They say Constance’s office is the higher brain function here. Perhaps that’s because it overlooks much of the club, and has surveillance screens with cameras into every room, except the basement. The truth is that it’s just an office: stylishly furnished with ergonomic chairs, a sectional couch, a marble desk, and a mini bar. A small compartment (camouflaged in one wall) contains a bathroom.
If there’s a brain here, I’ve always thought it’s a collective consciousness – like a hive mind, with every transient and staple contributing. But that’s nothing unusual, and certainly not preternatural. Clubs and bars all around the world develop their own identities, and those identities govern their evolution and how they’re perceived.
Perception becomes reality.
Such is the reality of Constance’s unparalleled splendour. At fifty, she is just beginning to age – belatedly, some might (and have) conceded begrudgingly. Others will snipe that she has not aged enough.
She is statuesque, encased in a pink latex dress that is cut garishly low at the front and lower at the back to the swell of her buttocks. Her blonde hair is bouffant, an homage to another generation in which she was revered globally; her eyes blue, deep, and haughty; her features classical, her thin, pointed nose making her almost imperious.
She sits at her desk, perusing her laptop, implacable and untouched by the demands of the night. There is not one speck of smudged make-up, nor the tiniest droplet of sweat, or any sign of tiredness. She is preserved, frozen in time as best as she can manage to exist only in this very moment.
Behind her is her chief of security, Teo. He is a man whose past is lost in war and bloodshed and violence – a history that has weathered his face and cost him his right eye; he wears now a leather patch, although the jagged points of a scar extend above and below it. You could only guess at his heritage, although it would be with no certainty – European or Middle Eastern might be the best suggestion. Some say he was captured and tormented for months, and from the pain everything cosmetic and superficial was stripped away to leave this. While the sharpness of his face and body might’ve been sculpted with ludicrously painstaking detail, it’s that implacable determination that you feel simmering. Rumours abound that he punched a hole into the chest of a man who once tried to assault Constance when she got home. Of course, I’m not sure what happens once people leave here.
Seated in one of the chairs opposite Constance is Noah, a handsome young man who, despite his experience and lineage, is meek, if not diffident. The fringe of his hair loops down in a way that that would encourage a girlfriend – or a mother – to brush it clear. His shadowy growth is not a result of a lack of time to shave, but careful cultivation with a trimmer. Like many young people, he is the construction of pretence. This is what he feels is popular and attractive now. Typically, in trying to stand out, he is a slave to trends.
‘Noah, do you know what goes on within these walls?’ Constance asks.
Constance consults her laptop. ‘Your bartending experience is impressive. You haven’t padded this résumé, have you?’
‘No, ma’am. You can call every place I’ve listed. And there are references at the back.’
Constance’s eyes widen momentarily. ‘And your surname – have you been put up to this?’
‘This isn’t some game?’
‘I want to make it on my own. That why I’ve been busting my balls – excuse me – as you can see from my résumé.’
‘You want to be a career bartender?’
‘I want to own my own place. Eventually, of course.’
Noah jumps to his feet, whereas Constance unwinds to her full height. She comes around the table, and stops before Noah.
‘What do you think, Teo?’ she asks.
Teo shrugs noncommittally.
Constance leans against her desk and folds her arms across her chest. ‘Do you know where you are, Noah?’
‘Of course I do.’
‘Do you really know?’
‘We’re not like other clubs. We’re not like other bars.’
‘No, I don’t think you do – you can’t. I have been here so long and don’t fully understand it. It’s the intangible. It’s what makes Prudence unique.’
‘That’s why I want to work here.’
‘We don’t just hand out jobs, Noah. There’s a hierarchy. Opportunities must be earned. But once they’re earned, the sky – as the cliché goes – is the limit. I was little more than a used-up model when I first came here, a single breath from the streets, if not worse. But I became the face of Prudence and, inevitably, her hostess.’
‘I’ll do anything.’
Noah nods once. ‘Anything.’
‘If you need to ask, I guess you wouldn’t do anything.’
Noah snaps off his t-shirt, pulling it over his head and throwing it aside. He kicks off his shoes next. Then he pulls down his jeans, steps out of the bundle, and kicks it behind him.
‘All the way, Noah.’
Noah pulls down his briefs, steps out of them, and crosses his hands in front of his crotch.
Constance pushes off from the desk and circles Noah. She admires the tautness of his buttocks, the V of his back, the roundness of his shoulders. He has a body built in the gym – Constance doubts he’s ever genuinely known a hard day’s work in his life.
‘Remove your hands.’
Noah turns to her.
Noah uncrosses his hands. His cock extends from a scattering of trimmed pubic hair. Constance imagines what it would be like hard – it’s length, its girth. She takes the shaft, runs her fingers down to its head. Noah’s cock stiffens in her hand. He lowers his head. She arches one brow.
‘Don’t be embarrassed,’ she says.
Noah’s eyes fleetingly lift to her. Constance releases him.
‘What do you think, Teo?’ she asks.
Again, Teo shrugs noncommittally.
Constance smiles. She gave Teo a similar examination when she first hired him over twenty-four years ago. It ended with him taking her on the desk in a variety of positions – the only man who had dared confront her temerity, and the only man she ever felt open to engage. She sinks into her recliner and leans back.
‘Do you trust in me, Noah?’
‘Then that’s your first mistake. Trust isn’t something I would surrender freely here. It must be earned. Or bought. However, I do think we can find a position for you – if you could start immediately.’
‘I can!’ Noah nods.
Constance swivels in her recliner. ‘Where do you think, Teo?’
Teo scowls. ‘He has Icon written all over him,’ he says.
‘Perfect,’ Constance says.