It’s my second time. So there is no excuse for why my knees are still knobby and trembling as I step to the curb in staggering, black, five-inch stilettos. My pale arms are sickly thin and they taper into frail wrists that are tensed in apprehension. I can feel the risqué red dress I was assigned gently fluttering against my waif-like midsection. My face is painted on, yet I feel naïve beneath the adult layers of makeup.

I hesitate and then approach the silver Maserati, wondering who the driver will be.

I peer inside the open window and say hello in a feathery, raspy whisper. The man driving the car is dressed in a smooth tuxedo; he must have come from a party. He is shaven and tidy, hair dark and combed, his handsome features compiled into a handsome face.  I am awe-struck by this immortal man, so strikingly beautiful, so deadly.  His eyes are a glittering green, and I know deep inside my skin that I am deathly afraid of the look in them. But his face is smooth, devoid of emotion, of anything that could suggest something. He opens his mouth to speak and his voice is a flawless arrangement of sound.  Deep and smooth, a confident tone wraps his words in a silky spider’s embrace. What I hope is just a breeze rolls down my shoulders, leaving a defined trail of goose bumps.

“Hello Miss. Are you one of Mark’s girls?”

I flinch and almost hesitate.

“Yes, I am, can I help you?” He gestures at the empty passenger seat in a gentlemanly fashion. An order. I saunter across the width of his flashy car, cutting through the two wide beams of broad light that flood the dark road. I put a slender hand against the polished handle and step inside, shutting the door with a muffled thud. I wait for the man to start the engines and roar away down the street, or pull over into the parking lot and begin undressing. But he is still and silent. I turn my face, a slight crease between my probing eyes. His eyes are focused and sharp, strangely lethal in the quiet of the car. His pristine lips curve up the smallest amount and a devilish smile takes over his countenance.  So quickly I can persuade myself it didn’t happen, so quickly I can’t remember. Then his hands are on the wheel and the dark silhouettes of the evening grow larger and longer as the car races along the neon brightness that is Las Vegas.

“So, what prompted you to enter this industry at such a young age?”

I look at him and he’s staring down the barrel of the road, focused on driving. I say clearly, “Finances.”


I feel the probing tendrils of curiosity wrapping themselves around my mind and I say, “A girl’s got to make a living somehow, right?”

His lips curl up into a smile.

I wish he would pull over soon; I just want to get this over with. It is easier to stare out the window and blink the mascara out of my eyes than try to keep up the strained conversation. The quiet vibrations in my bones lessen but do not go away; something still feels extremely awry.

Maybe it is his smooth demeanor, or maybe it is the angle of his perfectly chiseled jaw. Maybe it is his knuckles, drawn tight and white against the steering wheel, a contrast to his composed and controlled expression.

Maybe it is the juice running through my veins.

I sneak a peripheral peek at him, and his eyes are pointed forward, toward the horizon. Suddenly his mouth moves and he asks quietly, “What are you thinking?”

I am taken aback by his straightforwardness so I stutter, “I was wondering what your name was. I’m, uh, Althea.”

He grins slightly, and without taking his eyes off the road, he answers in a honey smooth voice, “Nice to meet you Althea, my name’s Adrian.”

I let the thickness of the moment slide into nothing, and it is silent for another five minutes of buildings flashing by. I sit completely still, barely breathing, as if my reckless breaths will contaminate the silver panels of his car or the softness of his seats. All my previous worries forgotten, I look at Adrian, this confounding person who has decided I am his marionette for the night. He seems incredibly focused, a man used to getting his way.

Mark runs the escort agency with very few rules, and therefore all the girls are subject to whatever the customer wants. That means that their every whim is our command. We must be the only company in Las Vegas that allows customers to drive off with their escorts. It’s all part of the deal, and I play my part desperately, focusing on other people’s pleasure to avoid my own pain.

As Adrian pulls into an abandoned car lot, I can feel his eyes scrutinizing my thin legs, un-earthly white and stretched tight over bone. My health has been deteriorating more rapidly since the news of my parents’ divorce emerged. I barely eat one full meal a day, and that is excluding my excessive exercise habits. Anorexia has a funny way of messing with one’s head, and I blame my light-headedness on its malignant affects.

Adrian cuts the engine, and in the absolute silence, my fear almost completely swallows me, and my fingers twitch anxiously toward the door handle. I turn to him and say, in a dried-out voice, “Well, it’s up to you here on out.”

His green steel eyes are holding me still, and I cannot keep my bottom lip from shuddering like a leaf in the wind. He brings his hand across my chest and gently slips a strap from my right shoulder. He whispers dangerously, “You’re not a big romantic, are you?” When I shake my head no, he smiles again, that same demonic grin that twists his mouth in an inhuman way.

“Good… I hate romance.”

Abruptly, the gentle caresses and whispered quiet is gone. It is replaced by a carnal fury, an explosive, violent slash of movement that expands aggressively against the confines of the car. Clothing is stripped off and away, and his hands are impatiently active. All I can do is lose myself within my thin frame before he takes me, enters me and dominates what little womanhood I once owned.  I never imagined that intercourse could be so intense. I tell myself, chant to myself, that it is just a job, just an occupation. I try to calm myself with this thought, that sex is just another thing to sell in a financially-driven society. But somehow, it feels as if he is taking more. His hands grab at my hair and my spine is pressed hard against the leather seat. I cannot see or feel anything that is not flesh or sweat, and I’m biting my lip, hard, in an effort to keep from screaming.

Adrian is just another customer, this act we are committing is nothing more than an act, it is just a way to forget the divorce, the tears, the shrieks and the taste of nothingness in my mouth. It is a way to escape the scale, the lies in the mirror and the blank stares of people who do not understand. It is a way to escape myself.

As his deep breaths and groans land sporadically against my earlobes, I try to respond enough so that Mark does not hear from him. Girls who did not please were dealt with. Adrian’s strong hands grasp at my arms, my waist, my legs and neck.  He kisses me without passion, and both our lips are numb. I just give him what he wants. A thin, pale doll that flutters on strings, an empty shell of a puppet for him to enter and control. That’s all I am, really. The name Althea is attached to me loosely, as if my skin does not hold within it a beating heart or a functioning mind.

Anorexia is a seductive and violent mistress; she has her way with me as easily as Adrian does, pushing away bowls and politely declining any offer of food. I am completely lost within the disease, and yet, I feel some control. I am the one deciding what I eat and when, I am the one who pushes for the extra mile and I am the one who sees the monster on the other side of the mirror. Althea is her name, and she is hideous. Bulging against her skin is the possibility of my body if I ever let go of the reins. I must never stray near that likelihood, and so my body thins even more, turning almost skeletal in my attempt to feel beautiful. The men I serve, like Adrian, only add to the image in my head. Men will only want me if I am thin. Lust is a primal and unavoidable thing, it cannot lie. I may feel fear beyond belief, like I do now, caught in the depths of Adrian’s vehement ecstasy, but it is the only way I can live with myself.

Adrian brings me back to reality by grasping my hair almost out of the roots as he throws his head back and exhales against the ceiling. I look tentatively at his lean body, and am surprised at how fit he is. The usual men that seek Mark’s services are over forty, overweight and balding. Adrian is tall and muscular, his skin healthy and tan. He falls back into the driver’s seat, closing his eyes and releasing my arm. Blood rushes under my skin and I can trace the outline of his vice-like fingers.

“Put your dress on, I’m driving you back.” It’s a very direct order, and his voice is toneless. I slip the red material back over my stick figure and stare meekly down at my hands.

“I hope you enjoyed that, sir,” I say sensually, following the protocol written up by one of Mark’s cronies.  I caress his bare shoulder, noticing that he is somehow back in his business pants. Adrian glances at me pitifully and mutters, “You don’t need to lie to me, Althea.  It’s unbecoming.”

Somehow, his voice is even more lethal when it purrs softly, and I keep my stare trained on the dark, revolving world outside. He drives fast, too fast, back to Mark’s street. The flashing neon signs never fail to mesmerize me, and they leave blinding imprints on the darkness of my eyelids.

The rest of the girls are scattered around, stepping into strange cars or walking toward the casinos, clutching the arms of wealthy men. It is a contained scene of chaos, one I voluntarily joined. I wonder idly what the consequences will be. Adrian parks the car behind the flashing buildings, buttons up his long-sleeved shirt, and takes a sleek envelope from his jacket pocket. He turns to me and strokes my face, murmuring seductively in my ear. It seems as if our roles have switched.

“Althea, it was lovely meeting you tonight. You’re mine now; you belong to me. I’ve coveted your body, your beauty. This envelope is to be delivered straight to Mark, understand? I hope that you enjoyed yourself… to an extent. Sleep well, and stay slender.”

I nod, unable to speak.

“Now get out of my car.”

I scramble for the silver handle, relieved when I step out into the night. Right as I weakly close the door, I hear Adrian’s last words enter my spine and coax chills from my heart.

“Remember Althea, you belong to me.”