Big thanks to my editor, goddess9991. Without her efforts, this would be illegible drivel.
Marie and I were serving drinks at a post-wedding-rehearsal-dinner party our boss' restaurant had catered. It was a fun group, the wedding guests about a hundred-twenty strong and the crowd sticking around for the after-dinner party somewhere in the sixty or seventy range.
If there's such a thing as a good place to get hurt or sick, this was it. The banquet facility was just a few blocks from the hospital where both bride and groom worked, and seemingly everyone in the crowd was a doctor, a nurse, or some kind of medical technician. The bride, rightly Andrea but generally called Andie, was a cardiologist; the groom, Henry, a nurse in her department. And the families seemed to be divided along those lines, her side all doctors and his nurses and paramedics and technicians.
We were actually kind of a side bar at the function. Dale, the restaurant and bar owner, had a couple bartenders and several waitresses working out in the main banquet room, but he'd discovered at the last minute that their rental also included a little side bar. No way the caterer could say "Yeah, sorry, didn't know about that cool little half-indoor, half-outdoor bar, so I'm not gonna staff it." He'd called us at the last minute and we couldn't very well say no since our evening's plan had been to dine at his restaurant and drink at his bar, both of which we did free of charge. So here we were, my tuxedo shirt and bow tie and her little black skirt and white blouse out of retirement for a night.
Marie looked great, as ever. The skirt was short enough that she could contrive to show the tops of her stockings when the mood struck her, and the crisp white shirt was open far enough at the collar to show some of her smooth, dark skin. Her black hair was drawn back, showing off her pretty face and big, dark eyes, and with her strong, elegant legs on display and the easy, graceful way she moved it was no wonder conversations tended to stop and heads swivel openly everywhere she passed.
I'd teased her a bit as she'd chosen her shoes for the evening. Her irritation at her small size comes and goes, and it had been bothering her lately, so she was in very tall heels despite the fact that she'd both danced and gone running with me. She's never the world's greatest waitress, but her dedication to working the room was likely to be a bit suspect tonight.
Which was okay. Dale likes to have us help out at certain events because Marie's charm and energy and my easy, friendly manner and occasional touches of wit help keep potentially dull gatherings moving and fun. Her great beauty and flirtatious joy keeps the guys buying drinks and trying out their games and tipping well, and for my part I'm neither without my own charm nor particularly hard on the eyes, either. My shoulders are broad enough and my waist narrow enough to make the tuxedo shirt and cummerbund work well, and people seem to like my smile and my somewhat loud laugh. Neither of which I'm shy about turning loose. With Marie for a lover, I've always got plenty to be happy about. I trimmed my beard down to a careful mustache and goatee, slicked my hair back to go with the dressy outfit, and was ready to spend the evening watching the boys fall in love with my little angel.
It was a good time. The room was small and had a smoked-glass window out to the main room and a series of French doors open to the nice spring evening. The entrance from the main room was so unobtrusive as to be almost hidden, which meant that most of the night we didn't even have the twenty or thirty people the room could hold. Some of the couple's friends found us pretty early on, and in the way of friends at a predominately family function were glad to have a place to hang out away from the crowd sometimes, but for the most part we served ten or twelve people at a time and those people rotated as they went back out to the main room.
The bride came in a few times to get a respite. She was very cool and very lovely, a tall, elegant brunette with the readily apparent intelligence you'd expect from a doctor, and she hit it off with Marie right away. They chatted as Andie sat looking out at the party, obviously glowing with joy but just as obviously a bit harried. Like every bride I've ever been around in the days before her wedding. And some of the groom's buddies were in pretty frequently and pretty lengthily to flirt with Marie. It's pretty standard for these things that she doesn't mention that we're together, partly because guys tip seemingly available girls much better and partly because a little flirting helps keep a party bouncing along. And she enjoys the flirting.
The little room was empty at about nine when the bride and groom came in together. Marie was sitting on the bar, black-stockinged legs primly crossed and shoes off. She started to grab her shoes, but Andie waved her down.
"Sit, sit, we'll come to you," she said. Turning to her affianced, she added, "Marie's a ballerina, honey. Her poor feet are killing her, she didn't know she was working tonight so she put in some extra dance practice."
"A ballerina? That's so cool, where do you dance?" said Henry, a tall, fit, good-looking dark-haired young man with a very bright smile. He and his bride were a good match.
"Meany Hall, mostly, I'm still in school." And the conversation was off and running. Some of the younger friends and relations drifted in, and pretty soon we had about a dozen people laughing and goofing and generally having fun.
Several of the boys flirted pretty hard with Marie, who'd seemingly decided she was done serving drinks unless she could just take them from me and hand them to someone. She sat on the bar showing a lot of leg and occasionally turning to ask me for a couple beers or martinis, and the boys crowded around to make her laugh by stepping all over each other's smooth lines.
I was in good form too, joking and chatting and flirting a little with some of the girls. Marie shot me a wink and a grin from time to time. This was what she missed about working the bar, the easy, friendly interaction with a good crowd. Me, too, for that matter. We'd already pegged our retirement for being spent owning a little bar somewhere warm and near a beach.
Talk eventually turned to bachelor parties. Something someone said made Marie curious.
"Wait," she said to Henry, whose name she'd taken to giving the French pronunciation. "Are you having one, Henry, or not?"
"Yeah," he said at the same time his best man, Mark, said "No." Andie shook her head and faked aiming a punch at Mark.
"I'm actually having two, Marie. An official one tomorrow night and a small one tonight after we break this up."
"Are you having two bachelorettes?" Marie said to Andie.
"No, just one. I'm having my sister and some girls sleep over tonight, but that's all."
"Which is all Henry's bachelor party is going to be, a sleepover," said Mark, a blonde, bearded pediatric nurse with very kind eyes that had seen their share of pain. There was a trace of irritation in his voice. He went on to explain that the original plan had been for a bachelor party the next night, which was Saturday night, but that Andie had conspired to get her minister cousin invited to it. So Mark had made plans for a smaller affair after the rehearsal dinner and party, just a handful of Henry's closest friends. This time Andie had been more direct, banning her fiancee from getting crawling-around drunk or going anywhere near strippers. He'd acquiesced, and the planned debauchery had turned into a night of poker with the boys.
"Aww," said Marie with a sympathetic grin. "Well, what about you, Andie, what are you going to do?"
"Ask Tammy," she said, pointing to her sister, who was enough like her in appearance and demeanor to confuse me a little at first. Tammy started describing one of those girl parties that guys are glad to miss. The kind where there's a rented movie, an activity that involves flowers or glitter and glue, and an ostensibly 'naughty' game that includes putting a condom on a cucumber orally. Marie nodded along but started clowning as she did, moving from the subtle to the overt. First she blinked a couple times, then turned a little on the bar seemingly to face Tammy, then gradually slumped over until she was leaning her head on the shoulder of one of Henry's friends. She yawned mightily and let her eyes flutter closed, to much loud amusement from the gang.
"Well, we know how you made it through medical school," said Marie.
"What do you expect, booze and strippers?" said Andie, laughing with the rest.
"Yes. Come on, it's your last night of freedom. My bachelorette is going to be worthy of a Roman emperor. I'm going to tell my boy 'Don't ask unless you really want to know, because you're not allowed to get mad.' Hen night party games are things like 'See how many boys' phone numbers you can get' and 'Get to second base with a girl' and 'Show a stranger your underwear' and 'Give the stripper a hand job' and something that involves kissing some boys."
There was a lot of laughter and agreement.
"Yeah, but then I'd have to let him do all that," said Andie. "And I don't want any strippers touching his..."
"Boys don't get to touch the strippers, honey," said Marie. "Never, ever in a club, except lap dances, and only a few call-out strippers are that skanky. And the ones that are, none of the boys would touch anyway. We can touch the strippers 'cause they're guys, which means they're all skanky, but they can't touch us. Haven't you ever been to a strip club?"
"No, never. And how do you know so much about it?"
"I stripped in Vegas for a while," said Marie casually, knowing it'd land like a bomb in this crowd. It did, the sudden burst of questions was worthy of a press conference.
I grinned. A while. Two nights, a total of four dances on stage.
"So you'll let your man see strippers on his bachelor night?" asked Andie.
"Honey, I'm going to hand him a condom and say 'If you get arrested you'd better be bailed out in time for the ceremony.'"
That got more laughter and a disbelieving look from Andie.
"Andie," Marie said, "by then we'll have been together a decade or so. I want him to remind himself why it's me he's choosing and get hitched with no regrets. I hope they paint the town red. Which, wild as my boy is, is pretty much a guarantee."
"If he keeps up with you, he must be pretty wild," said one of the guys.
"He's a sexy beast. Even sexier than Ken, here, if only for dressing better." She grinned at me.
"That's pretty sexy," said one of the bridesmaids, a pretty redheaded doctor named Jackie. I winked at her and got a smile and a pretty direct flirtatious look. I love women of strong personality.
I served some drinks as Marie continued chatting the gang. Jackie and I were getting along famously when Mark laughed and turned to step outside, taking out his cell phone.
Andie and Henry had what looked like a humorous negotiation ending with Henry holding up a hand like a Boy Scout taking an oath. They kissed and embraced, still laughing, and a few minutes later I got the story from Marie. Seemed Andie had agreed to each of them having a last revel, him tonight and her tomorrow night, so long as he swore not to fuck anyone. Mark was trying to arrange a stripper or strippers on short notice.
Everybody really started having a good time after that. I mixed up a batch of margaritas in celebration, making them right with frozen lemonade instead of just booze and ice. We put on some music, Marie danced with a couple of the boys and flirted with all of them, and by the time the boys were ready to leave sometime after ten they were having a blast.
"Hey, Ken," Mark said, leaning over the bar. "Word kind of got out with the way this came together and like a dozen guys are gonna make an appearance. Wanna make a couple hundred bucks for mixing up some more of those margaritas? Just for an hour or so, just until the married guys take off."
"Sure." We quickly cleared it with Dale, who didn't even ask for a cut. Mark invited Marie, of course, and she accepted, of course. She grinned at me when we got in the truck to follow Mark.
"Tammy and Andie invited me to her party tomorrow, too," she said.
"Yeah. Tammy wants to make it wild now, but she doesn't know how. They think I may know more about getting in trouble than they do."
"I know, right?" She laughed. "And Henry reminded me of you. She told him he's not to get laid and she doesn't want to know about it if the stripper gets him off somehow, and he grabbed her and said 'Yes, you do. And I want to hear all about it if you get laid.' Apparently she's only been with a couple boys and it's a point of concern for him. Sound familiar?"
"Tammy and I arranged for strippers, plural, late tomorrow night, and a limo for the whole night. I think we're going on a bar crawl. And I think they're gonna see some female strippers, too. And Andie's gonna be playing with some boys. I've got shopping to do tomorrow, wanna come?"
We spent the rest of the ride plotting and laughing, stopped for booze and fixings along the way, and shortly thereafter I was set up at the bar that separated Mark's kitchen from his living room, mixing drinks and joking with the boys.
Marie spent the half hour or so before the strippers got there flirting and dancing with the guys. And dancing for the guys, they persuaded her to show them a few simple ballet moves. Simple being relative, of course, most of us would rupture something trying even the most basic of the things they do. Even fully clothed she was hugely sexy, her black-stockinged legs elegant and strong as the majority of their length revealed itself when she turned and kicked.
I think all guys find it sexy when a girl wears stockings instead of hose. Certainly I do. Marie had been teasing me when it was slow in the little bar by pulling up her skirt to adjust the tops of hers, which were the kind that stay up on their own without a garter belt. She did it for the crowd after her little ballet demonstration, getting some whistles in reward.
"Down, boys," she said with a grin. "I'm just straightening my clothes, not taking them off."
"I'll give you..." started one of the guys. He looked at Mark. "How much are we giving the strippers? I'll give you five hundred to show us how you stripped in Vegas, Marie."
She smiled and patted his face.
"No," she said sweetly. Amidst the groans, Henry showed himself to be smarter than most.
"Well, you blew that," he said. "Bet you anything if you'd asked her just 'cause she's so damn beautiful she'd have done it."
"Bet I would have," Marie said with a laugh. There was an immediate chorus of compliments and requests, which made her laugh again.
"Too late," she said. Their disappointment made her laugh yet again.
"Tell you what," she said. "If the last-second strippers are, well, last-second strippers, maybe I'll save the day. Maybe. But only if they suck mightily."
She turned out to be prescient. Mightily was exactly how the strippers sucked. There were two, one of whom had obviously been stripping for about five minutes and one of whom seemed to have been doing it since the Nixon administration. The younger one was good-looking, but so nervous she couldn't bring herself to expose anything until she'd been dancing for three songs. And even then she looked more like a kid on a dare than a professional titillator. And while the older one was certainly more comfortable with her clothes off, I'm confident I speak for everyone when I say I almost wish she wasn't.
Marie just watched through the stripping, a couple pretty poor naked dances, and the most half-assed pseudo-lesbian show I've ever seen. The girls had obviously not worked together before, and the older one clearly resented the necessity she just as clearly saw to spice things up by dancing with the pretty young thing.
The lap dances were too much for my girl, though. The older woman started kind of limply moving from lap to lap, chewing gum and looking bored and almost disgusted as she suggested that for a big enough tip, the guys could get a lot more of her. The younger girl again looked like a teenager on a dare, barely making contact with her fair-skinned, large-breasted, and very nice body as she danced for Henry and doing her best to hide her pretty green-eyed face behind her long chestnut hair. When the first song ended Marie moved to the chair we'd set up in the middle of the room for Henry and tapped him on the shoulder.
"Let me take a turn, Mr. Henry," she said. "You don't mind dancing for a girl, do you, honey?"
"No," the stripper said quietly.
"No?" Marie said, equally quietly, a teasing smile on her face. She took a seat as Henry moved off. "Look, everybody, it's the world's first shy stripper."
The girl laughed, and only looked a little bit like she wanted to crawl into a hole. She started dancing near Marie, not quite in her lap. Marie grinned and grabbed her hips to pull her close.
"You're not... you're not supposed to touch me," the girl said, putting out a hand as though to push herself away from Marie.
"The boys aren't supposed to touch you, sweetie," said Marie. "The rules are different for girls. What's your name?"
"Rachel," she said.
"Nice to meet you, Rachel. I'm Marie." Marie grinned. "Now shake that pretty ass for me, girl."
They were a lot of fun to watch. Marie kept touching Rachel, encouraging her hips to move, brushing her hair back, sneaking in lots of touches on the edge of out of bounds, and talking to her too quietly for the rest of us to hear over the music. There was a lot of grinning and laughing going on, mostly by Marie at first but increasingly by the shy stripper as a couple songs passed. Rachel was paying enough attention to my lover that she didn't even seem to notice when the song changed, she just kept dancing and trying with ever-decreasing conviction to maintain a little distance.
Marie got Rachel to turn around and give her a butt-in-the-lap lapdance, ineptly of course, but it let Marie try to feel her up from another angle. Rachel fought her hands off with laughter and more embarrassment, finally stepping away and ducking her head, still laughing. Marie stood up when the second song ended and guided Rachel to the chair.
"Sit down, I'll show you," she said. "You need a lot less Mary Ann and a lot more Ginger, pretty girl."
Whatever Rachel said in return was lost as the new song started, but it was delivered with a laugh and what was now pretty clearly a blush. A stripper who blushes. Just when I thought I'd seen everything.
Even with her clothes on Marie blew both strippers out of the water. And that's not even just my admittedly prejudiced opinion, the guys went nuts as she swiveled her hips and danced close to the now furiously blushing Rachel. There was lots of touching, Marie's arms sliding around the other girl's neck and her sexy thighs making lots of contact as she straddled her lap. When she turned her back to dance that way she guided Rachel's hands up to her breasts and down to her thighs, getting a frozen gasp from the girl and another burst of enthusiasm from the guys.
And from me, which Marie didn't fail to notice and acknowledged with long eye contact and a smile that both promised all kinds of fun and told me that she was getting into the moment herself. Gave me a chance to shake her off before she got carried away, if I was so inclined. Not that I'm ever so inclined.
I think she was going to strip anyway- hell, I'm sure she was- but the guy who'd asked her earlier sealed it. He stepped forward as the song ended, sank to one knee, gestured for the stereo to be shut off, and took Marie's hand.