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       Craved, p.1

           Lola Smirnova
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  lola smirnova

  First edition 2015

  Copyright © 2015 Lola Smirnova

  All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

  Edited by Angela Voges and Chuck S.

  Proofread by David Kaplan and Natasha Skoryk

  Front cover photography by Katya Fedkina


  All names and characters, businesses, places, events and incidents appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, or actual places and events is purely coincidental.

  Thank you Chuck S. for teaching me to never fear the darkness that the truth may hold…


  ‘Harder!’ he screams in desperation. ‘Harder!’

  But his voice breaks down, strangled and hoarse. His eyes are wide open in an all-out pre-orgasmic rapture. His red face is wrinkled and strained. His perfect pink designer shirt is now rumpled and covered with sweat stains. A few little white and pink buttons are missing – they are probably somewhere on the floor together with my dress and G-string. His shiny-to-a-fault patent leathers point at the ceiling, their heels digging convulsively into the floor. He covers my cramped hands with his, to strengthen my grip, making the pulsating veins on his neck swell even more. Then he utters a wild growl and shuts his eyes. His body goes limp under my thighs.

  Oh crap. Why does it always have to be me?

  His face looks deathly pale against the red velvet couch. His lifeless body is still. It seems he is not breathing. I roll my eyes, wiping the sweat off my forehead.

  Shit! I hope I haven’t killed him for real…

  I jump off the couch, grab his shirt, and start shaking him. The visions flash through my mind. The handcuffs tighten around my wrists, the red and blue flashes light my regretful face in the blackness of the night as the officer pushes me down into a police car, the Agent Evelyn Salt expression on my face mirrored in the one-way glass of the interrogation room…

  Have I been watching too many action films? Instead of picturing myself as Angelina, I should be thinking about what to do with the weirdo... or rather with his body… Shit! Shit! Shit!

  ‘Hmm…’ he wheezes, his eyes still closed. I let go of his shirt and exhale.

  ‘Hey…’ Obviously, I don’t remember his name.

  ‘Hey… wake up.’

  He frowns, still faint. ‘Mom… Don’t do it… Mom, please – let’s not do it…’

  I open my mouth to reason, then stop short, take a deep breath and slap him instead. He opens his eyes. ‘Are you okay?’ I say, loud and slow. ‘Shall we have a break and get a drink, or…’

  ‘No! Please don’t stop, Julia.’ He clings to my shoulders. His face winces. ‘I’m good. I’m good. Don’t stop.’

  I bet this freak doesn’t even know he’s been comatose.

  For the past week Natalia had been reading some smart-assed book called You want it, you get it. She'd brainwashed Lena and me every night on the way to work. The seats that face each other at the back of the old Volkswagen Caravelle, the company car assigned to transport us to work, make it impossible to escape her persistent ‘Girls, this guy is a genius’ references to the author. ‘We attract the things we desire. We just have to be more specific when we wish for something, to help us to get what we want in life.’ Natalia wouldn’t stop, ignoring our barefaced eye-rolling and sighs.

  Seriously, Nata? Are you suggesting I had a strong inclination for some flagellant weirdo tonight? Do you think I attract all these crackpots because I want to?

  How could I possibly have known that he was a nutcase when I approached him two hours ago? If you ran into him in a shopping mall you would have never thought that this petite mommy’s boy could only get a solid erection with some harsh manipulations. I could never have imagined what I was dragging myself into when I asked this sick but loaded sack if he would like a lap dance.


  I am so going to throw that book into the trash tonight.

  For the past two hours I've been beating, scratching and strangling while enthusiastically mashing his lap with my ass. My hands are sore. My long, baby-pink acrylic nails feel like they are going to fall off. I’m sweating as if I am about to win the London Marathon. And I don’t even want to know what is going on with my face and hair. My make-up has most likely run and my hair must be drooping, making me look like the Joker from Batman: The Dark Knight.

  A priceless show. I am sure the guy in charge of the surveillance cameras is enjoying it big-time. I don’t know how his nine-hour shift is usually going, but I have a feeling that he stopped looking at the other monitors a long time ago, full-screened our window, threw both his feet on the table and is on his second pack of popcorn, which he keeps for special occasions.

  Ha! I bet right now it is not my safety he is worried about!

  ‘Harder, Julia! Harder!’

  Why on earth did I give up drugs and booze? Shit! A double shot of tequila would make a big difference right now.

  Another song is about to finish. Although I know he knows how much it costs to be in a private room, I sigh but follow the protocol.

  ‘One more?’

  He nods.

  My estimate is about 26 songs, but I round it up.

  ‘That’s 30 songs already. The total is R1 600?’

  He nods again. His face lights up as if he’s recalled something important.

  ‘Can I take my pants off? Please?’ His voice takes on a pleading tone. ‘I want you to do the same to my balls?’ His miserable face searches my eyes for my approval.

  Seriously? The balls?

  He shakes his head and continues, ‘Please don’t worry. Look, all you need to do is to wring and pull hard while twisting. That’s it.’

  I stay quiet. My imagination races, trying to chase away the mental image of the barbarous activity he's proposed.

  He runs his tongue over his dry lips, and looks away. ‘I know it sounds… but my mom did stuff to me… I didn’t know it was... I thought it was normal.’ He hesitates, and then reaches for his fly. ‘Can I? Please?’

  ‘Whoa, whoa dude!’ I exclaim and move his hands back onto the couch. ‘There is a camera. I don’t know what the deal was with your mom, but weenies are not allowed out. Club policy.’ I can’t hide the relief in my voice.

  Oh my goodness! I am so happy we are not in Luxembourg right now.

  It takes him a moment to figure that his balls drama is not going to happen, but he doesn’t give up. He puts my hands back around his throat, grabs my thighs – crushing his fingers into my skin – and screws up his face.

  ‘Ohh… Julia! Harder!’ he moans and starts moving his behind so fast, with so much agitation, that I struggle to stay on top of him.

  ‘Stand on my balls,’ he squeaks, and before I understand what he means, he lifts me up, still digging into my skin, and moves me to one side, placing my knee right into his crotch.

  ‘Harder! Harder!’ With both hands he presses my knee down, adding to my body weight while still rhythmically moving up. His arousal grows with every painful manipulation. His face turns blue. I exert every effort to hold my grip around his throat as tight as possible. My face is distorted. I bare my teeth.

  If this is a lap dance then I am a bloody astronaut!

  He stops, squeaks, and his body weakens. I take my hands off his throat. His features slacken; the color of his skin returns to normal.

  I look down and notice a wet stain on his fly.

  Congratulations! You are tonight's lucky winner! Right in your pants! And now, I can finally have a cup of tea…

sp; As I try to get up, he catches my hand and pulls me back into a tight hug. ‘Julia, you are a good woman.’ His whisper tickles my ear. ‘I know I am pathetic. Please don’t despise me.’ I really cannot and do not want to listen to him. All I can think of is his excessive warm sweat that is now all over my body, and the come on his pants that I am sitting on. ‘It was my mom, Julia. She did things to me.’ He shakes his head, which he's pressed into my shoulder, and I feel drops of sweat run down my arm. ‘I can’t talk about it. But I want you to know I am not a monster.’

  Blah blah blah… Let’s wrap it up, dude. It’s time for my tea. And a shower, I guess.

  I pull away, get up and dress. ‘No worries. I understand. That's R2 000 excluding tip please.’

  He hands me the money, avoiding eye contact. We walk out of the room and head off in different directions.

  Hmmm… Two and a half hours, two thousand bucks (which is about 200$) and no fucking. This job is a piece of cake! If only I could have gotten it sooner! All those months of stupid stubbornness… Such a fucking waste…


  For those who don’t know – my name is Julia. I am a Ukrainian drug-addict hooker, currently employed as an exotic dancer in a Cape Town strip joint. In other words: I got promoted.

  Cape Town is the Mother City and the legislative capital of South Africa, the vast and friendly land at the southern tip of Africa known the world over for its rich natural resources, its diversity of cultures, religions and skin tones, and a flat landmark called Table Mountain.

  South Africa – the country in which, for the first time in the world’s history, the rights of sexual minorities have been safeguarded by a constitution. Here, gay marriages were legalized long before they were in the USA and many other developed countries. But at the same time, it’s still illegal to sell alcohol on Sundays, because it is regarded as morally wrong to do so on the holy day.

  It’s a country in which it’s common for married couples to do 'it' with the lights off, under the covers. But when it comes to partying, it's okay to sleep with your future spouse’s best man or bridesmaid the night before your wedding, excusing yourself with, ‘Oh… we were drunk.’

  A country in which many of the men who come to establishments like this look away or blush like pimpled teenagers when faced with a stripper's fanny. Yet research shows that South Africa is a world leader in the sexual abuse of women and children.

  Cape Town is a quiet and easy place that is more like a big village than a city. Its nightlife is especially modest – a small number of theatres and shows, very few concerts by international stars, and even fewer night clubs and disco bars, most of which open only on weekends and close during winter. This is the harsh reality for local party animals and other Capetonians who refuse to go to bed before nine to cuddle with the remote control.

  Luckily, it has a few strip clubs that – regardless of the weather or the season, with dedication, six days a week – enrich the entertainment world.

  Irrespective of their size or location, most of them are run according to the same principles and rules of the internationally-known American-style strip bar. Ideally, these nighteries offer a dive into an erotic and seductive – but sex-free – world of entertainment.

  Yes, I said ‘ideally’, but more about that later.

  The non-stop striptease on the stage and private areas for lap dances, table dances and body shots all keep the clients steamed up, but one step short of a trivial screw.

  The club’s system works as simple as a claw machine. You choose and zero in on the toy you like and drop a coin in. You think you are in control of the claw. You get so close to the toy you desire and may even pull it up, but the toy slips away. If you want to pursue your ignis fatuus further, you have to say goodbye to another coin.

  Just like this, the client often interprets the dedicated professionalism of the dancers, who give the client all their devotion and sexuality, and the kick he gets from the lap dance ritual as a real bond, as closeness. It creates the illusion that the client owns the toy, and keeps the game rolling – the illusion that crashes soon after the dancer hears ‘no’ to the next lap dance and moves on to another client.

  Like slot machine businesses, the clubs try to price the dances fairly. It keeps the product affordable to a wider range of clients and helps to host them for longer. It also allows the dancers to trade with considerable honesty and dignity, without fooling the clients with their financial desperation and promising them the world in an attempt to justify higher prices.

  The classic way of spending money in a strip club is the lap dance. It costs between R250 and R400. This dance has an unsophisticated nickname – a cock-teaser dance. You get to take a girl you've picked to the private room, where she will rub her naked body all over you, trying to be as sexy and seductive as possible. You, in return, have limited options for action – keep your clothes on, sit still, and hold on to the couch.

  Ha ha! Quite often, the clients call it a torture.

  The next item on the menu is the table dance, which lasts for two songs and usually costs about R200. The best way of describing this graceful and captivating pastime is gynecology. The dancer takes off her clothes on the table, while you play the ‘doctor’ who gets to observe the ‘patient’ without tactile exploration – usually an awesome option for bachelor parties and other group nights out.

  Over time, these clubs evolved to add a new product – a fantasy dance often christened the ‘touch dance’ or a ‘boobie dance’. The duration and price of the performance varies according to the establishment, but it’s normally a few times the price of a lap dance. In this case, as a client, you get freedom for your hands. You are allowed to inspect most of the dancer’s body parts. The pussy area is usually excluded.

  Last, but not least, is the book-out. If the client’s leisure time has become a steamy agony, he can pick an off-the-record item. Regardless of its unofficial status, it has a price range and protocol that’s very much prescribed. The client can invite the girl out in exchange for a negotiable fee paid in advance. Of course, in this case, the club will receive compensation of about R1 500 for the absence of the dancer. Not all the girls choose to grab this brass ring. Some even get offended by the proposal, and often patiently explain to such clients that showing their bodies for money and fucking for money are completely different jobs.

  And yet, as they say, there is nothing that can’t be sold when the price is right.

  At first glance, when one walks into an American-style strip club, it looks like the party has got out of control. Tipsy clients, sexily dressed girls browsing the floor, here and there some naked dancing on the tables or the stages, waitresses rushing with full trays, the DJ rocking the place with lights and music, all boosted by widespread flirting and laughter. Nevertheless, behind this crazy chaos is a thorough organization and strict control.

  How is this possible?

  Rules, rules and more rules.

  Every new dancer, on arrival, gets introduced to an extensive list of rules and regulations. Among the requirements are the dancers’ appearance, the number of shows she has to perform, as well as the things she should and shouldn’t do or say. It can be anything from, ‘Dancers are required to be dressed elegantly and sexily at all times’, ‘Dancers are not allowed to use their cell phones while on duty’ to ‘Anyone caught with drugs will have their contract terminated immediately’ and ‘Dancers may not hit customers’.

  Clearly, if there are rules, there have to be consequences for breaking them too. Just like in the army – except, instead of guardrooms and forced marches, management uses more mercantile, but no less efficient, methods.

  Fines, fines and more fines.

  For this reason, a printout of the fine system is attached to the ‘Articles of War’. Each misconduct is accompanied by a number with more zeros. Thus, for example, for chewing gum on duty, the dancer will pay R200. The same amount will penalize ‘Handling a client’s cell phone’. More serious violati
ons, like ‘Being with a guest in a public toilet’ or ‘Sleeping on duty’, could cost the dancer between R2 000 and R2 500, respectively.

  Not bad for the club’s revenue.

  Another difference in these clubs is that the girls do not receive a salary. On the contrary, every week the dancers pay a levy to the club. It’s almost like rent. But the money the girls make from the dances, they keep for themselves.

  Anyway, enough of the boring stuff. Let’s set in motion this other adventure I was so sure I would never be a part of.


  After Irina’s New Year’s Eve call, back in Ukraine, inviting us to join her in a ‘faraway paradise’, Natalia made a decision on the spot. All she had to do was convince Lena and me – a difficult task for any other person, because both of us had very good reasons to think this trip was a very bad idea, but not for Natalia. She worked methodically, nailing us one at a time, using the right words and arguments. Turning the festive season into a war zone.

  ‘The only thing keeping you here is your relationship with Michel. Which is ridiculous because he isn’t even here.’ Natalia started with my middle sister, making sure I wasn’t around to help Lena to hold her line.

  ‘You’ve got to wake up. You know it’s a not-going-to-happen Cinderella story, which you’ve been stuck in for more than a year. It’s time to move on.’ She was cutting Lena to the quick. ‘Besides, if Irina’s telling us the truth, South Africa is crammed with tall and handsome men who dream about marriage and kids and women like you.’

  ‘Okay, but why would we go? We are doing fine with the salon.’ Lena couldn’t understand why Natalia had changed her mind all of a sudden; or, more likely, she simply wasn’t ready to admit the truth about her happily-ever-after hopes for Michel. ‘Aren’t you the one who said we couldn’t wander forever? And that this job is too dangerous?’

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