Monday, February 16, 2015

Ghastly Truths

Continued from Muse 7 Controlled Burn

Iris turned up on Reya's doorstep with no more than a single suitcase on wheels. She looked tired and a little forlorn. Leaving Dave had been harder than she thought. He wouldn't speak to her and had avoided her company completely for the last 24 hours as she packed a few things. She'd left without saying goodbye, just left a hand written note pinned to the kitchen door apologising and thanking him for being a good man but just not good enough.  He tended his cows and didn't enter the house until she'd wheeled her case down the driveway.  His heart empty and angry.

The two women sat at a small kitchen table, a sliver of light forming a beam across the floor in the early evening. Reya poured each of them a cup of Earl Grey and put a small plate of ANZAC biscuits on the table. She brushed a sleeping cat from her chair and sat in front of her young assistant.

"I'm going to tell you something. I want you to listen. The city is no place for a young woman with nothing. And Dianne . . well, she's not all she seems. I've been doing a little investigating and, you my girl, are about to make a huge mistake. One that I made many years ago."

Iris sipped her tea, blowing the hot surface to cool it down.

"I left Wisemans when I was just 17. I'd had a huge row with my parents. Well, Let's say I wasn't the best of daughters. I ran off the rails a little. Wasn't particularly good at school but I had a pretty face and a nice body. I'd experienced men . . anyway, that's beside the point. I did the same as you, packed a bag and caught the next bus out of town.  I had no more than a hundred bucks in my pocket, nowhere to go and nowhere to stay. I was so young, so stupid, yet I thought I was being clever and independent, I just hadn't thought it out.

I found a hostel that was cheap and started looking for work. I was surrounded by bars, strip joints, dive's. Drunken men lolled in the street, hookers stood in doorways.  I was befriended by the woman who ran the hostel. Most of the 'visitors' were women, some bought men back to the dorms. I tried to get work but I was inexperienced. Nobody would hire me so I began doing chores for rent. I'd clean, take bookings. She was good to me. She fed me, let me stay, even gave me a little cash. .  She'd stroke my hair and tell me how attractive I was, that I should be a model or a dancer. She flattered me, bought me clothes. I thought she was becoming my friend but no, she was literally grooming me.  One day a very well dressed man came into the office and she asked me to leave. I could see them talking and looking at me through the glass pane in the door. I knew they were talking about me. When he emerged from his conversation, he asked if I'd like to work in his club. He wasn't bothered about the fact that I was only 17, "I won't tell if you don't." was his response.

I started as a waitress but it wasn't long before I was dancing and stripping. Being ogled by drunks, slobbered on by old men.  Along with it came a stiff drink or three for courage, a line of coke, or two, or three. It was a downward spiral of stripping, sex, drugs. It was supposed to be 'no contact' but when someone throws $1000 at you for a blow job in a booth, it's hard to say no. The more you do it, the easier it becomes. The money was great and I wasn't qualified to do anything else. I did pay off the debt but it left me empty. Beneath the tough exterior, I became lost, sad. Others danced to fast loud music, I chose Sade and Rickie Lee Jones. I remember dancing to "It's OK, it's not that bad . . " But it wasn't OK. It was awful. It was like taking Valium and becoming disassociated from everything. There was always some financial emergency, a reason to stay or more to the point, nowhere to go."

"You think Dianne is recruiting me? For something like that?" Iris' mouth is agape.

Reya took a sip of her own tea, "Yes, yes I do."

"What happened? How did you get out?"

There was this woman, she'd been a stripper herself and started a sort of rehabilitation program for dancers, hookers, addicts. She befriended the bouncers on the strip that I was working and would leave small bags for the girls. They had things like cosmetics, donated toiletries in them and literature on a support group to help us quit. I began to squirrel money away, took it easy on the coke and started going to her support group. I was still dancing but managed to save, a lot. It's lucrative but demoralising.  Iris, I was one of the lucky ones, I had a head on my shoulders."

Reya continued, explaining how she'd stayed in the club for almost five years yet still attended the rehab group. How they'd found her work in the retail industry. First as a shop assistant, still dancing at night. She'd grown through the ranks, ran her own department, finally left the sordid world of clubs and leering gazes to become manager of her department. She'd never married due to the shame she'd carried from her previous career. She'd taken lovers but none had stayed once they knew her past and, at 50 years of age, she decided finally to come home to where it all began.

Iris, my point, is leave if you're not happy but not like this. Plan ahead, acquire some skills, find somewhere safe to live and work you enjoy. Stay away from Dianne. Stay here for a while if you need to wrap your head around what to do but stay away from that manipulative woman. She's bad news. I've known her kind.

As if on cue, Iris received an SMS.

"We're going tomorrow. Found you a job. Platinum Club. Meet me at 10. Mulligans bar. :* Di.

"Reya, she's found me a job, what should I do? I can't go home, I can't stay here indefinitely."

Reya opened her laptop and Googled "Platinum Club". "Look you silly girl, look at this joint. You want to be a pole dancer, a stipper, a sex worker in the dark end of town?"

Iris' eyes begin to well as she checks out the web site. Its banner in Flash showing women covered in foam, languishing on tables, wrapped around shimmering poles, the faces of onlookers pixelled to protect their identity.

"Is this what you really want?"

Iris began to cry.

Muse 1 "The Seventh Goddess"
Muse 2 "The Forensics of Spume"
Muse 3 "The Way of the North"  
Muse 4 "Virginal Zoophilia"   
Muse 5: "Stakes and Lies  
Muse 6: "A Meal of Her Loins"   
Muse 7: "Controlled Burn" 
Muse 8: "Ghastly Truths"  
Muse 9: "To Bury a Mountain"


  1. Um... you're missing quotation marks all over the place. This chapter is laaaaaaaaazy. Almost 100% expository. We should experience Reya's flashback, not listen to her talk about it.

  2. You made Rhea's story sound believable. That's not an easy feat. Regarding grammar, there is nothing I haven't mentioned before.

  3. I'm agreeing that Reya's story is believable ... but the flashback may have been good gimmick, since it seems odd that Iris would sit through an entire story/ lesson when she was so heel-bend on leaving.

  4. Figured we were leading up to something like this with Reya.