I should be looking through the job ads since rent is due faster than my bank account can keep up, but everything that I’m qualified for is either demeaning or doesn’t pay enough. When the most promising thing I can find is a mascot at a burger shop, I decide to give my search a rest and look through travel magazines instead. One day I will go to Greece. It’s my life’s mission. I don’t care what kind of job it requires to get there. I’m going to do it—even if that means dancing in a hamburger costume on main street.
Mandi, my roommate and best friend, walks in and plops down on the couch beside me. She looks worn out and stares at the blank TV screen with her brow furrowed.
We’ve been friends most of our lives, and surprisingly, we’re still friends after rooming together for a year. She’s the worst when it comes to cleaning up after herself, so I do it for her. Which is a fair trade considering she makes more money than I do and picks up my slack when I can’t pull my weight with the bills. Weird thing is, I don’t even know exactly what she does for a living. Whatever it is, she always has money. Lots of it. I’ve asked, but she always manages to skirt around the answer. My guess would be stripping. In the last year she’s gotten breast and butt implants, her lips done, and hair extensions. Each time she gets some new augmentation, I ask her why, and she always says, “It’s for work.” What other kind of job requires that kind of upkeep?
I don’t push her for answers because a. It’s none of my business, and b. I don’t want her to feel ashamed.
“What’s wrong?” I ask, when she continues to sit there without saying anything.
“Oh, just work stuff.”
I raise my eyebrows as if to say, ‘That’s all you’ll give me?’
“Alright. If you want to talk about it, you know where to find me,” I say and get up to go to my room.
“Wait, Sylph.” I stop and turn to face her. She looks worried.
“What is it?” I ask.
“I need a big favor.”
I slowly walk back toward her and sit on the couch. The tone of her voice tells me I might not like what she has to ask. “With what?”
My eyebrows shoot up. Is she finally going to reveal what she does for a living? A tendril of nervousness coils in my stomach. If I’m right, and she’s stripping for money, what could she possibly need my help with? I certainly don’t have the assets she has. I barely fill my B cup bra; my ass is shapely but small. I’m not exactly built for the kinds of things I fear she might ask me to do.
“What kind of work stuff?” I ask hesitantly.
She cringes, and now I’m scared. “The kind where you pretend to be married to someone.”
I just sit here, blinking, wondering if I heard her right. “You want me to pretend to marry someone …” I test out the words to see if they make sense when I say them out loud versus the way it sounds in my head. “… for money.”
This is a thing? I’ve never heard of it before and I can’t believe Mandi has kept it from me all this time.
Mandi shrugs. “Easy, right? And the pay is good.”
Just thought of marriage, pretend or otherwise, fills me with anxiety. I was married before, when I was eighteen. Divorced by the time I was nineteen. It left a bad taste in my mouth and I don’t ever want to go through anything like that ever again.
“I’m sorry, Mandi, I can’t.”
I start to stand, but she grabs my arm, her eyes pleading. I’ve never seen her desperate like this before.
“I know it sounds crazy, and I would never ask you to do something so bizarre if I weren’t absolutely desperate.”
“This is your job, pretending to marry people?”
“Believe it or not, it’s a high-demand business. And ten thousand dollars per week isn’t bad pay.”
I choke on nothing. There is literally nothing in my mouth and yet it feels like I swallowed a jawbreaker. “Ten thousand a week? That’s what these men pay you?”
All the things I could do with ten grand a week flash through my head. Mostly images of Greece come up, but there are other things too, like rent, and my phone bill, and food. I imagine stress-free days lounging on the couch instead job hunting. I can stretch 10k long enough to figure out what I’m going to do with my life.