April Showers
Melanie ran into the bathroom stall, a difficult feat in three inch heels, to lose what remained in her stomach. And what remained was nothing more than a few sips of water, stomach acid and nerves. Outside that bathroom the music was shockingly loud and even while on her knees, her head in that dirty toilet, Melanie could hear the hoots and hollers of the drunken men throwing dollar bills on the stage while the girls danced. She splashed water on her face trying to avoid her own reflection in the mirror. All of her talk came down to this. Any second that music was going to stop and the announcer was going to call her name and she was going to have to dance on stage in nothing but her high heels and barely there bikini bottoms. Or she could admit to everyone, including herself, that she really couldn’t do it, that talking about it was far easier than actually doing it, pack her things and head home with her tail between her legs. And no money in her pockets.

But Melanie didn’t leave and despite the nerves that brought on the sudden need to purge, she knew she wouldn’t leave, she knew she couldn’t leave. The music stopped and in the stillness of the bathroom Melanie could hear her heart beating. She peeked out of the bathroom and saw the girl on stage picking up the money. A few claps and whistles followed her off and Melanie swallowed hard because she knew that her name would be called next, at least the name she went by at the Ace of Spades.
 “Give it up one more time for Ginger Spice,” The announcer said behind a small glass booth. The red headed girl with the surgically enhanced chest smiled to the crowd and disappeared off the stage clutching the dollar bills that were thrown for her. The strip club announcer was part DJ and part carnival barker, fanning the flames of desire and the girls were the fuel. “Keep that applause going for a lovely young lady who’s making her dancing debut on this stage. Please welcome Misty Eyes.”
    Misty Eyes. That was the name that Mary Ann had come up for her.
    “Why that name?” Melanie had asked but thought that that name was as good as any.

“Because that name sounds slutty and if those guys in that audience think that that girl on stage is slutty then they think they have a shot, and if they think they have a shot, then they are going to spend more money.”  Mary Ann Secore, a onetime fourth grade teacher cum stripper, was discussing the finer points on creating the perfect slutty persona.
    Melanie walked towards the stage on wobbly knees. She tried to exude sex while simultaneously trying to hide the fact that she was scared to death. It was like that old clichéd dream about being naked in front of the class, except when she was on the stage, she would be naked, at least partially and she wouldn’t be waking up from it.  All of her life she had always been told she was pretty, it wasn’t a self-absorbed notion of herself, it was always a statement of fact. Melanie knew that she was the prettiest dancer at that club, a little older maybe than most, but still the prettiest. She knew that and all of the guys in the audience knew it. Men ran to the ledge that separated the stage from the crowd to get a better look at her.
     The bright spotlight thankfully blacked out the audience from her.  She could still hear them and God how they made noise, but for at least for now, they were invisible to her.  The music started and Melanie realized that she was actually supposed to dance. The girls were on stage for three songs, for the first song they danced in their bikini and half way through the second song, Melanie was supposed to untie her top and finish her set topless.  That was the formula at The Ace of Spades.  Three songs per girl topless for one and a half of those and the time on stage was nothing more than advertising for the private dances where the real money would be made.

Melanie was suddenly aware that the music was playing and she was standing still. She started to move and felt as awkward as a baby giraffe taking its first steps.  Before Melanie got on stage, Mary Ann told her that a lot of girls froze up when they first got on stage, a deer in the headlights response.  Being up there was too much for some girls to handle and once that spotlight was on them they broke down.  Others, herself included, worked through their nerves and went on to make a lot of money. She went on to say that the first time she was Tatiana on that stage, it was the energy from the crowd that finally got her moving.  The crowd had pulled her through and if Melanie found herself stuck on the stage all she had to do was look to the crowd and let their energy and excitement pull her through.

Her first song was nearing its completion and Melanie started to find her rhythm. But it wasn't their energy or excitement or the fact that they were all yelling for her, it was a  pure unadulterated and unabashed hatred for all of them that transformed Melanie Kasper into Misty Eyes.  She hated them and she was going to take all of their money.  She smiled into the blinding light as she untied her top. She held the small piece of fabric to her chest building an anticipation that she could feel on the stage.  Melanie knew that she had them, money was strewn all over the stage and when she dropped her top, the place erupted.  It had taken less than three songs to make Misty Eyes a star.
 The music ended and the applause and whistles were deafening.  Melanie slowly picked up her money, leaving her top off and continued to give them a show.  The walk back to the dressing room was a chance to let everyone look her over one last time before she emerged again to bilk them out of more money in the VIP room.  By the looks she was getting Melanie knew that she was going to be busy.
When she opened the door to the dressing room, the other dancers were staring at her. Melanie stood in the doorway sweaty and breathless clutching the money in her hands.  Sitting in front of the mirror at her make-up station, Mary Ann turned and faced Melanie, her face beaming like a proud parent. She ran over to Melanie and embraced her, pushing her naked torso against Melanie’s.
 “Where did you learn to dance like that?” Mary Ann asked, finally letting go of Melanie. “That was amazing.”
    The announcer called another girl to the stage and a rail thin bleached blonde walked past them on her way out of the dressing room. The crowd was still in a frenzy over Melanie’s performance and all of the girls knew it and they all looked at her with an awe as if Misty Eye’s was something that they could strive to be.
Melanie looked at herself in the mirror.  She was a thirty one year old stripper who had a few more wrinkles around her eyes than she did a year or two ago, then again, a year or two ago her life was on track and the only person who should have been in a strip club was Jack.  Yet there she was putting on a thin layer of body powder that contained glitter. Glitter. She was thirty one and was wearing glitter. She looked like a sleak sweaty shining disco ball.  If her college advisor could see her now.  Melanie put on a fake smile, tied her top back on and went out to greet her new fans.
When the door to the dressing room closed behind her Melanie found herself in the dark world of the pit. The pit was the main room of the club, the horseshoe shaped bar where they served watered down and over priced drinks and the stage anchored the pit. The dancers would work the pit, trying to get each and every one of those guys to go into the VIP room and spend some real money.
Melanie walked through the pit, her footing getting a little surer with each step she took. By the end of her shift, Melanie figured she would be a seasoned pro on those three inch heels.  She searched the faces of the men and had to decide which one she was going to approach. Which one was going to be the recipient of her very first lap dance? The drunken old man who was someone’s grandfather and who was currently eye fucking her? Or the young drunk college kid who was a walking hormone? Neither one seemed all that appealing. But the biggest question was which one had the most money they were willing to part with?
       "Hi I’m Misty.”
    “Brad.” The college kid said with a smirk.

“Care for a private dance?" Melanie asked the cute young college kid, figuring if she had to do it, she might as well start with the cute kid instead of the old man who reminded her of her dead grandfather.  And she had to admit that he was cute, cute in the way that all eighteen year olds are cute.  Cute because they had no idea of what the world was really like.  Cute because they were still full of optimism and goals.  Melanie couldn't believe or remember a time when she was that young.
       "Fuck yeah I want a dance." The way he looked at her gave Melanie a chill down her spine, it was as if he knew her for who she really was and not Misty Eyes.
“Well then, why don’t you go get a couple of tokens and we can move our little party into the comfortable VIP room?” Melanie poured on the charm feeling like a politician trying to scrounge up votes. She watched Brad snake his way through the crowd to happily pay twenty dollars for a token. A token was worth one song, the more tokens he bought, the more one-on-one time he would get with Misty Eyes. Brad came back smiling and handed Melanie three tokens. Three songs worth of her dancing and grinding on him. Three songs, three tokens, sixty dollars. Melanie took the tokens and gave them to the announcer controlling the room through music from his glass booth. Once Melanie took her client, that was the word that Mary Ann used when she was describing the process, a word that made Melanie feel like a hooker. Once she entered into one of the VIP rooms, the announcer would deposit the tokens into the corresponding…Melanie didn’t understand it then and she didn’t understand it now. The only thing she took away from the conversation was that when the door to the room closed, the music started and the music was her cue to dance. When the song ended, the dance was over and Melanie would work the room trying to find another client who would buy more tokens.
 The door closed and Brad sat down on the bench that ran along the back wall. It wasn’t really a couch, loveseat or a chair, it was something all of its own design that was strictly unique to strip clubs the world over. Brad leaned back on the red velour covered bench and eagerly awaited the show that he had paid sixty dollars for.  Melanie walked over to him, a walk that was supposed to convey sex with every step. She turned her back to him and bent over, the thong bikini bottom framing her ass as two separate but spectacular parts. She lowered herself onto Brad’s waiting lap and arched her back.
“Wanna untie me?” Melanie asked using a trick that Mary Ann had taught her. In fact the entire routine that Melanie was replaying in her head, a routine that she would soon have to do for her audience of one, was the routine that Mary Ann had taught her. The trick with having him untie her top was a good way to waste time without having to really do anything. Brad untied the bathing suit top in what could only have been described as record time. Melanie felt his fingertips press into her sides as she rubbed her ass on his lap. His jeans felt rough against her but she kept going, kept thinking about the money that he was spending on her, kept thinking about all of those guys still in the club who had money to spend and they might as well spend it on her.

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