‘Sorry babe.’ He smells of peaches and aftershave and salon shampoo.
‘So forty-five, that will be $380.’
He opens his wallet and she notices a photo. Him about ten kilos ago with a few less lines, a botoxed-up brunette and two toothy girls in floral, all beauties with big hair.
Leaving him to shower, she takes his credit card downstairs. Reception processes the booking and pours him a drink.
Less than thirty seconds. Definitely not her record. The bedside table timer says 41 minutes to go.
‘So whaddya do when you’re not doing this babe?’
‘I—am a third year pharmacy student, actually.’
‘So brains and beauty, ah?’
‘Seemingly so. And you?’
‘Sales, babe, sales. —So why’d ya do this then?’
Their palms slow-dance with each other as they talk.
‘Would it shock you that I happen to like being paid for something most women are expected to give away for free? —To vultures on dating apps that never return calls?’
‘Yeah, nah, I mean no disrespect—it’s just, you’re such a pretty girl and switched on too. You don’t need to be doing this typa work.’
He leaves her hand to start drawing half circles on her right thigh. The room is silent. Nothing else exists.
‘Well, let me ask you, why do you do this?’
‘Oh this’s just like the dentist babe. Just another service, ya’know?’
‘But it’s not for me?’ She raises her eyebrows.
‘What’s that babe?’
‘You said it’s like going to the dentist. So am I not just like a dentist then?’
He takes a sip of his whisky. ‘What’s your star sign babe?’
‘Ooh, Aries, go-getter, feisty babe.’
‘How did you know?’
‘My wife’s Aries.’ His face lights up momentarily. Just momentarily.
‘She must be fun then.’
‘She used to be— I mean she still is—it’s different now but.’
He takes her hand and presses his mouth softly against it for the longest time, like he’s reading her skin with his lips.
‘After we had the kids, it was like— she just stopped seeing me, ya’know? I mean we have sex on my birthday, but that’s it.’
He carefully removes the condom heavy with matrimonial frustration, vigilant not to spill a drop, and places it next to the tissue box. ‘And I can’t wank in the house—not with my daughters in the next god damn room, that’s fuckin sick, ya’know.’
He smooths his hand over her shoulder and slides it slowly down her arm.
The visuals on the TV have changed to a woman subject to insertion of a coke bottle into a less frequented orifice.
‘Mind turning that off, babe?’
She leaps up and presses power off, the colourful scene vanishing to black.
Returning to his side, she nuzzles up, enjoying his warmth. He kisses her forehead. She thinks of nothing.
‘So you like this job, ah?’
She doesn’t answer.