in' gonna leave me, aren't you?"

        I hung my head. "Anna, I'm..."

        She backhanded me so hard, my head reeled backwards and I stumbled, losing my footing on the stairs. I went down hard on my butt and then slid down the stairs on my back, until my head hit the floor below. The world went black for a second.

        "OH SHIT!" she cried out. Then I heard her stumbling down the stairs and she was beside me. "Oh God, wh-at have I done!" She lifted my head up. She pulled me into her arms. "Dar-by... Oh God, baby... speak to me... Oh shit!" She rocked me back and forth in her arms, as she burst into tears. "Oh God... baby... I didn't... mean to... hurt you," she blubbered against the side of my face. "I'm so fuckin'... scared. Baby, don't... leave me, please Darby... don't leave me!" She wailed.

        "I'm not... going... any-where," I said, grabbing hold of her shirtsleeve.

        "Thank... God you're... alright," she blubbered and continued rocking.

        Anna apologized over and over, as I poured coffee down her. I had a lump on the back of my head, my back was skinned up and my neck hurt, but other than that, I was fine. I knew she hadn't meant to hurt me. I knew she had hit me out of anger, frustration and mostly drunkenness. If we had not been on the stairs, there would have been little damage done. And I felt as if I deserved it. I should have told her all about that first night. I had just been too stubborn, wanting to handle it myself.

        "Baby, can you forgive me?" she asked, her head in her hands, sounding sober now.

        "I... I already have, sweetheart. Can you forgive me... about the jacket and all?"

        "Yes, baby. You... didn't deserve to be hit for that."

        "Is that the only reason you hit me?"

        "I... I don't know why I did it. It... it just happened. I... I was so scared that you'd leave me now."

        "And I was afraid you'd kick me out."

        "Never! Never!" She turned to me. "If you can stand to touch me... please, come here."

        I walked over to her and dropped down on one knee beside her chair. She put her arms around me and pressed my head against her bosom. "I know it doesn't seem like it, me hittin' you and all, but... I love you so very much, Darby. I wish there were some way to show you that. Some way I could make you see just how much you mean to me."

        "Just hold me," I said, nuzzling against her.

        The next morning, (well actually more like afternoon, since I didn't get up until one, when she got back from letting the inspectors into the club) she served me breakfast in bed again. Afterwards, we took a shower together and made love beneath the spray of tepid water. Then she rubbed me down with oil and had me writhing on the bed once again, before she was through.

        I hadn't asked about the inspection, but once we were lying satiated in each other's arms, I decided it was time to broach the subject.

        "What happened... today?" I inquired.

        She immediately reached for a cigarette on the nightstand. I raised up in order not to hinder her reach. She lit it and then put an ashtray on the bed beside her, replacing her arm behind my head and pulling me close. I put my arm around her, then threw my leg back across hers and waited.

        "Said we had too many extension cords. Can you believe that? Crock a shit," she said and then took a drag off her cigarette.

        "So... what does that mean?"

        "We're closed until I can get an electrician to come in and put us in two or three outlets."


        "I called one before I came home. Said he couldn't get to us, until Tuesday, but said he'd have it done in one day. That means four... maybe five days we're out of business."

        "And Dora?"

        "She's got her troubles, too. Since he was just her employee though, it won't be so bad. I mean they can't confiscate her shit, ya know. But, she's gonna have to do some cleanin' up, 'fore she reopens. They tore that office a part, man. Storeroom, too." She shook her head. "And she's gonna need somebody to run the place. Somebody with a clean nose, 'cause they gonna be keepin' a close eye on us all from now on."

        I wondered if I'd be getting a call from Dora again. I doubted it.

        "We're... gonna be hurtin' around here for a while, baby. Things... look mighty slim in the money department."

        "Don't... even... think it."

        She sighed heavily. "It's easy money, Darby. It can tide us over, until..."

        "Then I'll do it."

        "What? No, hell no you won't!"

        "And you won't either. So let's just think of somethin' else, shall we. I could sell the motorcycle."

        "Worst case scenario. You may need that. You may have to get some kind of job after all."

        "Okay, I'll go get the pa..."

        "Not right now, hmm," she said, holding me down. "I'd rather you stayed right here for now, 'cause I ain't through with you, yet."

        "Through with me?"

        "Uh-huh." She stabbed out the cigarette in the ashtray. "Gotta make damn sure you don't go runnin' off with no rich bitch, don't I?"

        "Anna, you know I didn't want to run off with her."

        "Yeah well, it better damn well stay that way. Cum'mere." She pulled me over on top of her. "This is where you belong," she said, wrapping her legs around me. "And this is where you're gonna stay."

        "I ain't complainin'."

        I looked in the Sunday paper under the want ads. All I found was a waitress job and one for a maid. I'd look into the waitress one first and then go on to the maid. Anna didn't care for the latter at all. She didn't want me "cleaning other people's toilets".

        Monday, I went to the address listed for the waitress, rather than call. Anna said it showed more interest. I found myself in front of a red brick building located on the outskirts of the city, which appeared to house a restaurant. On a black sign, hanging outside the door was written: The Curiosity Pub in yellow letters. I went over to the shiny black door and opened it. The odor of beer and stale smoke greeted me, as did the sound of pool balls clacking together and music off in the background. My perceptions had been wrong, this wasn't a restaurant; it was a bar.

        I stepped into a small alcove, where an empty stool faced me, along with a small high table. I assumed this was where they collected the cover charge. A glance to my left revealed an empty bar and stools. Further over were tables and chairs and a rectangular dance floor surrounded by a wooden fence and more tables on the opposing side. On the far side of the room was yet another bar with stools. And in the very back: a small stage.

        The balls smacked together again, bringing my attention to my right, where I saw only a small portion of a game room. Realizing whomever I needed to talk to must be in there, I headed that way. Once around the partition between the two rooms, I saw eight pool tables, four video game machines, several tables over in a far corner and a lighted hallway, which appeared to house the bathrooms. Yet, there was no one around.

        "May I help you?" asked a feminine voice.

        I glanced over in that direction, to find a woman with salt and pepper gray hair peering at me from behind one of the pool tables.

        "Umm.... I came about the... the waitress job in the paper."

        "Oh yeah," she said, then grunted and disappeared. "Goddamn balls stuck in here." I heard her say. "Said he'd fixed this damn... there you are you little muther. Hidin' from me." She raised up and dusted off her hands, then quickly looked me up and down. "So, what kind of waitressin' you done?"

        "Umm... you know of Country Nights over on Reno Drive?"

        She squinted her deep-set, gray eyes and shook her head.

        "It's kinda new. How 'bout Pandora's Box?"

        She cocked her head. "No, can't say that I get over that way much. These both country night clubs?" she asked, now putting the balls on the table in the rack.

        "One is. The other... well, it's a... a strip tease joint."

        She arched one eyebrow and put the last ball in the rack. "Well, don't think you'd really want this job then."


        "Diff'rent clientele." She pulled the rack off. "This is for those of a diff'rent persuasion, honey." She picked up a stick off the table and chalked up. "Don't have no idea what I'm talkin' bout, do you?"

        "I'm not sure, but..."

        "Nothin' prejudice 'bout me, but I don't think you'd want to work here. It won't be what you're used to. The men who come here... they don't pinch girl's behinds... the girls do. Get my drift?"

        Oh, I got it alright. And was shocked to hear it. I hadn't known there was a place like this in Alviston. "This... is a... gay bar?"

        "Catch on fast." She made her first shot, breaking the group up and scattering the balls. She then looked up at me, as she moved around the table. "You need a job that bad? Or are you in shock or somethin'?"

        "I'm... gay," I said, for the lack of anything better to say.

        She stopped in mid-stride. "Ya don't say." Then she backed up against the table, while looking me up and down. I had on the brown outfit of Phil's, with the short skirt and boots. Her eyes perused it approvingly. "Coulda fooled me." She then looked away and tapped the pool cue on the floor. "Don't pay much. Only minimum wage; four hours a night, Friday and Saturday, that's all."

        I frowned. "That's... not hardly any money at all."

        "Wouldn't know how to tend bar, too, would you?"

        "I'm not up on makin' fancy drinks," I answered.

        "Nothing fancy. You don't know how to make it, you just tell'em we ain't got it. They'll take somethin' else. What can you make?"

        "A Tom Collins, Margarita, Black Russian, White Russian, Pina Colada... and a Slow Gin Fizz," I said, naming off the ones Tiny had taught me how to make over the past few weeks.

        "Good enough," she said, leaning on the pool cue. "When can you start?"

        "When do you need me?"

        "I need ya tommorow night tendin' bar. Havin' a special party. Umm... tell ya what, you come in tomorrow night, I'll pay you time and a half to tend bar and serve drinks. You tell me if you like it after that and I'll tell you whether I like you and then we'll talk turkey, hmm?"

        "Doing both jobs?" I asked.

        "Prob'ly. Customers here are already used to gettin' up and orderin' their own drinks, but some were complainin' about it to the big boss, so I ran the ad for a waitress, too. If you can make'em and serve'em... you got both jobs. Bartendin's one more hour and Wednesday through Saturday."

        "What time tomorrow night?"

        "Be here at eight thirty. Hours are usually nine to two, but this party is... diff'rent."

        "Okay. I'll be here."

        She straightened up and extended her hand to me. I shook it, lightly. "Got any more little numbers like that one?" she asked, as I started away. I stopped and turned around. "That outfit. Got any more like it?" Her eyes fell to my legs, then immediately came back up to meet my gaze.

        I did not feel threatened as I had with Barbara. This woman seemed more interested in how I would look to her customers, than coming on to me.

        "You askin' me to dress like I would if I was workin' at the strip joint?" I inquired.

        "Well, no. Uh-uh. I don't want you runnin' 'round here half naked. No-o-o. Like I said, like that you're wearin'"

        "This is what I wore."

        "Oh. Well... yeah, maybe I am askin' that." She picked up the chalk and started rubbing it on her cue. "We... uh... don't get a whole lot like that to... look at around here and..." She quickly looked over at me. "Oh, you will be able to handle that, won't ya? I mean... women ain't like men about pinchin' your butt, that was just my way of lettin' you know where things stood." She put the chalk down. "But you're gonna attract some attention now." She blew on the cue, then looked over at me. "Most of'em ain't gonna believe you're a lesbian." She paused. "That is what you said, right?"

        "Yeah, I am. I... just... never met any other's except my lover and... this weird one."

        "Well, this may be a treat for ya... may be a turn off. We'll see." She winked at me, then took aim at a ball near the corner.

        "Thanks," I called over my shoulder.

        "Tomorrow at eight-thirty," she responded.

        I stopped abruptly and turned around. "Don'cha even wanna know my name?"

        She cleared her throat. "Shoot."

        "Darby Rollins. And yours?"

        She straightened up. "Rollins, as in... Anna Rollins the hoo... Oh-h-h... you're her, what? Cousin or somethin' like that?"

        "Somethin' like that. And your name?"

        "Umm... Pepper. Pepper Frazier. Tell Anna who you're gonna be workin' for, she should get a kick outta that. We went to school together." She chuckled. "Yeah, Anna went one way and... I went the other." She paused. "Oh, does she know you're...?"

        I nodded.

        "And you know she's a hook..."

        "She don't do that anymore. But, she still runs Pandora's Box."

        "Oh, she runs that strip joint? Hmm, I didn't know that. Bet she don't know I'm runnin' a gay bar, either." She chuckled. "Your cousin was a good ol' gal. Went through some hard shit, but... she's always nice to me. Tell her Pepper... no wait, she probably won't recognize that name. Tell her Jeanie Frazier says hi."


        "Tell her to drop by sometime. Be good to see her again." She lined up the shot again. "See ya tomorrow night." She finally made that shot and the 12-ball went in the pocket. "Day's lookin' up." She marched around the table to line up another.

        "Who?" Anna asked, when I told her what the manager had said.

        "Pepper... oh no, wait... umm... Jeanie Frazier." I went into the bathroom in order to take a shower.

        "Well, hell, I thought she was long gone from these parts. What kinda bar she runnin'? Can't be too bad if Jeanie's got it."

        "It's a gay bar!" I called out, over the sound of the running water.

        "A what?" she asked, coming in the bathroom.

        "It's a gay bar."

        She took a step backwards. "Hell, I didn't know there was one around he... You gonna be workin' in a gay bar?"

        "Uh-huh." I disappeared into the shower.

        "Oh, no you're not!" she shouted.

        "Oh, yes I am!" I yelled back.

        She jerked the curtain back. "Dammit, Darby."

        "It's better than cleanin' toilets." I jerked the curtain closed.


        I arrived at eight-thirty on the dot. Pepper (Jeanie) who was dressed in a man's suit and tie looked down at her watch. "Punctual," she said, then handed me an application and a pen. "Fill it out for me, hear? Big boss wants to know whose workin' here."

        "Who's the big boss?" I asked.

        She shook her head. "That's why I'm runnin' it, know what I mean?"

        I nodded and filled out the application. Then she put me to work behind the bar, tidying things up. A few minutes later, she asked for a Margarita. I assumed this was to test my abilities. I made her one and she sat at the bar, drinking it. I caught her eyeing me once when I straightened up from replacing a glass I had wiped off.

        "Nice... outfit," she said and then turned away.

        I was wearing the black suede, like Anna's tan one.

        "My lover should be here soon." She glanced down at her watch. "You said you had one at home, too?"

        "Uh-huh. Oh and Anna says hi."

        She quickly turned around and seemed to want to say something, then the door opened and she jumped up.

        Her lover was shorter than her, but smaller and older. She was dressed in black slacks and white blouse, her shoulder length dark brown hair trimmed like mine around the ears. She seemed nice, shook my hand and asked for a beer. "I'll get to the hard stuff later," she commented.

        When I came back with the beer, she was staring at my legs. Realizing I had seen her, she said, "Pretty boots." This was far from what I was used to. These two were falling all over themselves not to be obvious. Making excuses left and right, where men would just blatantly say, "Oh baby, you got a nice set a legs."

        The partygoers began to arrive around nine and I was soon busy as a bee, making and serving drinks to a room full of nothing but lesbians. I'd never seen so many mannish looking women in one room in all my life. Looking at their attire, I wondered what they dressed like during the day. Surely they blended right into society and one never knew about their "other life".

        I watched them get up and dance with one another: some holding on loosely, as if they'd been together for years; others, it was obvious, were still very romantically involved. And still others appeared to be meeting for the first time. This was evident from the eye contact going on.

        When I witnessed my first live kiss, I was enthralled. I dropped an ice cube on the floor, instead of in the glass.

        "Whatzamatta, honey?" a rather elderly woman asked. "You never seen anything like that before?"

        "I... I've done it, but... I hadn't never seen it."

        She chuckled. "Yeah, I remember that, don't you, Lil?"

        Her lover, a rather feminine little creature said, "That was a hundred years ago, Puddin'."

        Around ten, Pepper got up on the stage and produced a microphone from the DJ's stand near the stage. She quieted the ladies down, then announced who they were there to honor, which was a rather nice looking woman in her late 30's, who bore a pretty smile. They called her JC. It was her birthday. They sang Happy Birthday to her, then Pepper announced the night's entertainment and the ladies moved onto the dance floor and propped themselves up against the fence.

        "Just for you JC," Pepper continued, "all of us have chipped in to get you this present, since we know how much you lo-o-ove the ladies. And here she is..."

        Pepper stepped down, the song "Justify My Love" emanated from the speakers and the curtains parted. From behind them stepped Candy. I nearly melted into the floor. She was wearing an outfit just like the one I wore in the show; except she had on a hat and was carrying a cane.

        She didn't do our act, thank god, but she did do a strip tease to the song, as she moved from the stage to the dance floor, where the women were gathered along the fence. Most of them were too shy to take her up on her rather lewd offers to touch her, but one rather short, mannish looking woman did. She cupped both breasts in her hands and rolled her eyes. The others went crazy with hoots, howls and laughter. Candy, who was much taller, put her hand behind the woman's head and pushed her face towards them. The women howled, as the short woman wiggled her face around in a comical manner, then came up for air and staggered backwards as if overwhelmed.

        Candy proceeded around the dance floor, touching faces, lapels and hands. Most were comical about it, but never offered to touch back. Then she reached out to one rather tall, attractive woman and pulled her onto the floor. This woman was no one to play with, I could tell. Candy offered her breasts, by cupping them and the woman took her up on it. She leaned over and latched onto one. I could see the surprise on Candy's face. The women moaned in unison, at this decadent display. Candy tried to urge her away, but she had to have the other one, before she backed off. I knew she should never have offered what she was not willing to give up.

Candy carried it off very well, though, acting as if it didn't bother her. It was not until she got back on the stage before the song ended, that she spotted me. "Dar-by," she mouthed, then the lights went down.

        The women clapped, whistled and yelled for more, seemingly having a good time. Then they dispersed back to their tables. Pepper had been right: the clientele here was different. They weren't rowdy males with hard-ons. They were women who liked other women and appreciated a woman's body. But, most were not exhibitionists. However, if you throw something in someone's face, male or female, you should be prepared to take the consequences. Had Candy never pulled her out of the crowd and offered, she'd never have taken her on, I didn't think.

        After dancing, the women were thirsty and I was a busy bee again. At one table, the same rather tall woman asked me, if I had a lover. I said I did and she said, "Umph, that's a shame," smiled, then turned away. She didn't grope me, proposition me, nor did she even attempt to. And frankly, it was quite a relief. Although, to say I didn't like the attention paid me, would be a lie. It was a nice kind that I didn't mind at all. I liked knowing I was attractive to other women.

        I never saw Candy again that night. I don't know where she went when she got through. I went home with a new job and payment for the one I'd just performed, since it was a special occasion. When I got home, Anna informed me that Rachael and Dora had called asking for me. I had went from having no job possibilities to having three now. The cleanest job I'd had was with Rachael. She would be my first call.

        The next morning I was on the phone with her. She needed a manager for the store in our neighborhood. Salary: $8.00 an hour. I wanted to jump at it, but then there was Pepper to think about. And I'd already started to wonder how I was going to like knowing Candy was replacing me in the show. I asked if I could set my own hours. "Of course", was the reply, "as long as the work gets done". When did she want me to start? "Next week." I took it.

        Pepper was very nice, understood completely about the money. Said she didn't blame me one bit. I offered to work the remainder of the week and perhaps some of next week until she got a bartender. She took me up on the offer.

        Anna reopened on Thursday night to zilch for customers. She closed up before midnight and then came over to where I worked. She reminisced with Pepper awhile, laid out our arrangement, which I hadn't done yet and met a few of Pepper's friends, then she came over to the bar, where I was merely piddling around at the moment.

        "Can you... come out from there long enough for one dance?"

        "I... don't know. I never asked."

        "Well, that's good to hear. I'll ask for you."

        In a few seconds she was back and we were on the floor. She rearranged our arm positions so that I had mine around her neck. When I asked how come, she replied, "I want'em to see and know you're mine."

        And I responded, "I'm flattered, but... we always dance one way and that's the way I like it. Don't go changin' things because of what other people think, hmm?"

        She relented. She knew it was more comfortable that way, because I was an inch taller.

        The slow song ended and went right into a sexy little number. Anna began moving against me. I followed.

        "Oh yes," said an effeminate male voice. "Get it, girl."

        I looked up to see whom he was talking to and found we were the only ones dancing. Everyone else was merely standing around watching; men and women.

        Anna quickly realized this too. "Uh-oh," she said, stopping her movements. "Guess I got carried away." She grabbed my hand and started leading me from the dance floor.

        "Hey, where ya going? Come back," the same effeminate voice called out. "That was good."

        "Yeah!" Another yelled.

        "If they liked that, they'd love the show," I told her.

        She wheeled around on me. "What?"

        "I said, if they liked that they'd probably love the... what are you thinkin'? I can see your wheels turnin'."

        "Nah," she said, shaking her head. "Not enough money out here."

        "Maybe... maybe not. I haven't seen it on Friday or Saturday night."

        She stared at me. "Go to work, I gotta hustle some money."

        "Hustle my ass!"

        "Oh get real. I'm just gonna see what might be what concernin' a show like ours, hmm? Cause my place is dead right now. And we need money... like yesterday."

        "Oh. Well... go." I popped her on the butt.

        "Watch it, that's my line."

        Pepper had to talk to the big boss, but saw no problem. We'd do one show on Friday and Saturday nights, until either side decided to call it quits. Anna would be gone from the club an hour at most. The first show we'd work for fifty bucks and tips alone. The second we'd split anything over the usual take. The next week they'd decide on a set rate for the show. It wasn't much but Anna took it. She hoped she wouldn't have to do it for more than two weekends, until her club was back on its feet.

        Friday night she opened to no customers. Then a few began trickling in. Dora's was still closed, so there was nothing coming in from over there. She left at ten-thirty, giving orders to close at midnight again, then hopped in the truck and brought over the stuff for the show.

        Thirty minutes later, we were waiting for Pepper to announce us. She said that she had two ladies, who wanted to do a little number for them. A show of green would encourage us into future performances. The audience murmured at this, for Pepper had explained that most acts only came here every once in awhile, when the boss wanted a show. And then they seldom came back.

        The music began and so did our act. The crowd was saying very little, until Anna pushed me into the chair. "Ooo, you tell'em, girlfriend." One loudmouth guy yelled out.

        When Anna started taking off her clothes, however, they got into it with hoots and howls. She cupped my crotch and the men had a fit. Then she stripped off my shirt.

        "Oh my girls, look... it ain't a he." Loudmouth sang out.

        Then the pants went. "Yeah!" One woman cried out.

        When it ended, they were whistling, clapping and yelling: "Come out... come out."

        Anna started to go alone, then turned around. She pulled off the robe. "This is your territory, you get the honors." She winked at me and handed me the robe. "Go get all that money."

        "If there is any," I said, putting on the robe.

        "The bartender!" Loudmouth yelled. "Well, honey chil' you got moves we ain't n-ever seen before."

        There was no money on the stage, at all. I felt and probably looked disappointed, but I tried to smile.

        "Well, honey, come on out 'cheer. Us girls ain't used to givin' tips from afar, ya know."

        Green backs appeared in hands around the dance square. "Don't know what you're used to, but our girls, you see, they stands out there in the middle of the dance floor and gives hugs," he explained. I found him in the crowd quickly. He was a tall skinny black man. "Come on, girlfriend, sashay on out here."

        I walked down the steps and our song began playing again. The robe parted over my legs and trailed behind me.

        One woman howled, then another. "Where's the other one. Bring her out, too."

        I stopped and shook my head. "That's part of the act," I said, as someone tapped me on the shoulder. I glanced around and a woman was standing behind me, with a folded five-dollar bill in her hand.

        "Hug her, honey," Loudmouth shouted.

        I turned around and put my arms out and she walked into them. She squeezed me around the neck, whispered: "That was great.", kissed my cheek and put the money down the front of my robe. It fell through.

        There was laughter all around. I bent down, scooped it up and put it in the pocket. When I looked up another one was standing in front of me. She did about the same thing, except tucking two ones in my pocket this time.

        On and on it went. I gave hugs, got kisses and compliments and collected money, even from the men. The hugs, kisses and compliments added a different dimension to what I had done. Somehow it made it more intimate, like family paying you to perform for them. No one tried to cop a feel and no one made any lewd remarks. This world was an entirely different one.

        Near the end of the song, I was tapped on the shoulder once again. I turned around; arms open, smiling broadly. The face that greeted me however, made my heart jump up in my throat. Barbara wrapped her arms around my waist and pulled me close. "You're beautiful," she whispered, then licked my ear.

        I wanted to push her away, but I didn't want to make a scene here. She eased back and made eye contact with me, knowing I wasn't going to do anything. She tucked the money down inside my robe, making sure it went into my bra. Then she backed away and made a gesture with her arms, spreading them open, and looked down at the floor. The money didn't fall through.

        Several "Ooo's" rang out.

        "Honey, she musta made that stick!" Loudmouth called out.

        Barbara gave a "what can I say" shrug, then winked at me, before she walked off.

        I was tapped again and a rather short, round bodied woman attacked me from the side, throwing both arms around me and pinning mine down. Then she quickly let go and merely held out the money, as if she were very shy.

        I took it and upon realizing it was a ten, I reached out and grabbed her retreating arm. "You didn't get your kiss," I told her, when she turned around. I kissed her on the cheek. Her eyes got as big as saucers and she grabbed her face. Then she staggered away. I didn't know I was going to have that kind of effect I was only trying to be nice to her.

        Suddenly, a folded twenty showed up in front of me. The hand it was attached to belonged to Anna. I could feel the smile as it swept across my face. The music had ended and I heard the soft "ooo's" in the audience.I opened my arms and she walked into them.

"I wanna kiss, Darby. A real one," she whispered.

        I eased back, cupped her chin and stared into her eyes. Then I kissed her tenderly.

        The "ooo's" rang out all around. She pulled back, then to my utter surprise reached underneath the robe and tucked the twenty in my underwear.

        "Oh honey!" Loudmouth exclaimed. "That was too much. Who is that in-de-scent woman?"

        "Her lover," Anna answered.

        There was a short burst of laughter. "Oh well, that's alright then ain't it, honey." There was more laughter.

        Realizing no one was gonna come up after Anna, I said "Thank you's" all around and started back to the stage.

        "Our bartender," Pepper announced. "How 'bout another round of applause."

        They gave it. I bowed at the stage, feeling like queen for a day. I wondered if Anna had ever experienced anything like this.

        She met me back stage and took the robe from me. She didn't start right in on the money, first she kissed me. "God, you were great."

        "They were great," I said. "I never felt... this way at the club."

        "Yeah, I saw that. Nobody touched you the wrong way or anything?"

        I hesitated to tell her about Barbara, then decided I'd better. "No, but... Barbara was here."

        "What!" she exclaimed.

        "Ssh, Anna. It was nothing." I withdrew the money from my bra and handed it to her. It was a fifty, her usual tip.

        Anna tossed it on the floor. "We don't need her money."

        "Well, I'm not gonna face her to give it back. So, you might as well keep it."

        "Fuck it." She kicked the fifty across the floor.

        I sighed and removed her twenty. "How'd you get out there so fast?"

        "I saw what was going on and dressed in a hurry. I couldn't miss that chance to... let'em all know."

        "Oh, you mean you didn't like my performance this much?" I held up the twenty across my crotch.

        "Give me that, you... I'll show you how much I liked your performance when we get home." She kissed me quickly. "Now get dressed, I wanna dance with you, as soon as you can get away from that bar."

        While she wasn't looking, I scooped up the fifty. No sense leaving it when we could use it.

        It was nearly one a.m. before she got that dance. I went up to the DJ and requested a song I'd heard on the radio. He obliged.

        "I'm glad you're quittin'," she said. "I don't want you workin' around here, if she's gonna be here."

        "You think I liked it?" I asked, glancing around, though I hadn't seen Barbara since the show. But then I hadn't seen her before it, either. "I wanted to slap the shit outta her," I added, "but I didn't think this was the place to air our personal grievances. Besides, it might've been 'that' very thing, that caused her to call the cops."

        "I'm not sure she did, Darby. Otherwise, how would they know about Dora's place. No, I think they came there because of him. I just happened to be out there."

        "Maybe she knew about him."

        "Possible, but... why turn him in? They did very little to me, anyway. I think if she wanted to get me, she'd get me good. Only thing is, there's nothing to get me on anymore."

        "Good. Maybe she just happened to be here, tonight. She didn't really come on to me... that much. Not like before. Maybe you cured her problem."

        "If I'da done that she wouldn'a laid a hand on you. She's just being subtle here. Diff'rent atmosphere."

        "Yeah, it is. I... I felt really accepted tonight, ya know. Like... these people are... family or somethin'."

        "I suppose they are in a way," she said, glancing around. "We're all connected by our unnatural preferences."

        "Are you labelin' yourself now?"

        She stared at me. "Honestly, Darby, I think I've always been this way. I just never wanted to admit it, until you walked into my life. And the only reason I acted on it then, was because I thought you'd walk right back out and I'd find out I didn't want this after all." She paused and then laid her head on my shoulder. "But, I found out just the opposite. I... I don't wanna be a whore, anymore, baby."

        "And you won't have to be. I promise."

Continued in Chapter 18

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