Rating: PG-15 (You know, parental guidance and the internet are so completely irrelevant to each other. Yet I am still going to use my made up rating, which means: Adult concepts and situations, but implied rather than explicit)
Apologies: This is my first time writing CSI (for anyone besides myself), I hope I didn’t blow it too badly.
Stripper Cath meets College Sara.
Apparently this is going to be 3 parts. The middle section was longer than i thought it would be.
Sara made it back to the hotel by seven and showered and changed before slipping into the empty seat at the table with the rest of her classmates. Gary gave her an apologetic look, but she avoided his eyes, and didn’t respond to any attempt at conversation made by the rest. How could she, when she was burning inside?
Every breath she took sucked in the scent of the aloe she had rubbed into her skin, and every breath reminded her of Eddie’s sneer. It was so familiar, the way he smiled, the way he laughed, cutting down Catherine in front of strangers, making her worthless for anything but sex. And he owned that. You can look, he said, but in the end, all you can do is envy me.
Eddie reminded her of her father.
She hadn’t seen him drunk. She couldn’t assume that he actually was like her father, but she had seen that look of harsh, defensive pride on her mother’s face. It was an ugly expression. And it said everything she needed to know. Don’t try to help me; I won’t accept it. When I’ve had enough, I’ll get out on my terms, whether that’s with a knife or a gun, or just walking away.
Sara breathed hard to try to control her anger, at her father, at her mother, at Eddie and Catherine for perpetuating this cycle, for not realizing that it only led to violence. In a way she was angrier with Catherine, for wasting her obvious potential on him, and not seeing that she was walking into a trap. At least they didn’t have children, yet.
Sara pulled out her wallet to pay and a small piece of cardboard floated to the ground. Gary leaned down and picked it up.
“Sara, you dropped-” Then he looked at what it said. “A strip club?” He looked at her with a sort of horrified incredulity on his face. “Is that where you went this afternoon?”
She lunged for the card, clearly reading his thoughts on his face, the realignment of his universe, her status in it falling even farther than it had already.
But she was too late. Tim, a goofy chubby guy, snagged it out of Gary’s hand an instant before she reached it. “Kick ass! This is what we have got to do tonight!”
But none of the other guys shared Sara’s confusion. The motion was carried with enthusiasm.
“Are you coming?” Gary asked, a threatening challenge in his voice that she had never heard before.
She didn’t want to go. She had never wanted to go. Not after the way Catherine had reacted. She didn’t want to see that. Looking was participating in her degradation. And showing up with an entourage of nerdy boys? At least her shameful reality would be as much on display as Catherine’s own.
It had been so nice to speak with her as a stranger, to recreate herself, perhaps as a bit of an idiot for running through Vegas in black jeans, but better an idiot than her reputation at school: a reserved, arrogant recluse. For a moment she had believed that there was a real chance for someone to see something else in her, something she didn’t even know was there. But that hope had been destroyed with the jingling of keys in the lock.
“Yeah, I’m coming,” she said. She couldn’t let them go alone, and listen to them talk about the women, and stay silent, wondering which one was her, hating that they had seen more than she had, that they thought they knew more, and could own her, if only with words.
* * *
The club was as seedy and repulsive as expected. The woman on stage wore her sparkly tassels and breast implants like armor. The girls on the floor flashed bright smiles or seductive looks toward the thickest wad of cash, the men holding them barely furniture.
Sara found a merely mildly sticky chair at the back of her group, and curled into herself, watching in silence. A skinny girl with a charming smile slipped off her shoe and traded it with a man for a small roll of bills. A man slipped behind a curtain on the side of the stage and came out pressing a tissue to his nose.
The music changed and the tasseled woman strutted down the stairs onto the floor, heading towards a table of men with black suit jackets and white shirts. Tim sighed, but the next girl stepping out on stage in impossibly high heels quickly distracted his attention.
Sara looked up, and her fingernails dug into her palms.
She didn’t want to watch. There was nothing subtle, nothing classy about this. The other woman had resembled nothing more than a flailing failed robotics experiment, but Catherine was sex, in all its awkward, sweaty, fleshy excess. It was worse, because Sara could only picture the half glimpse of an unmade bed she had seen in their apartment, and Eddie, taking what he wanted, what was his. Catherine slipped down to her knees, head back, pole pressed between her breasts.
“Aww, fuck!” she heard Tim whisper heatedly.
It was hot, Sara agreed, even more so if she let herself hate Catherine. She ground slightly into the edge of the chair. She wanted to slap her, hurt her, punish her for being such a whore, thinking so little of herself to do this, for showing her body to all of these strangers, when it should just be to her.
But not really. In the end, all she really wanted to do was put her arms around her and cover her, protect her from this. But that was more of a fantasy than any suck and fuck that was going through Tim’s head at the same time.
Catherine’s song ended and she also came down for her time in the crowd. Sara quickly turned her gaze away, not wanting to meet her eyes as she scanned the audience for takers. As her sight swung she noticed Gary swiveling back around in his seat. Had he been watching her?
And then he was leaning out, waving two twenties. “Kitty!”
“Can I have some sugar, baby?’
Catherine laughed at him. “For that? A little bit. Find a place to tuck it, stud.”
She glanced away as Gary hurriedly slipped the cash into what little there was of her outfit, and her eyes met Sara’s horrified gaze. She looked solemn for a moment, almost hurt, until her eyes narrowed slightly, and she swung her leg over Gary’s lap, nothing but hardness in her face.
Somehow, even as Catherine laughed and teased Gary as she moved over his hips, Sara felt those hard eyes on her the entire time.
Outside, in cooler night air, Sara still felt frozen. It was clear in every move Catherine had made that she was saying, “I am good at this. I am not ashamed of this. I will not be shamed by your eyes.” Sara felt enough shame at watching for both of them.
“Now that’s a real woman,” Gary said, laughing with Tim who was incredibly impressed by his daring to buy a lap dance. Sara felt the scrape of his mocking glance across her back. “But look at this.” He pulled two twenties from his pocket. “I didn’t even have to pay for it.”
Before she knew she was moving, Sara had thrown him up against the brick wall, his head smacking into it with a hard thunk. “That woman works for her money. She works harder than you could ever understand. You've never worked for anything in your life!” She grabbed the money from his limp hand. “You can’t understand.”
She dropped his collar and he sank down the wall, gaping. She stared at him, at the blood streaming down his neck. Stepping back, terrified at her own actions, she glanced at the other boys who were all gawping at her as if she were some sort of monster in their midst. She turned and ran.
* * *
The click of stilettos on pavement made Sara look up from where she was huddled amongst the trash of the alley behind the club. The money was still clenched in her hand and she kept on flipping her palm over to look at the bloodstains that marked the pads of her fingers. She swiped her arm across her face, trying to wipe away the streaks left by her tears.
Whoever had come out of the back of the club gave a sigh, clicked a lighter, and then Sara could smell the scent of heavy Turkish cigarettes.
“I didn’t know you smoked,” she said, not looking at Catherine.
There was a scramble and a hard cough. “Shit! Don’t just sneak up on me like that!”
Sara finally turned to look at her. A light jacket and jeans had replaced the sparkles and hope that had made up her previous outfit. Catherine glared at her, until the streetlight caught her face, and Catherine’s expression changed to something resembling shock, maybe it was disgust.
“I was here first.”
Catherine took a deep breath, keeping the cigarette well away. “I needed something after a night like this one. And since I’ve quit the coke, I had to bum a fag from Charlie.”
Sara glanced away and stayed still as Catherine crouched down next to her, balancing astonishingly well on her impossible heels, and offered her the cigarette.
“You look like you could use this more than me.”
Sara thrust the fist with the money in it at her. “This is yours. Gary stole it.”
Catherine grinned and took it, sticking it in her back pocket. “How chivalrous of you. But it’s not the first time.”
Sara stared at her hand. “It isn’t fair.”
“Part of the job. I once had this guy who would sit at the stage and stick the same bill in my undies about twenty times. We both pretended not to notice, but when he came back, I had to tell the bouncer to move him to a table.”
“Oh,” Sara moved her fingers to see if the bloodstains would change as the light did. Catherine stared at her.
“What’s wrong with your hand?”
“Sometimes I think I’m turning into my father.”
“Yeah? Did he make a habit of sitting in the trash behind strip clubs?”
“I don’t know. He died when I was eight.”
Catherine sighed again. “Sara…”
At the sound of her name, Sara turned, desperation clear on her face. “Why are you here? Why are you doing this? You’re so, so much more than I could ever be, but you’re here!”
Catherine stiffened, standing up. “You have no right to ask me that.”
Sara scrambled to her feet. “What gives me the right? If I am going to be my father, I might as well get what I can from it!” She caught Catherine’s shoulders and shook her. “What gives Eddie the right to have you? I could be as much of an asshole as he is!”
“You’re freaking out, Sara.” Catherine gripped her wrists. “Relax.”
Sara stared at her hands, making indentations in Catherine’s jacket, as if they were unrecognizable. She released them and dropped her arms, but Catherine kept hold of her wrists.
“I’m sorry.” Sara choked on the words. “I didn’t-“ She was crying again, uncontrollably.
“Yeah, you did,” Catherine said softly, and then tugged Sara in, letting her drape herself over her shoulders. “It’s okay.” She shook her head. “Why do I keep on picking you up?”
Sara felt more than heard a chuckle in Catherine’s chest.
“Come on, let’s walk. Which way’s your hotel?”
* * *
“Nice.” Catherine glanced around the hotel room, and Sara watched her, wondering how on earth she had gotten up here.
“The school picked up the tab.”
“Even better.” Catherine looked over at her, obviously comparing her to the pristine hotel room. “Get in the shower. You smell like a trash heap.”
Sara stared at her, blinking. “But, you…”
“I’ll be here. I think I need to set you straight on a few things.”
Sara’s eyes slid away at the flat pronouncement, and she obeyed her instruction.
She stayed in the shower, staring at the wall, and wishing that none of this had ever happened. She should never have come to Vegas.
When she stepped out of the shower, Catherine was lying on her bed, her jacket tossed over a chair. Sara couldn’t move. Somehow, the skin of her arms revealed by the modest tank-top Catherine was wearing, was infinitely more illicit and fascinating than seeing everything, as she had barely an hour before.
“You know, you’re a lot more messed up than I thought when I first met you.”
“You met me after I had run six miles through Vegas in the mid-afternoon. How much more messed up do I seem now?”
Catherine laughed. “Apparently I didn’t correlate insane and messed up quickly enough. If you put it like that, I really wonder why I’m surprised.”
“Yeah,” Sara dropped her towel on the back of a chair. That’s what she was: utterly messed up.
“Oh come on.” Catherine rolled onto her stomach and Sara vaguely wondered if the blankets would smell like her once she left. “You were so together. Maybe you had a freak out, but you were smart and funny, and doing it all on your own. The right way. Without…” she gestured vaguely. “Putting your body on display.”
“And that makes my way better? I couldn’t do what you do if I tried.”
Catherine raised her eyebrows. “I doubt that.”
“A line of coke, and that self-consciousness goes out the window. The boys would be lining up for you.”
“You don’t like that idea?”
“I don’t… Sometimes I don’t even know if I can control myself when I’m totally sober. I don’t want to think about what I could do… to someone, if I’m not.”
Catherine sat up. “Do to someone? Like violently? Or… sexually?”
Sara glanced away. “I… I sometimes think that they’re the same thing.”
“Is that so?” Catherine spoke as if she were taking a long drag from a cigarette in a ten-inch holder. “Have you ever had sex?”
Sara felt a sickening twist in her stomach. She felt eleven, being admonished by her first foster sister, for being so young and stupid. She couldn’t find words to respond that would do anything but make Catherine lose even more respect for her, if there was any left to lose.
“I don’t understand! What are you doing here? What do you want with me? Everything you said was right. I’m a useless fucked-up mess! You’re not a whore, and even if you were, you wouldn’t come with me, because you know I have nothing to give you. Nothing…”
Suddenly Catherine’s fist was buried in her shirt and she was jerked forward and dropped on the bed. Catherine was straddling her, pinning her arms to her sides.
“That’s what I want,” she said, her voice harsh. She bent down and just breathed on Sara’s cheek. Sara stiffened. “You don't see me as a whore. You’re wrong, but I just want to be allowed to believe that for a little while. Let me?”
Sara smiled weakly. How could she say no to that? “All right.” She closed her eyes and let her hands drift up Catherine’s bare arms, just feeling, just trying to make this into a memory. “You let me feel attractive for a little while. It seems more difficult for you.”
“Your head is full of shit.”
Sara laced her fingers through Catherine’s hair and grinned lazily. “That’s my line.”
Catherine kissed her to shut her up.
* * *