I never wanted to be the marketing communications advisor of Synthesis Spirits. It was a complete and utter fluke involving me rapping in a bar about their spiced rum and a viral video. If I hadn’t forsaken my parents’ money, I wouldn’t have taken the job offer because sitting in an office made me want to tear out my eyes and someone else’s throat half the time. But I had bills to pay, so I let my temper slowly rise as glue dripped near my keyboard and a strip of garland drooped near my hand.
Stacia rolled her chair by my desk, her wavy topaz hair swaying over her shoulder.
“Did you get the Christmas party invite?” she asked.
“I got two of them,” I said, taking several deep breaths. Stacia had a calming effect about her. She rarely let anything faze her, and she always had this small smirk on her face that made people think she was about to pull a prank on them. I admired anybody who could get people to leave them alone without being a total asshole. “Mitchell must have thought I’d lose the first one.”
“Or he knew you’d throw it out,” she said. “You know he loves Christmas. If you don’t go, you’ll be on his shit list for at least the next six months. Come on, Chris. We’re a hard liquor company. You know there’s going to be enough alcohol flowing to forget anything that happens.”
“That’s half the reason I hate these parties. Everyone drinks too much, which would be fine if they could handle their liquor. Remember last year? Three different people ended up stepping in vomit.”
“So, just come and leave before everyone gets drunk.”
“There’s also Cheryl.”
“Is she going to finally make her move on you?” Stacia teased. “I would say at least she has a nice personality, but I used to get my ass whooped if I lied. Your problem is she thinks anytime you glance in her direction, you’re flirting with her. If you had a girlfriend, she’d leave you alone.”
“I don’t have time for a girlfriend.”
“Well, you know what they say. If you can’t find Mrs. Right, you buy one for the night.”
I leaned back in my chair. “Did you just make that up?”
“I used to have a lifelong dream of having a rap career,” she said. I wasn’t quite sure if she was serious or mocking the way I’d gotten this job in the first place.
“That could work, though. A hooker is used to pretending she’s into someone. She could convince Cheryl we’re together.”
“If you get a good one. Otherwise, she’s going to convince Cheryl you have herpes.”
“Which would still work.”
“Chris,” Stacia said. She rested her hand on my shoulder. “If you were anyone else, I’d convince you that you could handle this situation with the grace and resilience of a gentleman. But I’m honestly dying to see where this leads, so bring up an incognito page on your computer.”
I pulled up an incognito page as she rolled her chair into my cubicle. I searched escorts in Chicago.
“I didn’t know there would be so many sites for this,” I muttered.
“Technically, being a literal escort is not illegal,” she said. “Go to that site—Linc Platinum Company. Oh, look at her. She is hot, but if she came to the party, everyone would know she wasn’t your girlfriend.”
“Because you don’t think I could get a woman that hot?”
“Because you couldn’t have afforded that Botox in her face. Click on the escort’s link.”
I clicked on the link. A dozen women’s photos popped up onto the screen.
“Let’s see, lots of blondes, some brunettes, and one redhead, though the hair looks dyed,” Stacia mused. “Do you have a prefer—oh, she’s cute. I like her.”
Stacia pointed to one of the photos near the bottom of the page. She was very cute. She had long pitch-black hair that cascaded down her shoulders, jade green eyes, and a smile that seemed a little hesitant, but with a glint of something that made me think of optimism.
Or maybe that was how I was feeling.
I clicked on her photo. It simply said her name was Sarah and gave a link to contact the agency. When I clicked on the link, it had me set up a time to meet an agency member to confirm payment and sign a contract.
As I started filling out the information, Stacia raised her eyebrow at me.
“If I knew this was the way to your heart, I would have gotten you a different Christmas present.”
I knew how I looked to her. I could feel it. There was a hunger in me now. I had learned there were two kinds of beauty. There was the kind that exists in paintings and architecture, stunning but inanimate. They dull the senses, detracting the appreciation for the real world. The second kind of beauty was even more stunning as it added value to the real world, made everything seem so much better.
I had a gut feeling Sarah was the second kind of beautiful, but I had been duped before. Beauty, after all, is a disguise.
The Linc Platinum Company said to meet the owner at an office on Second Avenue. The moment I stepped into the office, I felt like I had stepped into a travel agency except instead of posters of exotic locations on the walls, there were photos of men with beautiful women. There was one with the man’s arm wrapped around a beautiful woman’s waist, another where the woman was sitting on the man’s lap, and a third one where the woman was clinging onto the waist of the man as they rode a motorcycle.
There was a sleek desk curving around the back of the office. I stepped up to it. Nobody was behind the desk, but there was a door behind it. A tiny dashboard hula girl stood in the center of the desk. It appeared to have a broken leg. I touched it, trying to straighten it. Instead, it swayed back and forth, giving off a high-pitched ringing sound. I grabbed it, trying to get it to be silent, but it kept going.
The door swung open. The man who walked out reminded me of a middle-aged Babe Ruth if middle-aged Babe Ruth had done cocaine instead of drinking booze.
“Hey, bud, what’s up?” he asked. “You’re Mr. Day?”
“Yeah,” I said. “You’re Linc?”
“Linc Johansson.” He thrust his hand forward. I shook it. “So, you want to be escorted by Sarah on Friday?”
“Yeah. It’s an office party.”
He let out a low whistle. “I do love their Sundial vodka.”
“Yeah, everyone seems to. I’m sorry, but it’s about a twenty-minute drive back to my job, so …”
“Right. All business. I love you already, bud.” Linc reached under the desk and pulled out a small stack of paper. “Here is the contract. It’s pretty standard. It says we’re a legit agency, that your escort is of legal age, you won’t commit any violence against your escort, you will allow the escort to call the agency at the end of the date, you won’t compel the escort to do anything illegal including drugs, you don’t have any diseases that could affect one of my escorts in a negative way, and we have zero liability if anybody finds out you hired an escort—”
“I get it,” I said. “I don’t plan on taking her to a drug-filled mosh pit. It’s an office party.”
“Then, sign at the bottom of the contract,” he said, holding out a pen. I took it. “You should also scribble the address of your office party at the bottom. Sarah will meet you there. It’s the safest way to handle this transaction.”
I signed the bottom of the contract and wrote down the address of Synthesis Spirits’ office building. Linc yanked the contract out from under my hand as soon as the pen lifted off the paper.
“Now, how are you paying? Credit? Cash?”
“You understand it’s two hundred dollars an hour?”
“The website said a hundred fifty dollars.”
“Right. I apologize. Sarah is in higher demand, so she’s two hundred dollars an hour. If you want another girl, I could lower the price.”
“No. I’d like Sarah.”
“Great. How long is your office party?”
“It starts at seven, but I’ll be expected to stay there for a few hours. So, let’s say three hours.”
“That’s seven hundred dollars.”
“It’s six hundred dollars.”
There’s a flicker of annoyance on his face. “I should apologize again. It would be six hundred dollars normally, but considering Friday is in two days, there’s a hundred-dollar fee.”
I had met men like this in the business before. As a marketing communications advisor, I spent a lot of my time on data analysis, but I also spent a lot of time around advertisers, and they would always try to con their clients into spending more money than what was originally agreed upon. I would consider them snakes, but snakes at least had the decency to run you dry for the sake of their survival. These men did it solely so they could laugh at you behind your back later.
I could feel the old version of me getting riled up, ready to show this guy I couldn’t be pushed around, but I swallowed the fury, forced a smile, and handed him the cash. This was the man who could prevent me from meeting Sarah. If all I had to do was pretend to not hate him in order to get what I wanted, then that was what I would do.
Maybe I wasn’t who I should be yet, but until I became a better man, I was certain I could enjoy a night with a better woman.
Besides, if the seven hundred dollars was what it took for Cheryl to get off my back, I’d consider it one of the best investments of my life.
Please log in again. The login page will open in a new tab. After logging in you can close it and return to this page.