"The one in the seventh row ain't bad," Mickaela mouthed to me as we shimmied. I put a hand above my eyes, trying to block out the flashing lights, and I saw him. Nothing out of the ordinary, or so it seemed. One of those struggling artist types, I supposed. Shaggy dark hair, moved slightly away from everyone else. My sequins got caught on a hook on the pole, and I had to make it look like part of the routine as I undid the top. It slipped all the way off, which I hadn't intended, but the men certainly didn't seem to mind. Three drunk, chubby guys in the first row argued over the top as it fell off of the stage and in front of them. I pretended that I was totally comfortable, and did another shimmy, brushing up against Mickaela, something that Donald had suggested would please the audiences more.

Donald was a rumpled, smelly man of about fifty who owned hundreds of prostitutes across the country. He was well-known by all of the strip club owners, and could often get gigs there. Donald wasn't married, didn't have children, or any kind of person that he could consider a friend. He spent all of his time putting ads in the newspaper, looking for, "dancers." Young girls who were out of work, poor, or had no families often responded, looking for any sort of job that was possible, and there were the prostitutes. Actually, for a man involved in such a sleazy line of work, he was actually intelligent, once you got around to talking to him. You could have a fairly decent conversation with Donald about politics, but his favorite subject was "life." Why were we here, etc. Anyway, it still didn't change the fact that Donald was not exactly the most respectable man, what with how he learned his living and all. Still, one could certainly argue that we were not the most respectable girls. - -
I'd been twelve when I'd seen the ad, "DANCERS NEEDED: CALL 378- 9222." I was at the age where I was supposed to be rebelling against my parents, however, it was quite the opposite. My father was an alcoholic, my mother a lazy ass chain smoker; the usual sob story. But you don't know how painful it is until you've lived it. About how much you need your parents, about how much you need them to respect you, and to be able to respect them. But it wasn't to be. I had known that I would have to get out of the hell house sometime, and now, an opportunity had presented itself quite nicely. I could leave, run away, it would be easy, and I could make some money. Now, I was smart enough to known that they didn't mean ballet dancers, and that I was going to become a full-on whore, a stripper. But anything was better than this godforsaken life.

I left the next morning, at six. I didn't even bother packing a bag. There was no reason to tow my old life along with me as I began a new one. I called the number from a nearby pay phone, and talked to Donald. He seemed nice enough, and gave me directions to the audition. I took a taxi to 12th street, and found myself in a teeny little studio in the back of what looked like an abandoned shack. Before I knew it, I was stripping off my clothes for Donald, letting him examine me. He'd leered at me, and smirked, mumbling, "nice," over and over again. I knew I had a good figure for a twelve year old. Large breasts that most women twice my age would kill for, and long legs. My body was curvy, womanly, "voluptuous," as Donald called it, and that seemed to work well. When he said I could leave, I told him that I didn't have a place to stay. He smiled, and said that I could stay with him.

I remembered my first customer, just a month after Donald had hired me. Strangely enough, it wasn't some dirty old man. It was a woman. Petite, with long blonde hair, about twenty or so, and she was with her boyfriend, an attractive man of around thirty. When I asked what I could do for them, her boyfriend whispered to me, "I wanna see you girls go at it." Donald had warned me not to be shocked at anything anyone asked for, so I tried to stay calm, grinned, and said I would be happy to be of service. We went into a motel room, one where we were staying, and his girlfriend kept looking at the ground, until he hit her and yelled, "I'm supposed to be getting' a show here, bitch!" And then he leaned back into a chair. I edged towards the woman, and leaned in to kiss her. We did just that for awhile, and then we advanced further, moving into groping, and fingering. The boyfriend played with himself, getting more and more excited by the second. The girlfriend was crying as she undid my bra and pulled down my stringy underwear, and then pulled off her own close. I leaned down, my eyes closed, and ate her out. The problem was, I like doing things with her. I wanted to keep going. I couldn't tell if she did or not, but obviously, the boyfriend was quite pleased, so I just went on, and then, she placed her mouth on me as well, and I had never felt such pleasure in my life. Finally, we were finished, and I reluctantly pulled away. The boyfriend had to go get some extra cash, and left his girlfriend upstairs with me. He came back an hour later to find us groping on the bed. He watched for a minute, then grabbed his girlfriend, who kept her eyes down, pulled my shirt open, and placed a few twenties inside.

After that, there were so many customers, it was all a blur. Sex didn't matter anymore, it couldn't. Donald had given me a serious talking to after my encounter with that girl. No falling in love with anyone, no getting "attached." So I tried as hard as I could not to pay attention when I felt the butterflies in my stomach when a gorgeous man kissed me, or stripped of my clothes. It was as though I was numb, going through the motions of having sex, but not truly being there. Someone came in to whatever dirty motel we were staying in, had me for about an hour, threw some twenties into my shirt, and got the hell out of there.

I worked with six other girls, all of them at least a couple of years older than I was. Katie, Brianna, Lauren, Janelle, Trish, and Mickaela. And then there was me, Celeste. I was the youngest by three years, followed by Janelle, who was now seventeen, Trish and Lauren, who were nineteen, Katie and Brianna, who were twenty, and finally, Mickaela, the oldest, at twenty- one. She was the only one who could legally be in a nightclub, yet we had all done it for years. The two years I'd been a prostitute, since I was twelve, felt like a century. I was fourteen now, a teenager, and treated more like an equal than before. Because I'd always looked older, the girls assumed that I was mature enough to start with full-on intercourse. Usually, the new girls got to just begin with oral sex, but no. I had to cut right to the chase. When I whimpered because a man scared me, the girls rolled their eyes and scoffed at me. Except for Mickaela. She always gave me a hug, and told me again, that this was dirty work and that these were dirty girls, and that someday, we'd get out of here. I believed her because I had nothing else, and from then on, I was okay. But, I started to get attached to Mickaela. Whenever I felt lost or alone, I would climb into her bed, sobbing. She'd hold me very close, almost motherly, and let me cry. She'd stroke my hair, kiss my cheek. Sometimes, I thought she was crying, too, but ignored it. One night, I slipped into her bed, and she was wide awake. Neither of us were crying. She pulled me close to her and kissed me on the mouth. We slept together for the next month, until Janelle found out. She threatened to tell Donald, and so we stopped. But I longed for her. I doubted that she felt the same, I was thirteen, she was twenty. She didn't need me. So I just did my duty. First base, $10, second base, $30, third base, $100, and the entire night, $200. We were cheap hookers, and we knew it. Other prostitutes could give a man a lapdance and make $500. Ridiculous, but we'd take what we could get. Anyway, Donald insisted on half of our earnings, and also insisted that we keep a track record, how many men, what we did with them, how much money we made, etc. In total, I'd slept with about 200 men, 5 women, given oral sex to all of those as well, and also given head to ten other men, and gotten to just second base with another. I should have earned $42,030, but since Donald took half of it, the total was $21,015. Enough to buy clothes and food, but not necessarily enough to survive alone. I wasn't old enough to get a job, I had to stay here. I always wondered why the older girls stayed, and didn't find work elsewhere. I certainly wanted to. I guess they had just gotten so sucked into the life that it was impossible to move on, and they didn't think they were capable of doing anything else. Whatever. They were all beautiful and smart, and could do all that the world had to offer. They had just gotten lost along the way.

Donald's voice brought me back to the present. "And now, one by one, I will present all of my lovely ladies. Choose any you wish, or take several!" The audience cheered, and Donald grinned. We all stood in a straight line backstage, sweating already from the dancing. My sequined top was still off. I'd begged Donald to find another shirt, but he insisted that I go topless. Although I'd been whoring for awhile now, I hated parading onstage naked. I'd only done it once before, and dozens of men had grabbed at my chest, hurting me. But Donald said that my breasts were my saviors, and that I needed to show them off more. So I stood in the back of the line, right behind Mickaela. We were just friends now, although I wanted her so badly. And her sequined top was coming off. I felt the urge to push it back up, to place my hands on her again. I'd begged her to come back to me, but she'd refused, telling me it wasn't worth it. I was crushed, but we'd remained pretty close.

She'd turned and smiled at me. "Ready?" I was shaking, but nodded yes. I longed for her arms to warm me but she just grinned, and strutted onstage as her name was called, shaking out her curly black hair, her dazzling Cuban beauty radiating throughout the dance hall. I was last.

"Last, the youngest, and most beautiful of all, Celeste!" The audience went wild, and I ran onstage, my breasts bouncing, my lips pouted, and I shimmied, letting my dark bounce around my shoulders, and twirled. There was strong approval among the men, and I took my place beside Mickaela. They began the bidding with Janelle, then Lauren, Trish, Brianna, Katie, Mickaela, and finally, me. A man said he'd pay $10,000. Everyone turned to see who it was. It was that handsome man in the seventh row, the one that Mickaela had pointed out. I was positive that he did not have $10,000 to spend on sex, but I let him escort me out of the dance hall anyway. I heard Mickaela laughing with a short, redheaded man, and felt jealousy creep through me.

Once we got to the dark alley, where I assumed we would, "do the deed," so to speak, the man took off his jacket, and slipped it around my shoulders. "You must be cold," he said. I was stunned.

"Y-yes" I stammered, a little confused. The man smiled.

"I'm Jack, and 'm an artist. Painter and poet to be exact." I just stood there, staring. I was beginning to grown angry, and a little annoyed.

"Well, Jack, what do you want with me?" I demanded. Jack grinned again. I couldn't help but notice his beautiful smile.

"I want to paint you."