Friendly Persuasion

“So…will I see you back there?”

I’ve only heard this question about a million times, but my smile doesn’t crack for a second. I can feel the way my lips pull away from my teeth, the lipstick catching just a little bit. I learned that trick on the pageant circuit. It drives them crazy. I could have been big. Miss America big, if it hadn’t been for the accident.

“There’s no telling what will happen once you get behind the curtain, Steve,” I say. Some guys like the breathy voice. Mostly young guys. Not this one. He wants it low, rough, gravelly. Maybe a little mean. So that’s what I give him. The twitch tells me he’s touch-shy, so I bend down to pick up a pamphlet that’s ‘fallen’ to the floor. His eyes go down my blouse like he’s lining up a pool shot. I don’t even have to see it to know it.

“Well, I sure hope I see you. You’re…” He hesitates.  I don’t want the hesitation. Hesitation means he doesn’t want to come across like a jerk. That means he’s thinking. I don’t want him thinking, so ignore the evidence of the twitch and go for the touch. A quick, solid grip, my hand on his wrist. Only a few centimeters from his belt. It’s too much, and I regret it immediately. I’m standing there with nothing to say, so I try the grand gesture.

“Steve. I don’t like to say words like ‘hope’. Hope means that you’re leaving things to chance. I believe in destiny. This is destiny, Steve. Can you feel it?” I know damn well he can feel it. If he felt it any more he’d have to turn his back to me. I haven’t slowed down one fucking bit. We’re pulling in two hundred a day now and damned if anyone will say that I’ve slowed down.

“I…I do.” Hesitation again. He’s a problem. I should have known, a guy his age.

“It’s just…it’s awfully expensive.” Christ, it’s the money. I was worried for a second.

“Steve. Do you believe in this country?”

“I do.”

“Do you believe that this country is under attack? Do you believe that there are men who want to spill our blood?”

“Sure I do. After all we’ve seen? Of course I do.”

“And do you want to to do what you can to stop that blood from being spilled?”

“I do. I know I do. It’s just…” I step in; it’s a good fit. Hand to his shoulder, brushing his chest. It’s like drill. I could do it in my sleep.

“Steve, I’d hate to think that a man like you would let a little money stop him from doing what he thinks is right.” I look him right in the eyes; he’s not that tall. “From doing what he wants to do. I have…I’ve always had a lot of respect for men who followed their dreams. Men like my father. Men who knew what they wanted and took it, no matter what it cost.”

My other hand is already reaching for the pen. He thinks I’m opening up. What I’m really doing is closing.

“I know.” He swallows. His mouth is dry. He wants to kiss me. I let him think he can. “It’s just a lot. That’s all.”

“You can’t spend what you don’t have, Steve.”

“I know.”

“If they win, they take everything.”

“I know.”

“And if we win, you’ll be well taken care of.”

“I know.”

“So it doesn’t really matter either way, does it?”

“I guess not.”

I move in close. My nose brushes his neck; my lips as I whisper raise the hair behind his ear. “Then you know what to do.”

He signs. I can’t read his last name, but I can read the numbers all right. He didn’t even ask what was behind the curtain. When I’m on my game, they never do.


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