She never slept after an appointment with a client. It was one of her rules.
Never break an appointment, never kiss on the lips, never stay the night and never, ever get involved. But after her third time with Dan he had passed out with his arms tightly wound around her. Usually she would have detached herself and woken the man, letting him know she was leaving and to confirm their next appointment. But Dan was different. He was restless as he slept, quietly muttering names of people and strange places. Jack, Sam, Tealek, Esgsea and Vala. His voice would always become so earnest and desperate when he called out for Vala. She would gently sooth him, caressing his damp forehead until he settled.
The service had tried out several girls with him but none seemed to suit his tastes. Finally he had asked for someone with dark hair and an accent. Although she had lived in the States for several years, she never lost her Sydney accent. As many, she had come to the States with the dreams of becoming someone famous.
She had made it through her first semester at fashion design school on her savings but found her dream slipping away when she could no longer afford to go to school and live in the city. Another girl had introduced her to the service. It was hardly as sorted and vulgar as it was made out in films. The service would set up an appointment with a man. She would show up. Sometimes they would go through the motions of a “date” but there were never any illusions that it was a romantic relationship. It was an arrangement. It was business.
The last girl had made the mistake of asking Dan about his leg. Thinking him a vet from Iraq she had upset him, tainting their pillow talk with questions. The service called her to take him on because they knew she would keep it professional.
She should have passed him onto another girl after the first time she stayed the whole night. He made her coffee in the morning and asked if she wanted some breakfast. She declined. After confirming their next appointment, she had headed for the door, assuring herself that one broken rule was okay. So long as she kept the others.
She broke another a month later.
It was as she finished up in the bathroom one morning that she noticed the medicine bottle. A month’s supply of Oxycotin. The date on the label was only a week old but the vial was less than half full. It was after her next appointment with him that she left a pamphlet for Narcotics Anonymous on his kitchen table.
Two weeks later there were only over the counter pain killers in his medicine cabinet.
For six more months she kept every appointment with Dan.
As she lay with him curled into her body, his arm holding her close, she knew that she had to tell him that this would be the last time.
He made a quiet mmhph sound, as he nuzzled her hair at the base of her neck.
“Dan, I need to tell you something.” She turned out of the embrace and sat up. He looked at her, bleary-eyed.
“I’m quitting the service.” This seemed to get his attention. He sat up with her, leaning his weight on the side of his good leg.
“I’m finishing school in two weeks and I have a job offer.” Nodding his head he stared at her, his eyes tracing the contours of her face. She had already informed all her other clients that she was moving on weeks ago. She had held off telling Dan for as long as possible.
“I won’t be…I can’t do this anymore.” Playing with the edge of the bedsheet, she kept her eyes away from his face, fearing what she would see.
Taking one hand he gently brushed her hair away from her shoulder and caressed the skin.
“I understand.” He replied.
She stilled his hand with hers. Finally she brought her eyes up to his face.
“They can send someone else.”
His eyes wandered to where her hand held his.
“There is something else I am suppose to do with my life.” She hadn’t meant it to sound as profound or desperate as in came out.
His eyes moved back to hers. It was unspoken but from the play of emotions across his face, dragging him back to another place, another time, she knew that he understood better than anyone else what she meant.
Moving her hand to his cheek she leaned over and placed a chaste kiss on his lips, their first. He had closed his eyes and kept them so as she eased herself out of the bed. Gathering her things she refused to look at him as she dressed.
Finally she turned her eyes to him as she stopped at the door. He was watching her with a lost look.
Catching her breath, she couldn’t help the words from coming out, “I’ll see you…next week.”
He nodded to her. Turning quickly she hastened down the hall to his door. Once outside his apartment, she braced herself against the wall. The tears now streaming down her face because she knew she would have to break her last and final rule.