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When I got back to the agency, the look on my face must have given it away, because Jackie gave me a huge hug when I got in the door.
“I’m so sorry, honey. I know you weren’t expecting it to be so much trouble. But it’s all over now.”
I nodded. I wasn’t really annoyed anymore. I was just so glad to be out of Terrence’s car that the rest of the afternoon seemed like a blur.
“And now we’re gonna make some money!” Jackie giggled and sat back down behind her computer. “Would you like some pastrami?”
She handed me a sandwich.
“No, that’s okay.” I didn’t want to eat her lunch, and I felt too much in the midst of my blur to have an appetite.
“Go on, honey. I bet you’re hungry.”
As soon as she said it, I realized that I was, so I ate it while she answered phones and tapped away at her keyboard. It might have been the most delicious pastrami sandwich I’d ever had.
The guy with no name was in his usual position behind his desk. He kept looking at me.
“How’d it go, Sydney?” he asked.
I always found it weird when people, like Jackie or this guy, who knew Sydney was a fake name, used it anyway. I was technically “on call,” though, so I guessed they liked to keep things consistent. They’d probably already forgotten my real name.
“It was okay.”
“Was Jeff fine? We’ve had problems with him in the past.”
I had no idea what that meant. If they’d had problems with him, why’d they keep serving him? Why’d they go to the trouble of sending me out there? I wasn’t sure I wanted to know, and I didn’t think it was my place to ask, so I kept my mouth shut. I thought about how ironic it was that Jeff had said he’d had problems with the agency, and here they were, telling me that they had problems with him, yet they both kept servicing each other. I had no idea why, if the arrangement gave them both so much grief, but I certainly hadn’t had any real problems worth mentioning.
“Yes, everything was fine,” I replied.
“How was the driver?”
“He was okay. He talked too much.” I laughed. “He asked a lot of questions and told me all about his life.”
The guy behind the desk also laughed at that.
“Oh, honey,” Jackie exclaimed, interrupting our conversation, “I just thought of a regular that’s perfect for you. He only wants to pay $300, so let me see if I can get him to go up.”
She called the guy, and I was impressed. In a matter of seconds, she’d not only convinced him to go up to $400, she’d convinced him that he was getting a bargain at that price. She was definitely good at her job. I was glad she was on my team.
His name was Josh, and he lived on the Upper West Side. The only part of his apartment that I noticed was that it was really dark. The other thing I noticed when the door opened was a huge dog with its mouth hanging open and big droopy eyes. I stepped in.
Josh was behind the door. He looked exactly like his dog. He was short, fat, and balding. He looked very Jewish, and not in the sexy, neurotically intense way. I was not at all excited to fuck him.
“You can go in there,” he mumbled, gesturing to the bedroom. I went in while he took the dog to the kitchen.
I hovered about until he came in.
“I just have to call the agency to tell them I’m here.” My cell phone’s battery was about to die, so I told Josh I needed to use his phone.
He gestured to the phone near the bed. I called Jackie.
“It’s Sydney. I’m here.”
“Did you get your money yet?”
“I’m waiting, honey.”
I put the phone down. “They want me to get the money now,” I said. This system of blaming the phone girl was really working out well for me. I could see why this was the recommended strategy.
He walked over to the dresser and started counting the money. He handed it to me.
“This is part of it. I’ll be right back.” He left the room.
“Did you get it, honey?” Jackie asked.
“Part of it.”
“Part of it?! How much is there?”
I counted. “$152.”
“Where’s the rest?”
“He went to get it.”
Josh came back in the room. “I need to use the phone.”
“He needs to use the phone,” I told Jackie.
“What for? Let me talk to him.”
I passed the phone to Josh. “Jackie wants to talk to you.”
“Hello?” Josh sounded extremely quiet and hesitant. I didn’t understand what was going on. He was a regular. He should know the drill by now. “Yes, yes, I know. I just need to get off the phone because the person who is bringing me the rest of the money is supposed to be calling right now.”
There was a pause. I could only imagine what Jackie was saying.
“The money’s coming. I’ve just got to get off the phone. The guy is calling now.”
“Yes, I’ve got it. I know. It’s coming. No, there’s no problem.” He handed the phone to me.
“Okay, honey. Give him five minutes. If he doesn’t have the money, leave.”
I agreed and hung up the phone.
“Can’t we strike a deal?” Josh asked.
“What do you mean?” I was completely confused.
“How about a Rolex and this money?” He pulled a watch out of the drawer near the bed and held it in front of me. I didn’t take it.
“I really don’t think so.”
He offered me two other watches while I put my coat on. I was getting out of there. I was relieved that he was such a mess. Thank god I didn’t have to fuck him. Any excuse to leave was fine by me. Annoyed as I was about the money, I was relieved to be leaving with my clothes and vagina intact.
“The money will be here in half an hour,” he insisted.
“Well, I’ll come back then.” This was a lie. I was getting out of there, and I had no intention of coming back. This was my out. I didn’t trust him, and I wasn’t sure that $200 in my pocket was worth having sex with him.
Josh gave me $40 for my time. “No hard feelings?” he asked.
I shook my head politely. It would help make up for the cab fare. I pocketed the money, said thanks, grabbed my bag, and left.
His doorman had given me an amused glance as I went in. He gave me an even more amused look as I left.
“Hey, have you been here before?” he asked, as I walked past him.
“No, why? Do I look familiar?”
Was he just making conversation or was there something he was trying to say? I wondered where he was going with this. I was sure he had me pegged as a prostitute, although I wasn’t sure how he’d explain the briefness of my five-minute trip. I wondered if Josh frequently had classy looking broads show up and then leave an hour later. Doormen notice these things.
“Do you work around here?” he asked, leering a bit. He definitely had more on his mind than just conversation.
“If you ever want to, you can give me your number, and I’ll hook you up.”
I really didn’t want to know how he thought he could hook me up. Did he want to rent me out to his friends? I played dumb.
“What do you mean?”
“Oh, you know, I can hook you up. If you want.” He kept grinning at me. “We can go out.”
“Are you asking me out on a date? Like dinner and a movie?”
“Whatever you want, baby, whatever you want.”
“So you’re asking me out on a date?” I wanted him to spell it out.
“Sure, sugar. Do you like clubs? Do you like dancing?”
“Give me a call, baby, give me a call.” He grinned again.
I just turned and walked away without response. What a slimeball. I called Jackie as soon as I was out of the doorman’s line of vision and told her I was going home. If there were any more calls, I’d be there. I had to recharge my cell phone. I made my way to the nearest subway. I wasn’t going to waste any more money on cab fare if I didn’t have to. I figured my sessions were over for the day.
I liked being Sydney. I enjoyed racing around Manhattan in cabs. I had lucked out with William, but I’d been lucky as a rule with this whole sex project. Thank god I didn’t have to kiss Jeff. Thank god I didn’t have to fuck Josh. Sydney was the stuff of which dreams are made—or at least for men like Jeff and Josh and William—and I liked playing her. I was the girl these men fantasized about. I made their night and got paid for it. It was an incredible feeling. I got off on walking into the room, feeling my power, and feeling their desire. I was in control, an object of lust, and I loved it. For a girl like me, it was magic.