She woke the next morning to an empty apartment.
It was typical of her to wake in the midst of Ray's absence. As a nightclub manager he was always off looking at new ventures from neighboring clubs to try to better his own. After all that's how he had found her. She'd been working as a waitress at a local pub and upon catching a cold last winter and a decline in business she'd been thrown out on the street. It was a cruel act, yet the blow was softened when Ray stumbled upon her shivering from the cold. He offered her shelter in his apartment, and what seemed an innocent gesture quickly became part of an agreement between them.
Ray was a well liked and well known figure around the city. He was outwardly a good natured man, very captivating and manipulative with the vast amount of influence he possessed. She had been drawn to him initially, until the dynamic occurred in their relationship. Ray had an inkling that she would be his next big star at the club and took the opportunity to test his theory. He brought her to the club, mostly to show her around but he couldn't help but notice the longing looks the men in the audience had as she passed them. She had a naturally captivating presence around her, and he knew he could use that to an advantage.
She thought back to that first night where some of the other dancers dressed her up "for fun" but really it was for her debut to the club scene. She enjoyed wearing the lavish costumes, despite their revealing nature. She remembered being taught how to manipulate her body in ways that were sexual, provocative and flirty. She remembered bonding with the girls even though she'd forgotten most of their names. She was a relatively private person, yet her job forced her to be onstage, exposed.
Ray treated her the way she thought all women in her industry were treated. They were promised all good things and found themselves constantly praised and cared for. What she'd come to realize was that those promises had yet to be fulfilled. Ray often told her he'd take her away from the club scene, as soon as he found someone equally as intriguing as her. Until then she would have to remain his star. Ray was protective of her in what seemed a good way, but really he was protecting her for his own personal gain. To Ray she was nothing more than an investment, and to her Ray was her means of survival.
She came to learn that the key to her success was to make Ray happy, no matter what. She had to be whoever and whatever he wanted when he wanted it and in time he would stay true to his word. She had to believe that, or else all hope would be lost. She knew if Ray threw her out she'd surely die, no one would take her now that she was recognized as a dancer in the most popular night club in the city. Although she was praised for her attractiveness inside, outside those walls was entirely different. Members of her industry were above courtesans and prostitutes, but by a slim margin.
She wandered over to the window, peering through the curtain at the busy city street. She wished Ray would hurry up and find his next star. She knew there had to be more to life than what she had at that moment and longed for the day when she could escape. She often dreamed of that special moment when Ray walked in and told her she was done, that she was free from the life of a club dancer and that he would sell the club and take her away just like he'd promised. This thought comforted her, masking her mind with visions and daydreams that satisfied her longing.
It won't be like this for long, She told herself. He promised and a good man always honors his word.