His Prize Pupil

By: Jessa Kane



I belt my silk robe tighter and pace the small changing area.

Breathing exercises aren’t stopping the tiny acrobats from twirling and flipping in my belly. My nerves have been in a state of chaos since I interviewed for this job.

A very unique job indeed.

A week ago, I didn’t even know establishments like this existed so close to home. When one thinks of a brothel, places like Las Vegas or Amsterdam came to mind. Not my suburban mountain town of Julian. Privacy doesn’t exist in a place where neighbors know your business, your mama’s name and your coffee order.

I wouldn’t be here unless I was desperate—and I am. So when my friend Ripley barged into my makeshift darkroom last week claiming she had a way for me to make my college tuition payment, I was all ears.

My virginity goes bye bye tonight.

To a man I don’t know. A man who is apparently willing to pay a whole heap of cash for it, too. He’s probably a slobbering old man with bad breath and balls down to his knees. But all the hours I’m going to log in therapy will be worth walking into Photography 101 next week.

Won’t it?

All I’ve ever wanted is to take pictures. Ever since my mother bought me an old Nikon at a jumble sale, I’ve been photographing anything that interests me. The way a puppy’s ear sometimes gets stuck on top of its head. Or the way kids stare at strangers in restaurants and look like they’re really pissed, but actually they just rarely see anyone but their parents, so they’re fascinated. Moments like that. Funny, everyday things are my jam. Can I make an entire career out of silly pictures? Probably not. But how else am I going to find out what I’m capable of unless I go to college?

One night. Probably more like five minutes. And then I’m in the clear for the first year. By then I’ll have gotten a job and saved up enough for the next one. I’ve got this.

I take a deep breath and blow it up at the ceiling, just as the door opens and—as she is wont to do—my friend Ripley careens through the entrance like a redheaded hurricane. She’s dressed in a navy blue robe, identical to my white one, her eyes made up in her signature cat eye. Ripley is the most beautiful person I’ve ever seen in real life and she has been getting me into trouble since the fourth grade. I’d take a bullet for her and she’d do the same for me.

“Holy shit.” Ripley bounces in front of me. “We’re doing this.”

I motion for her to breathe, like me. “Are we? I mean…” I pivot in a nervous circle. “Who profits off their virginity? That’s crazy, right?”

“Is it? Ask any woman, she’ll tell you her first time having sex was horrible. This way, we’re guaranteed to get something out of it.”

Last week, after Ripley somehow found out about this hidden series of luxurious rooms in the basement of what I’ve always believed was a respectable bed and breakfast, we hopped into her purple Volkswagen Bug and showed up here for a face-to-face interview. The madam of this fine establishment is a seventy-year-old widow named Estelle. When her husband died in the nineties and she couldn’t make ends meet, apparently she entered the sex-for-cash game and that is what brings us here today, ladies and gentlemen.

“Oh my, yes. Virgins are in high demand,” she’d murmured, making notes in a very tasteful Vera Bradley planner. “I’ll let my regulars know to put out the word and we’ll see who is willing to pay the highest price.” She’d smiled broadly. “I take a thirty percent cut.”

I’m still a little salty about Estelle’s finder’s fee, if I’m being honest.

Hello. I’m giving up one hundred percent of my hymen, aren’t I?

I’m distracted from my brooding when Ripley takes a mask out of her pocket and ties it behind her head, so the top half of her face is hidden.

“Why do you have a mask? I didn’t get a mask.”

Ripley squares her shoulders. Uh oh. Here comes something batshit crazy. “I have to tell you something. I’m invoking the no judgment clause.”

“I solemnly swear not to laugh, gasp or lecture you.”

“Don’t even change your facial expression.”

Top Books