[Tiffany 1st place]
Here is Magic Wish Contest entry two.
By: Tiffany D. Davis
Let the music move your body. Dont fight it, just give in. Tease them and then back away. Dont make them think its the money youre after. Make eye contact. Make them think its them youre after. The money will come. Lots of it. Just relax and give in to the music.
Ricks words swirled around in the back of Laylas head with the same persistence as the thoughts foremost on her mind.
Did you remind the munchkin to double lock the door behind you? What if she gets bored and wanders outside? What if she falls asleep and has another one of her nightmares? What if she lets some stranger with a friendly voice inside!? What if? What if? What if... ?
The snake charmer music cued her. The act had once included a snake, a damn heavy one, but she couldnt quite get it to cooperate with her movements. For a couple of nights it lay in a box in the storage room until Izzy tried to coax it to lick a slice of coke off her finger and it flipped out and attacked her. Rick left with it in the back of his pick-up the next day, saying hed take care of it. Layla hoped the poor thing was still alive. Shed never even named it.
She nodded at Rick as she started up the steps leading to the main stage. His handsome face sober with intensity, he nodded back. He took pride in all of "his" girls' acts and watched each shimmy, scrutinized each grind. Taking one of his fingers, he used it to tip up his chin. Obediently, she raised her head.
That was his most enforced stage rule. Chin up, eyes bright, no sign of her discontent should show once on-stage. Layla died at the top of that step. With her death, Alexandria was born, to dance and seduce and make love to the music.
After her number she hurried past Rick to the dressing room, ignoring his smile of approval. She refused to return it. Whenever the music stopped, in set realization. Slipping into a silk robe, she plopped in front of a vanity table and dabbed at the sweat forming on her cheeks and forehead.
Good show, dah-ling, Malka purred as Layla pulled off her braided wig and brushed out her dark, shoulder-length hair.
Malka was a newbie. A burlesque, false-redhead from Russia who had the older clientele climbing over each other to get to the main stage whenever she performed. Little wonder, since she ended each set by letting them slip their dollar bills into every crevice of her plump body.
Yeah, girlfriend. You worked it big-time. Like, so awesomely, workin. Izzy spurted out the phrases between silly fits of laughter, already stoned though the night had barely begun. Rick let her. She couldnt dance a lick when clean. She, like Malka and so many of the others, didnt limit her performance to the club stage.
Layla refused to let any of the perv's she teased on-stage lay so much as a finger on her. Rick knew better than to even ask after the night he thrust a couple hundred in her face, begging her to give some English exec. a lap dance. Shed ripped the bills to shreds right in his face. He docked the amount from her nights pay and never propositioned her again. None of the other girls couldve gotten away with such a stunt, but Layla knew Rick had a soft spot for her.
Hed found her in a Vegas casino, the munchkin nodding off at her feet as she'd slipped her last coin into a slot machine and pulled the lever... cherry, lemon, cherry.
Whats your story, sweetheart? He asked her.
She almost didnt answer. But the munchkin had smiled up at him, the little girl who took to almost no one.
Hey baby girl, he said as he took a seat. You think you could get your mommy to even look at me? Whats your name, baby girl?
Her names Keri, Layla answered, drawing the toddler up onto her lap. And she knows better than to talk to strangers.
Do you know better?
That first day he offered her a job and a single room in an apartment on top of the club that she shared with three of the dancers.
I dont need another waitress or bar keep and with that body and those cheekbones, to have you wiping up behind clients would be a damn waste, hed said as his icy blue eyes burned into her blah-brown ones. Still, Ill tell you what Im gonna do. You can help tend bar for minimum wage while Izzy teaches you the basics. Cause thats where the real money is, babe. Dancin'.
Her natural dancing talent had surprised even her. The first week she made enough money to move herself and the munchkin into a one bedroom townhouse with a pool out back.
Dancing took her to another place. Most nights Layla thought of her mother as she danced; and with the thought of her mother would come the words of "her" song.
My beautiful shining star
gone so long, gone so far
Ill bottle your dreams up in a jar
and strum you a song on my magic guitar
in time I pray youll come to me
over the mountain, cross the sea
I offer this thought on bended knee
that even together, we can be free
Her mother had held her while they crouched, hidden in the boiler room, hearing him call to them in the distance. She sang until her lips were still, beaten one time too many by the man Layla used to call daddy - even though he wasnt.
The memories were too much to bear tonight. Snatching up her pocket book, Layla ignored Ricks glare as she headed towards the exit.
Where the hell you think youre goin? What about your pay?
Her high heels tapped against the pavement as she quickened her steps. What did she care about money? It was nothing and everything. To get money she had to lower herself. But, without money the munchkin would starve. She would starve.
Wrapping her arms around herself she ignored the cat calls of clients as she hurried down the neon-lit street. So many lights in Vegas. Everything glowed - signs, jewelry, clothes, faces. The only places left dank and dark were its hearts. She had lost her soul when she came to Vegas. Her tears came with that one thought.
A tap on her shoulder made her turn sharply. An old drunk shed given money to on occasion stood smiling at her. His one good tooth bore a gold cap that sparkled beneath the Vegas lights.
Cheer up, sweetie, he said in a voice slurred by consumption. Make a wish...
She followed the dirt-smudged finger he pointed to a billboard.
The Shooting Star Cafe.
The image of a silvery star streaked across the advertisement. Layla turned back to the old drunk who nodded his head.
Something in his voice made her close her eyes and whisper the words troubling her soul.
Mommy, why did you have to die when you did? Where would I be if you hadnt left me all alone?
In that instant, darkness consumed her. A sweet smell enveloped her, the smell of ginger and fresh-cut lemons. Her mothers smell.
When Layla opened her eyes, she lay in a strange bed with crisp white linen. As she stirred, her hand brushed against an object beside her and she turned to face a sleepy smile.
Jerking away from arms moving to embrace her, Layla stumbled out of bed. Her eyes ran over the babydoll nightgown barely covering her before taking in the rest of the room - plush white carpet, king-sized bed, matching mahogany dressers with gold-plated knobs.
The sleepy face regarded her with amusement. Whats wrong, honey. Did you have too much to drink again. I always forget how bad you are at holding your wine.
Who are you?
The strange man stood and ran a hand through his dirt-blonde hair. A pair of silk boxers graced his muscular frame. His dimpled smile disappeared and concern crept into his tone.
What do you mean, hon?
Mommy! Layla jumped as a rosy-faced child with dirt-blonde hair and dimples entered the room and threw himself into her arms.
Mommy, Im so glad youre home. I miss you so much when youre away at your com-ish-y meetings.
The strange man laughed. Thats committee meetings, Josh. I told you mommy would come. She just got in a little late, thats all.
I-I dont understand, Layla stammered. Wheres my mother? I wished for my mother?
The strange mans smile disappeared once again. Your mother died from cancer two years ago.
Layla backed away from the little boy and covered her face with her hands. What day and year is this?
Its our anniversary, Layla. May 5, 1999.
The same day of her wish. She understood now. This wouldve been her life had her mother lived - a nice home, husband and child, but still no mother. The cancer still wouldve taken her. And no munchkin, she missed her munchkin.
Layla. Talk to me. Tell me whats wrong.
Dad, whats wrong with mommy?
The voices persisted through her thoughts.
Would you like a glass of water? Tell me what you want, hon.
I want to go home, Layla murmured.
The darkness came once again, this time with the smell of cigar smoke and beer and unbathed human flesh.
What do ya mean you want to go home!? You run off before finishing your act, ignore me when I chase after you for three stinkin blocks, then pull this fainting act when I catch up to you? She opened her eyes to see Ricks face, his blue eyes dark with anger. You aint going nowhere until I get four full sets out of you, doll. And I mean it this time, Layla. No more cute shenanigans or youre out of here on your rear.
She smiled with relief as her eyes ran over her surroundings, familiarity suiting her much better than comfort at the moment. Rick stood watching as she struggled to her feet.
Rick, about my pay...
What about it?
Keep it... Keep my pay. Keep this job. Keep your insensitive, pricky ways and you know what you can do with all of it.
Layla kissed him on the nose. Thanks for everything, love.
Picking up her pocket book she headed for the exit, this time for good.
Wait a minute, babe. Where the hell do ya think youre going?
Im going to do what Ive been letting other people do for me all along. Im going to shape my own destiny, Rick.
Decidedly, she stepped out of her high heels, a gift from him the first day she had danced on his stage.
"But first, Im going home to see my munchkin.