*read all of the chapters for Swipe Right – The Chronicles of an Unpaid Prostitute in order here
Christmas came and went. It was quiet but nice to see Mom and Mimi again, even if it was just for a few days. After I’d come back to San Francisco from my mini vacation, Jamie barged into my room, dressed in a skirt and heels. She opened my closet and started rifling through my clothes, throwing an outfit on the bed. After being mesmerized by her for a few minutes I decided to ask, “What are you doing?”
“We’re going out, and you need something to wear.”
“Okay. Where are we going?”
She turned back to look at me, eyeing me up and down. “It’s a surprise.”
I raised an eyebrow and judging by her authority I knew regardless of my argument, I was going out.
Staring at myself in the mirror, I looked over at the bottles displayed on the top of my dresser. “I should probably put on some perfume. I feel like my natural scent is just alcohol now.”
“And that’s a bad thing?” Jamie asked, pulling on her heels.
We stood arm in arm in front of a restaurant I’d never been to before. “Come on, let’s go,” she said, pulling me inside.
“We’re going for dinner?” She didn’t answer. A woman stood at the entryway welcoming us with a warm smile and offering to take our jackets. Telling us where to go, we followed her directions and when we arrived at the Garden Room as she called it, I groaned out loud. “Are you kidding me?” Jamie grinned. “Retribution will be coming my friend,” I murmured as I bent down and wrote my name, grabbing a number to stick onto my shirt for our fun filled night of speed dating.
Luckily the women didn’t have to get up, only the men moved seats and judging by the coup, it was going to be a long night. I looked down at the paper in front of me, the one where I was supposed to decide whether they were a match or not. Jamie nudged me and nodded toward the door. Oh, and what do we have here? Two latecomers that may have just changed the game. Helloooo, there. New Years was only a few days away and when they turned and smiled our way, it looked like we might just have dates for the big night after all.
After an hour and a half, I’d sat through eighteen of the most mind-numbing dates of my life, if you could even call them dates, four minutes of forced smiles and nodding my head with each man. Until the game changer. “Hi, I’m Mark.”
“Maddie,” I returned, holding out my hand for a shake when he took my fingers and kissed the back of my hand. He was dressed in a nice suit as well as his friend, they looked like they just came from Wall Street, but he was cute and he had nice manners.
By the end of the night Mark had told me about a New Year’s Eve party he was going to and asked me to be his date. When she heard where it was, Jamie not so subtly elbowed me in the ribs. I told him only if my friends could come. He agreed with a smile and we exchanged numbers.
New Year’s Eve. Damn this night had so much hype around it, for a measly ten second countdown and it was all over, until the next year. My dress was sparkly and swanky and cut out in all the right places. My girlfriends and I decided that if we were going to pretend we were going to be classy for a night, that we might as well show up in style. Which was why we climbed into the limo that was taking us to the party. Mark and I had been texting and talking on the phone every day since the speed dating event. He’d told me he would meet me at the party and that he’d left our tickets at the door. We were already half drunk and the bottle of champagne sitting on ice in the back of the car wasn’t going to help. We’d already had a pre-cocktail, cocktail party. In my apartment. A chorus of squeals erupted as the car pulled up outside the venue, the spotlights and balloons shrouded what looked to be some of the wealthiest and ritziest of San Francisco. Fancy.
Once inside, my friends, the good friends they were, dispersed in every direction leaving me to go in search of my date, alone.
“Hey handsome.” I smiled as I walked up to him. He returned one of his own and grabbed my hand holding it in the air so I could do a little spin for him.
“Maddie, you look stunning.”
I tried not to blush. “Thanks, you’re not looking too bad yourself.”
“Come, let’s get a drink.”
As we stood at the bar, something didn’t feel right. He was speaking in one word answers, looking around the room at anyone but me. Okay, so Mark could be a dick. “Listen,” he started, cutting me off from what I was saying. “I’ve been thinking and I just really don’t know what I want.”
I frowned. “What?”
“I’m just confused, I’m in a weird stage in my life and I’m not sure what I’m looking for.”
Talk about confused, this girl right here. I had no idea what spooked him. When I asked, he said nothing for a long moment as he watched another girl walk past. I snapped my fingers in front of his face. “Nothing spooked me, definitely not you. I’ve never been more comfortable talking with anyone in my life I just – can’t deal with this in my life right now.”
“You’re making this more difficult than it needs to be. We’ve been talking for four days and we’re out at a party together. I’m not sure what it is that you can’t ‘deal with.’” As soon as the words left my mouth, I felt my stomach drop. “Ben Davis, shit.”
“What?” Mark asked.
“Maddie, hi. I didn’t know you were going to be here,” Ben said as he approached from across the room.
“Hi Ben. Yes, was kind of last minute. This is Mark.”
Ben held out his hand. “Nice to meet you.” Mark nodded and returned the handshake. I didn’t know why but I suddenly felt extremely awkward. I turned to the bartender and ordered myself a double. Ben turned his attention to someone calling for it while Mark stood beside me, his elbows propped on the bar top behind him while he watched the rest of the party. After ten minutes Mark turned to me, “Do you really think you should be drinking so much, I can’t have my date being the lush of the party, you know? I have a reputation that I need to keep.”
I turned to him and if it were at all possible, I would have been spitting fire. “Then I’ll let you off the hook, I’m not your date anymore and you and your reputation can go fuck yourselves.”
He leaned in. “And to think I was going to take you home tonight.”
“And to think you actually had a chance of doing that. Bye.” I stood and stared at him, sipping my drink until he flared his nostrils and stormed away. Nice.
Holy shit, Ben Davis, right beside me. “You heard that, huh?”
“And that was my ride home,” I said to myself, taking a deep breath realizing how ridiculous that entire scene was. I watched Ben hold up two fingers to the bartender and before I knew it, shots were sitting in front of us, a slice of lemon on each.
“I can give you a ride home,” he said, holding up the shot glass. I couldn’t help but laugh, drama, drama, drama.
“Thank you.” I clinked his glass and threw the burning liquid down my throat. I told myself it was that last shot that threw me over the edge. I went from ‘no officer, I’ve had a couple but I’m just headed home, it’s only a couple blocks’ to ‘ma’am, hands behind your back, you’ll need to spend a night in the drunk tank’ and I knew it. I could not stop the verbal diarrhea if I tried. I heard myself telling Ben how I was so impressed by him; I was babbling like a schoolgirl with a crush and my sober self had never been so embarrassed in my life. Ben interrupted me, taking my hand and asked me to dance. Without waiting for an answer, he pulled me onto the dancefloor. And could the man dance. Oh god, what was I doing? I felt a crush coming on. I couldn’t have a crush on my client, damn it. He was so cute and such a gentleman after he’d heard Mark being a total asshole. Maybe he wanted me too, maybe we would ring in the New Year together and blur the lines of professionalism. It wasn’t like it was unheard of.
“Ben?” he stopped dancing at the sound of the feminine voice behind him and turned around.
“Hey, Sam.” He leaned in and gave her a kiss on the cheek. And there it was, the shattering of drunken dreams. Luckily my friends seemed to sense my discomfort in the presence of this gorgeous woman who Ben was obviously with.
“Ready to go?” Lisa asked cheerfully.
“Yes, definitely,” I told them.
“What? But it’s not midnight yet,” Ben interrupted.
“Thank you, Ben. For the dance, and for turning my night around.” As I turned to walk away, he grabbed my hand.
“Maddie?” I could see the look of confusion on his face and I was too drunk to comprehend what any of it meant.
“I’ll talk to you next week, okay?”
“If you’re not going to stay, at least take my car home.”
“I couldn’t possibly do that.” The woman, Sam, beside him looked bored by our conversation.
“Yes, you can. I owe you one, remember?”
I thought about it with a smile. “You’re right, you do.”
“It’s outside, I’ll let my driver know to take you and your friends wherever you want to go.”
“Happy New Year, Maddie.”
“Happy New Year, Ben.”
*tomorrow – Chapter Fifteen