“You know what you need? A night out on the town. Just you and me.” My best friend, Michelle, proclaimed. I just looked at her, dubiously. I was in no mood to have a night out on the town. Truth be told, I never was. I wasn’t a night out on the town kind of girl. I preferred to stay home and hang out with my closest friends, the very few (okay, one) I had. Now even more so. I’d just gotten out of an aggravating two year relationship. The last thing I wanted to do was get dressed up, and pawed and salivated over by more jackasses.
“No,” I said, firmly.
“Oh, come on, you haven’t left this apartment in two days. How can you stay locked up in here day after day? There’s this new place I wanted to check out, and I wanted you to come with me.”
“No. I’m not in the mood to go to a bar and get hit by some moron who thinks he’s God’s gift. I have had more than enough of that crap to last a lifetime.”
“Who said anything about men?” She fiddled with the invisible loose threads on my couch cushion.
I raised my eyebrow at her. I’d known her for more than a decade; her life practically revolved around her pursuit of Mr. Right. I stopped keeping track of how many of them there were in her life. But I was sure it somewhere in the double digits. “What are you talking about?”
“There’s this rather interesting bar that I heard about. It’s for women. No men allowed. It’s only been open for a few months, but it’s apparently doing quite well. Probably because of chicks like you,” She grinned at me and poked my arm. “Come on, what do you say? If you hate it, we can leave and go back to my apartment and harass Jerk Face.”
Jerk Face was what she called my ex. I loved Michelle like a sister, but sometimes she could be awfully immature. I don’t think that it was just coincidence that after we split up, he moved into her building.
“I don’t know.” I said.
“Oh, come on Tori. It’s not healthy to sit here alone all the time.”
“I don’t!” I protested. “I go to work. I socialize with people. I’m not alone.”
“That is so not the same thing. All you do is go to work, then come home and get online till you pass out. Those aren’t real people you’re talking to. Well, they’re real in the sense that they exist, but do you really think they think about you when they shut their computer off?”
I didn’t want to admit that she was probably right. At 27, I had practically become a recluse. I thought over what she said for a minute or two. Slowly nodding my head, I said, “Okay, you’re probably right-”
“Probably?” she snorted, incredulous.
“Okay, okay, you’re right. But I don’t want to go to a bar. Why can’t we go to a movie or something?”
“Because, my dear, that’s just another way to hide. In the dark, nobody can see you. If they can’t see you, they can’t pay attention to you. Tori, I love you, you’re my best friend, but I can’t be your security blanket. You need other friends besides me.”
“Are you breaking up with me too?”
“What? No! Why would you think that? How many times have you tried to get me to watch that ridiculous show you love so much, that one about the four skanky women in New York City? Or what about those God-awful role playing games you like? My point is if you had other friends besides me, you wouldn’t feel like you’re being deprived of those things that I hate and you love.”
I sighed. “Okay, I’ll go. But the second some jackass in an Armani starts thinking he can pick me up, I’m out of there. Deal?”
“Deal. Now, let’s watch Dexter.”
So, that’s how I found myself the following Friday night at a place called Venus. Michelle had said that it was “cocktail attire” so I had donned the requisite little black dress. You can never go wrong with that. I carefully applied my makeup and put my light brown hair in a casual updo. After adding the shoes, I was ready to go. I grabbed my coat and went downstairs to wait for her.
She pulled up in front of my building about ten minutes later. I was slightly chilled; my coat was only knee length. I climbed in and as I buckling up my seat belt, my gaze lighted on her legs. They were encased in leather.
“Michelle, what the hell are you wearing?
She looked down at herself. “Oh, they’re boots. You like?”
“They go all the way up your leg.”
“No they don’t. Just mid-thigh,” she said, pulling away from the curb.
I suddenly felt very underdressed. A knot of nervousness started forming in the pit of my stomach. I was beginning to suspect that she hadn’t been entirely truthful about this place we were going to. Before I could air my concerns, we were already there. I looked at the building from the passenger window. It was brick. It was a very innocuous looking building. It had no windows, but there was a cheery green awning over the door, and carpet on the sidewalk. I was slightly taken aback as my door opened, and a young man in a white dress shirt and black pants held out his hand to me. I hadn’t noticed him while I was studying the building.
“May I assist you in getting out of the car?” he said, with a slight bow.
Flabbergasted, all I could do was give him my hand. He helped me get out of the car and shut the door behind me. Then the car was taken away, and I met Michelle on the sidewalk. “I thought you said there weren’t going to be any men here,” I accused her.
“He works here,” she said, as if it explained it all.
“Right this way, ladies, if you’ll follow me,” The young man gestured to a set of frosted glass doors that, in simple elegant letters, said Venus. I supposed the glass was frosted to keep looky-loos on the streets from seeing what was going on inside.
When he pulled the doors open, I noticed that there was a long hallway that was dimly lit. It had reproductions of pre-Raphaelite paintings of Venus in various forms. Interspersed between the paintings were wall sconces holding candles. To me, the effect was rather ambient without being overdone. At the end of the hallway we came to an archway that led into a large room that mirrored the same effect. The support poles were swathed in yards and yards of off-white chiffon. The chandeliers were polished brass with crystal drops. The bar was a rich honey color. I didn’t know what kind of wood it was, but it was the most beautiful and impressive object in the whole room. There was a stage at the far end of the room, but it didn’t register to me at the time.
Michelle said we were early. It was close to nine-thirty, but according to her, the party didn’t really get started for another hour or more. So, I wandered around the room taking in the scene. I didn’t know a soul besides Michelle – but she apparently knew several of the other partygoers. I saw her talking up a storm with a small group of women. There was a tall blonde who gestured to the bartender and I realized she must have been the hostess, quite possibly the owner of the establishment.
She made her way to me carrying two glasses of champagne. One she handed to me. “First time?” she asked.
“Is it that obvious?” I asked, smiling
“Only to me. But then again, I own the place, and I would remember seeing someone like you here before.” She looked like she was undressing me with her eyes. I blushed.
I cleared my throat. “I came here with my friend. You know Michelle?” I looked around, gesturing in her general direction.
“Oh, I know Michelle. She’s one of my best.”
“Best what?” I asked.
The blonde ignored the question, only took my hand and guided closer to the stage. She floated up the steps onto the platform. A microphone was handed to her as a hush descended on the room. I felt very out of place and self-conscious.
“Well, ladies, I’m so glad to see you all tonight. Tonight, I have a special treat for you all. As promised, tonight we are holding the slave auction. We have a luscious selection of delectable male specimens all for the taking. So open those wallets, ladies. Remember it’s for a good cause.”
I turned on my heel and marched over to where Michelle and her friends were chatting and laughing. “I’m going home. You swore no men.”
“Oh, there you are. Here, I want to introduce you to some of my friends,” she said, completely ignoring me. She told me all their names and I shook hands with them. “So, what do you think of the place?”
“It’s nice, but you promised I wouldn’t have to deal with any men tonight and I’ve already had to deal with one, and they’re going to be auctioning off more. I’m going home, Michelle.”
“Tori, stop being such a prat. It’s just a little harmless fun and they donate the money to charity. It’s not like they’re making you marry any of them, and you don’t have to bid if you don’t want to. Just drink and mingle.”
I felt like a scolded child. But Michelle was right. I was being a prat. So, I took myself over to the bar and ordered a Dr. Pepper. I just wanted to watch.
The men were soon brought onto the stage, all of them stripped naked and shackled. They all had collars around their necks as well. I guess the people in charge were trying to go for authenticity. All of the men look positively happy to be there. One by one, they were all auctioned off, and one by one the women who paid the most went away happy.
There was one last man, the crème de la crème of men it seemed. He had shoulder length black hair, piercing green eyes, and muscles in all the right places. He was tanned and his skin was glowing in the soft light. When his eyes found mine, I almost fell off my bar stool.
I didn’t know what came over me, but I started bidding on him like a mad woman. After a 15 minute bidding war with a woman in a power suit, she finally gave up and he was mine. That’s when the spell was broken and I started hyperventilating over having spent $150,000 for a guy I didn’t have any use for.
Michelle came bounding over to where I sat, whooping and hollering about me finally getting a rebound. I just rolled my eyes at her.
The slick man I’d just spent a small fortune on made his way over to me. He had an envelope in his hand, which he handed to me.
“What’s this?” I asked.
“Slave contract,” he replied. He had an accent from somewhere I couldn’t place.
“Huh?” Puzzled, I opened the envelope and pulled the paper out. I read the words, but it might as well have been gibberish.
“According to this, I own you, for, like, real?”
The tall blonde approached me. “Is there a problem? Are you unsatisfied with your purchase?”
“Yeah, there’s a problem. What the hell is this?” I asked, gesturing with the paper.
“It’s a slave contract. It outlines your responsibilities as the master towards your property, and the responsibilities of the slave towards its owner. You paid for him. Take him and do as you wish with him.” She smiled at me. Disgusted, I jumped off the bar stool, grabbed Michelle’s hand and dragged her towards the door. She protested the whole way but she didn’t put up much of a fight. She gave the valet her ticket and we waited while they brought her car around.
That’s when I realized the shiny man had followed us outside, still completely naked.
“Oh, my god!” I exclaimed. The car stopped at the curb. I turned back to the shiny man. “Go back inside. I don’t want you or your creepy slave contract.”
“But I have no choice. I belong to you now. I go where you go.” He said softly. I let out an exasperated sigh and threw myself into the front seat of Michelle’s car. Without a word, he opened the backseat door and got in.
We stopped in front of my building. The shiny man and I got out of the car, and I realized I had left my coat back at Venus. We went up the service elevator to my floor so nobody would see him. When we got into my apartment, he knelt down in the middle of my living room, head bowed.
I looked at him and wondered to myself just what the hell I was going to do with him. I also made a mental note never to speak to Michelle again.