Meg nudged open the door with toe of her high heel. The curtains were pulled closed, only letting in a crack of light from the street light outside. The light shone on the bed, revealing a leg sticking out from under the blanket; a fishnet stocking was rolled halfway down the calf. Meg shifted the clean sheets she was carrying into one hand and then reached over and gently shook the leg. There was a groan and the leg slipped back under the blanket.
"Vanessa!" Meg hissed. "Wake up!"
Another groan. Meg shook her head and walked over to the window. She quickly ripped open the curtain casting a light throughout the room. Vanessa was sprawled out on the bed, her dark brown hair fanned out on the pillow. The blanket was covering the lower half of her body and she was only wearing a black lace bra.
Meg tossed the clean sheets on top of Vanessa. "You have to get up. We open soon and you have to change out the bedding in here."
Vanessa slowly sat up and ran her hand through her hair. "All right. I'm up."
Meg didn't want to see if Vanessa was actually wearing anything underneath the blanket, so she slipped out of the room before Vanessa could get out of bed. When she stepped out into the hallway she ran into their boss, Hades.
"There you are, Nutmeg," he said.
Meg frowned. "We haven't opened yet, you don't have to call me by my alias."
Hades shrugged. "I've been looking for you."
Meg adjusted her corset. "What for?"
"The new girl is here. I need you to show her around and give her a quick run-through of everything."
Meg nodded. "Where is she?"
Meg slipped passed Hades and made her way downstairs. A couple of girls were all ready for the night and were gathered together talking. As Meg walked passed she heard them complaining about the men from the night before and how much they hated the job; the most common topic at the brothel.
Like the other girls, Meg didn't like the job, either. Sleeping with different men every night wasn't exactly glamorous or even respectable. But the pay was great. Governor Ratcliffe was bleeding everyone dry with taxes, so it was beneficial to have a job where she got paid under the table and didn't have to pay taxes. It helped that Governor Ratcliffe didn't even know about Underworld. The building was a small, plain, brick building that looked like every other building in the area. They never drew any attention to themselves and all of their clients were too ashamed to tell anyone.
Meg pushed open the heavy metal door that led out to the alley. The only one outside was a young girl, no older than sixteen or seventeen. Meg glanced up at the upstairs window, where she had left Hades. He always sore he never hired a girl under eighteen, so what was with this young girl?
Meg looked back at the girl. She was already dressed in a dark blue corset and matching mini skirt. Garter straps hung from her skirt, but she wasn't wearing any stockings. She was staring at the ground, twirling her red hair around her finger.
"Are you Ariel?" Meg asked.
The girl looked up. She had bright blue eyes and they were wide and anxious. When she saw Meg she relaxed a little bit and nodded.
Meg leaned up against the wall next to her. "Are you nervous? Scared?" Ariel nodded. "The first couple nights are the hardest, but it gets easier. And it's perfectly safe; Hades monitors everyone who comes in."
Ariel looked down at the ground again and didn't say anything.
Meg pushed off the wall. "Come inside; I'll show you your room."
Ariel followed silently behind Meg. They went upstairs to the room next door to Meg's room. Meg turned the doorknob and pushed it open.
"This is it," Meg told her.
Ariel stepped inside and looked around. She was stiff an uncomfortable and Meg couldn't help feeling sorry for her. No one came to work here unless they felt like they had no other choice. Meg wondered what Ariel's story was.
Meg sat down on the bed and motioned for Ariel to sit next to her. Ariel hesitantly joined her.
"I came here a couple years ago," Meg told her. "My mom owns an Inn, The Benbow Inn; I worked there with her, my younger sister, Jane, and my younger brother, Jim. My dad is a police officer. When Ratcliffe became governor, my dad had to start working more and was never home. My mom was struggling with the Inn and we were losing money. I ran away from home and came to work here so I could make more money. I send some home, but they don't know where I am." Meg paused. "Well, my brother does."
Ariel just looked up at her.
Meg took a deep breath and let it out. "What brought you here?"
"Five minutes, girls!" Hades announced from the hallway.
Meg stood up. "Here we go," she said, pulling her hair up into a ponytail.
Ariel suddenly looked horrified.
Meg gave her a reassuring smile. "Tell you what: if it gets too much, knock on the wall three times. It'll be all right."
Meg was with her first client. They were sitting on the bed while he kissed her neck when she heard three timid knocks on the other side of the wall. Meg carefully pushed the guy away from her.
"I have to go. I'll be right back," she told him.
Before he could react, Meg left. Ariel was pacing outside her room. Meg led her back out to the alley. As soon as they were outside, Ariel started crying. Meg pulled her into a hug. It was a strange feeling; it was the same thing she used to do when she would comfort her sister, Jane.
Meg ran her hand over Ariel's hair. "You don't belong here, Ariel; go home."
"I can't," Ariel whispered.