Ma never knew that I lost all her money.
She worked so hard. And all the time. She wanted me to go to college, like anyone could escape from Unpleasantville. I told her that our kind don’t go to college. We have our place in Unpleasantville and that’s all there is. But Ma? Oh Ma. She always wanted more for me. So she saved everything she earned. And she convinced me it was possible.
She earned a fair amount considering she was just a maid. But, I guess Mr. Mortimer paid for her silence. She never said a word to me about what she saw when she cleaned his mansion. I wish she had.
And she never asked how Mr. Mortiimer knew she had a daughter. How he knew to ask for me to work at one of his parties. Oh Ma. I was such a fool. I ruined everything. I’m so sorry.
I was walking one day along the shopping center. I loved that shopping center. The stores seemed to be different every time I went there, and they always seemed to have exactly what I wanted, like that beautiful pair of leather thigh-high boots. Problem is, mom never gave me enough money for my allowance. Then, a big black car pulled up. I saw its reflection in the window. Mom always told me not to accept rides from strangers, but it was Mr. Mortimer! He wasn’t a stranger. He said he would give me a ride home. He was so nice. He didn’t treat me like a kid. He told me I was beautiful, and he even gave me a glass of champagne. God, it was so good. We laughed a little at Ma and how old-fashined she is. He dropped me off at home, just as he had said he would. But before he pulled away, he said, “If you want to make a little money, I’m looking for a server for my party this weekend. One of them seems to have just disappeared. And you can have more Champagne.”
I jumped at the chance.
Oh my god! I don’t even know how many people were at that party, but it didn’t take long for them all to get naked, and they were all over each other. I can’t deny, I couldn’t take my eyes off of them. We servers had to pour champagne over them and hand them what I now know to be sex toys. I kept messing up when they would ask for something because I didn’t know what the things were called, but Mr. Mortimer, who always seemed to be nearby, helped me. At the end of the night, when everyone was sleeping, he drove me home again. We drank champagne in his car. When he reached over to re-fill my glass, I smelled sex on him. I quickly looked away so he didn’t see me flush red.
“I could tell you liked what you saw tonight,” he told me.
I laughed. “I’m not sure ‘like’ is the right word.”
“Intrigued? Curious? Interested?”
An answer stuck in my throat. I wasn’t actually sure what I thought or felt.
“Well,” he said, handing me 5 $100 bills, “you have a job as long as you want it.” And I wanted it.
He told me the next weekend that mom had demanded he not hire me, but the choice was mine to make. I liked the money, and yeah, by the third weekend, I realized I liked the orgy, too. Sometimes, I would rub my hands along the slick bodies—men and women—and the thrill that ran through me made me ache in places I had only touched on my own. When one woman asked me to help her with the dildo, I was hooked.
After a few hours of working, Mr. Mortimer pulled me aside into his room. Although I remained a virgin, I explored my own sensuality with Mr. Mortimer. He told me where he wanted me to touch myself, then he’d watch as I did it. I often fell asleep in his arms after bringing myself shivering and screaming to orgasm.
And he paid me more every week. One night, as the others slept, he asked me what I spent my money on.
“Ma wants me to go to college, so I’m mostly saving it.”
For a moment, I thought he smiled, like he would at a small child who had asked for cotton candy for breakfast. But I must have been mistaken because he sat up and said he could invest my money and make it grow so fast that I could go to university and mom could stop working as a maid.
I gave him everything. Even what Ma had put aside.
The next weekend. When I arrived for work. Mr. Mortimer greeted me at the door.
“You’re not a child, Tessa. It’s time for you to join us.”
He took me, right there, while all the others looked on. And I loved it. He knew exactly what I liked and needed. I came three times with him. But then, the others joined in. It was just me and them. And them. And them. They…I can’t say. I’m so ashamed. It hurt. Then I felt nothing. I knew I wouldn’t survive the night, so I ripped off my bracelet. I swallowed the charm ma gave me when pa disappeared, then I threw the bracelet under the sofa. Ma would find it.
After that. I have no recollection. Until Ma came. Until Ma gathered me up and held me and told me don’t worry, we’ll be together always.
But she never found out about the money. I still wonder if she would be angry.
Linda Gould is the Managing Editor of White Enso, an online journal of creative work inspired by Japan and the host of the Kaidankai podcast. She is a lifelong book-lover who spent many summers as a child high up in the branches of a tree reading. Her fiction and non-fiction work has been published in outlets around the world. She has a degree in journalism from the University of Delaware and has extensive writing, editing and design experience. She is the founder of the Women's English Writing Group of Japan, writes fantasy and ghost stories, and is the author of The Diamond Tree, a dual-language book in English and Japanese.