A girl I once Knew (word count 4,817)
Standing in this place where she used to work, it must be a good eight months since Lisa last stood where she found herself now, by the bar. The lady serving was only vaguely familiar although she appeared to know Lisa’s companion very well, he was a good tipper to put it mildly. And so his face was probably imprinted on every waitress’, bar tenders and bouncers memory. All willing and only too happy to lend a hand, open a door, pour a drink or provide extra company if that’s what would earn them a healthy hand shake, green was king in this place.
Dimly lit, faces barely visible, smoke was a friend of sorts, as was the shadowy corners should a person prefer to remain anonymous. This was an unknown world to most, another universe perhaps. Girls everywhere draping themselves here and there, leaning or perching off of seats and tables seeming to defy gravity as they balanced their bodies, poised though angelic in stature.
Sitting at the bar with Drew, Lisa gives a nod and smile across the bar, she can’t quite remember how nice of a person this woman is, she does know the bar lady has worked at Lola’s for a long time. Part of the furniture some might say, having probably seen it all, hundreds of girls come and go. Lisa wondering only briefly how many girls this place has broken, Lola’s was not for the faint hearted. How many had snapped under the scrutiny, degrading comments and harsh looks of the clientele that frequented the bar/club.
Oh a person might be forgiven for thinking the men that socialised at Lola’s were complimentary of all the girls and their bodies. That was only the very few, the regulars however were another story, some nice to begin with would lure you in only to befriend a waitress or stripper to find a weak spot in the girls life, then slowly use this to their own end. Others were straight up nasty, acting hard talking down to some girls while favouring others always leaving the unanswered question hanging “why aren’t you nice to me?” But see that was one of the many games played at Lola’s, everyone needed validation of sorts. A strong mind was required to make it through the maze of fucked up shit that is Lola’s, that or drugs. Sometimes this place got the better of people and the girls would turn to drugs, wouldn’t pay to be caught though, management didn’t like it, the price might be one a girl was reluctant settle.
Drew was on his phone, always something business or his brother, Lisa knew when to take a back seat. He gave her a handful of bills, pointed toward the stage without speaking. Lisa didn’t mind she’d been up front to the stage many a time when she had worked as a waitress. The guys liked to watch, girls touching each other even if it was just to slip a note into a garter belt, whispering while exchanging a flirtatious look. All in the mind, all about what appeared to be happening, all about playing the game. Lisa half hesitated wondering which side of the stage to make her way to, confused as though she was unsure of the moves. She hated the thought of being fully clothed, right up front, convincing herself if she was half dressed less people would be watching her, what a strange notion. The seats facing the stage were arranged in a semi circle, well lit in comparison to the rest of floor area, the stage was small but centre point in the room and against the far wall. All eyes would be on her as she stepped across an invisible line that separated the unknown and the known that lead to the stage.
Knocking back her drink for some Dutch courage she moved toward the floor which was packed with people, aware of Drew’s eyes following her, she made a conscious effort to smoothly sway her hips as she fluidly moved between the tables, all about playing the game she thought. Stepping from the darkness into the light, she faced the stage, eyes forward, watching two girls moving, swinging their way around a pole in rhythm to one another. Two guys to the left, older she didn’t look directly at them, just waited for them to show their appreciation, tip and move on. Lisa trying to relax all the while but for some reason she felt like she had a poker shoved up her arse! Pretending to enjoy the view, when in fact she’d seen it many times before as a waitress and now a patron, it wasn’t new, exciting or even a novelty. Drew had a weakness for strip club’s, he liked the female attention, attractive women fawning over him, flirting, Lisa thinking he maybe attributed it to feelings of success. She was in denial, thinking her adoration for this man and possible love would be enough for him, all he’d ever need.
Moving from the right side of the stage to centre point, in full view now, without looking up, she places a number of notes in one of the girls garters, thinking nice legs. Slowly her eyes moving up, taking in both strippers dressed as school girls Lisa makes eye contact with the girl she has just tipped. Smile frozen in place, Lisa hears a screech “Oh my god, how are you Lisa” Evey reaches down and hugs her. She is still frozen, her mouth slightly hanging open. Evey continues “look Sam this is a friend, she used to work here and we waitressed together, she’s from Belfast and has such a cool accent” taking a breath but with added haste “Lisa this is Sam, we’re best friends now, just like sisters, look we even got matching tattoo’s” at this Evey thrusts the inside of her wrist at Lisa’s face, mean while Sam not a bit interested or even pretending to be hasn’t stopped swinging to the music. Lisa still in shock at who stands before her, manages a softer smile and tells Evey “that’s great, maybe I’ll see you later by the bar” and at this turns to walk away. Catching sight now of a young man who has clearly witnessed the whole exchange and is amused to no end, his smug smirk saying it all. Lisa becomes hyper sensitive regarding how she looks, her expression and even how she makes her way back to the bar, unaware she had been holding her breath from the moment she caught sight of the young voyeur until she steps back across the invisible boundary separating the light from the darkness. Nearly positive she can feel the tension in her muscles ease as the light slips from her body and the shadows take hold.
Drew puts his phone in his pocket as Lisa reaches the bar, smiling she sits next to him, he places his arm around her back and gives her waist a playful squeeze. Leaning in to kiss the side of her cheek just below the lob of her ear while taking a second to enjoy the scent of her hair and perfume. Looking up he enquiries “You ok?” perhaps noticing she’s a bit stiff, “Yeah I’m ok, just one of the girls on stage” Lisa looks over and continues with a note of sorrow “I used to waitress with her here, we’d had a few shifts together before I left and well, she was a nice girl, ya’ know…”. Reluctant to go into anymore detail, she didn’t think Drew would understand he had seen so many girls, waitress’ turn to stripping it would be nothing new to him. “It happens…” he shrugs and turns to order drinks, “get me a shot would you sweety” Lisa asks “Wow starting early are we” Drew replies with a cheeky grin, he loved a good party and Lisa [usually with the right amount of alcohol] could party like the best of them. Drew’s phone goes again, checking the screen he looks apologetic kissing Lisa on the forehead he moves away from the bar to a quieter part of the club.
Sitting alone she can’t help but think back to the first night she met Evey, remembering now Lisa thought she had been classically beautiful, fine featured, big dark eyes, long brunette hair. Forgetting why Evey had originally come to work at Lola’s [everyone had their reason or story] other than her life seemed a bit off at that time, something about a boyfriend messing her around. Evey hadn’t seemed to know what she wanted from life but it couldn’t have been a broken heart or unfortunate career planning that had lead her to Lola’s it must have been a combination of bad choices. Not dissimilar to the ones that had landed Lisa in the same position, she’d never had much direction in life, her parents didn’t have any aspirations for her to live up to and so she had stumbled about from one job to the next, getting herself into debt until she had no other choice but to take on extra work to make fast cash. Glancing across the club she no longer see’s the girl from all those months ago, noticeably Evey is different. Movement from the girls on stage seems disjointed from where Lisa sits Evey appears paler in complexion to what she had remembered, thinner in body, gaunt with her cheek and hip bones protruding. Drugs, Evey had definitely given in, probably with a little help from Sam Lisa surmised, Evey had also struck her as a person who could easily be lead astray.
Wilma places a shot in front of Lisa breaking her concentration, “the pink pussy for you?” Lisa reaches for the shot glass still looking across the club at the stage and inquires “Yeah thanks, tell me do you know how long Evey’s been stripping?” Lisa turning her attention back to the bar just in time to see an expression cross Wilma’s face, she took a second to reply “five maybe six months, should’ve stayed a waitress if you ask me..” shaking her head “some people just ain’t made for this gig” Wilma motions with her head toward the stage, doesn’t offer anymore, simply walks to the other side of the bar to check another customer. With a flick of the wrist Lisa downs the shot in one, nothing too heavy to begin with something told her it was going to be a long night. At least the music was good, sort of put her in the mood for a dance, just as this thought crosses her mind an older man steps up beside her, Lisa catches his reflexion in the mirrors behind the bar, she knows this guy he is a regular, pretty decent if she remembered. Quickly checking Drew is still occupied, Lisa half turns “hey Raymond right” the guy turns with a smile “wasn’t sure if you’d remember me, how’ve you been Lisa” Lisa laughs lightly “how could I forget you Ray, you were always so sweet and kind!” Lisa nudges Ray playfully in the side. Of course Ray is eating up the attention and compliments as Lisa turns her body ever so slightly closer to him while tilting her head and leaning in to ask how the club has been without her “So what have I missed Ray any bizz, I see Evey is stripping now?” Wilma sets a drink in front of Ray, looks to see if Lisa wants another, Lisa nods. Ray begins with information she’s not overly interested in apparently there haven’t been many girls lately able to stick Lola’s, most of the regulars have bets running on which waitresses will last and which will turn to stripping all within a time frame, she remembered Ray bet her if she reached the six month mark and was still at Lola’s that she would be stripping too. “Hope you didn’t lose too much money Ray, I told you it wouldn’t happen to me” Lisa can’t help but give him a large grin. “Yeah I should’ve known, just my luck! Although for a time there Lisa it was looking like I’d of won that bet, that’s if a certain someone hadn’t come along and swooped you off your feet” he smiles, sips on his drink and takes a quick look over at Drew who is still on the phone and none the wiser.
Changing the subject Lisa tries to focus her questions, “So who won the money on Evey then” trying hard to sound nonchalant Lisa didn’t want Ray to know how much his answers meant to her. “Have to say I was a little surprised to see her on stage, I got the impression she’d never strip?” she adds “A lot changes doesn’t it Lisa” he pauses to look at her then continues “word is Evey kept on at Jonah to give her a better section of tables, so she could make more money better tips, he didn’t think she was ready but she said she was. Well one night Evey had a couple of big groups in, she was taking shots with them lost a credit card, got flustered messed up a card transaction, if it could go wrong it basically did and in the middle of it all one group managed to walk out on their tab. She didn’t have the moola to cover the bill, management was seriously unhappy, I suppose the pressure was on to clear the debit quickly…” he trails off Lisa gets the impression this wasn’t the end of the story but Drew was making his way back to the bar and taking a good look at Ray as he did, Lisa immediately feels uneasy.
Once at the bar Drew introduces himself and makes a point of standing in between the two, placing an arm around Lisa’s waist while pulling her in to kiss her firmly on the lips. She thinks he may as well have urinated up the side of her leg as a dog would a lamp post in marking its territory! Ray feeling uncomfortable or taking the hint tells Lisa it was good to see her and makes his way to the other end of the bar. Meanwhile Drew ignores his exit, leans over to order another round of drinks. “Geez Drew no need to be so impolite” Lisa huffs as she folds her arms, “what are you talking about, I was polite, the guy was letching over you” Drew counters. Rolling her eyes Lisa inquires what the plans are for the evening and to her annoyance their plans very much depend on Drew’s brother.
Evey is off the stage now and with Sam doing her rounds with the ‘punters’ seated in the area near the stage. Lisa watching Evey wonders if she’s on good money and if she has many regulars, not that it mattered to Lisa no amount of money would be enough. Evey smiling as she makes her way to the bar where Lisa is sitting Sam walks around both girls to the other side of Drew and pulls up a seat. Ray glances over to Sam who waves and motions for him to come talk to her. Lisa brings her full attention to Evey as she begins to make small talk “So have you missed us at the club Lisa…” Evey half heartedly manages with a smile. She hadn’t lost the look of innocence it was still there, hidden slightly or perhaps just obscured by her recent experiences, but it lay in the midst of her big beautiful brown eyes. “Sure I miss some of the girls…” Lisa not wanting to lie to Evey preferred to keep her answer short, “So how’ve you been keeping Evey” Lisa looking at her as she moved closer away from Drew who was being charmed by Sam. “Awh well you know I’m doing good, the money is so much better than waitressing and Sam has been really good to me, taken me under her wing, we share an apartment…” looking away from Lisa at this point and up the bar “hey you want to do a shot together… hey Wilma can we get a couple of deep throats down here” Wilma nodding begins to make a couple of shots. Lisa orders some drinks too while glancing behind her, not surprised to clock Sam laying it on thick with Drew who is going with the flow, she turns back to Evey “Yeah Sam seems like a real fun person…” smiling sweetly “thought you’d said you wouldn’t strip cause of the scar on your stomach and you weren’t comfortable with your body?” Lisa sips at her drink casually. “Yeah but you and Sam both were right, you both said similar things then it just hit me and…” Lisa stops sipping her drink cuts Evey off “wow, hold on what do you mean Sam and I said the same thing?” Lisa clearly puzzled “don’t you remember” Evey smiling all the while recounting with a certain exuberance the words that had sealed her fate “you said I had a beautiful body, that I should be confident and that the scar was barely visible…” she trails off her words slowing as she comes to the end of her sentence obviously aware that Lisa looked a little aghast.
Searching her memory Lisa hoped for confirmation that she hadn’t been so flippant, eyes settling now on the mirror behind the bar, she stared at herself. Replaying the memory of that night, the shift, it hadn’t been busy she recalled so all the girls where gathered around the bar area, gossiping. Lisa had initiated the conversation she hadn’t be overly interested just making small talk out of curiosity with the new girl. Lisa had stood in sheer tights, heels, lacy French underwear with a cherry red PVC g-sting visible underneath and matching PVC bra. Remembering Evey beside her had worn a skimpy top that covered her midriff, hot pants, tights and heels arms clasped around her stomach as though to add an extra layer of clothing to her body.
Lisa felt somewhat self-assured standing next to the ‘new’ girl who she could tell was not at ease. Thinking maybe a chat would make the girl more comfortable she asked the most obvious question “so what brings you to Lola’s Evey?” Hesitating Evey looks around then steps closer to Lisa obviously not wanting the other girls to over hear “I was living with a guy, my boyfriend, well my ex now…” taking a second she looked down at her hands then back up at Lisa “ummm he went off with my best friend, left me hanging with the rent to pay, I never really finished school so didn’t have a job to cover the bills, needed to make some money quickly” half smiling she tried to stand up a little taller, Lisa not knowing what to say as she hadn’t expected (a) the truth or (b) such an unfortunate story! Changing the subject slightly Lisa asks if Evey would ever think of stripping only wondering how desperate she might be to make money. Evey sounding down on herself explained she didn’t think she’d have the confidence or the body for it, showing Lisa a scar to the right of her side below the navel. It wasn’t that the scar was huge but it was quite deep, probably only spanning an inch or inch and a half at the most. Feeling an immediate need to make the girl feel better about herself Lisa looked her straight in the eye and assured her with as much sincerity as she could muster “you have a beautiful body, you should be confident and the scar is hardly noticeable….” Putting emphasis on the hardly noticeable and adding a flick of her hand to signal it was insignificant. Lisa hears Drew’s phone, feels him on her left side moving away from the bar, vaguely aware of Sam shifting her chair aside, footsteps heading away from them probably toward Ray, she looks at Evey who is following Sam with puppy dog eyes.
Lisa started to get a heavy feeling she hadn’t spoken those words with any intention of Evey stripping the purpose was solely so she would feel a little better about herself. How could such an innocent exchange have such dyer consequences? Sam must been gaining something it wasn’t just about the friendship, a person wouldn’t encourage a girl to strip just to enhance their relationship, Sam must have gotten something in exchange. Someone must have over heard their chat one of the other waitresses, gossip amongst the waitresses could be like a game of Chinese whispers Sam could have heard the story through any one of the girls at the club. She was not a selfless person this much was clear, she had found Evey’s weakness and used it to her advantage.
Evey’s expression changes from a harmless innocence to sultry seductress in two seconds flat. Lisa wondering what has caught her eye swivels around in her stool to catch a glimpse. She turns back around in her seat with an indifferent, uninterested expression just sips some more of her drink, Evey has spotted Jason. Drew and his brother are similar in appearance fine featured both dark haired, olive skin, well dressed. Drew is broad, bulker slightly taller with a strong jaw line, Jason though is slimmer more of an athletic physic which is always a winner with the ladies. Of course he’s aware of his effect on women, it’s in his swagger, his million dollar smile, smooth talking one liners intended to loosen the knicker elastic of any young girl he might happen upon! Lisa knock’s back her drink to ready herself for Drew’s brother. “Hey good looking” Jason chimes as he rocks up and leans in to kiss Evey on the side of the cheek, it’s Lisa’s second shock of the evening catching flies she hadn’t realised Jason already knows Evey. “Hey yourself, you haven’t been in to see me in ages…” Evey pretends to pout then adds “makes me think you don’t love me anymore!” playing with the buttons on Jason’s shirt as she says this. Lisa suddenly feels like she’s stepped into the twilight zone as she watches the spectacle in front of her unfold, it was almost too much! Jason not one to be impolite turns to Lisa who has managed to recover from her initial surprise, says a simple hello, smiles and then orders everyone a drink. As Wilma takes his order he looks up the bar catches sight of Ray, gives a nod and tells Wilma to send a round of drinks down on him.
Ray heads toward them with Sam in toe, not taking much notice of Lisa or Evey he thanks Jason for the drink before they step away from the girls to chat. Sam watches them eagerly as though she were trying to read their lips, ignoring Lisa and Evey until Drew makes his way back to the bar looking a little perturbed by his brothers conversation with Ray. Sam decides to be Drew’s distraction while Lisa listens to Evey harp on about how fabulous Jason is. Lisa isn’t sure if Evey realises Jason is married with two kids, not that it would matter to her Jason was obviously one of Evey’s regulars, might change her perspective though! Sam cuts Evey short telling her it’s time to change and get back on stage, she jots down her number on a card hugs Lisa and heads off after Sam. Lisa asks Drew what he thinks of Sam, he simply replies “She’s a piece of work if anything” shaking his head. Jason makes his way back to the bar as Ray heads off to the toilets. Drew immediately questions Jason in a big brother fashion regarding his friendship with Ray. Jason goes on the defence, explaining he’s chatted to Ray the couple of times Drew has cancelled drinks with him, half turning his body and looking over to Lisa. She understands the glance, friction between her and Jason had been building as they both wanted more of Drew’s time and attention. They were naturally close to each other, had a strong brotherly bond and although Lisa didn’t mind she only wished she felt in the loop when Jason was around. Continuing Jason explains he’s gotten to know some of the other regulars through Ray and made some bets with them, Jason went in on a bet with Ray and they both cleaned house! Seeming overly excited at the memory of the event Drew tells his brother he thinks Ray is bad news he should steer clear of him. Jason unhappy with Drew’s remarks and never one to be stuck for words opens the door to all of Lisa’s unanswered questions shedding light little by little. “Well he isn’t too keen on you either he had a fair penny running on Lisa wasn’t pleased when it didn’t work out, but I suppose the knock on effect was that he wasn’t going to let it happen twice, Evey was a cert…” trailing off as he sips his beer.
Lisa sat poker straight in her seat so many pieces started to fall together as Drew and Jason talked their voices became background noise although she heard Sam’s name loud and clear. Ray had sent Sam to give Evey a little nudge in the right direction, toward stripping, tipping the odds in his favour and giving Sam a percentage. Jason being the selfish git that he is didn’t care about the girl he was placing the bet on, he probably just saw another waitress in a strip club, not going anywhere purely here for his entertainment. Lisa started to feel ill as though she had been a part of it, the casual conversation with Evey, flippant remark, leaving Lola’s the way she did, the heavy feeling persisted to the point of sinking or had she just had one drink too many? Of course Lisa had no idea of the type of money involved in the bets that went on in the club, she’d always thought it was just a little bit of fun but the guys, Ray obviously took it very seriously. Decent wasn’t among the words she now held in her head for Raymond. Drew and Jason’s exchange starts to get a little choppy, Lisa tries to mind her own business it wouldn’t do any good to get involved. She finishes her drink lights a cigarette looks over to see Ray laughing with some other people there’d be no immediate payback for him or even Sam. Taking a long drag she feels the nicotine rush around her body and her head goes a little light. Drunk, Lisa can’t shake feelings of guilt, it could have been her up on stage right now instead of Evey she can’t help but wonder if she could have saved her, saved her from what though… Ray… stripping… Jason or maybe just Sam.
There was no happy ending in this place, whether a person should be good, bad or indifferent but if you were lucky you were quick to learn if not your life had the potential to spiral out of control. If Lisa was brutally honest with herself she would admit that she only sat in a marginally better position than Evey, yes she was a kept girl well dressed with the best of everything but she trawled the gentlemen’s clubs until Drew was happy, her life not her own, lap dances from girls with false names to go with false faces. Baring all to a man she loved already knowing she would never be enough, paid for her time though, comfort paid in kind. Wilma sets a shot in front of Lisa telling her she looks like she could use a stiff drink, walks off. Holding the shot glass in her hand for a moment, half way between her lips and the bar, thinking, Wilma wasn’t a soft hearted person time and perhaps life experiences had taken their toll, she looked good for her age [ mid fifties], 5’6 slim build, big chest, sandy hair, smooth skin with a fiery vibe. Reminding Lisa of a stern head mistress from school, Wilma was the type that commanded respect without speaking a word, not because she was highly intelligent or skilled but because she had lived life, been around the block, graduated the tests of time. Maybe Wilma had been where Lisa found herself now and chose to extend some kindness in the only way she could, a drink! Downing the shot in one Lisa takes a last drag on her cigarette staring again at the reflection in the mirror behind the bar only seeing now an image of a girl she once knew.