I was shaking my tits at the Friday night crowd when I saw my little sister walk through the back door of The Fur Trap. Cinque, the bouncer, asked her for her ID, and then they talked for a second. Janie must have told him she was looking for me because Cin said something, and Janie looked up at the stage where I was straddling a chair in nothing but high heels and sweat. I spun off the chair, scooped up some moist clumps of cash from the stage, and then with one last jiggle for the boys in the front row, I danced off through the tinsel backdrop.
They cut the song I’d been dancing to, and an awkward silence filled the bar before the crowd started muttering. As I hurried to the dressing room, I heard Ralph fumbling over the loudspeaker, “Uh…that was Miss Dixie Delight, ladies and gentlemen. She’ll be back…later, later on in the evening. Up next…let’s see…”
A new redhead named Nancy rushed past me, stubbing out the cigarette she’d just lit up. She grumbled as she slipped through the tinsel, “You owe me one.”
I heard Ralph boom, “Vanessa Domination, ladies and gentlemen!” as the crowd started to clap and cheer.
I thought about running out to the floor to find Janie, but I didn’t want to be mobbed by a bunch of drunk assholes on the way. I kicked off my heels and pulled on some jeans. I was digging through my gym bag for a bra when Janie came through the backdoor.
My sister was seventeen years old, and she didn’t look a thing like me. She looked like our mother, as short and shapely as a French fry. Somehow I wound up with all the tits and ass in our family. I loved Janie, of course, but we’d never been close because I’d always felt weird that I was so much better looking than her. That sounds like an arrogant way to think about it, but it’s the simple truth. Janie looked like a math nerd, which is what she was—or at least what she had always been. She had a plain face with a small nose, small lips and tiny little ears. She never met a frumpy sweatshirt she didn’t like. When she came through the backstage door and caught me topless, I felt weird about being naked for the first time in a very long time.
“The fuck are you doing here?” I said, rummaging through my bag. I couldn’t find my stuff, so I picked up a dirty sweatshirt someone had left around and slipped it on. Now we looked more like sisters.
“Elizabeth,” she said.
“What?” I walked over to the mirror and picked up a towel and wiped off the top layer of my makeup.
When she didn’t say anything, I turned around. She was crying.
I walked over to her. “What?” I said, more gently this time. “What’s wrong, Janie?” I braced myself for bad news about Mom, maybe Grandma.
“I need your help,” she said. “You have to…you have to come with me.”
The door popped open and Ralph came in. He was a young guy, maybe twenty-five, and he’d dropped out of college to start The Fur Trap. He lived and breathed business, and he had all kinds of big plans to expand The Fur Trap into an adult entertainment empire. Recently, he’d been floating the idea of shooting some pay-per-view online videos starring some of us dancers. I knew where he was going with that idea, but I wasn’t looking to become a porn star.
“Dixie,” he snapped, “what’s the deal with leaving the stage early?”
“This is my sister,” I said.
Ralph nodded at her, but he didn’t see her. Ralph didn’t have much use for anyone who wasn’t a paying customer. “What’s the deal?” he asked me again.
“I have to go.”
“What? Where? I got a hundred horny drunks out there.”
“And you have enough girls to cover me for an hour,” I said. “I gotta go.”
“God damn it.”
“Janie,” I said. “Wait outside.” I jerked my head at the door, and my wide-eyed sister slinked toward it.
When she’d closed the door, I told Ralph, “I have to go. It’s my father.”
“You told me you don’t even know your father.”
“I don’t, but he contacted us because he’s dying of testicular cancer. If I want to see him, I have to go now.”
It was a horrible lie, but since I didn’t know the old man, I didn’t mind telling it. Besides, I knew it would work. Ralph’s weak spot—and it was a bad one to have if you’re managing strippers—was that he basically thought the human body was gross. He hated to hear about periods or yeast infections, much less anything as terrible as a disease. The girls were always telling him they had diarrhea. He’d send you home just to get you out of his face.
“Go,” he told me. “Just go.”