Stripped for Cash

Krystina Harcourt
    The door was flung open with a kick. Lea stood on the threshold of the shabby apartment, her arms full with two large, brown paper bags full of groceries. She was panting from walking up the three flights of stairs of her crappy, Jersey apartment.  She staggered into the living room.  Her white polo with the big, cheesy “Johnny’s” logo was wrinkled from the bags pressing up against her and her black pants had splotches on them, from milk being splattered on her during her shift. 
    “Here hun, let me help you with those,” said Tasha, who was wearing a cheap, cotton nightie. She looked the same way she had when Tasha had left the apartment earlier that morning.  Lea and Tasha had been living together for four years now. Tasha grabbed a bag and set it on the peeling wood table, set in the middle of their living room.  Lea set the other one down next to it. 
    “Thanks,” Lea said, walking to the kitchen.  She grabbed a take-out napkin lying on the counter and started dabbing her forehead, mopping the sweat off her brow. “Those stairs are a killer.  I should probably start jogging again,” she said, starting to unpack the groceries.  She pulled out five boxes of generic brand pasta, two cans of tomato sauce, and a loaf of bread.  Tasha helped, taking out a box of laundry detergent, a gallon of milk, a few cans of Campbell’s soup, and some Oscar Meyer hot dogs. 
    “Look at this,” Tasha said, raising her eyebrows.  “Suddenly we have some money, huh?  Name brand soup and hot dogs.  When did we hit the jackpot?” she asked sarcastically. 
    “They had a deal down at Handover’s,” Lea explained, putting the items away in their respective places.  “I figured we could afford them.  Besides, I’ve been getting some pretty good tips at the restaurant.  Johnny has been giving me parties of eight or more to help me out. He knows I’m struggling.”
    “Well, isn’t that sweet of him,” Tasha said, with a bite in her voice.  “Listen, I got some great news for ya,” she said, digging her hands into a bag of stale potato chip.  “I was talking to my boss about our situation and I told him about you.  Told him you got a nice little body and a killer smile and guess what?  He’s gonna let you audition tonight!  One of the girls got a job at a higher end joint a couple of blocks over, so he needs a new girl anyways.  Isn’t it great?!”
    “Tasha, there’s no way I’m going to strip!” Lea said, tidying up the mess Tasha had clearly made during the day.  She cleaned up the apartment every day when she got home, just like she always took a bath and watched TV to take off the edge at night.  She stuck to her routine and accepted the fact that nothing exciting happened in her life. 
    She picked up a chipped orange bowl filled with milk, a few soggy corn flakes floating around in the bottom, and sighed. 
    “I  don’t get you,” Tasha said, raising her voice.  “You complain that we don’t get to have ‘the finer things’ yet you won’t take an opportunity like this?  You could be making bank.  I do!  Except the money you make won’t hafta go towards three maxed out credit cards.  Think about it.  You would make at least 300 a night, plus tips!  You could even quit that awful job at Johnny’s.  We could buy name brand groceries – all the time!”
    Lea walked into her bedroom and grabbed a pair of worn sweatpants and an oversized t-shirt and walked into the bathroom.  She shut the door in Tasha’s face. 
    “Just think about it, okay!” she shouted through the thin door. 
    She shook her head and started to undress.  She turned around and looked at her naked body in the mirror.  She ran her hands down her body, her eyes squinting as she scrutinized herself.  She turned to the side and stuck a hand on her hip.  She was extremely thin due to the time she spent at the diner and the lack of food in the apartment.  She tried strutting across the linoleum floor and ended up tripping on her sweatpants.   
     She scowled and then stepped closer to the mirror.  She paused, then puckered up her lips and batted her eyelashes.  She looked thoughtful, then smiled before running the water in the tub. 
    Once she had bathed, she drained the tub and wrapped herself in her less-than-soft blue towel.  She took her other towel, flipped her head down and wrapped her hair in a turban.  She turned the door and there was Tasha, standing at the door, looking like an eager puppy. 
    “I don’t know,” Lea said, turning to go back into her bedroom, her sweatpants and t-shirt in her hands. 
    “Look, isn’t your favorite niece’s birthday coming up or somethin’?” Tasha said slickly.  “Don’t you wanna be able to buy her somethin’ nicer than the usual crap from the Dollar Tree down the block?  You could buy her a beautiful dolly or a new CD or somethin’ she’s actually gonna want.”
    Lea stopped and processed this information.  Tasha started to smile when Lea continued into her bedroom and shut the door.  Tasha slumped against the wall and started towards the living room when the door opened. 
    “What would I wear?” Lea asked smiling. 
    “I knew you’d come around!” Tasha said, grabbing her by the arm.  “Here, I got lots a stuff you can wear.  It might hang a little loose around you, but then again, you got a nice rack, so it might fit ya perfectly.”
    Lea followed Tasha into her bedroom, where skimpy clothes were strewn all over the room.  She opened the drawers on a dresser the two had found at a garage sale in Newark.  Tasha pulled out a slinky red dress, covered in sequins.  It looked like it was about two feet of material. 
    “Please tell me that’s just the top of my outfit,” she said a concerned look on her face. 
    “Just go put it on,” Tasha said handing over the dress.  “Wait, try it on with these,” she said, grabbing a pair of strappy red stilettos off the floor.  “And these,” she said eagerly, handing her some sexy fishnet stockings.
    Lea went into the bathroom, wriggled into the skin tight dress, and slipped on the fishnet stockings, followed by the deadly red heels.  She looked at herself in the mirror and her jaw dropped.  The girl who worked at Johnny’s wasn’t the girl staring back at her.  Instead there was a glamorous, sexy bombshell. 
    There was a knock on the bathroom door.  Lea turned the handle and Tasha squealed. 
    “Damn girl, you look hot!” she said, turning Lea around.  “You might even make more money than me!”
    Lea gave an uneasy smile.  Tasha brought her container of makeup into bathroom and proceeded to paint Lea’s face until she was completely unrecognizable. 
    “All set!” she said, obviously thrilled with her work.  She ran into her room to get ready and by 8 p.m. they were both completely transformed into knockouts. 
    “Ready?” Tasha asked. 
    “I’m only doing this until I save up a little,” Lea said.  “Then I’m done.”
    “That’s what we all said sweetie,” Tasha said laughing.  “Come on, don’t wanna keep our audiences waiting,” she said with a wink. 
    Lea looked around their shabby apartment and took a confident step out the door as she left for her new career.