When I finally meet her eyes again, she has this knowing smirk on her face.

“What? You didn’t really think I’d be able to get by just working at the ‘Great Ole’ Mushroom’, did you?” she raises her hands and gestures to the space around her to emphasize her sarcasm. “The only reason I’m still even here is ’cause I need an alibi to keep my boyfriend from being nosy, and Larry is pretty good at covering for me. I’ll be over and done with this crapper soon enough.”

I’m pretty shocked by what she’s telling me, and I can only manage a shrug in response. “I’m not judging.”

Okay, I’m totally judging, even though I know I have no right to. A slight but noticeable pause follows before she speaks again.

“You should consider it, you know,” she says with a smile. “I can hook it up; introduce you to the club and everything. I can even help get you started on your first gig right away if you want.” 

I listen to her say the words so casually, her expression beyond nonchalant, and all I can do is look at her like another head just grew out of her neck. I adjust my glasses impulsively, pushing them up my nose as a frown takes my lips hostage.

“What?” she says, giving me another disapproving look. I can’t stop myself from arching my brow in response. I can’t believe this chick is actually proposing I whore myself out for cash.

And, more than that, I can’t believe that she seems to be shocked that I’m offended by the suggestion.

She sighs, seeming to read through both my expression and silence. “Look, all I’m saying is you’re a gorgeous girl. Lots of guys wanna be in the company of gorgeous girls. And more than a few are quite happy to pay a pretty penny to do it. It’s charity work if you really think about it, Ramona.”

Riiiight. Being an escort is totally for charity. I totally hear ya, Nicole.

Gosh, is she serious?! Her nonchalance has me floored at the moment, and honestly, there’s not much I can say to her right now without coming off rude. So I decide to leave it at, “Thanks, but I’m good. I’m gonna head in, my shift’s about to start.”

I extend my hand again to give her her card back. She takes it, giving me another smile before she starts to walk away.

“In case you change your mind, you have my number,” she calls out cheerily, waving the card above her head just before she exits the back door.

I can’t stop myself from wincing at her voice, grateful for the silence she leaves behind her.

I chuckle, shaking my head as I remember her words.

‘You’ll go deaf by the time you’re fifty if you keep that up, you know’.

But then my laughter dies almost immediately, vaporizing into nothing as renewed anxiety takes its place.

I shove my bag into my locker before I head into the main area, sighing as the thoughts of my health and that of my mother come rushing back to the forefront of my mind.

If I’ll even make it to fifty, that is.


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