Deborah awoke as the last of the suns rays crossed her face. Peering out of the dusty venetian blinds she saw the watery evening sun low on the horizon.
Soon she would go to work.
She showered in her lime-scale coated bath, avoiding her own eyes in the cancerous bathroom mirror.
Once she had loved the luxury of a hot shower midst a spread of fine porcelain and brass.
Now she dreaded standing in the luke warm dribble. In the evenings it signified the start of another long night. The mornings were worse as she tried to scrub the odor of her work from her delicate skin.
Some days she felt that no matter how hard she scrubbed, no matter what soap she used, the odor would never leave her skin.
She imagined running in to an old friend later in the day; imagined them noticing the bags under her eyes, the clothes she wore and the smell of her skin.
Imagined the conversation that would take place later, between old friends.
‘I saw Deborah yesterday. Fallen on hard times, don’t you know?’
‘Indeed. I had head she was working downtown.’
‘Yes, I do believe I could even smell it on her…’
A laugh or a snigger would follow, or at best a knowing glance.
She shut the thought off, and the dribble of tepid water with it.
In the bedroom that also served as every other room in her flat, she dressed for her evenings work. The face of her daughter stared back at her from a framed photo. A single reminder of happier and more prosperous times.
A time when she wouldn’t have been ashamed to tell her daughter what she did for a living.
She turned the photo down.
Having dressed for work she walked down the street to the corner where Jayne would meet her.
Young lads strolled past, full of enthusiasm for what the night might offer. One whistled at her; which she ignored. Quite possibly she would seem them later that night, maybe around 2am.
After they left the pubs and night clubs, but before they went home alone.
She stood on the street corner, embarrassed by what she wore. It marked her for who she was.
A car idled up to where she stood and the window slide down. Without a word, she hopped in.
‘Hello’ she replied.
‘Ready for another busy night?’ Jayne asked.
Deborah looked across at Jayne. Her chubby face was framed by lank blond hair, beginning to show its original colour. She’d probably been almost pretty once, before life had ground her down and she’d given up trying. Now the infrequent colouring of her hair and over-application of makeup was as much a force of habit as it was misplaced vanity.
Jayne never seemed to mind. But she, and women like her, had been doing this kind of work for a long time.
‘Aww, don’t be like that Debby.’
Deborah had grown to like Jayne despite everything; but she still hated being called “Debby”.
As they made the short trip downtown, Deborah wondered if tonight would be the night when someone she knew wandered in.
Most of all, she lived in fear that one day her Father would turn up. Dressed in an expensive business suit, his tailored silk shirt unbuttoned, Armani tie dangling down and his face red with too much good wine and fine food.
But probably not, her Father, no matter how low, would probably not slip that low. There were other establishments he would be more likely to frequent.
The depths to which she had sunk hid her from the shame she feared.
They were late getting in to work, and Carl growled something about too many customers and not enough girls.
Carl looked rough, and Deborah suspected that he had a shady past. She’d seen him deal with a customer that had treated one of the girls badly. Deborah was more than a little scared of Carl, but tonight his scowl seemed harmless.
She checked herself in the mirror. She had a pretty face, although life and personality had given her a hard aspect. She said under her breath ‘Don’t think about it. Soon another night will be over.’
She greeted her first customer with a smile that was almost genuine.
He seemed nice, and wasn’t yet drunk. He told her what he wanted. As he pushed a handful of money towards her, she banished all other thoughts from her mind.
She smiled back, and said ‘And would you like fries with that?’