The lights were blinding as they flashed against Angel's half-naked body, but she had learned long ago that she needed to embrace the brightness if she was going to make her quota of tips. Sweat shimmered against her pale skin as she twisted her legs high into the air gripping the pole tightly as she did so. This brought on cries for more from her audience. It was a packed club just like it always was every Saturday night at Loreley's Cove. Angel was, at this point, wearing only lingerie made of black leather and knee-high leather boots with 5-inch heels. She saw a 10-dollar bill rise into the air and she reached down over the tip rail, arching her back like a cat, to daintily snag the money between her pointy black nails. She tucked the bill safely into her cleavage. The blaring music warned her to keep going and so she did. Dollars rose into the air one by one and Angel danced on and on into the night. The faces that stared hungrily up at her blurred together and she stopped seeing them. They were just faceless men clawing at her and Angel found herself hating them. Finally, it was time for her finale. She climbed to the top of that pole and swiftly twisted her body so that her head was pointing towards the stage. She let herself fall and didn't catch the pole until her head was several inches above the stage floor and her legs had done a perfect spread eagle. The lights went dead and her stage time was up. Angel hauled herself up and hurried off the elevated runway. The next dancer, Jewel, was in line. "Great performance out there," she said coldly. "But never enough to pay your rent." Angel didn't respond. It was quite well known that Jewel received the highest number of tips mostly because she had absolutely no restrictions on what she was willing to provide for her customers and the boss loved her for it because she kept the club filled with people. So, she was considered to be the feature dancer at Loreley's. Jewel strutted forward with her short hair dyed a violent shade of pink. Angel heard screams erupt from the tables.
"What a bitch," said a voice behind her. Angel turned to see her friend, Ruby, standing there holding a silk robe. Ruby's pretty wavy blonde hair was bleached to an almost white and she was wearing her own scarlet lingerie and matching stilettos. She had already performed. Angel smiled and took the robe gratefully.
"Let's leave Satan's whore to her ego," Angel told her and they headed back to the dressing room that all fifty dancers shared. Jewel was the only dancer with a real dressing room because she made the most money. Angel examined her face in one of the many mirrors that lined the wall. Her heavy blue eye shadow had started to run down into her black eyeliner and she quickly wiped it all off with a damp cloth. Her straight black hair had been drenched in hairspray so that it stood out like a lion's mane. She removed the cat collar from around her neck. The makeup and hairspray gave her a sharp edge on stage. Sometimes Angel likened her appearance to Joan Jett or Pat Benatar.
"Excellent performance, Angel." The club manager, Aaron Sabrino, had just entered the dressing room. She turned and mumbled her thanks. "How much?" he prompted. Swiftly, Angel removed her tips from the various places that she had stashed them: her garter and her cleavage. She counted the bills carefully.
"Three fifty," she responded quietly. He held out his hand and Angel handed him $105 of the $350 she had earned. That was part of his policy. 30% of each dancer's nightly earnings would go to him for the mandatory tip out. The money would be distributed as 10% to the DJs, 10% to the bouncers, and 10% to Aaron for letting her use his stage. Aaron ruled his club with an iron fist. Each dancer could choose their own schedule, but they had to complete their 6-hour shifts when they said they would. Only Aaron could tell them when their shift was over. They could not skip, could not be late, could not leave early, and had to meet a quota for tips each night. If either of these policies were violated, the dancer would be fined a severe amount and, if she was not careful, could find herself severely in debt to the club. Bad things happened to girls when that was the case.
"You're shifts are finished," he said addressing both Ruby and Angel. "You can go home." Without another word, he left the dressing room. Angel pulled her purse from her table and tucked the night's earnings safely away. Then, she hurried to change out of her costume. She slipped into her jeans, her Van Halen T-shirt, and black leather jacket and high-heeled boots. She placed her name tag on her stage garments and stuffed them into her bag. Ruby changed into a mini skirt and red halter top. It was midnight when they exited the club, but the Sunset Strip was flashing with color and life. Noises were blaring from night clubs and people were stumbling, half-drunk, through the streets. As they waited at the corner for the bus, Angel noticed a group of aspiring rock stars clambering out of clubs after a late night performance supported by a group of giggling girls. She couldn't help but roll her eyes.
"Tomorrow's Sunday," Ruby remarked bringing Angel back to attention. "What will you be doing?"
"What I'm always doing," Angel replied staring at the street. "Working."
"Right, I forgot," Ruby responded sarcastically. "Waitress by day. Stripper by night. You never give yourself a break. Why do you even work two jobs?"
"You know why," Angel responded quietly. "College tuition money."
"Yeah, I know," Ruby persisted lowering her head slightly. "But you should at least be out enjoying yourself sometimes."
"Letting every tripped up drummer pass out on your couch doesn't count," Angel responded smiling slightly. For a second, Ruby looked taken aback by the comment, but then she returned the smile as she recalled past memories. The bus rolled around the corner and stopped in front of them. The door opened and they climbed aboard. Ruby and Angel lived in the same rundown apartment complex and it was a short ride there. Angel climbed the last two floors to her lonely apartment. It had a kitchen, bathroom, a main room, and a bedroom. It was simple and she didn't really have much in the way of personal possessions. Her prized possessions were her record player, her record collection, and the poster hanging on the wall of her favorite band, The Runaways. After a cold shower to wash away any hairspray that still clung to her hair, she settled on her couch with a cup of coffee. From her window, she could make out the glowing signs coming from the Sunset Strip and could almost hear the screams from the streets. She cracked a smile fully aware that that was the life of the Strip. The life that she had a part in shaping but couldn't help loving and hating at the same time.