Beauty and the Beasts



When I look in the mirror, what do I see? A scrawny half-starved girl or a beautiful lady? Inside, I’m still that skinny girl. No matter, with intelligence and a little luck, I can secure my future. It sure helps that my body has curves in all the right places. That is something you can’t buy. Unless you have money. My other advantage is that I speak proper, thanks to the nuns who ran the orphanage.

My last target has MONEY. He isn’t a looker, but that matters less. It’s an advantage that he works and lives far from here. But he’s taken with me. That’s what counts. It was too easy. Let me tell you how it happened.

I had cocktails in my usual club on the beach. My friend for the evening was stingy, but that turned out to my advantage. It made me pay attention. It’s easy to sweep the room while appearing to listen, especially if your fellow is self-centred. Most of them are. Saying yes and no in the right places becomes second nature with a little training. It was time to stir up the situation a little, so I took a sip of my companion’s cocktail leaving a lipstick mark for him.

Looking across his shoulder, I spotted him. At the bar. He was short and slightly overweight. Pale and sunburned, his hair was strawberry blond. But he stared at me. There was no doubt, he was interested. Time to think fast. My companion grabbed my hand and said something that I didn’t catch.
‘Pardon – I didn’t – will you excuse me?’ I rose and squeezed his hand. ‘I’ll be back in a sec. Maybe we could get some fresh air?’

He nodded, knowing exactly what I meant. I hurried to the bar. My strawberry-blond cavalier beamed at me. I made a point of passing him — almost too close. If he’d reached out, he could have touched me. I smiled — seductively. That’s a skill well worth learning. You can’t start on that too early.

Anyway, In the ladies’ toilet, I wrote my mobile number down and folded the paper so that it fitted in my hand. On the way back to my table, it was simple. Just a matter of stumbling and letting Strawberry-blond catch me. He didn’t want to let me go, but I smiled and put my piece of paper into his breast pocket. His smile went from ear to ear. There was something endearing about it, so I let him hold me for a heartbeat.
Later, after losing my stingy companion, I returned to the bar. Strawberry-blond was still there.
‘Hello, stranger. Still here?’
‘You came back.’ He grinned. ‘Can I offer you a drink?’

That evening, we just talked. It was plain sailing. He bought everything I told him. My family, my small flat, my wish to get an English diploma. That was the clinch. He drove me back to my flat, and I allowed him to kiss me. When you want to hook them securely, you must keep them at a distance. Don’t give in too quickly. This is an art.

The next morning, he sat on the terrace in front of his hotel. I passed, slowly, swinging my hips. Did he see me? Of course. He looked up and waved me over.

‘Won’t you sit down?’ He pulled out a chair for me. ‘I’ve been thinking all night. It’s so impressive what you’re trying to do. Taking care of your family, trying to better yourself. Let me enrol you in that course, I’ll pay the fee.’

‘Oh, but you shouldn’t.’ Fumbling in my handbag, it was easy to avoid his eyes. ‘It’s very nice of you to offer, but—’

‘My dear, I insist. Where is the enrolment office?’ He drained his coffee and got up. ‘They must be open now. Let me do this for you.’

Maybe he was wilier than I thought. Nothing for it, it might be a good thing to take an English course. It could help me with foreign punters. That didn’t change the need for getting some cash out of him. It wasn’t difficult to figure out the right approach. Do you know how The Funeral works? It’s easily arranged. You see, next time you meet him, you seem preoccupied. When he asks what the matter is, you tell him. Your mother is dead, and you can’t afford the funeral costs. In his case, it was necessary to rent a funeral. The cost is trifling.

He fell for it, but there was a slight crisis. He attended the funeral. Fortunately, the day was hot. The sun plagued him on the long walk through the graveyard, so he didn’t notice anything. Of course, the ‘family’ always wants their cut. It worked out all right because I made sure that they didn’t know how much he’d coughed up.

A week later he left, already in love with me. He said so — repeatedly. He was jealous too. I know the signs. I tell you, it’s as easy as stealing sweets from a baby.

He promised to come back in a month. If I play my cards well, he’ll set me up in a nice flat. Meanwhile, there were a few interesting tourists at the airport. You always need backup targets. Never forget that. Being prepared is half of the business.

After some thought, I decided against the English course. They paid the money back, and that raised my earnings on Strawberry-Blond. The month is almost up. Who knows how much I can squeeze out of him this time?

© HMH, 2021

4 comments

  1. Wow, an entire book, an entire lifestyle, planned and executed, all laid out in a short story. I love how you didn’t give her age. I reread it, just thinking about how sometimes she sounded tragically young and other times ancient with experience. Did you do the artwork?

  2. She could be any age, I agree. Would you believe that my inspiration was an article about Caribbean scams?
    Partly — they were photos that I edited

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