Flash Fiction Contest Winner – Week #1

“Money”

     The girl sat on the mattress in her matchbox apartment and pulled her shoes off. “Just put the money on the nightstand.”
     I pocketed my keys and opened my wallet. There was at least a thousand dollars cash. And a note from Sarah: “Deposit this in joint checking <3”. The less-than-three heart, their inside joke from when they’d met online, before emoticons. Where had she—oh right, she’d sold that antique sewing machine she’d bought for pennies at an estate sale.
     The girl saw the money and took off her shirt in a smooth, practiced motion. A thousand dollars could buy ten hours with her, a whole Saturday at “the office”. Sarah didn’t look at the finances, so she’d never know. The girl tossed her shirt on the table, then began unhooking her bra.
     I ran my thumb across the edges of the bills. “How much time do you have?”
     She looked up, hands still behind her back. “All day, I guess. Why?”
     “Let’s go out. I need to eat first.”
     She let the bra fall loosely around her shoulders, unhooked. “You mean like on a date?”
     “Yeah, sure. Same pay.”
     She brushed her dyed blonde hair out of her brown eyes and almost smiled. She put her clothes back on.
     We went downstairs and outside. It had rained the night before and old town smelled like concrete drying in the sun.
     “Do you mind if I take my heels off?”
     “Sure.”
     She kicked them off then put them in her purse. Her bare feet made sticky sounds on the wet sidewalk, and she stepped carefully. A breeze blew her short skirt, uncovering her upper thighs, and it should have excited me, but my stomach ached. There was a group of restaurants on the corner.
     “Any of these good?” I asked.
     “Dunno. Never been.”
     The middle eastern place looked the cleanest so we went there. The sign on the door said, “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service”, but the man didn’t enforce it for her. I got a big mezze plate to share. The girl picked at it, then her appetite came on and she ate.
     “What’s your name?” I said.
     “Carla,” she said, too quickly.
     “That your real name?”
     “Naw.” She ate a grape leaf roll in one bite. “It doesn’t matter, I guess, since the name is so common, but it used to be Sarah. But that’s a church lady name, you know?”
     I chuckled softly. “Oh, I know exactly.”
     She glanced at my wedding ring then went back to the food. “I figured, Carla sounds like a good time, you know? I can always go back. Or change it again.”
     “You been doing this long?”
     “A year. The money’s good, and it’s not as bad as they say. ‘S okay.”
     “Yeah. What do you really want to do?”
     “Marry a rich sugar daddy and sit by the pool all day.” She licked hummus off her candy pink lips and made hard eye contact. “Maybe I’ll meet one. A nice guy who takes girls out to eat and drives a big Mercedes.” She reached out to her water glass, showing her cleavage, and held the pose for a moment, then took a long drink from the straw. “I’d be fierce loyal too, and I’d empty his balls five times a day so he was loyal to me. That’s important for a wife, don’t you think?”
     I blinked several times. “Yeah, I suppose so.” I stuffed pita in my mouth and chewed. They had the same name, swap one for the other, a young one with good ovaries, start a family, a big family. There’d be the divorce, the shame, have to move, new job, but I’d still have a lot. I swallowed the pita too early and it caught. “How do you feel about having children?”
     “I love kids.” But her smile didn’t reach her eyes. The other stuff had been the truth, but that last line wasn’t. She was proposing a transaction, a contract, a long-term extension of today’s arrangement.
     I opened my wallet and put a hundred dollar bill on the table. “Thanks for lunch.”
     I didn’t look back, but the street was a one-way and I had to drive past the restaurant. She was barefoot in the doorway, mascara in dark lines down her face. We locked eyes for a moment but she just watched me drive away. So I came home to you. That’s what happened at the office today.