Jenny Marie Stephenson was tense. She could sense that her daughter, Dakota was too as the plane's wheels grabbed the pavement of the LaGuardia runway. Her heart fell into her stomach as the flaps behind the engines closed; reversing the thrust and thrusting them forward in their seats. It wasn't so much that she wasn't used to it or expecting it as much as it seemed to summarize the events of her life in the past few days.
Jenny had given up her own dreams of becoming a ballet dancer when she had found herself pregnant seventeen years ago. She had been on the brink of a promising career, only to have her dreams bashed with this surprise. She and her then boyfriend and now husband Joe decided to get married. They had been having marginal success as dancers in different ballet groups.
With her pregnancy, they had decided to go home to live with her parents in Kansas City. Joe was lucky to get a job with the local ballet company. It didn't pay much, but dreams die hard. Over the years, she and Joe had started their own ballet classes, teaching ballet, modern dance and jazz.
From the beginning, their daughter, Dakota seemed to have caught on quickly. With free classes from her parents, she showed plenty of promise. She and Joe had tried to channel her into music rather than dance. They paid for lessons in piano and violin, hoping she would take a different path. Dakota dutifully worked hard on her lessons, practicing several hours a day on each. But whenever she had spare time, she would go with her parents to the studio to mimic the other dancers.
By the time she had graduated from high school, she was only seventeen, and had managed to do it in three years. Each summer she had taken a full load of college classes too.
Jenny and her husband were disappointed to hear her say what they knew was coming; that she wanted to go to New York and try her hand at dancing. They knew she had promise, but just didn't want to see her go through all the rejection they had experienced. Dakota was expecting to go alone, but Jenny knew what life in New York could be like. She decided to go with her for a while; to see how things went. That left Joe at home alone to run the dance studio.
Jenny and her husband had agreed; he would run the dance studio for as long as it took Dakota to either make some inroads with this career, or give up and go back to college. Jenny had found a room. They had found a flat with two other girls; making the rent fairly cheap for New York standards.
Dakota was going to enroll in dance lessons during the evening. During the day she could go around the city for auditions. Jenny was going to go with her, to make sure she was safe. At night, they might both get a job, or she could continue with more classes. In the end, the plan was for her to perform with some ballet company in the evenings.
The first month went about as expected. Auditions were always hopeful; full of promise. The next job was right around the corner. Eventually, Jenny could envision them running out of money before Dakota found work. She had been confronted with this problem before; when she was young.
She had tried to ignore the problem; ignore the solutions. Now the problems were different. She needed desperately to make enough money to keep the two of them in New York.
Jenny had found a job as a waitress; at Guinevere's. It was a high end restaurant near the stadium. Lots of athletes came in during the off-season. She had plenty of propositions for all kinds of requests. Tips weren't coming in that well. The rent was due. Knowing what other girls her age had done when she was dancing, she decided there was little choice. Go in and look; see what it was like.
She had to go past it every day when she got off of the subway. It was an almost unseen store. It had a number on the door. That was it. The bouncer was huge. He stood by the door and didn't say anything. He just let her by. He knew the look; some fear; some trepidation; some curiosity.
He pulled out his cell phone and let the manager know. He was ready when she got to the top of the stairs. The hall widened. The floors were honed limestone. There was a large atrium with wooden pew seating in a rectangle for a waiting area. She sat. He watched her from the security camera. He watched her nervousness.
"Hello, I'm Rene; Rene Morel. How can I help you?" he asked as he extended both hands. His right hand grabbed hers. His left curled enthusiastically around her wrist.
"Older than any of the others," he thought to himself. Still, there was a grace and desperation that intrigued him. She was obviously a woman of taste, manners, possibly comfort. Why she would be here, he wondered.
"My name is Jenny; Jenny Marie Stephenson. I am here to see what kind of work you might have. She tried not to blink. It might signal desperation. I'm working for tips, and I am curious to see if there are places where I could get just a little more," she said as she tried to pull her hand from his without insulting him.
"Well, we are always open to the possibility of adding another person. You certainly seem to have the looks." He replied. Rene tried not to tip his hand; to appear too desperate.
He looked at this unique woman. Most of the girls who apply are half her age; dyed blond hair, surgically enhanced breasts; ridiculously short dresses; some tattoos, chewing gum and wearing gaudy jewelry.
This woman was easily forty. Her long reddish brown hair was woven into a French braid that stopped just above her waist. She had a gray, silk dress that stopped just above the floor. It buttoned down the front. The top two buttons or so were open; tastefully but not provocatively. The bottom buttons from the hem to just above the knee were also open. It was just enough to confuse him. Normal redheads did not tan. They freckle. This woman had a decent tan and the faintest of freckles. Does that mean her hair is dyed? Everything else about her suggested she was some freak of nature; real red hair, real boobs, what you see is what you get. He was pretty sure she had some lipstick; but other than that, no sign of makeup.
"Have a seat," he said as he gestured to the wooden pews. Jenn sat. Rene pulled an oak captain's chair around to face her. "Tell me about yourself and what you really want."
"I ... I ... I would like to make a little more money. Our rent is more than I am comfortable with. What kind of jobs do you have here?" she asked, almost innocently. Down deep, she knew.
It was a strip joint. It had been there since she was her daughter's age. Other dancers had supplemented their income here. She had been opposed to it when she was young. As a young girl, she was prepared to sacrifice her safety, her comfort for her principles. Now it was a little different.
Jenny did not want her daughter to be in the position of having to go home, in defeat, because they could not afford to live there. She wanted her daughter to have every chance to succeed.
Jenny sat there waiting for his response. She realized that her dress was riding up. She realized that her naked, tanned legs, when crossed, pushed the open part of her dress to the sides. As she gestured with her hands or shifted in her seat, each motion would cause the dress to ride up. "What to do?" she wondered. Normally, she would scoot up; pull her dress down and continue the conversation.
On the other hand, she was old enough to know that whenever she really wanted something enough, her looks usually got her through it. She sat there. She tried to ignore Renee's discreet glances. "Just this once," she told herself." It won't hurt.
"Well, Mrs. Stephenson, we never have enough dancers. " Jenn's heart almost stopped. That, deep down, was what she expected the offer to be. Now here it was. She gulped, trying to decide what to say.
"We have a waitress / hostess who I think is pregnant and beginning to show. We have an understanding with the girls that work here, that they are out when that happens."
"Oh, I think I would like to try that; could I?" she asked almost jumping at the chance to not be a dancer. Deep down, she knew how the dancers had to dress and what they had to do. She was relieved to find there would be an opportunity to be around the big tippers and not be almost naked.
"Well, Mrs. Stephenson, the job is almost the same. You won't be on stage; stripping, but your costume will be close. We are here to sell drinks. You are here to sell drinks. We expect you to be friendly and courteous. How are you with strangers?" he asked, trying not to stare at the sudden rise of her dress.
"I ... I ... I have taught ballet and modern dance for almost twenty years. I deal with all kinds of students; of all ages, and their parents. I feel I can be pretty diplomatic if I have too." How degrading, she thought; to have to justify herself to this man named after a fungi.
"It's one thing to tell a ten-year old to jump higher," he said. "It's one thing to tell a parent his child is too fat." It's another thing to try to get a half inebriated man to buy another drink when he is trying to get his hand up your dress. How are you with that, Mrs. Stephenson?" It was almost a snarl.
"I ... I ... I can ... can ... get used to the idea; if ... if ... if I have a chance. I really would like to have a chance at this job; if I can."
"Well, Mrs. Stephenson; let's see what you've got." The snarl was back; subtle, but still almost contemptuous.
"What ... what ... what do you want me to do?"...
"Take off those fucking clothes."
"Take off the fucking clothes; convince me."
"I ... I ... I thought you wanted me to serve drinks. I ... I ... thought a hostess seats people who are new guests."
.... There is more of this story ...