I set up a new GROUP on facebook, separate from the page. A page is nice, but I’m hoping the group format will help foster a more open community. If you’d like to check it out, it’s facebook.com/groups/whatzombiesfear.
Charlotte opened the bar at six, just like every night. She had a skeleton crew, with Nyko taking her best four employees. She had to put a couple of the girls in other spots. Teagan was working the front door, Taylor was with her behind the bar, and Ashley was working the DJ booth in Derrick’s place.
That left only three girls to work the stage. Several of the patrons would complain, but she was making due. She’d have to hire some more people, and resources were already stretched. Charlie made a mental note to ask the girls for suggestions.
Charlie looked across the bar to a woman who looked to be in her in her late thirties. She looked tired. Not just the tired of someone who spent the day working hard, but the bone-weary look of a life of labor. “Hey honey. What are you drinking?”
She looked up and smiled. “Hi Charlie. I was drinking rum. But I don’t have enough credits for another. I was just getting ready to go home, but it’s so nice sitting here. So much like the old days. I thought I might sit and just listen and watch.”
“What’s your name? I’m sorry if we’ve met before. So many people come through here.”
“Lacy Horn. We haven’t met; it’s my first time here. I’ve never had anything to trade before. I was here on my honeymoon when everything happened. I didn’t have anything to give away, outside of a few articles of clothing, and that wasn’t worth much.”
“What did you bring in?”
“I found a bottle of cough syrup buried in the rubble of one of the casinos they demolished that day. It somehow survived the building falling on it, countless bulldozers, and a thousand people searching just so I could have one good night.”
“Cough syrup,” Charlotte said. “It turns out, we’re in need of medicine. We’re running a special, fifty percent extra credit for medicine. Sounds like you have enough credit for another.”
“I don’t know what to say. Thank you so much.” Tears welled up in her eyes, but she blinked them back. “Thank you all for doing this. This place. I wish things were better for me that I could come more often. But I don’t have any skills that make me valuable inside, so I am given labor jobs. But tonight, I’m someone again.” She smiled a genuine smile, and it lit up her face.
“What did you do before the sickness?” Charlie liked the girl. She was pretty, when you got past the worry and stress on her face. With a little time, a shower, and some makeup, she would be very attractive.
“A little of this, and a little of that. My husband and I were college sweethearts. We got married the day after we graduated. I majored in ballet. I had a job lined up with the Chicago Ballet. Nothing major, but it was something, you know?”
Charlie smiled. “I do know. Before the end of the world, I lived in a shitty little trailer on the outskirts of Vegas. I was married to a guy that liked to hit the bottle pretty hard, and afterward he liked to hit me. He didn’t want me to work, I was his little trailer park queen. I didn’t have anything when I met Nyko. He taught me everything I know.”
“What does your husband do these days?”
“He died building the wall. I get a small stipend for his service every month. When added to what I make hauling trash, it allows me to eat. I don’t know how a single labor person makes it. Without that stipend, I wouldn’t be able to eat.”
“Hang on,” Charlotte said, then walked a few steps and shouted “Tay, watch the bar, I’ll be back in ten.”
Taylor nodded from the other side, where she was pouring drinks for half a dozen rough looking men.
“Come with me, Lacy.” Charlotte stepped through the opening of the bar and held her hand out to the girl.
“Oh… I… I don’t have enough credits. And. Uhh, you’re really pretty and all but…”
Charlotte laughed. “I’m not going to fuck you, girl. Not that I would mind doing so. Come with me.” Lacy stood up and followed Charlotte upstairs. “When was the last time you had a hot shower?”
Lacy answered without even thinking about it. “The day after the outbreak. We woke up late. We’d been in the casino all night, no one had any idea what was going on outside. We took a shower together, then ordered room service. An hour later, Bobby tried the front desk but the phone wasn’t working. He went down to the lobby to check on our breakfast, and I never saw him again.”
“I want to see you cleaned up and feeling pretty.”
“But, the credits.”
“This is on me. You’re a nice girl. Someone has to be nice back every now and then.”
“How can I repay you?”
“Just enjoy it. We have to be quick, three minutes, max. But I have shampoo that smells good and body wash that will make you feel human again.” Charlotte turned the water on in her private shower. Lacy didn’t even think about modesty. She stripped her clothes off and stepped into the water, before even checking the temperature.
Charlotte stood back and to the side, She could still see, but the wavy glass of the shower door obscured anything from Lacy’s chin down.
“Oh my god. It’s so good,” Lacy said, standing with her back to the water, she tipped her head back and let the water course through her hair.
“Shampoo and conditioner on the shelf. Bodywash is on the floor, and the puff is hanging off the hot water knob.”
Lacy worked fast, washing her hair, then applying conditioner and letting it sit while she scrubbed her body. At two and a half minutes, she turned off the water. Charlie handed her a towel over the shower door. Lacy took a minute standing in the warm stall to towel her hair off and then wrapped it around her body.
When she opened the shower door, she was smiling from ear to ear. The kind of smile that lit up her whole face. Charlotte smiled back. The years had washed off of her. Now that she was clean, Charlie could see she was in fact in her mid twenties at best. Lacy was very pretty, in her own way, and Charlie was short staffed with her best girls working the door and behind the bar.
“Listen, Lacy. I like you. You’re a pretty girl. You could do well here.”
“Oh, I couldn’t, Charlie. I’m not a whore.” Lacy’s face immediately turned red as she realized what she said. “I mean… I just…”
Charlotte smiled. “It’s okay. I am not ashamed of anything I do. I like sex. I am very careful. I pick my clients, and I earn a very good living. But the job I was thinking was standing up. Right now, I have my best girls on the door and working behind the bar because I’m short staffed. I need someone to work the bar with me. I can teach anyone to open a beer or pour some hooch into a glass. It’s not like the old days when a bar had a hundred different bottles and served all kinds of fruity drinks. We serve beer and shots. Or at worst, shots mixed with some kind of soda.”
Lacy bent down to grab her clothes. Charlie held out an old tattered plastic grocery bag. “Put them in here. I’ll give you something clean to wear tonight. You can bring my clothes back tomorrow, if you want the job.”
“Oh. Well, I might be interested. How late would I be here? I have to start my regular job every morning at four.”
“What time do you finish?”
“Most days I’m done by ten in the morning. It’s too hot to work past noon, and the trash smells worse the hotter it gets.”
“We close at two. I usually spend a couple hours cleaning up and doing inventory stuff. If you want, you can come here after work. Take a shower and sleep in one of the rooms until it’s time to start your shift. If you were here by eleven, you could sleep until seven, and start work at seven thirty?
“I could shower like this every day?”
“Sure. All the girls take at least one shower a day.”
“I guess I could grab some food before I left. How much would it cost me to eat dinner here?”
Charlotte led Lacy out of the bathroom and into her room across the hall. Charlotte’s room was absolutely gorgeous. She’d scoured the area for furniture for months, and she had beautiful taste. Two antique wing chairs under the window had a small table between them, with a Tiffany lamp. A luxurious hand woven wool rug covered most of the floor. In one corner, a small bed with light pink and green striped comforter and four pillows sat, perfectly made. On the far end, a huge desk with a mirror above, and lights up both sides sat covered in makeup, hair products, a hair drier, and curling iron.
The desk was a gift from Andy, he found it in the back of a strip club outside of Henderson one day and brought it plus all the makeup, clothes, and accessories he could fit into his truck. Charlie pointed Lacy to the chair.
“The house takes ten percent of the tip jar. Your dinner comes out of that ten percent.”
“You’re telling me, I can take a hot shower every day, eat dinner for free every night, and all I have to do is pour people’s drinks? What’s the catch? It’s too good to be true.”
Charlie started combing Lacy’s hair, then picked up the blow drier. “Honestly, that’s the job. If there’s a catch, I suppose it’s the travelling back and forth. It can be pretty dangerous leaving here at four am. That’s why most of the girls who work here live here.”
“What do I have to do to live here?”
“Well. That’s the catch. Only the full time girls can live here. If you want to be a full timer, you’ll need to take your turn on the stage.”
“But I don’t have to sleep with anyone?”
“Not if you don’t want. Just shake your cute little titties at them. You keep half the credits they give you. Taylor makes hundreds of credits per night. She’s probably got enough saved to buy a year’s worth of food. We stay because there isn’t a better place to live. We love each other, we have fun, we get fed. We have all this entertainment, and most importantly, you’re safe here.”
“I’ll take the job. When can I move?”
“I don’t have a full time spot right now. I can’t offer you that, but if you want to help out behind the bar, you can start right now.” Charlotte put the curling iron down and spun Lacy around. Her long dark hair was shiny and hung in perfect ringlets all over her head.
While Lacy admired herself in the mirror, Charlotte went to her closet. “You look like a size two?”
“Yeah, probably. Would you believe I was an eight when I got married? And I dieted for six months before my wedding to be that skinny.”
Charlotte handed Lacy short black skirt. “I don’t have panties. You look like a thirty-four D? Charlotte handed her a black push-up bra, and then a low-cut, tight fitting red tank top.
Lacy stood up still wearing her towel, and couldn’t hold the tears back. “Best bottle of cough syrup ever.”
Charlotte hugged Lacy, who hugged her back harder than expected. After a minute, Charlotte put her hands on the new girl’s shoulders. “Get dressed. I’ll introduce you to the staff. You’re going to fit in just fine.”