Nat and Sandy Pay the Rent Ch. 01byJaymal©
Natasha leaned back in the chair and ran her fingertips from her forehead through her hair's tightly permed, black tresses, trying to outstare the screen of her laptop. One hour's exhaustive attempts to balance the spreadsheet's figures and the situation was looking no brighter. Her reverie lasted some minutes, until it was finally broken by Sandy's carefree singing, emanating from somewhere upstairs. Didn't that just say it all? It wasn't as though her room-mate's finances were in a healthier condition than her own, but at least Natasha strove to keep it all in check; Sandy meanwhile took refuge in Sandy's World - an undoubtedly happy place where she could write her pretty songs and think her cosy thoughts unimpeded by anything as disturbing as a practicality. Time for a reality check.
'Sandy!' she called, an edge to her voice. 'I need you down here now!'
'Coming!' sounded the bright, bell-like response, and a moment later Sandy breezed cheerily into the living-room. 'What's up?'
Natasha's irritation melted at the sight of her young companion, kid-sister of her old school-friend. God, since Catherine had gone off to work abroad, Sandy - eight years her junior - had become like her own younger sister. How could she not feel protective towards the strikingly pretty, hopelessly naive twenty-year-old? She sighed inwardly and patted the seat next to her. 'Sit down Sandy. I'm afraid we need to talk money.'
Sandy's smile vanished as she joined Natasha at the table, her great, brown eyes registering sudden concern. 'Sunday's rent day!' she exclaimed softly.
'Yes,' said Natasha grimly. 'Sunday's rent day. Sandy, we've had this conversation before.' She rested her hand on the girl's and pinned her meaningfully with her eyes. 'Now look - How much of yours can you come up with? Have you worked it out?'
'Well I start my new waitressing job next week, but I won't get paid till the Thursday...'
'About half,' Sandy admitted lamely.
'Half!' Natasha held both hands to the bridge of her nose for a moment, as she absorbed this news. 'That's half of LAST MONTH'S payment... Oh my God.' She felt her impatience rising again. 'How did it take you so long to find a cafe job? You've been out of work two months!'
'I was trying to focus on my song-writing,' said Sandy, her voice fading to an embarrassed whisper. 'I don't want to be singing other people's stuff forever. I'm sorry, I didn't mean this to happen...'
Sandy and her song-writing, Sandy and her musical career. So she sang lead vocals with a cheesy covers band down Morrison's bar every Thursday... Alanis Morisette she was not. 'Sandy, I can't bail us out this time. You know the type of month I've had. I've lost days of work - I've been up all hours of the night trying to meet essay deadlines... The insurance for the car accident will take God knows how long to show up... I needed you to come through for me this time!'
Her young friend looked crushed. 'But Alan'll be okay about it, he'll give us more time, won't he? I mean I explained to him about our situation...'
'You did what?' Natasha was horrified. 'When was this?'
'When he phoned earlier in the week. I told him we were both struggling, but we'd get it sorted out.'
'Sandy, what were you thinking of?' It was all Natasha could do not to shout. 'He's our landlord, for Christ's sake! Never tell him anything more than he needs to know!'
Sandy's lip quivered, her standard, involuntary defence mechanism. 'But he's really nice. And he gave us more time when we got into trouble last year... I was just trying to help.' Her eyes began to well.
Natasha relented with a weary sigh and gave her friend a reassuring hug, before any sobs began. 'You don't know Alan as well as I do, you'll just have to trust me when I tell you that.' Typical Sandy. Any guy who was halfway polite in his attempts to get inside her knickers was 'really nice'. There were times the girl's naivety defied belief. Last year's holiday in Faliraki had caused Natasha to shake her head in wonder. She had watched Sandy skip about the beach - her rich, usually flowing chestnut hair tied up safely to keep it dry, 5'7" of gorgeously soft curves, her remarkably high, natural D-cup breasts filling out her bikini top superbly. Waving to Natasha and beaming over fake Gucci sun-glasses, as she returned glistening from the sea - a sunny smile capping off a sunny disposition. Manifestly unaware that the male population of the beach was collectively salivating over her, regardless of wives and girlfriends. The girl was a marvel. Just the type to be taken in by Alan's easy charm. Some day Natasha would have to bite the bullet and let Sandy know what their landlord was really like.
The older girl felt a wave of resignation rippling over her. 'Leave it with me,' she said, patting Sandy's arm and drawing from her a grateful, dewy-eyed smile. 'I'll deal with Alan on Monday. I'm sure he'll be willing to come to some arrangement.'
And she could imagine what sort. **************************************************
Sandy had just showered and changed when Alan made his Monday evening rent call. She bounded to the front door in a clinging, pink wool sweater with a plunging V-neck that showed off her impressive cleavage to transfixing effect. Yes, she had noticed the effect on men if she showed off a little, more than Natasha gave her credit for; so if wearing a slinky sweater and tight jeans made their landlord better disposed to cutting them some slack over the rent, where was the harm in that? It certainly seemed to have the desired result when she swung open the door.
'Smile!' Alan was cheerily raising a camera to his eye. Sandy laughed in surprise, so that the snap caught her sunniest expression. 'New camera,' explained her landlord, walking inside. 'Bought it on the way over. Just thought I'd christen it with a pretty girl.' Sandy giggled and blushed, unable to disguise the pleasure she took in his flattery. Alan could always make her react like that. 'How's the new job?' he asked, his eyes flicking discreetly over her and resting on her face.
'First day tomorrow,' she beamed hopefully, 'so I'll be able to sort you out with... you know, really soon.' She averted her eyes and changed the subject from their glaring backlog of rent. 'Natasha's upstairs, she'll be down in a few minutes. Cup of tea?'
He perched on a kitchen stool, while she clanked crockery about and fussed over him. At thirty-seven, Alan was ten years older than any guy Sandy had ever dated, indeed she never considered herself interested in substantially older men. But he had a confident charm about him and a playfully wicked streak of humour that she found disarming; the fact that he was tall, trimly built and rather Italian-looking did nothing to detract from the effect. Natasha could make whatever veiled comments she wanted about his character - Alan was always sweet to her, so if he ever asked her on a date, she would just have to allow him the benefit of the doubt.
'I was thinking,' her landlord mused. 'We don't know each other well enough, you and me. I should invite you and Natasha over some evening.'
'I'd love that!' exclaimed Sandy happily, and she had a flash of her recurring fantasy, the one where Alan romantically seduced her over dinner served on a moonlit Tuscany veranda. 'It'd make things - well -'
'Less professional, exactly,' Alan grinned warmly. 'Actually I'm thinking of having some people round end of next week. Maybe you could both join us. Don't say anything to Natasha yet, she's a bit prickly with me at the moment. I'll sort things out with her when she gets down.'
Natasha found them chatting animatedly at the kitchen coffee bar over tea and éclairs and cleared her throat to attract attention. She was at her most formidably beautiful, Sandy thought - permed hair raven-black, classical features made up to intimidatingly icy perfection, her green eyes staring fixedly at Alan. Her athletic figure was clad in black jeans and a cut-off black T-shirt exposing several inches of slim midriff, while her high-heeled boots pushed her to an imperious six feet. Sandy always admired the sexy confidence with which her friend met a challenge. 'My other favourite lodger,' Alan said with a grin. 'Looking good, Nat.'
'Sorry to break up the party,' Natasha responded, without cracking a smile. 'Sandy, could you pop upstairs? Alan and I need to talk.'
Alone with Natasha the landlord adopted a brisker tone. 'You're effectively two months behind. Contract's broken and I've got to borrow money from elsewhere to cover the mortgage repayment on the property. Again.'
'Look, I've told you,' Natasha insisted calmly, 'it's been a bad couple of months, that's all. Sandy and I are getting things back on track.'
'Sorry, that's not good enough,' Alan said with an off-hand shrug. 'Too little, too late. Natasha, I'm a businessman.'
'Oh I know you are,' she said bitterly. 'So what are you saying, we're being kicked out?'
'Well...' Alan appeared to be weighing something up. 'We could always revert to last year's solution.'
Natasha sighed inwardly. She had been expecting as much. 'Okay Alan. You've obviously been leading up to this. Stop bullshitting me and cut to the chase. Where and when?'
Alan provided the salient details - time, location, dress code, number of guests expected, fee to be provided.
Natasha's face did not even flicker. 'Twice as many guys as last time,' she observed.
'Twice as lucrative for you. I've got a number of other interested parties. So will you do it? You're so good.'
She eyed him with measured contempt, but said, 'Yes, I'll be there.'
'One more thing,' Alan said quickly, fixing her with a level stare. 'I want Sandy as well.'
Natasha gazed back at him. 'Fuck off, Alan.'
'Oh now, don't be hasty...'
'Don't even fucking think it,' Natasha snapped. 'I'll do whatever you want, but Sandy's a sweetheart, she's not getting caught up in any of your sordid games.'
'But it's because she's so sweet that I want her there,' smiled Alan.
'Get out.' Natasha's green eyes blazed. 'Get out of here, you cunt.'
'Ah, but it's my house,' said Alan, unperturbed, 'and not your home for much longer. I'd've thought you'd be more practical. According to young Sandy your various debts are putting your Degree course in jeopardy. Two years' studying and you're forced to give up all you've worked for and go find some dead-end shop job instead, because your credit bills are tripping you up. Sandy poured it all out to me on the phone last week. She's really worried about you. Says you'd be crushed if that happened and she'd feel responsible.'
Bastard, thought Natasha, but for once she was unable to meet his eye. And trust Sandy to spill all the details. It was true - getting that qualification in Marketing would be her best chance to finally make something of herself, to undo her mistakes in work and relationships of the previous ten years. Then she could easily forge a career that would make her current debts look paltry - she did not doubt her own ability. All she had to do was regain a little breathing space, and Alan's offer would more than help her to do that. But to involve Sandy...
A treacherous thought strayed across her mind. Wasn't it she who had bailed out Sandy last year, when she could ill afford to? Wasn't that how she had got caught up with Alan's little side business in the first place? And then she had done it all again, just to fund that holiday for them both, because she felt Sandy needed it. The girl bloody well owed her. But the thought was a guilty one and she dismissed it as soon as she had thought it.
'It's ridiculous at any rate,' she said matter-of-factly. 'She'd never do it.'
'Oh but you could talk her into it,' said Alan. 'It's so obvious how much she looks up to you... The girl practically worships you. You could bring her round and you know it. Especially when you tell her she'll earn as much as you.'
'Fucker,' said Natasha bitterly, staring at the floor. 'You're fucking unbelievable.'
'I'll take that as a maybe.' Alan got up to leave. 'Let me know when you've decided, Nat. Say goodbye to Sandy from me.' And he was gone, leaving Natasha feeling vaguely ill.
'So that's it?' exclaimed Sandy in alarm. 'He's just going to chuck us out? It doesn't make sense! He was so nice to me when he arrived! How can he do this?' She slumped disconsolately into an armchair and stared into space. 'He didn't try to sort anything out?'
'Nothing that deserves our attention,' Natasha said darkly.
'What do you mean?' Sandy stared at her friend inquiringly. 'What did he say? Tell me!'
'There's a lot about Alan you don't know,' replied Natasha. 'He's not just a property developer. There's another line of business he's aspiring to. He holds... parties.'
'Parties?' Sandy stared blankly.
'Small intimate gatherings involving his close male friends. In fact he's holding one a week from Friday.'
'Yes, he said we were invited!'
'Invited! He told you that?' The gall of the man, thought Natasha. 'Sandy, he wants us to WORK at the party. To - entertain his bachelor pals.'
'Entertain? What do you mean?'
'Well I don't mean pass round the canapés.'
Sandy looked slightly dazed. 'You mean - he wants us to be...be...what... strippers?'
'And the rest,' said Natasha heavily.
Sandy was aghast. 'He wants us to... He said that? I don't believe it! I... I... He always seemed so nice! How could he even suggest such a thing? How could he think that either of us would do that?'
There was a dreadful, extending silence, as the two friends stared at each other. Natasha broke it with her confession. 'Because I've already done it.'
This time Sandy's head swam. 'When?' she asked softly, after another protracted pause.
'Last summer,' Natasha replied. 'The last time we hit a sticky patch.'
The twenty-year-old still reeled with shock. She had always known she and Natasha lived very different lives and over the past eighteen months of flat-sharing had discovered how much so; but this had only ever inspired her admiration. She loved the older girl's brash confidence and the ballsy determination with which she pursued her goals. And Natasha's varied sexual past was something she marvelled at. On girls' nights in she would laugh in wide-eyed amazement, as her more worldly friend regaled her with colourful anecdotes of the raunchy ten years since her eighteenth birthday or with bizarre insights culled from her current job as a phone sex operator. But this new revelation was more than she could deal with.
'Nat, how could you?' she gasped incredulously. 'You made yourself a... a...'
'A whore,' said Natasha quietly, but her cat-like eyes were glittering dangerously. 'Say what you mean, Sandy. And think what you like. But don't ever judge me.' The force of her words shut Sandy up completely. 'We needed money and I did what I had to, to bail us both out. And you didn't push to know where the cash came from then. Nor did you worry too much about how I funded our holiday in Faliraki.' Sandy's eyes widened. 'Yes, that's right - I went back to Alan and did another of his parties. Because I wanted to take you away somewhere when you were so upset after Tommy dumped you. Look Sandy, I could have gone on turning tricks to fund myself through university and beyond. It'd be easy for me. I do it very, very well, believe me - I could make a shitload of money that way. But I made a conscious decision not to go down that road. Now you can question my choices, but they were just that. Mine. So don't ever speak to me like that again.'
Sandy stared at her silently for a moment, then she moved across the room and flung her arms around her friend, starting to sob penitently. 'I'm sorry Nat, forgive me - I'd no idea!' She held her adoptive big sister in her embrace for a while, enjoying the sense of Natasha's forgiveness washing over her as the hug was returned. Then she curled up next to her on the sofa and asked, her voice tentative and serious, 'So - so what did you have to do? At the parties.'
'Use your imagination,' said Natasha, smiling wryly. 'There was me and a roomful of immensely horny, sexually demanding guys. Let's just say they'd all fully satisfied themselves by the end of the evening.'
'Poor you!' Sandy exclaimed, her face a picture of concern. 'It must have been awful!'
'Oh I'm alright,' Natasha shrugged. 'It was two nights out of my life and here I am. No harm done.'
Then Sandy remembered. 'And he really said he wanted both of us to do it this time round?'
'Yes, he said both or neither. Of course I told him to go fuck himself. Told him there was no way you'd ever do it, whatever decisions I'd made in the past, so he could stop promising his wretched sums of money.'
'Why, how much did he offer?' Sandy asked, set to be unimpressed.
'Fifteen hundred pounds,' was Natasha's casual response.
Sandy's jaw dropped. 'Fif - He offered fifteen hundred pounds?'
'What? He's crazy! And he would really pay that much?'
'I've no doubt. Alan's good to his word where money's concerned. Payment in cash on the night. Not that it makes any difference this time round. Guess we'd better start looking for a different place. Smaller place. Rethink our situation.'
'Yes,' said Sandy, her voice faltering a little. 'God, Alan and his friends must really want us at that party. I suppose I just don't understand men...'
Natasha gazed down at her beautiful, dramatically curved young friend. 'Oh there's not so much to understand,' she said dryly.
Sandy tried to work on a song lyric in her room that night, but her focus had been shattered. How could Alan - charming, handsome Alan - be so wicked? Fifteen hundred pounds each - three grand - that was a huge amount of money to pay out in one night. Enough to pay off the rental debt three times over! And to sort out some of Natasha's other cash problems. She'd be free to prepare for her exams without having to work the phone line so much. She wouldn't have to worry about dropping from her course any more! Sandy felt herself welling up every time she remembered Natasha's secret acts of generosity the previous summer. If only there were some way she could repay her friend...
Her sleep was restless that night; she awoke several times, her whole body slick with sweat, unable to remember what precisely had caused her sense of panicked stickiness. She was distracted the whole of her first day at the cafe, dropping a tray in the kitchen and bringing on herself a reprimand. She found herself visualising what it might be like to surrender to a group of men the way poor Natasha had done, but as soon as she realised what she was doing, she swatted the thought away. Then she recalled a remarkable DVD her rock guitarist ex-boyfriend Tommy had shown her - Cumfest Initiates 7 - in which a series of porn starlets attempted individually to prove their abilities amongst a group of very excited males. Sandy reckoned she was able to keep a boyfriend happy, within reason; she had acquiesced to many of Tommy's suggestions and he had certainly seemed to like what she did. But she didn't think she could cope with some of the things those porn actresses were put through, with one man let alone a crowd of them! Okay, okay, that was just porno, guys acting up for the camera. It surely wouldn't be like that in real life. But whatever way you looked at it, the guy on girl ratio was still outrageous!
If I'm going to help Nat though... She was taking the bus home when the thought occurred to her and there was a shock of electricity to her system the moment she realised what she was actually considering. But the idea did not go away and after another night and day of mental turmoil, her good-natured instincts slowly forged themselves into resolve.