I stood in the street, tired, slightly bruised, hungry, smelling a little weird, and completely desperate. The scrap of paper in my hand held the same address as the building in front of me, which also displayed an ornate sign disclaiming "The Magic Box." This little piece of paper was what had enabled me to escape the tyranny of my father and brother.I thought back to the night the traveling medicine woman had come to our tiny town. At first, we'd all been wary of a woman traveling alone. It just wasn't done. Father hadn't wanted me to go anywhere near her, but I was curious. I snuck out of the house that night and lurked in streets alongside the town square. She noticed me and came to talk, which was enough of a surprise to my self-esteem in and of itself. She seemed to understand more about me than I did about myself and urged me to leave the town. Over my protests, she handed me this address. A brothel, where the owner would take me in and give me a job.When my father found out I'd left the house, I got the worst beating of my life. As soon as I could, I left again, this time permanently. And now here I was. I had no idea how I'd gather enough confidence to work in a brothel, but maybe I could do something besides...what's usually done there.After a deep breath, I knocked lightly on the door. No one answered, so I pushed it open. It was daytime, so I didn't expect there to be many customers about. I closed the door carefully behind me and looked around."H-hello? Is anyone here?" I called, the words catching in my nervousness.((Open to Anya, when she gets her darn application done, or someone else could tag too. Except I'm going out of town til Sunday, so I probably can't respond til then.))
There are some very odd ideas about sex. Now, I don't mean ideas about very odd sex, like those people who call in asking if, in addition to the standard girl-and-bed, we can arrange for an octopus, a wading pool, and three yards of rubber tubing to be in the room. I mean that people, on the whole, have odd ideas about sex, on the whole. And I should know since my business is sex (on, off, or just-stick-it-in the whole).For example, a commonly-held belief about sex is that it can only occur at night. I'm not quite sure where people got this one from. I know my vagina never had hours posted, and, while cum can make rather crusty stains on the sheets, I doubt that this is due to its sharing certain sunlight-avoidant traits with vampires. And, really, if people were meant to have sex in the dark, don't you think God would make penises that light up or something?However, thanks to human kind's idiosyncracy, we can depend on a pretty regular schedule here at the Magic Box. Business is pretty good beginning around five or so, when working men feel like they need to let out some of that built up "tension." People are in and out (and in and out, and in and out...) for the rest of the night, and we can usualy count on our last customer coming in before six in the morning. Which means I get a quick nap before I need to get up and see to the Business-y part of the business.During the day it's quiet. Most of the girls who live here, and there are a few, sleep all day. I make a late lunch for those who do get up. Beyond a few conversations with Emily as she does her rounds, I'm usually alone.Which is why nobody should be opening the front door or calling out while I pay the bills online. Cursing under my breath, I grab a robe from a nearby hook and toss it on over my naked body. As long as you've got a good heater, nudity is a cheap and easy way of life.I enter the foyer hoping it isn't the new FedEx guy. Or hoping, if it is him, that he's gay. The delivery boys can really become a nuisance, and, no matter how many times I call their supervisors to complain that expecting handjobs as tips for carrying packages is completely unreasonable, they still come in here with a stupid grin on their face and demand that I "give them a hand." The last one got his across his face, with a few nail marks thrown in for free.But the figure standing in the center of the room and doing a slow turn to take in the large amounts of velvet and lace isn't male. Nor is she clad in those disgusting brown shorts."Most of it comes from dead people," I comment as I approach her. She seems to jump slightly; though whether it is from my sudden appearance from a door which was out of her sight, the sound of my voice, or my mention of the deceased as my primary interior decorators, I don't know. As she gazes at me, I continue."Estate auctions, actually. Brocade isn't in style so much now, but it was a century or so ago. So when rich people die and their descendents want some quick money, I get a ton of low-cost furniture. And the customers don't seem to mind. Especially since I don't tell them."Finally, realizing that since she came in during the day, she must have something to do with Business, I put on a wide smile and extend my hand."Hello, I'm Anya Emerson, proprietor of the Magic Box. Can I help you with something?"
I am mesmerised by the deep jewel tones of the decorations, mostly consisting of rich fabrics and brocades on the walls. I find myself turning in a circle, slightly unable to believe that I'm standing in a place like this, so different in absolutely every way from my father's wooden, spartan farmhouse. Suddenly the doubt hits me and I see for the first time how absolutely unlikely it is that I can ever succeed here. I remember how several of my childhood teachers had subtly tested my hearing when they noticed how little I spoke and how much I stuttered. How could someone like me ever work in a place like this?The woman startles me when she appears behind me. Her forthright description of the furnishings puts me oddly at ease, as if because of her honesty, I can allow myself to do the same. I can tell her the truth about me and why I'm here, and if she turns me away, so be it. I really, really have nothing to lose."H-hello, Ms. Emerson," I straighten my shoulders and make every attempt to appear confident, mentally cursing my stutter when it inevitably appears. "My n-name is Tara Maclay." I shake her hand, wondering if this is perhaps the first time I've ever done that, ever introduced myself and shaken hands like a real, independent person. I could get used to this."I, um, was referred here. By a v-visitor to my town." I extend my other hand with the scrap of paper on which the woman had written the name and address of The Magic Box. "I, well, I'm looking for work."
She hands me a slip of paper that has obviously seen better days. The time since those days must have been spent wadded up in very dirty places. I am attempting to decipher the writing when her last sentence pulls me up short."I, well, I'm looking for work.""Oh, really?" is my brilliant response.It's not that no one's ever come asking for work before. It's just that they don't usually stutter at me. Or bring references.I'd had her pegged for one of those long-lost-kin people. The ones who ask me about some female relative with the fervent hope that I've never heard of her before. I am on strict instructions to lie to those kind of people.I finally make out the scribbles on the paper and have to fight to keep from slapping myself on the forehead. Of course. It's Hali's handwriting. This must be the new blood she promised me when she decided to leave two years ago. She certainly took her sweet time.While the girl fidgets in front of me, I give her a quick once-over. Her clothes aren't tight enough for a professional appraisal, but I detect definite curves, with the possibility of voluptuousness. She looks old enough, which is more than can be said about plenty of girls who've coming knocking at my door. And her face has a certain something....My inner sense of arousal-potential approves her. I nod and motion to the door behind me."Well, why don't we get you cleaned up and continue this discussion in my room? I don't like to make too much noise out here during the day. The girls need their rest. After all, being a prostitute isn't just lying on your back all day. In fact, we don't usually work during the day...."I trail off as I turn away from her to open the door. I had a rather quiet night last night, and most of today's work is done. I deserve some fun. And interviews are always fun.
The woman's look of surprise when I say I'm looking for work hurts a little, though I can't say I blame her. It's probably not every day that she gets shy, inexperienced farmgirls asking for a job in her line of work. And it's not like I'm particularly attractive. Suddenly I wonder if maybe the recommendation from that woman in town won't be enough to get me this job. The thought of being stranded with no income in this unfamiliar city makes me a little panicky, but I pull myself together and follow her into the other room.As I step through the door, I glance around to get my bearings. Bed, sink, dresser...desk and computer? I guess it must be normal to have your office in your bedroom here. Though technically the bedroom is a place of business...I'm definitely having trouble getting used to this idea.She wants me to get cleaned up? That seems like a strange process for an interview. The smirk on her face doesn't exactly make me less wary. Something tells me she might have way too much fun with a country girl like me. For some reason I decide that talking might distract her from whatever she has planned for me, conveniently forgetting how well that usually goes for me."So, um, you know the woman who g-gave me the address? I don't really know w-why she wanted me to look here for a job..." I trail off, wondering what on earth I'm doing, expressing skepticism about a job I really need.
As we enter the room, I lean over to smooth out the covers on the bed and gesture at the bag she carries."Drop that somewhere near the door. Preferably not on top of anything else. I'm not saying anything against the admirable collection of mud you've got going along the bottom there, I just don't want it all over my stuff."The bed isn't made, and I'm certainly not going to take the time to make it. Making beds in a brothel is like cleaning tables at a MacDonald's; it's an endless, futile task, and something for which you hire minimum-wage workers. However, I do manage to arrange a space at the foot of the bed where we can sit without clothes coming in contact with sheets. Though in this girl's case I'm not sure which one I'm looking out for.To her question I answer, "Yes, Hali's an old friend. And her word means a lot to me, which is a large part of why you're still here. You're somewhat dirty and smelly at the moment, and that stutter is about as much of a turn-on as my uncle Ernie's red suspenders. But Hali saw something in you, or she wouldn't have sent you here."I sit down on the bed and pat the space next to me."Come. Sit. Convince me why I should hire you."I smile up at her."Do you have any experience? We're talking performance or sex. You know, training in the arts of the Kama Sutra, a really perverted boyfriend, some interesting exploring during sleep-overs, a high school drama class?" I add encouragingly.
I set my bag carefully by the door, aware of its dilapidated condition, and let my hair fall into my face to hide my blush. I know my things aren't the nicest in the world, but I haven't had much choice in the matter. Until maybe now. If I get this job.Anya sits on the bed as she continues insulting my appearance, causing my blush to remain even after I've run out of ways to hide behind my hair. I flinch at her description of me as "dirty" and "smelly," because honestly, that's not the kind of thing people say to each other. Even if one of them has just been on a bus for 10 hours straight.As I sit, I can't help but respond to her comments. "It's n-not exactly my fault that buses don't have showers." As soon as the words leave my mouth, my eyes widen and I panic momentarily before deciding to pretend I didn't say a word. Not that that ever worked with my father.And she asks about experience. Great. I guess "virginal country girl" isn't exactly the kind of resume most women here have. I take a deep breath and decide to be honest."W-well, I, uh, don't have much experience with, uh, men. At least," I duck my head, amazed that I'm about to voice this, "not the kind I could exactly, uh, use here. Not the voluntary kind." I close my eyes briefly, wondering how I've managed to screw this interview up so completely. I only have one more bit to add to my resume, which could either make or break my job."And, actually, I don't have much interest in men either. Not that I couldn't do the job, I mean people can do pretty much anything for money, but I, uh, much prefer women." As I finally stop talking, I realize I've said that whole piece without stuttering. It makes sense, I guess, since that's the one fact about myself that I'm most comfortable with.
I heard the comment about the showers. I did, but I pretend I didn't. It's one of those sneaky social skills I've seen people using. So, instead of reacting, I merely file my observation under "Look, she bears less resemblance to a wet noodle than I initially thought."She continues talking, and I quickly realize two things.First, she's a victim. The word glows in bright red letters in my mind. Most of the girls here are victims. Many of the women I know are, in some way, victims. I hate it. It makes me want to rain hellfire and venereal diseases down on any many who has ever hurt a woman.Luckily, it also makes me like Tara more. That, and the sassy come-back, and she's gained major points in Anya-esteem.The second thing I notice is that she isn't acting. Most of the girls who come looking for a job, after they realize that they have to talk to me, launch an all-out campaign to seduce me off my feet. Apparently they think that if I'll have sex with them, I'll hire them to have sex with others. They seriously overestimate my personal standards.But Tara hasn't taken the path of the maudlin. She's telling the truth, even when she thinks I won't like it. Actually, I don't have any problems with what she's said so far."I like the way you said that, about preferring women. You didn't pull the big 'I am lesbian, hear me roar' thing. On the other hand, acknowledging your sexual preferences is good. Mine happens to be 'first available'.""And a complete intolerance of testosterone would be a problem. As you've probably guessed, most of our clientele are male. But they do come with money, almost always. And that's not to say you won't find some chick-on-chick action. Some of us around here like to get a little hot and heavy behind the scenes." I pause to wink at her conspiratorially before adding, "Besides, we also have a few women customers. Some of the studies I've done show that our popularity among the horny women between the ages of 18 and 75 demographic has risen in the last few weeks. Mainly due to word of our mouths."I only leave a moment for that to sink in before I move on to using a strange and extended metaphor to make my real point."And lots of raunchy rolls in the hay aren't exactly what you need to fit in here. We're professionals because we're good at what we do, not because we do it a lot. And what we do is more that just sex; it's making people feel good. It just happens that our bodies are wired to respond to sex instead of, say golf. If everyone got off by hitting tiny balls around in big green fields, this'd be a country club and we'd all be wearing Polos and those really tacky visors. And we'd tell every guy who came in here that his handicap doesn't really matter and that we secretly think he's better than Tiger Woods.""See, that's the real trick. We're not selling sex; we're selling pleasure. And we can do that because we know how to read what people want, and how to give it to them. And, physical equipment aside, I need to know whether or not you can do that. If you can make someone feel like they're par for the course, no matter how many strokes they've taken."
Oddly enough, Anya's response to my eclectic resume probably could not have been better suited to make me feel comfortable about this job. All I need to do is appease people? That's like second nature to me. I'm not so sure about the Sapphic relations behind the scenes, since I think I'd rather either get paid for it or reserve it for special situations. If such situations should present themselves however...being out from under my father's thumb looks even more promising."Ms. Emerson -may I call you Anya?" I straighten my posture, finally feeling some semblance of confidence, "My entire life up to this point has been spent basically in the service of my father and brother. If there's one thing I'm good at, besides blending into the background, it's making people feel good."I pause for a moment, wondering if I should qualify that statement slightly, and decide that honesty has been working fairly well for me thus far."Small-town life didn't offer much chance for sexual experience, but I do think I can learn, especially if it means I can earn a living outside of my father's control."