“What do you mean by that?”

I smile at him, trying to seem coy, but I already know what he means. I get that a lot. Even the girls know I am flying by the seat of my pants here. Especially the girls. They gave me my name, “Peaches”, because I act so naive and look like the girl next door.

“You just seem so normal. There’s a different light in your eyes.”

“Yeah, they tell me that. A lot of the guys just want to sit and talk to me, and that’s cool. But, even good girls do bad sometimes…”

Wrapping my red satin kimono around me, I prop myself up on the barstool beside him and face the room, swinging my legs like a little girl.

“Given the circumstances, I have to agree with that statement.” He smiles and leans against the open door, folding his arms across his sturdy chest– resuming his work stance, glancing back and forth protectively between the bar and the half-empty gravel  parking lot.

“Can I have a smoke?”

Without waiting for a reply, I grasp his soft pack Marlboro Lights from the bar and shake one down.

Our conversations are easy. We never talk about sex and he never asks me out or tries anything like the other door man, Luke. We talk about music mostly–and books. He fancies himself a bit of a wordsmith and says he considered becoming a stand-up comedian at one point. He is warm and kind and funny. Nothing like the other guys.

He came from Texas, after a few semesters of college life and knows Spanish. I think he is very smart and cool. In the slow periods I am drawn to him, without being overly obvious that I like him. The whole club would talk if they thought we had a “thing” going.

One night I switch shifts with another girl and work the late night so I can spend more time near him. He takes me for a drive after closing time and we end up at the beach. I feel exhausted and vulnerable, but so fortunate to have his attention. I tell him about my home situation as we watch the sun rise, heating the sand beneath our feet.

He wraps his arms around me and holds me close to him.

“You deserve so much better than this. You are so smart. You’ve got to get out of this business…”

“I know.”

He takes my hand and urges me closer to where the waves lap at the shore. The water splashes cool against my bright red lacquered toes. We edge even farther into the surf as he pulls me gently until I am waist-deep. He is tall and I have to look up at him.

“Baby…” He murmurs above the waves.

I wrap my arms around his neck and lay my head against his chest as his strong arm hooks under my knees and scoops me up. He cradles me in his arms like a small child. My teeth are chattering as the breeze whips across my wet body.

He lifts my quivering chin lightly with his fingers and kisses me.

“Daddy’s here, baby. Let me take care of you.”

“I forgive you…”

Keith pleads with me to stay.

“I don’t want you to forgive me!!”

I confess everything. Not just about the affair with Thomas that has been going on for weeks, but Peter and Jim and Aaron and even the Amento brothers from The Olive Garden.

“It’s okay…we can work this out…please!”

“No, you shouldn’t forgive me! What is wrong with you that you could still live with me…still look at me, after what I’ve done!”

“I still love you!”

He sits at the kitchen table with his face in his hands.

“Well, you shouldn’t love me. You should let me go…”

To be continued…