My latest job was scheduled on Christmas Eve, and I was crazy to accept it since my parents were coming to visit the same night. I had invited Ryan, Lee and Tye to join us; using them was a good distraction for my parents while I was gone. I knew I had to work before I invited them, and only announced it to Ryan the day before, urging him to allow me to take it, and he only accepted after hours of persuasion. I told him to tell everyone I was out doing my last minute Christmas shopping (I had brought some gifts last week) when they arrived.
Arlene Fredrickson had the famish look of a middle-aged woman who hasn’t been touched in years. I was slightly uncertain on how to approach her, so I had to put in the extra work of being scrupulously polite. Sex aside, I knew my job as an escort was to make conversation with my clients, entertain them, sometimes even make them laugh. I had to embody the image of the perfect lover, the perfect life companion and sexual partner. I could tell Arlene wasn’t like any other client; she was smart, intellectual and very determined for our night to go as she’d hope. To make it worth her while, I had to bring out the best in me by being highly responsive and engaging fully in her conversations by mentally stimulating her with interesting topics and thought-provoking questions. This was the first time this kind of work required a cerebral and emotional effort rather than a physical one. I had to step up my game and level up to her shrewdness and intellect. Flirtation didn’t really seem to do the trick although I could easily tell she was a very lonely woman. Initially, I associated her aggressive appearance with a lack of warmth and cooperation, but there was no doubt she was a softy. As I got to know her more, it became clear to me that she had been hurt plenty of times in the past, and that her sense of romance was buried deep somewhere within her that it’d be easy to assume she didn’t have one. I never thought I’d end up relating to her, specifically when it came down to her sombre perception of people. She had grown wary of building any kind of deep and meaningful relationship with anyone since she was perfectly obdurate that nothing lasts.
When I first walked in the door, I thought our encounter would be strictly sexual, hence quick, but that wasn’t the case. Arlene wanted me to address a need she hasn’t been able to get from men in a while; the desire to be close to someone. She had a table set up for dinner, The job would’ve been easy and stress-free had our date been scheduled for another night, but I had my folks waiting for me back in Iowa, and I was so worried things would get out of hand. I knew Ryan would keep my secret, but I also knew that if I didn’t get back in time, everything would be jeopardized. During dinner, I’ve found out she was an Irish singer who’s main focus was narrowed down to writing new age and celtic fusion music. She’s famous in England, and had moved here only after both her career and personal life took on a decline. She expressed some disdain towards life here, and wished to go back home once her wounds are healed. After eating, I finally took the initiation and made sexual advances towards her which she refused; the only reason I was being pushy was because I was eager to get to the end of our arrangement and rush back home. Instead, she guided me to her bed where we both lied. She grabbed the remote control, turned on the TV and started going through the channels. I was annoyed at the fact her desperation for human contact was dragging our night on and on, and I was starting to lose interest in the whole encounter until I heard a captivating announcement coming from one of the channels:
“Heather Austin finally opens up about the dreadful night of her abduction and the nightmare that followed on an all new episode of The Kelly Faulkner Show next Monday on the Reality Channel.”
My attention fixated on the TV screen for a couple of seconds as the voice of the announcement echoed in my ears and put me in an instant startling state of mind; although the decision to stay under the spotlight was entirely mine, the angst surrounding the fact I was the one responsible for her survival and return to safety was so overwhelming I couldn’t shake the idea I’ll never be able to tell my side of the story. I think it’s natural for that feeling to occur when something goes from being under the radar and becoming mainstream. Heather’s fame was thanks to me, and knowing I was the one amenable for that was deeply troubling for me. Arlene asked me if I was feeling all right and I said I did. She looked into my eyes and I could feel her give in to her sexual desires, so I made a move again, and this time, she welcomed it. We had sex and I was out the door as soon as we were done.
I flew back to Iowa and arrived at my place an hour later than I expected. I had texted Ryan right when my cab pulled into the building’s driveway. As soon as I got in front of my door, he was already waiting at the door to grab my duffle bag and take it to my room. I walked inside to the living room where my parents were eager to see me. It looked like the distance had created some nostalgic, parental longing to see their child. It’s funny how empaths are wired to equate love with longing which only exists when the person isn’t close. The way they looked at me when I walked into the room was weird, my mom inspecting every inch of my body, wondering how I’ve survived for almost a year away from home; that reminded me of when she used to obsessively watch over me when I was a child. Being away created an unusual feeling driven by memories and nostalgia of when I was likable and sweet which mistakenly put both of them in a delusional state of mind as they traveled here excited to see me. It’s like they’ve forgotten about the weird pattern of behavior I’ve developed in the last few years that created a clear distance between us. Regardless of how their reaction to see me was perceived, I was glad their focus was on those good, old memories instead of anything else. Coming back, I kept imagining them impatiently waiting for me, maybe even doubtful about my unavailability when I clearly knew they’d be here weeks prior. Tye, Ryan and Lee were all at their best behavior which impressed mom and dad; they were glad I had a core group of friends although Ryan was the only one I could blindly trust; I appreciated the fact he didn’t even mention the fact him and Tye were a couple or that he was a go-go dancer, things my parents weren’t open-minded enough to assimilate.
As we cleaned up and put things away, I was glad I lucked out by pulling off such an insane cover up without causing the slightest bit of suspicion, but that impression didn’t last long as, for a short while, I realized Tye was nowhere to be seen, and that caused an instant uneasiness. Soon, he was back in the living room, my airplane ticket in hand as well as my envelope full of money. He was furious as he walked up to me and flashed them in front of everyone, declaring rather violently how I’ve used the three of them and set them up to do my bidding while I made myself some money. Apparently, Ryan had told him I was working as escort which made him suspicious regarding my whereabouts.
“You’re a liar. You lied to us and made us cover up for your absence so you can go make yourself a quick buck. You are not our friend!”, Tye lashed out.
His overreaction didn’t come across to me as an intervention resulting from his disapproval towards my comportment, but was clearly designed to display his pining for control and righteous disobedience against my actions, not because he was worried and afraid for my safety, but because he wanted to fixate on an excuse to throw me out of the picture. Thing is: he didn’t know that no one, not him, not anyone else, could break me. His extreme callousness was purposed to scare me, make me cry and ask for forgiveness only so he could satisfy his craving for control and superiority by rebuffing my apology, and taking his boyfriend and Lee away from me for good. When his castigation took on an aggressive, almost condescending turn, I lost my temper as my rage reached its peak and impulsively pummeled him across the face. That’s not how I typically respond to conflict, not to mention I was trying so hard not to cross the boundaries by inflicting violence, but his behavior has been leading me to believe that no matter what I did, he was going to cut the ties between us, and so I wanted him to suffer in the process.
The fateful night ended with me standing in the shower, successively hitting my head sideways against the tiled wall until I cut my forehead. Once blood started spreading down and dissolving into the water, I kneeled down, one hand reaching the faucet behind me, slowly and gradually twisting it from moderately hot to extremely hot. I felt my skin burning, but after the initial few seconds of scorching pain, an almost orgasmic sensation took over my body and relieved me from the hurt. The bathroom then turned into a foggy steam room; all my eyes could see was a thick, gray haze as the dry heat invaded the space. I stood up once I felt myself fading, but moving only made things worse as my body got closer to the blistering hot water sprinkling from the shower head. I felt the burn again and so I pushed myself to the outside, ripping the shower curtain and falling straight on my face. The unnecessary gamble I’ve taken was another result of my inability to learn from experience. I thought I’d be able to bypass getting caught, but I guess should’ve known better.
The next morning, I met my parents for lunch and they asked about my forehead. I told them I tripped in the shower and thankfully, the conversation quickly moved past that; I mentioned to them how independent I’ve become, how decent my recent grades were and how I managed to land myself a part-time position at the university library which was a lie. They mentioned that Hugo has been suffering from a major depression after I had left, and I suggested they ship him here, an idea which they clearly didn’t grasp. I didn’t insist, though, since I knew I wasn’t ready to have him here just yet, but made it pretty clear that I would be in the upcoming year. The thought of missing out on spending the remaining years he has left has been tormenting my conscience ever since I moved here. A brief silence took over the table before my mom finally set both hands on the table and looked straight at me.
“Felix, me and your father can no longer support you.” She announced.
“What? Why?” I asked, saddened and confused.
“We simply can’t. It’s beyond our capabilities at this point. From now on, we’re only going to secure your tuition fees because we committed to that and getting your degree is of the utmost important to us. However, since you’ve started working, we think you’re more than capable of making your own money to pay for your expenses and rent.”
After our meal, I took them on a campus tour and showed them around; they liked the environment and were finally convinced studying here wasn’t such a bad idea after all, but they made sure to express their wish of having me be closer to home numerous times throughout, expressing it in less obvious ways each time they said it. Soon after, they had to get ready to leave; mom embraced me in her arms and squeezed me tight. As soon as she let go I felt my phone vibrating in my pocket. As we walked back to their motel, I finally took it out and saw a message from William offering me a weeklong job in Chicago next week, and I didn’t hesitate to take it. I had lost my friends and nothing was going to bring them back. I’ve become reliant on self-deception, and at this point I didn’t care because my life was working out for me better that way.