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By: Cassandra Dee

I nodded.

“That’s it exactly,” I said slowly. “They’re trying to keep out riffraff like us, so they charge a really high cover. It’s no problem, maybe after this summer,” I said hesitantly. “Maybe after this summer and we’ve finished our internships, we’ll have saved enough to get in?”

But Jennelle couldn’t be persuaded, and turned back to the vanity, fluffing out her hair, applying another coat of lip gloss.

“I don’t know who you’re referring to as riffraff, but it’s not me,” she said haughtily, blue eyes blazing as she stared at herself in the mirror, determined. “I’m going, no matter what,” she said with her mouth pulled into a straight line. “You don’t have to come if you don’t want.”

And hopelessly, I sighed, picking up my purse. I couldn’t let Jennelle go alone, we’ve been best buddies for ages, and her parents would kill me if I let their daughter wander off to some random club on her own. So giving in, I collected my jacket.

“Okay, okay,” I said soothingly. “I’ll go too, but seriously, if this place seems even the least bit freaky, I’m outta there,” I warned. “I’m not into weird stuff.”

And Jennelle was all smiles again, struggling into her own jacket. I had to laugh. My friend’s dress was so small it wasn’t much more than a tiny tube of cloth, and that jacket didn’t do much to hide anything, it was a mere scrap across her shoulders, emphasizing how tiny and bony the girl was. But my friend was all sunshine and happiness now.

“It’ll be fine,” she said, grabbing her keys. “It’ll be totally fine, you’ll see. Besides, it’s almost like they’re doing us a favor. They’ll match us with guys and all we have to do is make conversation. Don’t you want to meet some hot guys?” she threw me a sassy grin. “College sucks, this is our chance to branch out.”

And I nodded. Jennelle was right. It’s not that the guys at Hudson University were so terrible, they were just blah. Despite the fact that I’d been out on a couple dates, there was no one that I wanted to see again. I dunno, the boys at school were so immature and juvenile, a lot of them with raging acne and gangly limbs, still growing into their bodies. I shouldn’t judge, I know, but I guess eighteen year-old guys aren’t my thing despite the fact that I’m the same age.

So I nodded. Although there were reservations deep in my chest, Jennelle was right, this was a chance to get away. But I still wanted to do some more vetting because this “matching” thing just sounded sketch to me. Sure, I’ve heard of clubs that have paid companions, pretty ladies who sit with male guests and make conversation, pumping up their egos. But still, wasn’t that pathetic? Wasn’t it pathetic to crave female conversation to the point where you’d pay for it? Plus there was just a weirdness factor about the whole thing,

“This isn’t a Japanese club, is it?” I asked suspiciously. “You know they have places like this all over in Japan.” As an Asian Studies major, I’d heard of outfits in Tokyo who were staffed with “paid companions,” and evidently it was the norm there. After a long day of work, Japanese salary men would converge on a bar, married and single alike, and get drinks together with attentive ladies looking on. Supposedly there wasn’t anything weird about it, it was totally commonplace, a workplace tradition that their wives and girlfriends were totally aware of. And allegedly there was nothing but talk, the girls were nothing but platonic companions, hired for their good looks and witty personalities. But still it seemed bizarre, more like an exotic, far-flung custom from thousands of miles away rather than something that’d happen right here in NYC.

But Jennelle tossed her hair again

“Of course not, we don’t speak Japanese,” she scolded. “Do I look like an Asian Studies major? Do I look like I’m into school at all?” she asked with a breezy air, shaking out her curls. “This is just a regular club with some ‘extras.’ You’ll like it, come on,” she urged. And with that we were out the door.

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