Liz reached for the largest wine glass in her overhead cupboard and placed it on the glistening white stone bench with a sigh. She took a deep breath and poured the Pinot Grigio all the way to the rim. She knew there was no way she was going to be able to lift the stemless glass until she slurped at least an inch from the top, but she didn’t care. Here, there was no audience, no one to judge her, no one to impress.
Becca hadn’t called in yet, but it was not unheard of for one of her girls not to check in when she had finished with a client. But Becca was fastidious. She never missed texting Liz to let her know she was home safely.
Violent clients were rare, however, they did exist. Liz was always careful. She vetted all her clients thoroughly using a verification company. Most were wealthy, powerful men who were used to getting their own way. Still, the menu was set before the girls accepted the jobs and violating the terms would mean the client would end up on a ‘no-go’ list with her verification agency. Most weren’t willing to take that risk. They’d be banned from nearly every reputable establishment, even internationally.
Liz lifted the now less-than-full glass to her lips and took a long, slow sip. She opened the fridge and pulled out the left-over Thai from last night. Reheated leftovers never sat well with her stomach—and even less now that she was getting older—but she was hungry and she couldn’t be stuffed cooking or ordering more take away. Instead, she put the satay back in the fridge and grabbed some antipasto. Nothing like a platter of cured meats and olives with cheese to go with a glass of wine anyway.
She began cutting cheese on a wooden board, smiling to herself as she recalled the first time she ever heard the word antipasto. Where she came from a platter of cabana and cheese were nibbles and that was as fancy as it got—no stuffed olives, no sun-dried tomatoes, no pickled artichokes or cabanossi and definitely no pâté. Sunday night was snatch and grab night in her childhood household. Sometimes it was sardines and tomatoes on toast, soaked with white vinegar and others, it was nibbles. Liz still loved a plate of nibbles.
She took the prepared platter and her glass of wine out onto the balcony. The warm summer evening soothed her soul as she pulled out a chair from under her glass patio table and took in the spectacular view from her balcony. She wondered if her mother would be proud or appalled at her multi-million-dollar apartment. She could hear her rough northern suburbs pommy accent in her head. ‘You’re still a slut! Money don’t make you anymore proper.’
‘No mum, it doesn’t, but it sure as hell makes life a lot easier.’ Liz pulled out her phone and checked the screen. Her smart-watch hadn’t indicated she had a missed text, but the nervous feeling she had in the pit of her stomach wouldn’t go away, even with a very full glass of wine almost gone.
She tapped on the screen, ‘Call me when you’re done Becca.’ and hit the little arrow to send the message. She placed the phone on the table and took a handful of cheese from the white Versace platter. She sighed again as she took in the view, trying to focus her nerves on something more productive. Becca would call when she was ready. Her client must have just decided to go over time. That’s all. She reassured herself as she watched twilight settle over the River Torrens.
She loved her apartment. Fully restored in one of the oldest buildings in Adelaide, it held the charm of the city, known for its old churches and green parklands. Inside, the apartment was ultramodern and spacious, offering luxury and history in one package. From her penthouse, she could see the parklands, the botanical gardens, the river and the Festival Theatre. The Art Gallery and Adelaide Museum were only steps away. Being in the centre of the cultural hub of town was exciting, interesting and most of all—Liz knew it wasn’t exactly emotionally healthy—but living here made her feel somehow worthy.
Adelaide was her home. She’d grown up in the Northern Suburbs, taking the old red rattler train with the manual doors and windows to town to escape the housing-trust dwellings and vandalised streetscape any chance she got. She used to hang out in Rundle Mall and Hindley Street, stealing coins from the buskers and visiting Downtown to play arcade games with the spoils and if she was lucky, a huge burger at The Feedbag.
Liz popped an olive in her mouth and smiled as she recalled her infatuation with ballet. If it weren’t for her grandma’s annual gift, she’d never have been able to enjoy the many weekends she’d spent attending dance classes just over the river in North Adelaide.
She’d wanted to be a Prima Ballerina from an early age and thought making friends with other girls who shared her dream would be wonderful. But the girls had snubbed her, or maybe they’d snubbed her background. Most came from affluent families where their mummies drove BMW’s and their daddies worked late hours banging their secretary, but she didn’t know that then. Back then, she had been innocent of the world she now knew intimately.
Liz picked up her glass, telling herself that alcohol was not going to dull the pain, but she shrugged off the thought and gulped the last of her wine before walking to the fridge to get another.
She returned to the balcony and the balmy summer night and grabbed her phone from the table. Still no text. Staring at the screen, she decided to stop worrying and dialled Connie.
‘Hey sweetheart. How’s your night been?’
‘Good Liz. The Doctor was lovely and the exhibition was more interesting than I thought.’
‘That’s great Connie. Did you remember to make a few contacts? You never know when you might need a good word to get that transfer into med.’
‘Oh Liz. You worry too much. I’m enjoying the work. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately.’ Connie paused and Liz cringed. She knew what was coming next and prayed Connie hadn’t succumbed to the same temptation so many of the girls did. ‘I’m thinking med school is over-rated. Why should I crank up a student debt when I can make a few thousand a week working part-time already?’
‘Because this life doesn’t last forever Connie. You can still be a doctor in your seventies. The jet-setting and dinner parties get old after a while and the body can only take so much. How many girls in our game are still going at that age?’
‘You do alright Liz. I know you’re not seventy, but your story is inspiring.’
‘No sweetheart, my story is tragic.’