Jazz hands

We're taken upstairs, and Red 5 turns at one point and gives me a funny look.  He doesn't say anything though, he just turns away and carries on.  It's kind of obvious what the problem is: now that he's away from Joel and the testosterone he's thinking that he's in this mess because of me.  I'm grateful he hasn't said that yet.  Red's given a room first, on the right, and I get the room on the left, a few feet further along.

The room is small but pleasant: there's a green patterned carpet on the floor, turquoise curtains at the french window that opens onto a narrow, iron-fenced balcony; a Queen Anne armchair and a chaise longue.  Jazz is sitting in the armchair, and my shopping is strewn around at the foot of the chaise.


"I hate that name, Emma, let's drop it.  I'm still sorry, I do like you, but this is also my job.  Anything else we need to get out of the way?"

"You sound like a man."  I don't really mean to sound quite so judgemental, it just kind of slips out.

"I-- I suppose... Drat.  Yeah, it's the job."  She holds up a hand, forestalling me.  "I know, I keep saying that.  But it is, Emma, it is.  You do this job, you have to think like a man, because it's mostly them doing this job, and if you don't, you can't outthink them."

I don't want to agree with her, I'm still furious with her, but I can't fail to hear the chord she's struck.  "Like my job," I say, a little tight-lipped still. "The only way to be as good as them is--"

"--to be better than them!" we chorus.  I give in, I'm tired and angry, slightly confused, and a friend I don't much like is better than no friend at all.  I'd thought that Red and I might have been in the same room, but I guess this place has separate boys and girls dorms.

"The bathroom's through there," Jazz points, "and you need to get cleaned up.  When you're done we'll sort some clothes out, you've got a couple of engagements."

"Tell me in a minute," I say, pushing open the bathroom door.  It's functional, but the shower looks clean and powerful, and there's a decent set of scrubs, gels and scents.  "I think I can make good use of this!"


I emerge wrapped in a fluffy white bathrobe and find that Jazz has laid out two outfits.  One, she points out, is discreet: blacks, grays and browns, urban camouflage for the lady who doesn't want to be seen shoplifting.  This is for our first engagement.  The second outfit has pulled out the most expensive items that I bought today and almost makes me want to cry.  This is the outfit I desperately want to wear: sheer, clinging fabric cut to enhance my curves just so, and conceal here, and there, and just hint that maybe that is a little more than it really is.  A couple of make-up bags and a large mirror has appeared while I've been showering, along with a mousy woman who will look after my hair.  If I weren't so aware of where I am, I'd be feeling pampered.  I might even consider coming back here next time I need a spa.

Jazz picks up a dark camisole from the first outfit and holds it out to me, just as there's a tap on the door.  I raise an eyebrow, and Jazz goes to answer it.  She comes back a moment later frowning.

"Change of plan," she says.  "We're waiting a bit.  Seems that your doggy is harder to find than we'd thought."

"Puppy," I say.  "So what do we do?"

"Do you play poker at all?"


We play for a few hours, Jazz, the mousy lady, myself, and the occasional fourth from the people who work in the building.  I'm not playing with my own money, but I'm not doing badly.  It's clear that Jazz is both good and enthusiastic, and I don't think I'd want to go up against her in a competition, but I can hold my own.  I win a couple of hands she thought were hers, she wins more than I'm used to losing.  Finally a man appears at the door and tells me to be ready in half an hour.

"What?!  That fast?"

He doesn't understand, but I shoo him away, and we hurry to get me into the second outfit.  I only stop three or four times to look at it in the mirror as it goes on, and even Jazz looks at me jealously once.  My hair is done by the mousy lady while Jazz does the makeup, and I try not to fidget.

It comes together in forty minutes, the last ten spent with a man standing in the doorway muttering imprecations.  Finally I turn to him, give him the full charm offensive, one foot raised onto tiptoe, one leg turning in just slightly, a hint of a smile, slightly more of a hint of cleavage and am very satisfied to see his eyes widen and him lick his lips.  He hands me a clutch purse that is surprisingly heavy, and gestures impatiently out of the room.

We go downstairs, this time to a larger room with a window and a conference table, and there is Red 5 in a suit, holding a briefcase.  I have to stop and pause briefly because, shaved, spruced up, looking less tired, and dressed in what has to be a tailored suit, he looks incredible.  I could easily believe he was a diplomat from one of the smaller, richer European countries.  He's missing the discreet gold jewelery, but everything else is right.

Almost everything else....

"Red?"  He looks up at me.  "Why are your hands covered in paint?"

The End

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