“Gary here has come to join us. He thinks you’re cute,” Amy told Rachel, who was blushing. Gary had a dimpled smile. He was wearing a leather jacket and jeans. He looked so easy in his body, unlike the boys at school.
“I’d like to buy you a drink,” he said, smiling at Rachel. “Another Spin?”
“I guess so…”
“Don’t go anywhere,” Gary said, as he went to fetch the drinks.
“You see, it’s easy. You just have to be confident.” Amy rested her hand on Rachel’s knee and gave it a squeeze.
“And you don’t know him?” Rachel asked, impressed.
Amy didn’t answer, she just smiled.
“I would love to stay, but I really need to get home.” Rachel said, standing up as her phone buzzed again. She had another missed call from her mom.
“Relax. You can go after you’ve had Gary’s drink. You wouldn’t want to seem rude, would you? He’s been so generous. He’s paying you know.”
“OK, just one. Then I really must…”
“I said I’ll drive you home. No problem.”
Gary handed Rachel the drink and their fingers touched.
Rachel felt shy in front of Gary. She didn’t know what to say. She could definitely learn a thing or two from Amy she thought, about how to get and keep a man’s interest.
“Can you believe this beauty wants to quit ballet because she’s a little too curvy? She thinks her life is over. But ballet is not the only kind of dance there is, sweetheart. Am I right Gary?” Amy turned to Gary and flashed him her charming smile.
“Being a ballerina isn’t going to line your purse with notes, that’s for sure. And anyone who says skinny girls are where it’s at is crazy. Personally,” said Gary, leaning forward and resting his hand on Rachel’s knee, “I’ve always preferred women with curves. Who wants to look at a surfboard? There’s just nothing there.” He winked at Rachel. She felt warm and fuzzy inside, he was being so charming and kind.
“But if you want to hear a success story,” Gary went on, “speak to your friend Amy here. She can teach you a lot. Amy has built herself up out of nothing. She hasn’t had an easy life. She doesn’t have family backing and she’s been very close to the street at times. But that’s all behind her, isn’t it Amy?”
“If there’s anyone I know who’s proven themself, it’s Amy.” Amy sipped her drink and basked in the glow of all the compliments.
Rachel was confused. Hadn’t Amy made out that she didn’t know Gary? But from what Gary was saying it was obvious that they had known each other for a long time. However, Rachel was drunk now, and she started to doubt everything. She couldn’t remember the details anymore.
“Amy may soon be managing my nightclub. She knows the ins and outs of the whole business.”
Rachel excused herself to go to the toilet. She had an SMS from her mom.
Where r u? Call me. Now!
We r so worried.
There was a voicemail message as well:
“You better come home now Rachel. I mean it. What’s the point of you having that fancy phone if you’re not going to answer it? Get home. Now!”
Rachel sent her mother an SMS:
Dn’t worry. With a friend, on my way home.
“I know, you’ve got to go,” Amy said when Rachel came back. “Don’t worry, I have to leave too. Got to get back to work.” She laughed. “I’ll give you a lift.”
“You’ll have to come to my club. I’ll show you some real dancers. Perhaps you can audition. You can make some good money you know. Real money, not pocket money,” Gary said and winked at her. “A pretty girl like you! Why waste your time with ballet?”
Amy had a black Mercedes. Or perhaps it was Gary’s. Rachel wasn’t sure of anything anymore. Her head was spinning. Amy drove fast and well.
“I presume this is the right place,” Amy announced, as she turned a corner and pulled up outside Rachel’s house.
“GPS,” she said in response to Rachel’s astonished expression. Rachel was sure she hadn’t told Amy the street address. But Amy seemed to know her way around.
“Mmm, nice house,” murmured Amy. “I wish I’d grown up in such a nice house.”
Rachel quickly got out of the car. She didn’t want her mom coming out and seeing her with a complete stranger.
“Don’t you want my number?” Amy asked. “Remember, we’ve got a date with Gary to go to his club. If you want to. No pressure.”
She handed Rachel a piece of paper with her cellphone number written on it.
As Rachel walked through the front door her mom was waiting for her. Mrs Ryland grabbed her and smelled her breath before Rachel could make it to the bathroom to rinse her mouth. Mrs Ryland was angry.
“Is this how you spent your afternoon? Drinking!? Were you with boys?”
“No. I was with someone from ballet!”
“Just a friend,” said Rachel. “She’s new,” she lied. “She’s really kind, and she was helping me after Mrs Turner gave me a hard time about my body.”
“Did she buy you a drink?”
Rachel was silent.
“If you need moral support, talk to the school guidance teacher, talk to your school friends, talk to me – but not to someone you don’t know.”
“But I do know her now.”
“You didn’t meet her at ballet, did you? Why are you lying?”
“I thought you’d be angry.”
“I am Rachel. But it’s for your own protection. You should never go with strangers. Where did you meet her?”
“On the train.”
“The train! You aren’t to speak to her again, you hear me?”
“Don’t be so strict Mom.”
Jasmine stuck her tongue out at Rachel. She seemed to enjoy it when her big sister got into trouble. Her mother carried on, “I wish my own mother had been stricter with me when I was your age. I might not have made some mistakes that cost me dearly.”
“What mistakes, Mommy?” said Jasmine.
“Some things that I regret deeply, but I can’t change today.”
“But, what did you do Mommy?”
“One day, when the time is right, I’ll tell you all about it.” The subject was closed, but Mrs Ryland still wanted to know something from Rachel.
“Does this new friend have a name?”
Rachel’s mom frowned, then she shook her head as if she was getting rid of a bad memory. Then she recovered. “Well, you are never to speak to this Amy again. Agreed?”
Rachel nodded, but her hand closed over the paper with Amy’s name on it, safely in her pocket.
* * *
Tell us what you think: Is Rachel’s mother too strict? What could be the harm in being friends with Amy? Might Rachel’s mom know Amy?