Change of Plans
Lila has a plan to make her boyfriend pay, but sometimes plans change
She made it onto the train just as the doors whooshed shut. Ben nearly made her late again, insisting that she stay and finish the fight. That was the last time he’d block the door so she couldn’t leave the apartment. There wasn’t anything there she wanted anyway, anything that was valuable she kept in the bag sitting next to her so that he wouldn’t pawn it while she was at work. She just wouldn’t go back. She had friends she could stay with.
Lila moved down the aisle, her bag bumping each red and white striped seat on her way to the back of the car. She found the last vacant seat and dropped her bag on the bench. Hopefully, the bag would prevent some asshole from sitting next to her.
The train pulled out of Grand Central, the conductor’s voice gurgled over the speaker, and all Lila heard was Harlem. It was not like she needed the announcement anyway. Those were for the people who only rode the train occasionally. She knew the route so well she could count the bumps in the track and know when they were exiting the underground portion of their trip.
The conductor walked by, and she flashed her ticket on the screen of her iPhone. New conductor today, he looked barely older than her, and she’d never seen him before. That explains why he was having so much trouble with the speaker.
“Hey, love,” Lila smiled at him as he punched the paperboard ticket and slid it into the notch above her seat.
He raised an eyebrow and smiled as if she were flirting with him.
“Gotta keep your mouth about four inches from the microphone,” Lila opened her mouth and held an imaginary microphone a distance away to demonstrate. Then she quickly realized it looked like she was miming a blow job and blushed, dropping her hand. “It will work better and not be so garbled.”
The man-boy was flustered, “Oh, okay, thanks. Yeah.” He ducked his head and continued down the aisle, checking tickets for the other passengers who hadn’t almost missed the train.
Ben was convinced she was sleeping with the new bouncer at work. Xander had sent a meme to her phone this morning while she was in the shower. Ben barged into the bathroom while she was dragging a razor over the lips of her vulva and the surprise made her jump, the razor tearing the flesh in a way that would be painful no matter what g-string she wore today. The way Ben carried on made her think that maybe she should fuck Xander and then return to the apartment one more time so she could get Ben to go down on her with another man’s sperm leaking out of her. He’d think it was just her juices anyway. He was so clueless about the female body. This plan made Lila smile. She’d proposition Xander just before closing tonight. After watching her swing her toned legs around the pole all evening, he wouldn’t be able to resist.
Lila noticed the laces on her sneaker dropping toward the floor, so she looped and swooped it so she’d be ready to run as soon as the train stopped. Why was it that she still thought of looping and swooping? Her mom used those words to teach her to ties her shoes back when she was like six. It was weird the things that stuck. She remembered looping and swooping but couldn’t remember the way her mother smelled anymore, at least not the way she smelled before the sick took the mom smell away.
The conductor’s voice cracked through the speaker again. This time Lila caught every other word “one twenty street.” 125th street, Lila grabbed her bag bumped through the commuters heading home from work. She hopped off through the open door of the car. Her phone chimed, but she didn’t have time to check it. She needed to sprint to make it to the club on time. If she was late again, she might not have a job. Lila threw the backpack on her back and took off at a sprint. Her phone chimed four more times, but she ignored it. It was probably Ben, and she’d already decided what she was going to do about him. Let him lick up semen. Lila laughed as she pulled the solid gray door of the club open.
Cheap perfume and stale beer whacked her in the face. She let the steel door thump shut behind her. It bounced once and then settled into place. She stood in the doorway a moment, allowing her eyes to adjust to the light, then she wandered past the bar.
“Lila, you made it on time. Jose is going to be proud.” Camilla, Jose’s wife, stood behind the bar inspecting her nails. “You look like you need some hair and makeup time.”
Camilla was the only woman in the place who remained fully clothed throughout her shifts, not that what she wore as clothing could be considered fully dressed in most circles. Lila looked down at her attire. She typically wore sweatpants and an oversized sweatshirt to work because if she dressed like a stripper on the train, she’d get more attention than she wanted. Lila learned that the hard way. Her hair dried while she was on the train, but it hung unstyled around her face.
“Yep, I’m on my way to get pretty now.”
“Doll, you’re prettier without all that crap on your face, and we both know it,” Camilla winked at her and tapped her talons on the bartop, “That’s all just Jose’s weird idea of what men want.”
“Thanks, Milla,” She waved and headed back to the dressing room.
Xander was in the hallway. Jose said he liked to station a guy right outside the dressing room to make sure no customers traveled back, but all the dancers knew it was to make sure they arrived on time.
“Hey Xander, I like your shirt,” Lila reached out at touched his sleeve as she shimmied by him.
“Thank you,” Xander turned his muscled forearm and checked his watch, “Cutting it close again, huh?”
“I’m here on time,” Lila protested, sticking out her lower lip.
“You supposed to be dressed and ready for the floor two minutes ago,” Xander tapped his watch.
“Give me sixty seconds, okay?”
“Set, go!” Xander winked and smiled, then opened the dressing room door.
The other dancers were in various states of dress, some wearing club dresses, and others down to a couple of pasties. Lila found a vacant mirror and rummaged through the front pocket of her bag. Her mascara was missing.
“Hey, Jasmine, can I borrow your mascara?” Lila turned to the woman next to her. Jasmine didn’t say anything. She just rolled her eyes and passed the mascara over.
Lila swiped the inky brush over her lashes, her mouth opened in a little o, then handed it back, “Thanks.”
Lila’s phone chimed again. She unlocked the screen as she kicked off her shoes. And her sweatpants. Her heels were in her locker under the counter, and she slid the left one on. Fifteen messages from Ben. What the actual hell. Lila opened her messages app.
You took my damn bag, you skank bitch. Bring it back!
Lila looked at the backpack and realizes that he’s right. She’d grabbed his bag on the way out the door. The small label says LL Bean instead of Jansport. Fuck. That meant she didn’t have her wallet or money or anything. How was she going to eat dinner? She quickly texted a response.
I have your bag. It’s safe. You can get it from the club if it’s that big a deal, or I can just bring it home tonight.
Don’t you dare go through my shit. I’m at work. Bring it straight home after work.
Xander pounded on the door, “Lila, you’re on the main stage in three minutes!”
Lila zipped the small compartment back up and opened the larger compartment of Ben’s bag. What didn’t he want her to see? She shuffled through a pair of gym shorts and a t-shirt and found a black notebook at the bottom. It was one of those Moleskin ones Ben was always writing song lyrics in.
She bought him a package every birthday and holiday. He only likes the black ones, and they have to be Moleskin. He says he likes the way the cover feels in his hand. She flipped through it to see what he’s been writing. It wasn’t like his other notebooks. This one was a logbook of some sort with names and dollar amounts written in Ben’s tiny print. He has the neatest handwriting of any man she’s ever met.
Lila pushed the notebook to the bottom of the backpack, and her finger caught a zipper. The bag had a bottom pocket. Lila quickly pulled the zipper.
“Lila, one minute! You better be ready,” It was Jose’s voice now.
Lila pulled back the zipper at the bottom of the bag. Money, lots of money. More money than she’s seen in her life. Lila pulled the logbook back out and opened the compartment all the way. It was all hundred dollar bills banded in $1000 groups like they used to do when she worked at the bank. Lila flipped back through the logbook. The last entry was from someone named Jake with $350 written across from the name. The total line, with Ben’s careful print, said $20,000.
Jose opened the door, “Lila, get your skinny ass out here!”
Lila jumped and zipped the bag shut. She slid it into her locker and slipped on her other shoe. She turned the dial to lock the cubby and ran out the open door taking her sweatshirt off and throwing it at Xander as she runs by.
Out on the floor, Lila didn’t need to think. The music plays, and her body moved on autopilot. The lights reflected off her sequined bustier and panties and she knew she looked incredible without checking the mirrors.
She could spot the men with money. They came in after work with their neckties loosened. Usually, Lila crawled across the floor toward them, but today she stuck with her pole work.
Lila saw Xander out of the corner of her eye. He was watching from the hallway. Too bad for him. She wouldn’t be fucking him after all. She had a new plan now. She doesn’t need to make Ben lick another man’s jizz. She’ll just take the backpack and disappear. Maybe this would be the last time she has to dance for men with small bills waving in her face.