The next day finds me feeling a bit more cheerful… hell, who am I kidding? As soon as I left my Mom alone in her room for the day, I was miserable again. At the very least, it’s my day off and I can take some small comfort in that. I make the short trek to the coffee shop down the street from my apartment to meet with my friend, Kara Rogers. As usual, she’s sitting in a booth waiting with my coffee already ordered. I slip into the booth, taking the paper cup in my hands. It is steaming hot but it keeps me grounded as I try to focus on what my best friend is going off on a tangent about. Kara is one of the few people who knows about my rather grim living situation and she’s always looking for some weird new ways for me to make some extra cash.
“– and you don’t even have to have sex with them, at least, not always! Girls are making thousands,” she rambles and I blink my eyes in confusion as I try to make some sense of what she’s talking about.
“Wait. Kara, what the hell? Are you talking about prostitution? Seriously?” I hiss, able to piece the story together somewhat judging from what I’d heard. Kara rolls her eyes, sipping from her iced coffee.
“It’s an escort website. Really high profile. If you were listening, you’d realize that it’s not prostitution. Well… not really,” she says defensively. I roll my eyes, feeling my phone suddenly vibrate in my pocket. I grab it, swiping it unlocked only to see a message from Kara. It’s the URL of the website she’s telling me about. My thumb immediately moves to the delete button but something gives me pause. I stare at the message for a long moment before closing out of it, notably not deleting the stupid thing. Kara seems to notice, lips curled into a sly smile.
“I’ll look at it later, just for laughs,” I say defensively. She submissively throws her hands up and goes off on some other tangent that I scarcely pay any mind to,. In spite of my scorn for her suggestion, I can’t deny that there’s something interesting about the concept.
“Shit,” Kara blurts suddenly and I focus in just in time to see her packing up to leave.
“You’re gone, then?” I sigh, standing from the booth and tossing my empty cup into the garbage bin.
“The boss just texted, apparently someone called in today and I need to cover for them. Rain check, alright? It’s not like you were paying me any attention, anyway,” she teases, though there’s no malice in her words. I smile, feeling somewhat abashed at how obvious I’d been.
“Sorry, Kara. You know how it is,” I explain weakly. She smiles, leaning in to kiss me on the cheek before quickly shuffling out of the coffee shop.
“See you next time, Maggie. Think about what I told you,” she calls back as she steps through the door. I’m sure there’s no way in hell I’d consider selling my body for pay, though I suppose she did say it was for companionship as well. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad… No! I’m not even going to think about it. I’m going to go home, look for a new job and forget this entire conversation.
That idea works until much later that evening, after I’ve had about two glasses of wine. I’m a lightweight, what can I say? The way I saw it, there was little harm in checking out this little escort website. Like I’d told Kara, I’ll just look at it for a few good laughs. I clumsily type in the link, propping my chin up in my hand as I scroll through the page. The profiles of the female members look relatively innocuous and some have their earnings listed on their profile sidebars. My eyes widen at some of the large numbers I see and for a moment I’m tempted.
Much longer than a moment, truthfully. I’m tempted long enough to go through the process of making a profile, taking a few drunk selfies before deciding to use a photo from my cousin’s wedding. I keep telling myself it’s just so I can see some of the private features; just for fun, no harm can come of it. In spite of myself, with the booze fogging my mind a bit, I kind of hope to get a message. It’d be flattering, at the very least.
With a single click, I save my profile and push away from the computer. I stumble a bit as I head to my bedroom, my mother having gone to bed hours previously. Hitting the mattress, I’m as good as dead to the world. For once, I get some decent rest, but I know it’s likely just a fluke.
The sound of my phone vibrating the next morning jolts me awake and I glance around blearily before managing to snag it off of the nightstand. I swipe it unlocked, blinking as I try to make out the words on the screen. It’s a notification from some website that I’d drunkenly signed up for. Nothing new, I tend to get download crazy when I’m drunk. Much to my surprise, however, it’s a notification from that escort site I’d joined.
“Hello, I’d like to meet up with you for a night,” I read aloud, snorting in disbelief. It’s not as flattering as I’d have thought, especially considering that the male profiles have more features for anonymity. I type back two letters, a simple ‘NO’. Hitting send, I expect the conversation to be over and done with. Moments later, as if this guy had been anticipating my response, my phone lights up again. “There’s five grand with your name on it, if you agree to meet me,” the message reads. My eyes widen in disbelief as I read over it again, unable to believe that some crazy guy would offer five grand just to spend the night with me.
There’s no way I’m willing to sacrifice my dignity for this… even if five grand is incredibly tempting. Swallowing a lump that I’m surprised has formed in my throat, I shakingly type out another rejection. There’s no telling what this guy looks like, or what on Earth he plans to do to me. It’s a matter of safety at this point; admittedly I’ve already given up on the idea of keeping my dignity intact.
“If you’re worried about my intentions, I assure you that you will be well taken care of. I wouldn’t dare see harm befall such a beautiful young woman, especially if you were under my… care,” the next message reads and I’m startled by how relentless this guy is. Before I can formulate a response, he sends me a winking emoticon. Suddenly wondering what he means by ‘care’, I can’t deny that my interest is piqued.
In all likelihood, this guy probably looks like he got hit in the face with a shovel as a kid. No good looking or actually self-respecting guy would join one of these sleazy websites. Then again, I never would have expected that I’d join either.
“Fuck it,” I mumble, fingers darting across the on screen keyboard. I agree to meet him, under the condition that there be no expectations on this first meeting. I’ll check him out, but nothing more than that. He sends a smiling emoticon and then one with a kissing face. Inexplicably tickled by how goofily charming this man seems to be, I hesitate before tossing my phone aside.
Ugh. I can’t believe I’m doing this. What happened to the Maggie Stroud who carried herself with pride? I suppose she died long ago. The new Maggie would do almost anything if presented with the opportunity to earn five grand.