Oh, Nostalgia, I Don't Need You Anymore
- "Spotlight" Patrick Stump
Estella watched Miranda return to the main stream of the House with narrowed eyes. It was one thing to work here in the first place and get drunk every night but she, herself, only went to Faheem when she was desperate. Maybe Miranda had been drinking too much lately but it was only her second night! She shouldn't be seeing Faheem so soon without even getting the feel of things first. Estella was so used to the ways of the House that she was now able to drink socially, as opposed to simply hammering her head until she was able cast all dignity aside.
By the way Miranda seemed to be gazing into the lambent orange spotlights with a new sense of appreciation, it looked like Faheem had simply smacked her off her tits on ecstasy. Estella felt her lip curl as Miranda stroked the wooden banister of the Landing with a look of utter astonishment on her face.
It was worse knowing that the inexperienced and naïve girl had probably let him take full advantage before finally being given the drugs. It didn't take forty minutes just to open a Ziploc bag. And her entire pay for that week said that the group downstairs had been creating a second-hand clam-bake for the past three hours that would have seeped into and taken control of Miranda's lungs from the moment she stepped inside.
"Hey, Ashleigh!" Estella caught sight of one of the girls striding into the bar, probably looking for another drink.
"Hey, Estella." Ashleigh smiled warmly and hopped up on a stall. "Everything OK?" She'd clocked her expression.
Briefly, Estella wondered if she should simply tell Andie to take Miranda home before the latter hurt herself, but then decided against it. Jeremy would be furious if she alienated two promising new additions so early. No, it would be better to simply make sure that Miranda was safe for the night. With any luck, Andie wouldn't find out at all. At least, she wouldn't find out the hard way.
So Estella turned her attention back to Ashleigh. At first the young twenty year-old looked just the stereotypical blue-eyed blonde slut except Estella knew her better than that. Ashleigh had been working at the House of Solace for three months and just about everything she made she put towards her Master's Degree in Physics. The girl was incredibly smart. Yet she was also surprisingly reserved, unlike most of the girls who worked there. Despite this, she was incredibly efficient and well-liked by the clients and customers who had 'experienced' her before. The other employees at the House liked her as well, if not for her intuitive charm then for her healthy size-8, perfectly-proportioned figure, maintained with a simple balanced diet and exercise. Ashleigh went for regular runs in the early hours of the morning around London, both to keep herself fit and to work off any lingering hangovers. Estella, and many others, admired her for the simple ease in which she went around, both inside and outside the House.
Now, standing in front of the bar in her customary lacy black bra and knickers, Estella knew Ashleigh could be trusted. She didn't want Jeremy knowing of Miranda's shaky start to life at the House of Solace.
"I need you to do me a favour." Estella said, pouring Ashleigh a shot of vodka.
"Yeah?" she slowly spun the shot glass between her thumb and forefinger on the counter.
"See that girl over there, the one checking out the banister?"
"Isn't that one of the new girls?"
"Yeah, this is only her second night."
"Hang on, is she on … is she high?"
"Damn." Ashleigh whistled quietly. "Overdoing herself a bit, isn't she?"
"About forty-five minutes ago she came to me and asked where she could find Faheem."
"Ah. So she's screwed."
"Can you please just keep an eye on her tonight?" Estella pleaded. "And keep her away from Andie?"
"Oh no, from what Jeremy was telling me, they're definitely bi. But I don't want Andie to know about this."
"You'll speak to Miranda about Faheem after, yeah?" Ashleigh said, finally throwing the shot down her throat.
"Of course. I hate to think what he did to her down there."
"Well, it couldn't have been much worse than up here?" Ashleigh was genuinely confused.
"Up here we have security; we can keep an eye on people." Estella said, her eyes roaming the rest of the bar. "And you've seen the sort of company Faheem keeps. Downstairs is about as friendly as drunk Catholic in an abortion clinic."
"You know, I feel a little outdone." Ashleigh said, gazing absentmindedly at the racks of colourful drinks behind the bar. "I've been here for three months and I've managed to get by without 'visiting Faheem'." She made air quotes around the last two words. Everyone knew about Faheem.
"I wouldn't feel so jealous if I were you." Estella said, uncomfortably, pouring out some more vodka. "It's not something to aspire to."
"I think her problem," Ashleigh indicated with her refilled shot glass where Miranda had been grabbed by a young man and was being felt up against the banister, "is that she's got such a judgemental view on people like us that she reckons, now she is a prozzy, that she's got some image to conform to."
"Hmm." Estella said, contemplating this. "Andie's alright though."
"Yeah. Bit more controlled. Miranda's just throwing herself anywhere and everywhere. It's almost like she's trying to get herself killed."
Ashleigh almost choked on the alcohol she'd just poured into her mouth.
"Sorry," Estella winced, grabbing a napkin. "Too soon?"
"Little bit." Ashleigh said, one hand over her chest as she calmed herself down. "I know I only knew Leah for a few weeks but … you know?"
"Sorry." Estella grimaced.
"So …" Ashleigh said, uncomfortably, "how long are Miranda and Andie working tonight?"
"Well, if I know Jeremy, then he'll have asked them to work the easy shift."
"Yeah, so you'll still be able to relax later on."
"Alright, I'll keep an eye on her. It should wear off after six hours at the latest anyway."
"Yeah, but she'll still be high 'til one. Andie might come looking for her. Just keep them apart."
"Sure thing. Um, she's done with that guy so I'll see you later?"
"Yeah and, Ashleigh?"
"This is just between us, OK? I don't want it getting out. Those two girls are having a rough time of it right now I don't want to make it any worse by letting it become common knowledge that Miranda's a stoner."
"Got it. One more shot before I go?"
"Sure thing." Estella smiled, lifting the bottle.
Andie was desperate for a drink. It was eleven at night and so far she'd only had a couple of cans of Carlsberg. It wasn't enough.
She was being nailed into a sofa, her legs and arms spread as some middle-aged man drove into her like she was bouncy castle. Fortunately, he seemed to mistake her groans of pain and exasperation for pleasure and satisfaction as he continued. There was no doubt that Andie was enjoying herself, despite everything, but she was exhausted.
As the man finally climbed off and made her redress him, Andie struggled to contain herself when she realised she still had another four hours left.
Zipping the fly with slightly more energy than necessary, Andie turned and went to walk away before two men caught her eye as they ascended the staircase.
They were the men from her first night, the ones who had chained her and Miranda to a post and fucked them in front of a video camera.
Andie instantly made for the bar.
"Estella!" she gasped, slapping her hands down on the counter. "Where's Miranda?" she demanded.
Estella struggled to retain her composure. "I don't know, sorry." She said quickly, shifting to the side to draw Andie's line of sight away from the corner where Ashleigh sat a little way, keeping an eye on Miranda who was giving a man a lapdance.
"I need to find her! Tell her to find me if you see her!" Andie begged, glancing between the open double doors and Estella.
"What is it?" Estella said with the appropriate amount of concern. She was drying a pint glass in her hands and kept her eyes on that. Had Andie somehow found out that Miranda was stoned?
"I …" Andie didn't know if she could go on. She had too much dignity to tell someone that she'd allowed things to get so far out of hand on her first night. But if she told no-one then it would just continue "I didn't expect to see …" the words got caught in her throat.
Estella winced. So Andie knew. "It'll clear up. It'll all be over in a few hours."
"Wait, you know?" Andie turned her full attention on her.
"Well, I saw it first." Estella admitted. "I'm trying to keep an eye on things."
"So you let people just walk around like this do you?" Andie's anger was mounting.
"Hey!" Estella barked, feeling her pride welling up behind her careful exterior. "We do what we have to do sometimes!" Though she didn't like the idea of Miranda walking around stoned, she understood it perfectly and would defend the girl, who knew little better, against anyone.
"Don't you realise the damage going on right under your nose?" Andie kept going. "Don't you realise what's happening to Miranda, or me?"
"I know what's happening." Estella said, coolly, reining in her anger. With Jeremy, she'd had a lot of practise. "But there's not a lot we can do about it right now!"
"You could have someone watching every move instead of letting people just wonder around freely!" Andie retorted.
"You think I've just stood idly by? I've got Ashleigh on guard duty right now!"
"Who the fuck is Ashleigh?" Andie demanded. "Another dumbass whore? Let me guess, I'll probably find her under some washed-up pig-faced boss of bosses with another cock halfway up her arse!"
"Estella, you're being a little louder than usual. Andie, I know you're new but try and make a better first impression please?" Jeremy's smooth voice interrupted their heated argument. "We have quite a few regulars in this room right now and while most like a good bitchfight only some like a woman who fights back."
"Sorry." Estella murmured. "Can I get you a drink?" she asked him politely.
"That would be lovely." Jeremy said. "Just a beer." He turned his attention to Andie who hadn't turned to greet him. He observed her knuckles, white as they gripped the silver surface of the bar, and her rigid composure. "Andie?"
Her eyes were closed against his presence as if he only existed when in her sight. "Yes?" she said through her teeth, finally forced to accept his continuation within this world.
"I don't like raised voices within my home." Jeremy said, the slightest edge to his voice. From behind, he wrapped one arm around her waist, gently spun her around and led her out of the bar, Estella placing the beer in his free hand as he did so.
"Shame." Andie snapped, paying more attention to her surroundings as she was led back out into the Landing.
"Alright, what's wrong?" Jeremy sighed, tucking Andie closer into his side.
Andie remained silent but continued to watch her surroundings carefully. Jeremy glanced at her and recognized the signs immediately.
"Who?" he growled, a surprising amount of menace in this voice.
"Huh?" Andie was taken aback by the strong emotion.
"I don't like people mistreating my employees." Jeremy said, lowly.
"And what counts as mistreatment in this place?" Andie replied, coolly.
"Andie Finch." Jeremy sighed and swung her around to pin her against a wall, keeping eye contact all the while. "Miss Finch, there's something you need to understand here. This is not a bad place. This is a place for those who need some more cash or have too much of it in the first place. Here, I help people. I give people jobs and I provide for people who simply don't get enough. I know how that sounds and how that makes me sound but it's not right. You're here because this is your only option. So don't fight against me, Miss Finch. Let me make this House a good option."
Andie didn't know what to say. She hadn't expected the man to be so open about what he did. Maybe there were a few redeeming qualities after all? But did that justify the sort of business that he ran? Before Andie could question Jeremy and her morals even further, she caught sight of the two men strolling down the Landing, side-by-side with a girl on the left and right wings. Andie recognised Lauren on one.
Jeremy followed her gaze. "Them two?"
Andie nodded, cringing into Jeremy to hide herself. "The other night … they - they - they -"
"Woah, calm down." Jeremy soothed, moving slightly as if to shield her. "The two men with Lauren and Tracy?"
Though Andie had no idea who Tracy was, she assumed she was the other girl on the men's arms. "They chained me and Miranda and filmed … it."
Jeremy grabbed Andie and dragged her around the corner of the Landing and up against another wall as the two men drew closer. They were taking their time and appeared to be chatting to Lauren and Tracy.
"I've seen them a few times." Jeremy was saying, keeping the quartet on the edge of his peripheral vision. "They started coming here only a week ago. I think they got thrown out of another brothel, or two."
"Keep them away from me and my wife." Andie said, fiercely.