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Lesson Learned - BookFunnel

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Lesson LearnedJASMINE GARNER
“Are you ready for tonight?”
“What’s tonight?” I asked the man I was dancing on.
He chuckled, grabbing my ass and I smacked him
away.
“No touching, baby,” I whispered in his ear as I
continued gyrating on his lap.
He licked his lips. “Oh, you little tease.”
He was piss drunk, and it was the third time I’d told
him to lay off. If he touched me again, I was going to
cut the dance short. I knew he was a big tipper, so I was
willing to put up with a slightly higher level of bullshit.
But not much.
I was an exotic dancer at one of the most exclusive
clubs in L.A. I’ve danced on celebrities, politicians, rock
stars, and foreign dignitaries. It was a lucrative job. The
men usually tipped well, and if you were one of the
girls who were willing to break a few of the club’s
rules, they’d tip even better. But I wasn’t one of those
girls.
I didn’t do any type of happy ending, I didn’t sneak
home with these guys, and I didn’t go to private parties.
I worked my ass off at the club, making every guest feel
like the sexiest man—or woman—alive, and then I
wiped my hands clean of them once I was off the clock.
I made great money, and doing a little extra would
mean even better money, but I enjoyed the simplicity
of a drama-free life—well, drama-free from men,
that is.
I didn’t need to become a tabloid sensation by
getting caught with a married senator. I didn’t need to
have people taking pictures of me on the street after
spotting me with an A-list actor. I didn’t need the FBI
at my door because they were convinced the NSA
director spilled national secrets to me on his private
yacht—and yes, this actually happened to one of the
girls.
No, I danced because I loved it. I danced because it
paid well and allowed me to escape into a fantasy
world for a few hours.
And then one day, once I was finally ready to get
my head on straight and figure out my life, I was going
to quit. And once I did, I was going to settle down and
find love with no nasty baggage attached to me from
getting too close to corrupt men.
Besides the fun of being someone else for a few
hours, my only goal for becoming a dancer was to be
able to afford to take care of myself and to buy myself
nice things. I could do that, and then some—without
having to do much more than a few twirls around the
pole. So, when the man stuck his finger under my
thong, I stood.
“Out. Dance is over.”
The man was a regular at the club, but it was my
first time with him. He usually liked to do his private
dances with another girl, Nadia. She was busy tonight,
and I guess he got tired of waiting for her, so he chose
me. Nadia and I actually looked quite alike, which
made me a good second option. Or so he thought.
Yes, we had the same petite frame, the same long,
black hair, and the same creamy caramel skin, but our
work ethic was obviously vastly different. It was clear
this man was used to getting his way in the back room
with her, but no amount of money was worth that to
me. I swung open the door, nodding to the bouncer on
the other side.
Still thinking this was the most hilarious thing ever,
he burst out laughing. “I love this! Okay, okay, we can
play a little cat and mouse.”
I rolled my eyes, heading back out to the main floor.
There would be no games. He obviously missed the
memo. That bouncer was going to escort him straight
to the exit.
rooms, storming over.
“Drunk guy that you’re usually with? For a second.”
“He’s mine.”
Mercedes,” she said in an unusually icy tone.
“I don’t think I did.” Bill now knew that the next
time he wanted to play grab ass in the back room, I
wasn’t the one.
After my shift, I went to change into my street
clothes, only to find Nadia pouring bleach on my two
hundred dollar designer shirt.
“Nadia, what the hell?”
She pointed a finger in my face. “You stay away
from Bill. He’s my highest paying customer.”
“I already told you that I don’t want him, you
psycho!” I said, inspecting my ruined shirt. Girls were
known to be possessive of their regulars. Fights would
occasionally even break out. But I wasn’t a fighter, and
Nadia didn’t seem to understand that I had no interest
in Bill.
She charged at me, and a couple of the other girls
held her back.
“Hurry up and get out of here,” one of the girls said
as they pulled Nadia out of the dressing room. I
changed into my shorts and swiped Nadia’s shirt from
her open locker. It was only fair after she’d ruined my
shirt, and I had no spare to wear home.
I studied the faded Ramones vintage tee. It was
actually kind of cute, but I’d never wear it in public.
Wasn’t my style. Her loss.
After packing up, I headed out to my car. Besides
my encounter with Bill, it was a pretty laid back night,
and I’d made a killing in tips. And now, it was time to
wash it all away and get back to real life.
“You good, Mercedes?” the bouncer outside of the
club asked.
“Yeah, thanks.”
It wasn’t uncommon for men to wait for women
after closing hours. We always had security nearby,
watching us get into our cars to step in if needed.
I loved my job, I loved being able to be another
person for a few hours. I loved creating fantasy worlds
and ensnaring others into my universe. It was nice to
get away from the real world on a regular basis. But I
didn’t like to live in the illusion.
My life wasn’t perfect, but it was the only one I had
and I worked my ass off trying to make it better. So
every morning when I clocked out after a few hours of
pushing my problems to the back of my mind, I
emerged refreshed and ready to take on my day. And I
knew that one day, I wasn’t going to feel the need to
take breaks from my reality at all.
One day, I was going to work through all of my
issues and finally have a life that I loved, a life that I
didn’t feel the need to flee from. And once I did, I’d
finally be in a headspace to work towards the things I
really wanted: working towards a respectable career,
finding the love of my life, and truly being the happy
person I always portrayed myself to be.
My happily ever after would come—when I was in
the proper headspace to receive it—but until then, I
had no problem shaking my ass for hundred dollar
bills.
Just as I grabbed my car keys out of my purse, a
hand clasped over my mouth. I screamed and kicked,
but my small frame was no match for the giant that had
hold of me.
It happened so quickly, security didn’t even notice.
Before I had a chance to realize what was happening, I
was jammed into the back seat of a car.
The car sped away and a man in all black sat in the
back with me. I reached for the door handle, but the
child safety lock was on and I couldn’t get out. The
windows were locked as well. The man hovered over
me, snarling. I kicked him in the stomach. All of the air
escaped his lungs, but it wasn’t painful enough to stop
him from grabbing both of my wrists and binding
them behind me with a zip tie.
Collapsing his weight on top of me, he bound my
ankles before gagging me and putting a blindfold
over me.
my ear, although it was barely audible over the sound
of my racing heart.
The car ran over a giant bump and my body fell to
the floor. I remained down there, my body trembling
as I tried to listen to the man over my loud heartbeat,
trying to get any indication of what he was going to do
to me next.
“Please,” I cried, the sound muffled from my gag.
But he didn’t need to understand my words to know
exactly what I was saying.
I didn’t recognize the man. He had obviously been
watching me in the club, but hadn’t gotten a private
dance or anything. I wondered how long he watched
me, fantasizing about finally having me to himself.
I’d dropped my purse and phone in the parking lot,
had no idea where I was going, and there was no one in
my life that was going to check on me the next day to
realize I was missing. I was completely under the
control of this man.
Tears coated my blindfold, snot running out of my
nose as I sobbed. This was exactly why I didn’t do
anything extra with men. I only interacted with them
in the club because once you left those doors, your
safety was completely unregulated.
positioning on the floor. Moments later, the car
screeched to a halt, and I was yanked up and out of the
car, my ankles cut free so I could walk, the night air a
smack to the face.
After walking for a few moments, we stopped. I
heard the sound of an elevator and got pushed into the
car. The ride up was filled with the sound of me whim
pering, praying to God that someone else would enter
the car to save me. But I knew there would be no one
else. There was no way we’d be in an elevator with me
tied up if there was a chance of someone seeing us.
Wherever we were, we were alone.
Moments later, the man shoved me forward and we
walked down a long hallway.
I heard the click of a door, with it slamming behind
me once inside. I jerked my head back to try to head
butt the man, but my head only reached his chest. Spin
ning around, I faced him and jerked my knee upwards,
hitting him in the crotch.
With him temporarily stunned, I ran back towards
the door, but being blindfolded and tied up, I couldn’t
get it open before the man swung me over his shoul
ders and carried me back to wherever we were going.
This guy could take a lot of hits.
I screamed, wiggled violently and cried out, but it
was no use. Seconds later, I was tossed from his arms,
and landed with a hard thud on a soft surface. A
mattress?
Another door nearby slammed shut, and I jumped
so hard I almost peed my pants. The room was silent
other than my whimpers, but I knew I wasn’t alone.
And moments later, the sound of shuffling confirmed
that.
I crawled away from the noise, until my back hit a
wall. I felt extra cushion around me—pillows. I was
definitely on a bed, and completely out of control.
The man in the room moaned and I felt his body
heat smothering me—he was close. I flinched away
from the feeling of his breath on me.
He chuckled. “I love a good screamer,” he whis
pered, his breath acidic and smelling of alcohol.
Grabbing my wrists, he jerked them away from me.
I could no longer move them. I was tied to the bed. The
scream that came from me emerged from the depths of
my throat, from deep in my chest. Even through the
gag, it was loud enough to echo in the room.
I was defenseless.
The bed shifted with the weight of the man getting
on it, and I screamed at the top of my lungs until my
throat gave out. Pressing his knee between my legs, he
forced them apart as I kneed and kicked to no avail.
Finally, he removed the gag.
“Please don’t do this,” I cried, snot, tears and spit
coating my face. “You don’t have to do this.”
The man paused. “What’s...what’s wrong with your
voice?”
He snatched the blindfold off my eyes before
jumping off the bed to flick on a light switch. When my
vision adjusted and our eyes met, they widened in
horror.
as me. “Tony!”
I shook my head as Tony, the man who’d snatched
me, entered the bedroom we were in. They both stared
me down with bugged-out eyes.
“Look, I’m sorry I got you kicked out of the club,
okay? Let’s talk about this,” I said, although we both
knew we were past the point of talking.
Tony rushed over to me and released my arms. I
scampered against the wall, backing away.
“You got me kicked out?” Bill asked.
“Yes, after I stopped your dance short.”
His eyes widened, as if he were recognizing me for
the first time.
“Son of a bitch!” he said, punching a wall. After a
few deep breaths, he combed his fingers through his
hair before approaching me slowly, his hands up in
surrender as if he didn’t just fucking kidnap me.
“Look, this is all a big mistake,” he said, his voice
even more slurred than it was at the club.
“G-great, then you can let me go now. I promise I
won’t say anything.”
“No, I can’t let you go. Tony, get Al on the phone.”
“What?” I asked, pinning myself harder against the
wall to shrink away from his cautious approach.
“Just...just give me a minute.”
“Please,” I cried.
this was a mistake. Candace and I have a month
ly...arrangement,” he said, referring to Nadia by her
stage name. “It was her that was supposed to be taken,
not you. What the fuck did you do, Tony? How could
this happen?” He asked once Tony re-entered the
room.
“She had on the Ramones shirt. And she looks just
like her!”
His eyes narrowed as he looked me up and down.
“Yeah, they do look alike. Is that your shirt?”
“I borrowed it from Na—Candace.”
“And it was you who gave me the dance earlier?”
“Yes.”
He groaned pinching the bridge of his nose. “You
look just like her. I didn’t even realize you weren’t her
at the club. I promise you, this was a mistake.”
“You’ve said that already. So just let me go.”
Tony shook his head. “You shouldn't have done all
of that coke.”
“Shut the fuck up, Tony!” Bill hissed at the quip. He
turned to me. “Look, my lawyer is on the way. You’re
not leaving until we get some paperwork signed. The
last thing I need is for you to go to the cops. Or the
press.”
“I won’t if you let me go now. Besides, you can’t
make me sign anything under duress. That would
never hold up in court.”
He snorted. “Sweetie, my lawyers can make anything
hold up in court. You don’t want to try to win that
battle. But relax, this was just a game Candace and I
play.”
“What are you, some kind of twisted sugar daddy?”
He paused. “Something like that. You were never in
any real danger, and as soon as we get this NDA signed,
you’ll be free to go. You’re okay.”
He mumbled a string of curse words as he stumbled
out of the room with Tony. I heard the lock click, indi
cating that I was trapped inside.
This was what the girls did with men off the clock?
Faking terror for some man’s fucked up kidnap
fantasy? That was too much, too far. I would never
subject myself to this every month for an extra piece of
change. Not because it was super degrading, but
because it was simply...fucked up.
I paced around the room, my nerves still rattled
even though I fully believed I was going to be okay. But
what if I wasn’t? What if this had been real? I was
completely unprotected and would’ve been helpless to
do anything. This was a wakeup call for me.
The men I encountered at the club were wealthy
and powerful. If someone wanted me to disappear, if
someone wanted to do something to me, they could.
And there would be no repercussions. Maybe it was
time for a lifestyle change.
No, I couldn't. Nothing else I did would ever pay
me as much as what I was making now, and I loved my
lifestyle. One day, I’d be ready to give it all up—I didn’t
want to be the old dancer at the club, after all—but I
had a lot more money to make before then. I just
needed to be smarter about it.
His lawyer arrived at the crack of dawn with a thick
stack of papers for me to sign. I signed them all. I
wasn’t planning on going to the cops; I truly believed it
was an innocent mistake. Nadia and I could almost
pass for twins, and I had on what she’d told Bill she
would be wearing. I now knew why Nadia was so
angry when she thought I was trying to seduce Bill. I
was sure he paid her handsomely for this little charade.
After signing, he apologized some more and handed
me a Louis Vuitton duffel bag.
“What’s this?” I asked as Tony handed me my phone
and purse that I’d dropped in the parking lot. I didn’t
even see him pick them up.
“Fifty thousand dollars.”
I snorted. “I don't need your money. I signed your
papers, now let me go.”
“The fifty thousand is listed in the agreement. You
have to take it. Take it, and you can leave.”
I grabbed the bag and left the room. Exiting the
main door, I saw that we were in a hotel. Tony and I
got into a service elevator. His hands were in his pock
ets, the air thick around us as we rode down in silence.
We headed to the bottom level, to an underground staff
parking garage.
Bill must’ve paid the staff handsomely to look the
other way, that’s why no one had seen us. I shook my
head. The things people would put up with for money.
I slipped back into the car we’d arrived in, sighing as I
rubbed my wrists, which were sore from the tight
restraints.
This is what I was to men: a transaction. I was sure
Nadia got no satisfaction from being used as a pawn,
but she was willing to sacrifice her body and mental
health for it. All the while, we were viewed as less than
nothing.
We were things to ogle, to play with, to control.
Even the men who “fell in love” with us only fell in love
with the idea of perfection and sex that we flashed in
front of them.
I didn’t mind playing that game for a few hours
while at the club—I enjoyed the break from reality just
as much as they did—but these men treated women
like this every day and every minute of their lives. And
it was disgusting.
Since becoming a dancer, I’d dated two men. Both
relationships ended badly. And now, I got a behind-
the-scenes look at what it really took to make the big
bucks, and it just cemented in my…