As Cal stopped under a streetlight, he watched the blinking hot-pink neon sign on the store window with some amusement. It read "Real exotic beauties here" in curvy font.
What on earth is a 'fake' exotic beauty then? Cal mused and kept walking. Up the street, he saw a woman – a girl really – walking briskly. First, he saw her fear and indignation. Then, he saw the two men who flanked her sides, trying to talk to her while she studiously ignored them. She kept her head up and faced straight, and as she walked closer to more light, Cal saw she was wearing a short, red leathery skirt, thigh-high boots, and a really tight shirt.
The men, they reeked of sexual aggression. One of them must have gotten angry, stepped directly in her path, and grabbed her chin to force her to look at him.
"Hey! I was talking to you!" the man shouted. Either his breath smelled bad or something but she was disgusted.
"Well then. Take a hint! I didn't want to talk to you!" she spat back with equal intensity, "And I told you. I'm not a street-walker."
So not a prostitute then? Cal's eyebrows went up. He wasn't wrong often.
"The hell you aren't!" the other man said and he sounded drunk.
"I work in The Club. Different. Dif-fer-ent!" she retorted and smacked man #1's hand away. She started walking once more in a more brisk fashion.
Ah, so an 'escort' then. Still a prostitute. High class but same general category.
"Hell it is! You fuck guys for money. It's all the same," man 2 slurred. A flash of intense anger crossed her face. She didn't like being called a whore, high class or not.
"Fuck you!" she shouted in reply. From the small grimace on her face, she realized that that was not the best thing to say to two drunk grown-up men (the two of them probably three times her size) while wearing a short skirt.
"Honey, that's the whole point of the matter, inn'it?" man 1 leered. His buddy smacked him on the shoulder in congratulations of his smart comment.
Immediately, she turned on her heels and sauntered with her hips careening side to side towards man #1. Then, Cal heard the most sickly-sweet voice.
"Well, honey. Lemme tell you that even if you were gonna pay me a million bucks," her voice hardened and Cal could hear the scowl in her voice, "I still wouldn't sleep with you. Fuck. I wouldn't sleep with you if you had a gun to my fucking head. And you know what?"
The girl paused to take in the redness crawling up the man's neck. (Man 2 sniffed in disdain.)
"I know that even when you crawl into your bed with your wife at six in the morning, even when you kiss your kid and send her to school, even when you cook spaghetti for dinner and tuck in your daughter – whose name by the way is Katie – and say 'I love you' to your wife, you're lying to yourself when you tell yourself you're not a scumbag. Me? I'm a ho, yea, but I'm not lying to myself. You? You're maybe eighty kilos of gutless white meat who can't come into terms he's scum of the earth. So do us all a favor and either get your shit together or die in a ditch somewhere, 'kay? You obviously care for your family. What the fuck are you doing out here?" The girl pointed straight between man #1's eyes and his eyes glazed over with doubt, anger, embarrassment, and shame. She turned on the man 2 who flinched under her gaze as if she were some sort of demon shaman. Cal supposed that to these men, she might as well be; neither of them could have even thought she saw the gold wedding band, the pink 'Katie' sticker on the back of his phone, or the red tomato sauce on his shirt.
"And you!" man 2 winced, looking utterly about to pee his trousers, "You're supposed to be at home taking care of your ill mother. She's sick and you should spend any last moments with her not worry her with late nights out and stumbling home all wasted and face flat on the rug!"
Man 2 nodded quickly and smacking his partner's arm a few times, jerked his head in the direction from which they came. "Let's go man," he mumbled softly, "'s late. I need to get home. Come'un, Sam, you do too." With a face of submission, man 1 shook a little in anger and shame but turned to go home all the same.
Harrumphing, the girl rolled her eyes and smiled a small smile, continuing her trek down the street. When she saw Cal, she tutted.
"What're you looking at?" she asked defensively when she noticed the amusement in his eyes.
"How'd you know? About that man's sick mother?"
Smirking, she shrugged but her face flashed part pride, part suspicion. "Why do you wanna know, gov'ner," she said 'gov'ner' with a British accent she must have learned from a movie.
"That was some deductive reasoning, there that was. You've got some natural talent–"
"–For a ho, you mean."
"For a person in general, I mean," Cal replied, a little surprised at her self-loathing. The girl took it in with calculating eyes, and Cal offhandedly wondered if this is what his clients felt like when he observed and read them.
"He was drunk at ten at night with a buddy at least ten years older than him. Plus, I've heard his phone buzzing this whole time and he ignored it and even shut off his phone. I thought wife or, but more unlikely, his mother. No ring. Unclean shave. Gross outfit. All that means no wife slash girlfriend slash girl at all. So mother. But what's a twenty-something year old guy doing living with his mother. Definitely no girlfriend, but no, he looked kinda … worried when he shut off his phone. Just for a bit. Worried and ashamed. Ashamed? Well, duh. But worried? Sick mom. Made sense to me," the girl explained.
"That's a lot of guessing. Lot of lucky shots in the dark, I'd say."
"You're right, but I'm almost always right, too. What can I say, gov'ner? I'm good at guessing people." the girl shrugged.
"Yea? And what do you guess about me?" Cal asked.
Squinting her eyes, the girl looked deeply into his eyes and nodded once, sharply.
"A liar. You're a liar and a very good one. An important one too. Maybe not the best person in the world, but you're a good person... and you've either got a god-complex or a savior-complex. Maybe a bit of both... Hmmm. Divorced, obviously, and I wanna say you've got a teenaged kid – leaning more towards daughter... Yea, daughter. Maybe fifteen, sixteen... sixteen, then. What's her name?"
Cal blinked quickly as his eyes widened in shock. Not many people could be this good. "Emily."
"I see. Well, hello father-of-Emily, I'm Sidra. Like Sid except with a 'ra.' Yea, my mom was weird, but you know what? It's twenty years too late to complain," she grinned. Happiness. A little deviousness. A little sadness, anger, and regret.
"Lightman? Interesting name. I'm intrigued... And know what else? I'm late. So see you sometime maybe. Good chat. Gotta run!" Sidra flashed a toothy smile, all amusement, waved, and started running down the street in her black stiletto boots. She almost tripped over a crack in the sidewalk.
Shaking his head, Cal smirked and called out to her, "If you ever need help, google The Lightman Group." She gave a thumbs-up, never looking back. Cal smirked some more.
Then, he frowned. Sidra with her stilettos and her self-loathing for her job had a natural talent for reading people and by god, he was going to find a way to refine that talent. Or at the very least, meet her once more to learn about her 'gut feelings.'
Somehow, he knew they would meet again, but he didn't know that the 'when' would be two days later.