A look into the mirror can reveal only the most basic things about a person. For example, when I look in the mirror, my eyes immediately go to my hair. I don't know why for sure - it's just a reflex, second nature.

The color is something of a mix between carrot-top red and sultry auburn, and it's one of my favorite features about myself. It goes well with my light green eyes and pale skin, the both of which came from my mother's side of the gene pool. Her family was Irish, and her background was reflected in her appearance.

Glancing a little lower will bring attention to my breasts. Others call them "perky", I call them "too small to matter", but that's just fine. I've never wanted to be the kind of woman who gets along solely based on her looks, anyway.

My stomach is flat and my arms and legs are nearly flab-free, if only because I regard eating as something to be done only when absolutely necessary. Food is my enemy, and has been since I was fifteen.

If you looked at my arms, you would find a scar on either one; both starting at the crook of my elbow and going down to the veins in my wrist, from when I attempted to end my life at the age of eighteen, soon after both my parents were killed in a car crash, leaving me alone to fend for myself. The law may have considered me an adult, but I didn't feel that way at the time.

My job helped to fix that. When I parked my body in an alley during a rainstorm after cutting open my arms, waiting to bleed out, I was found by a man who called himself "Erik", with greasy blond hair and a slight beer-belly, but kind eyes. He took me to a hospital, claiming to be my uncle, (I never found out what he told the doctors and nurses my name was - I hadn't been able to tell him before I passed out. I told him later, when I came to, that the name my parents had given me was Andrea.), then paid for all the medical bills I accrued during my stay. Once I was released, he let me room with him. I feared what I would have to do in order to repay this kindness, but when I brought it up to him, he laughed it off.

"That's not what this is about, dear," he told me. "I don't know about you, but I'm a great believer that what you put out into the world comes back to you. It seems like a nice way to live life, don't you agree?"

I picked up a job at a grocery store, taking bags out to the cars of elderly women who couldn't move so well anymore. The pay was just over minimum wage, but it was enough for me to be able to afford an apartment of my own, small as it was.

Erik stopped by to visit at least twice a week, claiming that it was solely because he wanted to make sure I was alright, but deep down, I always thought that the main reason he kept stopping by was because he missed me. He didn't have a wife or children of his own, and he treated me as though I were his daughter - not just some young woman he had picked up off the streets.

The grocery store wasn't doing well in the way of profit, and I was laid off five months after I first got the job. I called Erik, crying, telling him I didn't know what to do. I had paid for this month's rent, but had no way to scrounge up the next. Erik came to my rescue, as he had before, saying he had a job he could offer me.

"But," he explained, "it might be something you'll. . . object to."

The way he said "object" made me nervous - maybe he wasn't as much of a stand-up guy as I had first assumed. But I had no choice.

"What do I have to do?"

The job turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Erik owned a club known only as "Buried Pleasures", where people could go to have certain needs met. The place was something of a soft-core S&M club, but Erik didn't like to call it that. In fact, the one time I used those words in front of him, he winced visibly.

I learned quickly that those who worked at the club didn't use their real names - not even Erik, whose birth-name I, to this day, don't know. The man who worked security at the door called himself "Darryl", the guy who worked as a bartender introduced himself as "Jack", and the woman who "worked the back rooms", (those were her words, the ones she said to me when I asked what her job was), told me her name was "Johann".

I started off cleaning up the restrooms and the back rooms after customers had finished with them, but was eventually promoted, and wound up shadowing Johann for several months. She taught me about the finer points of knot-tying, how much pressure to put behind a slap, how to bring someone to their sexual peak without ever touching them, and then how to bring them back down from that high so quickly, it would almost make them cry.

She taught me how to smoke pot and shoot tequila, and how to look sexy when walking in high heels, and I taught her how it felt to make out with a woman. I had been a lesbian for as long as I could remember, and the people at the club accepted that easily enough, especially Johann. After her shift was over, she would stick around, waiting until I was off the clock, then we would drink until our heads began to feel as though they were going to float right off our shoulders, and she would pull me into the women's restroom and convince me to make out with her.

It took me quite a while to choose my name for the job, and one afternoon, in desperation, I began to look up meanings behind certain names on a website. I was able to find one within hours - "Ciera", which, according to the website, meant "dark one", or, more literally, "black-haired one". It seemed appropriate, (the first definition, at least), considering the life I had been living, and once I told the name to my coworkers, "Andrea" was left behind, never to be seen or heard from again.

I learned to love my job, and was often asked for by name by the customers. There were several that favored Johann, but at least a dozen that would continue to come back to me, appreciative not only of the things I did, but also my "bedside manner", or so my coworkers called it.

I woke up early one Sunday morning, (it couldn't have been any more than three or four AM), lying in my bed, some random woman from some random bar beside me. She was naked, but I was still wearing my underwear. That was a good sign. I should have had a hangover, considering all the alcohol I consumed, but Johann had long-since taught me how to handle booze much stronger than the stuff my "companion" and I had been drinking, and I was grateful for that.

Not wanting to be around when the random woman came to, I slipped on the dress and heels I had been wearing, quickly ran a brush through my hair, so it was at least somewhat presentable, then pulled on the elbow-length black leather gloves that I often wore when in public as a way to hide the scars on my arms. I took a beer from the fridge on my way out, leaving as quietly as I could.

My mode of transportation had belonged to the woman I went home with, (my own car still at the bar), so it was obvious that I would be walking. I briefly considered calling Johann, but decided against it, not wanting to wake her up so late unless it was an emergency. Oh, well. The night was still young, and I didn't have to work today. I figured I might as well continue my night out.

The bar I had been to earlier was only a couple of blocks away from my home, a short enough distance that I would be able to walk, as long as the heels allowed it.

Popping the top off the beer I had taken, I sipped it, drinking steadily as I moved, but not taking in so much that the resulting faint buzz would render walking impossible. I wasn't a lightweight by any means, but I had to consider the previous amounts of alcohol still flowing through my system.

I eventually made it to the bar, stumbling only once along the way, and, after tossing out my empty beer bottle, was able to get in without trouble, since the bouncer remembered who I was.

I wasn't looking for someone to go home with this time - just a way to cap off my night. It felt as though it wasn't over just yet, and I hated loose ends. A seat at the bar offered the perfect vantage point of everything that was going on, and a smile came to my face as I watched the patrons doing their own things, whatever those things happened to be. I turned the bartender down when he offered me a drink, choosing instead to continue my people-watching.

Most of the people were either dancing, drinking, playing pool or making out, but a couple guys looked as though they were in the middle of a heated discussion that could soon turn into a violent altercation. It was nothing to be concerned about, though. If this place was anything like the club where I worked, the bartender likely had a gun taped under the bar. The one at Buried Pleasures was small and black, which Darryl liked to jokingly refer to as the "Barbie dream-gun", but Jack had proved - on more than one occasion - that even if a gun is small, it's still a gun, and it can still bring about fear and cause severe damage, if need be.

I thought back to the woman I had left in my room at my apartment. I could go home, deal with her, but I didn't really want to. What I wanted to do was go back to work, where everything made sense, and I knew exactly what was expected of me, but that wouldn't be happening until tomorrow.

I considered finding someone who could score me a joint, (there were many people that dealt in places like this, after all), but pushed the thought aside. I needed to be sober enough to walk back home later.

I lived a toxic kind of life. A life of drugs and drinking, suicide attempts and promiscuous relationships. But I had friends. I had people who cared about me. And really, I wouldn't have had it any other way.