Christina Witten placed the final double red lines at the end of the last column on her accounting exam. She flipped her test booklet to the front to make sure her student information was correct and then she gathered her things together. She felt a certain relief as she saw she was not the first person to finish the test and not anywhere near the last. It was comfortable for her to finish sometime in the middle. All her numbers matched, so it had to be good enough. She turned in her exam, swung her bag over her shoulder, and headed for the door.
It was a weight off her mind! The test had been an important one. The last one in April—end game. Once she got her (hopefully) good grades back, she’d have her diploma in office assistance and she could quit living her secret life. Not many girls lived a secret life, but if anyone back home heard she’d been working for an escort service, that would be the end of her freedom. She knew for certain her parents would pitch an epic fit and she’d be back in her home town pumping gas before she could say, “No tuition.”
It hadn’t been Christina’s idea to work for an escort service. Well, it hadn’t been her idea in the first place, but when her cousin Mindy showed her how much money could be made by being the shiny little woman on a boring man’s arm for one evening… poor little Christina had to cave. Her pockets were worn thin. She needed money.
It was all because of her own stupidity that she had been short on cash. She was the one who told her parents she had enough money to leave her small town and move to faraway Edmonton. It didn’t matter how far away she went, they didn’t have any money to help her even if she lived next door, but she wasn’t worried. She could take care of everything. She always planned to get a part-time job to help support herself while she went to school, but then she’d been late turning in a form to request a grant and even later with her application for a scholarship. In the end, it didn’t seem to matter how many dishes she washed at the pub around the corner, there was barely enough money to pay the rent as well as her tuition. Feeding herself became a problem, too, and though Christina didn’t like to say it—she’d already maxed out her credit card buying food and those expensive textbooks.
She often wondered if she should have told Mindy about her money problems before they got out of hand, but Mindy was very different from her and the only reason Christina's parents had allowed her to move to Edmonton in the first place. She had to live with responsible Mindy who was making a killing at her job… which was? Christina was very suspicious. Mindy was hardly ever home in the evenings and wherever she went, she dolled up like a celebrity about to strut down the red carpet. What could she be doing? At first, Mindy blubbered something about networking. She didn’t give any details about her career until Christina broke down and explained she was fifty dollars short on her half of the rent that month. She’d been killing herself at work for three months and she thought Mindy would understand if she was a little late.
Mindy looked at the money that wasn't quite enough and then at Christina before she said, “Your arms looked chapped. Do you want to make some money at something that doesn’t involve elbow-deep boiling water?”
“But that’s my job,” Christina responded dully, almost on the point of tears.
“It doesn’t have to be,” Mindy said, dropping the bills Christina gave her on the table like they were nothing. She clicked over to the refrigerator in her high heels and took out a can of tonic water, which she opened noisily before leaning against the wall of their apartment like she was marketing the stuff. “I could take you to work with me, and you’d earn enough to pay your tuition for next semester in a couple of weeks, especially since Christmas is coming up. You see, I’m actually—”
“A hooker?” Christina filled in for her.
“Escort!” Mindy emphasized. Then she shrugged her shoulders. “It’s not even that bad.”
“So, you don’t sleep with them?”
“My clients? Ew! No,” Mindy said, looking repulsed. “Not in a million years. But I do go on dates with guys who need a date for something and don’t have the time or inclination to find a date for themselves. Sometimes, it’s because they’re shy. Sometimes, it’s because they want to make a girl who’s slighted them off burn with envy. Sometimes, it’s because they’re visiting the city and want someone to show them around with a little more intimacy than a touring bus. Stuff like that. Very often, they introduce me as their cousin." Mindy explained before she bluntly asked Christina, “Well, do you want to try it?”
“No sex?” Christina asked anxiously.
“Zero sex. I promise. I’ll give you pepper spray and a pair of brass knuckles. Want to give it a try?”
“Aren’t both of those illegal?”
“Probably,” Mindy said noncommittally. “I’ve never been attacked. I don't know what happens with other escort services, but my agency’s really good. We're professionals and we say what we are willing to do very clearly in our ads. Gross stuff just doesn’t happen.”
“I’ll think about it,” Christina said.
“Do,” Mindy said. “Do.”
So, Christina thought about it. She didn't have much of a choice. She didn’t have enough money to pay the tuition for the next semester and it would be due in mere weeks. If she could earn the money she needed, then she could quit being an escort and go back to washing dishes. If she refused the job, she’d probably have to drop out of her program and go back home. That would be too humiliating. On the other hand, could she really be an escort?
Christina thought honestly about Mindy and how she compared. Mindy was shorter than Christina unless she was wearing battle gear. When she was all dressed for work, Mindy wore ten-centimeter heels. She was tanned and pierced and tattooed in all the right places and Christina was simply nothing like her.