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Working Girl: Paying by the Hour Doesn’t Preclude Having Holiday Spirit

Just a Regular Working Girl: Moralistic Values Gleaned from My Time in Chicago’s Seedy Underworld

Moral 78: Paying by the hour doesn’t preclude having holiday spirit.

pic by mavis at Flickr Commons

pic by mavis at Flickr Commons

“Are you going to decorate for Christmas?” I asked my boss Caroline.

“Nah,” she said. “Putting up all that stuff and then just taking it all down again? What a waste of time.”

Caroline was a professional escort. She’d learned to value her time very highly.

I was her assistant, and it made me sad that she didn’t want to put up decorations. I spent about eight hours of every day with her, including many weekends, and I knew how she spent most of her time. She worked hard. She saw anywhere from two to five clients a day, ran five miles a day, managed a team of girls, invested in real estate, took Ephedra and other random pills to handle the stresses of sex work and avoiding the law, and had temper tantrums on a regular basis.

Her favorite thing to do was watch the news. She’d wanted to be in broadcasting once upon a time.

I always tried to arrange it so that the day’s business was all sorted out in time for her to just do nothing but watch the evening news, when I could go home. But even then, she usually had something else on her to-do list that she tried to take care of while the news was on.

I guess I wanted her to have decorations because I wanted her to just chill out for awhile. She never did anything just for fun. I was motivated in part by pity. I saw her life as pretty joyless.

“You’ve gotta have a tree,” I said. “You see clients in your apartment! It’ll make it all festive and things.”

“Festive?” Caroline said. “They’re paying for sex by the hour. They don’t care about festive.”

“You don’t even have sexy Santa lingerie?”

She considered. “I guess I could do that.”

 

Moral 78: Paying by the hour doesn’t preclude having holiday spirit.

 

I continued dropping little hints throughout the day: Silver garlands would look great above her mantle. A tree next to the fireplace would be the perfect sex setting. Christmas cookies would fill the apartment with festive scent and we wouldn’t even have to light a Holiday Spice candle. I found all the red and green condoms and arranged them on her bedside table for easy access.

Caroline relented. “Fine,” she said, rolling her eyes. But she smiled. “I have a client taking me out tonight. I’ll give you my credit card and you can decorate the apartment however you want. Spend what you want, but you know, don’t . . . whatever, I trust you. Three or four hours, and then we’ll be back and you’ll have to leave.”

I got much more excited than I’d anticipated. I’d always been a little half-hearted when helping my mom put out decorations, and my own apartment wasn’t decorated, but for some reason the idea of decorating Caroline’s apartment sounded like a blast.

 

Moral 79: Doing things for other people feels good.

 

I was shocked and impressed with my own efficiency at procuring a Christmas tree. I knew where the closest lot was because I passed it every day walking from the train to Caroline’s place. It turned out they had a delivery service, and for an extra fee they even set it up for me.

Jewel had more resources than I’d hoped—silver garlands, silver candles, and boxes of those boring colored glass globe ornaments. I hated those things. (I prefer my Christmas trees a little more trashy. My favorite tree ever was a white fiber optic with Star Trek ornaments.) But Caroline would like the red and green glass ornaments. She liked to make things look classy.

And while I was at Jewel I picked up a tube of slice-and-bake cookie dough.

I cleaned Caroline’s hardwood floors after the Christmas tree guys tracked dirty snow everywhere, and swept up the pine needles. I used tape for the garland on the mantle, and lit the silver candles. I was stressed out and on overdrive the whole time, but three and a half hours later, I had a m*th*rf*cking Christmas scene that looked like a theme corner of the ornament store at the mall.

Working for Caroline was one of the most challenging jobs I’ve ever had. It was very “Devil Wears Prada” in a lot of ways. But it instilled a sense of competency in me that I would otherwise never have developed at 20 years old.

 

Moral 80: Don’t underestimate your hustle.
Especially when the baby Jesus is helping you make a whore’s Christmas miracle.

 

I’d hoped to be done with the cookies by the time Caroline and her client got back, but I was in the middle of the second batch when the door opened . . . and didn’t shut. They just stood there for a moment, looking in. I tried to pretend I was June Cleaver and said, “Hi!”

“Oh my god!” Caroline said.

“Cookies!” the client said.

He was a middle-aged guy with broad shoulders and a trim waist (let’s call him that—Shoulders). He looked like he used to be a football player or something. He wore a very nice suit. Caroline was pretty dressed up, too.

Clients rarely took Caroline out. Mostly they just came to her apartment for 45 minutes. But Caroline apparently had a history with Shoulders. I wondered if he’d stay all night, and if she’d charge him for every hour. I’d worked for Caroline for five or six months, and in all that time only one client stayed the whole night.

“I told you she was awesome,” Caroline said to Shoulders, who hummed in agreement, looking me up and down. She poured him wine and gave him another cookie. “Go on, get comfortable in the living room. I’ll just get her paid and sent home.”

“She doesn’t have to leave,” Shoulders said, grinning.

I felt myself blushing, and laughed it off. “I really do,” I said.

“She has plans tonight,” Caroline said, even though I didn’t. I was impressed; she had lied to protect me instead of trying to recruit me.

“Too bad,” Shoulders said, and went into the living room.

Caroline turned to me, looking outrageously shocked, but not unpleased. “This is so beautiful, thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” I said, feeling pleased with myself, despite the discomfort of having been propositioned yet again by one of her clients. No matter how many times it happened, I never got used to it.

“There’s cookie dough on your briefcase,” Caroline said, and wet her dish sponge to get off the slightly crusted dough. She used the more abrasive side, accidentally rubbing off the red surface of the leather. When she realized what was happening, she put the sponge away and pretended it hadn’t happened.

I had to bite back a smile because that was so like her. “Thanks Caroline,” I said.

Where Caroline tried to help.

Where Caroline tried to help.

“You know,” Caroline said. “He’s right—you don’t have to go. This could be your first night as one of my girls.”

I should have seen that coming. I sighed. “Caroline—”

“I’m just saying! We could make a fortune, you and me! And you’d be perfectly safe. I’d be there the whole time!”

I wasn’t sure if the possibility of her being there made me feel better or worse. But I was sure there was nothing perfectly safe about what Caroline did. There were good clients, but there was no perfectly safe.

“No thanks,” I said, grateful for having mastered the plastic June Cleaver smile.

 

Moral 81: ‘Ho ‘ho ‘ho. (Just wanted to say that.)

***
Quick—What’s the second most profitable criminal industry in the US? First guess, then click.
***
L. Marrick is a historical fantasy writer and freelance copywriter. She waxes poetic about swords and the Renaissance Faire at her author blog. She looks all professional-like at her copywriting site. She eats too much chocolate and still doesn’t believe downward dog is supposed to be a restful yoga pose. You can connect with her at either of her websites, and follow her on Twitter @LMarrick.


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