It was all a game. Not her game. And not a much fun for all the pawns. She knew first hand, and some might even say she was one of them. She was luckier than some though, because she knew she’d wound up in the middle of it all, and that gave her a slim advantage over the unwitting fools who’d been caught up without becoming the wiser for it. She was betting on that slim chance, she’d stake her life on it, and in this particular instance that was more than an expression.
She was a cocktail waitress, and more than that, she was a prostitute. Hell, they were all prostitutes here, it was an unspoken rule, though we all know actions speak louder than words, and the deal was you take the orders, you bring the drinks, and you do whatever you have to keep the customers happy, in exchange you get a passable paycheck and tips for good service. You make the mistake of putting on airs, of believing yourself above socializing with the good patrons of the establishment, then you get shown differently, and when you recover you can go find yourself a new job, which isn’t likely to be any better, or you put on your best smile and go make friends with the clientele.
She’d made that mistake once, but it was long before she’d taken this job. Her step-father had taught her when she was thirteen, the year her mother had taken ill. He’d thought she should see to his needs in her mother’s place, he’d caught her one night in the hallway when she was retiring for the night. He pushed her against the wall and kissed her, and when she bit his tongue and slapped him he made sure she learned her lesson real well. He taught her with his fists, using his body nightly to reinforce his lesson, and when she made the mistake of telling her mother what he’d done, he used a bullwhip. It was nothing though, compared to the searing pain of her mother’s disgust, to hearing her mother call her a whore and a liar, demanding she leave the house and never come back.
She’d gone to work as a maid for a wealthy family the next town over. And this time she knew better. This time she held her tongue when one afternoon she was working in the library her employer cornered, bending her over his desk and pulling her skirt up around her waist. She’d bit her hand to stop herself from crying out, but she couldn’t stop the tears from tracking down her cheeks. He was old and it was over quickly, she tried to find comfort in that. And when she returned to the kitchen, the cook, a robust woman who clucked sympathetically over her, patted her shoulder and told her to dry her tears, giving comfort the way her mother never had.
So by the time she came to the speakeasy she’d long since given up any illusion of virtue, the scars on her left hand, the imprint of her teeth overlapping again and again, provided a testament to the fact that she’d learned not to argue. At least here she had a bit of a choice, there was always a lesser of two evils, and some of her regulars weren’t half bad. So she smiled, she flirted, and she made herself amenable, and if the smile never reached her eyes no one said anything. If somewhere deep down she seethed with rage, she kept silent, if she hated all the hands roaming over her body as if she didn’t matter, she knew she was powerless to stop it, if she’d ever hoped for something better, she’d long since given up, broken by circumstances.
And maybe that was what made her stand out to the one person actually looking, what made the woman approach her in the first place. And maybe that more than anything was what made her say yes to the proposition in the first place. She’d been powerless all her life; a pawn in everyone else’s game. But whatever had driven her, Aileen Foster gave her what nobody before her ever had, the right to make decisions for herself, to pick a side, and for the first time to become more than a pawn, but to be a player in this dangerous game.
She’d said yes.
So there she was. A cocktail waitress. A prostitute. A spy. For better or worse she’d picked a side.