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“Cheers,” said Emily. We clinked our glasses together.
It was a Friday evening, around eight. Outdoors, the night air was heavy with the summer heat, but Emily and I were enjoying the air conditioning of a hotel bar.
We were in Reno, traveling for Emily’s work. She had managed to convince her company to hire me, temporarily, as her assistant for this trip.
“Here’s to meeting my sales goal,” she said. We sipped our drinks.
“I just want to make sure you know how grateful I am,” I said. “I really needed this. This is embarrassing, but–I had a little trouble paying rent last month.”
“Oh, please. Don’t mention it. This company has so much money, I have to share it when I can.”
It had been a couple weeks since that day at her pool. I still felt so guilty about my behavior that day that I’d have done anything for her, even if money weren’t an issue.
So I took the work seriously, despite not understanding her job very well–It had something to do with outsourcing, but it was somehow more complicated than that–I didn’t need to understand. All I needed to do was accompany her to her meetings and sales calls.
I had her oat milk latte ready for her in the morning, as well as her mid-afternoon cold brew pick-me-up. I had her notes on each client ready before she had to ask. At night, after the long day of sales meetings, I entered her new contacts’ business cards into a database and prepared her agenda for the next day.
Now it was the last night of our trip, and it was time to relax and have fun.
“If I hit my sales goal we should definitely celebrate,” she had said, our first night here. “Maybe we’ll, I don’t know… see what the clubs are like here. Remember how we used to go clubbing all the time?”
I remembered. I remembered especially one particular night, years ago–a dark club, pulsing with music, full of leering guys–Emily in the middle of a crowd on the dance floor, kissing another girl.
Jenny Jackson had been her name. Emily had made out with her in front of everyone. And there I was, on the sidelines. I could only watch as it went on and on and on, my heart in my throat, thinking, Why isn’t that me?
Emily and Jenny Jackson had been dancing together. They both knew what it was doing to the guys to see them together like that, so they were putting on a show–holding each other close, lightly grinding on each other. One of the guys had called out, “Kiss!” Emily and Jenny gave each other a “Why not?” smile and that was all it took.
It could have been me if I’d had a little more courage. I’d thought about it many times in the years since. Earlier that night, I’d been the one dancing with Emily like that. But dancing so close to her, so provocatively, had been too intense. I was afraid she’d be able to tell that I was aroused for real, that I wasn’t just pretending for the guys. I’d made an excuse and pulled away from her. That’s when she started dancing with Jenny Jackson instead.
Afterwards, Emily had laughed with me, a wild light in her eyes. “Can you believe I did that?” she’d said. “God, that was crazy!”
I’d burned with jealousy. It had just been a big joke to Emily. I never understood how she could be so casual about it.
I knew other girls who “experimented” with each other, and I wanted that with Emily. I used to think that’s all it was.
But I had been fantasizing about Emily for as long as I’d known her. And the magnitude of it had grown and grown and grown, while my dread of acting on it grew to match.
I’d always hesitated. There was always a reason not to make my move. She’d treat it like a joke, like she had with Jenny Jackson. My intensity would freak her out. She would sense how badly I wanted it, how long I’d been thinking about it.
I knew now that it was more than just a fantasy. I was in love with her. I had been for a long, long time, but I hadn’t admitted it to myself until recently.
Every night this week I had laid awake in my hotel bed, imagining the end of the trip, our last night together, the two of us on the dance floor. And now it was here. Tonight was the night. Tonight I was going to tell her. There was no better time. Rick wasn’t around. Tomorrow morning we’d return home. But tonight–tonight we would hold each other close, moving with the music. Emily would look at me, and that’s when I’d say it.
I love you, Emily.
And she would know what I meant. She would know I meant real love, not just as friends.
I love you, Abigail, she would say.
And then we’d kiss, for the first time, just like she and Jenny Jackson had–only it would be for real–not a joke, not a performance.
Emily’s crazy days were mostly behind her. Sometimes it was hard to remember they were the same woman: the one I’d spent this trip working with, versus the one who’d made out with a friend in a club once on a dare. If I could go back in time and tell the old Emily about the high-powered businesswoman mersin escort she’d become–conservative blouses, slacks, no-nonsense pumps–she’d never believe me.
But she was wasn’t dressed like that tonight. Tonight she was a little more like the old Emily. Her dress was a vibrantly-patterned, off-the-shoulder design, baring her left shoulder and upper arm. The big loose neckline draped so low that the top of one breast was showing. It was hard not to look at her body. Every time she moved my eye was drawn to her, to see the material cling to her in a new way.
I watched her take a small sip from her glass.
“Do you remember the Diamond Bar?” she said.
I nearly jumped out of my skin. The Diamond Bar was where we used to go dancing. It was the club where she had kissed Jenny Jackson that night.
Maybe she’s thinking the same as me. Maybe she wants it to happen tonight, too.
“I was literally just thinking about that,” I said. “Because we were talking about going dancing.”
“We were so young and crazy then!” she said.
“Shut up! We’re still young!” I said. And she had always been the crazy one, not me. “Do you think, if you could somehow meet your younger self, she’d believe you’d end up where you are now? Saleswoman of the month and all that?”
“God, no! I used to be such a slut,” she said. “Did you know that whenever we went clubbing I never wore any underwear? No panties, no bra, nothing. Just those tiny little dresses! I loved how it felt for some reason.” She laughed.
“Emily!” I was genuinely surprised. “Are you serious?”
“I swear to God. And those dresses were so cheap! They were made of that stretchy polyester. Some of them were so thin I couldn’t wear them more than once or twice. They just fell apart.”
I remembered the dress she’d been wearing the night she kissed Jenny Jackson. Now I knew she had been naked beneath.
“You were so hot back then,” Emily said. “I mean, you’re still hot, don’t get me wrong! But trust me, you could have gotten laid a ton if you’d let yourself cut loose a little bit more.”
“I guess that’s not really my style,” I said.
“I get it,” she said. “I never fucked a lot of guys either. But–do you remember how Diamond Bar had those dark booths in the back?”
“I can’t believe I used to do this, but I would sit with guys back there and give them blow jobs. I did that more than a few times!”
I was so oblivious. Where had I been while this was happening?
“What’s the sluttiest thing you ever did?” she asked.
“Nothing like that,” I managed to say.
“Oh, come on. I told you a secret. You have to tell me one.”
I hesitated. I did have secrets. One huge one in particular.
“Emily, I–” I faltered.
“Yes?” she leaned forward.
“I love–” I felt like I was going to faint.
No. Not yet. This isn’t the time. I’ll tell her later. When we’re dancing.
“What?” Emily said.
“I love anal sex,” I said again. I covered my face with my hands. “I can’t believe I just said that.”
“Abigail,” she said. “I think that’s awesome! Thank you so much for sharing that.” She put her hand on my arm.
I nodded, too flustered to speak.
“Do you want to know what mine is? One time I did it with two guys.”
“Really?” I said.
“Yeah. They were friends. I went back to the booths with them. I was blowing one of them and his friend was sitting behind me. He started fingering me. It was so hot and I wanted to keep going. So I went home with them. But before we fucked, I made them make out with each other. I told them I wanted to watch. But I actually didn’t even care about that. I just wanted to see if I could make them do it.”
“Oh, my God,” I said.
“I know!” she said. “It’s sort of too bad we can’t do things like that anymore.”
“Well, we could do whatever we want tonight,” I said. “You never know what might happen. We’re in a city where no one knows us. What happens in Vegas, like they say.”
“Or Reno,” she said.
We were interrupted by the waiter, coming by to ask if we wanted another drink. Emily had finished hers, but I was still slowly sipping.
“She needs to catch up,” Emily laughed. “Bring us both another.”
I tried to protest but she shushed me, winking at the waiter. He chuckled.
“You ladies in town for business?” he asked. His eyes were all over Emily.
“We’re done with business!” Emily said. “It’s our last night in town.”
“Fantastic. Any plans?” He kept looking at her breasts. I’d been trying hard not to look, but the waiter had no such shame.
“Maybe you can help us figure that out. We’re open to suggestions.” She blinked at him slowly, smiling as he stared at her chest.
Emily! You said we were going dancing! I clenched my fists in my lap, tuning out as the waiter started listing nearby restaurants. Why was she was flirting with this loser?
“Drink up,” she said, once the waiter mersin escort bayan had finally left. I took a big sip, then another.
“Relax, we’re going dancing,” said Emily. “I didn’t forget. I was just teasing him.”
“Did you find any good clubs?” I asked.
“I have a spot in mind,” she said. “It’s gonna be a ton of fun. Just like we used to do! Well, I don’t think I’m going to blow any guys tonight. But maybe we can get a little bit wild.”
She beckoned me closer. I leaned towards her. Her warm breath tickled my ear.
“I’m not wearing underwear,” she whispered.
She leaned back and raised her finger to her lips, smiling.
My blood was thundering in my ears.
“Really?” I whispered. I thought my chest might explode.
“I’m in a nostalgic mood, I guess,” she shrugged.
The waiter returned with our drinks. Once again he was staring at Emily, at her breasts under her dress. She batted her eyelashes at him, letting him look.
“If you like barbecue, I know a place you should definitely check out,” he said.
“Oh, really?” Emily giggled and played with her collar. It dipped lower, exposing more of one breast.
I stared daggers. Was she going to flirt with him all night? I didn’t even want another drink. I wanted to get out of here already.
“We already ate,” I said forcefully.
I’d looked forward to dancing the whole trip. I wasn’t going to let this loser ruin it! I downed the rest of my first drink and gestured for him to take the glass.
The waiter went away again. Emily looked at me. She uncrossed and recrossed her legs, her long legs rubbing mine under the table. One of her cork wedges nudged against my own sandaled foot.
“You know, you don’t have to be such a prude all the time.”
“I’m not!” I said.
“I’m just saying, you don’t have to be so judgy. So what if I’m not wearing underwear! I’m just having fun!”
I tried to tell her I didn’t care, that I liked that she wasn’t wearing underwear, that it was actually driving me crazy. I fidgeted, not knowing how to respond.
Finally I just said, “I’m not!” again.
“You got all pissy as soon as I told you.”
“I was just annoyed at that waiter. He wouldn’t go away.”
“Remember the other day?” she said. “When you came over to swim?”
I froze. I waited for her to say, I know what you did.
“Remember how you found me sunbathing nude?” she said.
I waited for her to say, You touched me while I was sleeping. You assaulted me.
She leaned against me, her breast pressed into my arm. Under the table, her hand landed on my thigh.
“Remember how you got undressed, too?” she said. “Wasn’t that fun?”
“Yeah,” I said, looking down into my glass. I tried not to think about her body in the bright sunlight, glistening with sunscreen. I tried not to think about smelling and tasting her pussy. I tried not to think about the fact that she wasn’t wearing underwear right now, sitting next to me. If I thought about these things I was certain she would sense it somehow, that she would see the guilt on my face.
“Don’t you want to have fun tonight?” she said in a soft voice. I looked up at her. Her eyes were sparkling.
“Will you excuse me,” I said, and leaped up from my chair.
I shoved open the bathroom door and leaned over the sink.
It had to happen the way I’d imagined–the dark club, dancing together, her lips close to mine–it could be like that. Not some stupid dare, like it had been with Jenny Jackson. It could be real. Why not? Why not tonight?
Because she was calling me a prude again. And she was right.
Tonight I wanted to open my heart to her, to be honest, finally, about my feelings. I couldn’t do that without taking down my walls. I had to be vulnerable.
That meant meeting her on her level. That meant having fun with her the way she wanted to have fun. That meant not turning my nose up when she suggested something crazy.
You win, Emily!
I went into a stall and started fumbling with my buttons. I hadn’t packed any clubwear, so instead I’d dressed for the summer heat, in a simple button-down chambray dress and slingback sandal flats. I unbuttoned the dress to the waist and shrugged out of the sleeves. I unhooked my bra and stuffed it into my purse. I rebuttoned my dress, then reached under the skirt, pushed my panties down my hips, and stepped out of them. They went into the purse with my bra.
I stepped out of the stall and looked in the mirror.
I don’t know what I expected. But it was so obvious. Somehow my boobs looked even bigger without a bra. They felt bigger. My nipples were poking through the thin fabric.
I can’t do this, I thought. This is so stupid. She’s not going to fall in love with you just because you took off your underwear!
But another part of me saw my reflection and said, Yes.
I recognized that part. It was there all the time, every escort mersin day. Every day when I got dressed, there was a small voice that whispered, No panties. Not today. Just leave them off. I always pushed that voice away. It was hard enough for me to keep my hands off myself, to get through the day without thinking dirty thoughts.
But tonight would be different. Tonight I would listen to that part. Tonight I wouldn’t worry. Emily and I were going to have fun. The perfect moment couldn’t happen if she thought I was being a prude.
So, head held high, I returned to the table and sat beside her once more. I was certain that the waiter was staring. I felt the other customers’ heads turning as I walked by. With every step, I was aware of the way my body moved, the way the fabric of my dress whispered across my bare skin, the current of chill air between my legs.
They can tell, I thought. Everybody knows.
But if Emily noticed, she didn’t say anything. She barely looked at me.
I took a deep breath and swallowed the last of my drink. I was gathering my nerve to tell her–I just took off my underwear–when she spoke first.
“Have you ever been to a strip club?” she said.
I almost choked on my gin and tonic.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “It’s just–it’s been on my mind all week.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“You know Rick also travels a lot for his work, right? On his last trip, I noticed he took out a lot of cash at an ATM. When I asked, he said something about having to ‘entertain his client.’ But I could tell he was being weird, you know? Like, he wouldn’t give me any details.”
Poor Rick. He never stood a chance. Emily always got the truth when she wanted it.
“You think Rick went to a strip club?” I said. As long as I’d known him, Rick had only had eyes for Emily.
“He told me. He got a lap dance. A private lap dance.”
“No,” I said. “He didn’t!”
She nodded. “He even told me the stripper’s name. Penny.”
“Her stripper name,” I said.
“I’ve been so mad at him. But then I started thinking, what am I mad at, exactly? ‘A private lap dance.’ I don’t even really know what that means. Maybe it’s not so bad.”
“Doesn’t she, like, rub her body all over him?”
“I guess I’m naïve,” she said. “Maybe you know more about it than I do.”
“No, I’m just guessing,” I said.
There was a strip club not far from my apartment. The sign read, “A Gentleman’s Club.” It was such a seedy-looking place, not really for gentlemen at all. There was even a black curtain blocking the door. What sleazy things must go on inside! I always craned my neck when I drove by, to see if the curtain was parted, or if there was a woman out front–on a break, smoking–trying to imagine what she was like.
“We should go, don’t you think? Just to see?”
“I don’t know,” I said.
Emily laid her hand on top of mine. “You are curious, aren’t you? I can tell!”
“Maybe a little,” I finally said, thinking of that black curtain.
She squeezed my hand. “We have to find out exactly what happened, don’t you see? I know stuff like this makes you uncomfortable. But I need your help. I can’t go alone!”
Still I hesitated. It was hardly the most romantic way to start the night. But for what I’d done to her while she was sleeping, I owed it to her, and more besides.
“Maybe we’d even like it,” she said. “It might be funny.”
What if I did like it? What if I looked at the strippers the same way I looked at Emily?
“Abigail–there’s not a single other person I would ask to do this with me.”
“I’ll go,” I said, my voice small.
We should leave, I thought, for about the fiftieth time. I’ll tell Emily we’re leaving. I’ll insist. The plan was to go dancing. That’s what we should be doing.
“We’ll go dancing after,” Emily had said, after the car dropped us off and she propelled me inside. “I promise. Besides, it’s not even 9:00 yet. We need to kill a little time.”
It was a small place, far from the glitzy hotels and casinos. The dim light was punctuated occasionally by screaming pink and blue neon strips along the black-painted walls. Thick bass pounded from the sound system.
We took a seat at a table a respectful distance from the low stage and the skinny topless woman dancing on it. She twirled around and around the pole, dollar bills sticking from her g-string. The song ended and the woman finished her routine to scattered applause. She collected some bills from the stage.
After a moment a new song began playing and another dancer appeared. She started an enthusiastic performance, bending low and twitching her ass in the air.
There were a dozen or so customers, all men. Most of them were grouped around the stage.
“We shouldn’t be here,” I said.
“We just need to see what a lap dance is like,” said Emily.
I watched the dancer twerking on the stage and felt nothing. Emily was prettier. Emily was perfect. If she got up there she would blow them all away.
I looked around, worried we were being stared at. But everyone was watching the stage. No one seemed to pay us any attention or even notice us.
That’s when I saw her.
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