“But we agreed on this,” he countered again. Mack was sick of having the same argument again and again. It was like fighting with a five year old.
“No, you agreed on it. I agreed on nothing. Mack, this is my living. This is my job.” Amber screamed as she threw outfits into her duffle bag.
“You are supposed to be working on your demo. You said you were committed to this.” Mack kept on.
“No one is going to take you seriously as an artist if you are still grinding on the pole.”
“You’re just saying that because you’re jealous of the attention other guys give me.” She planted her hands on her hips and snapped her head.
Mack paused from the shock. On second thought, it was like arguing with a teenager rather than a toddler. “Excuse me?”
“You don’t want me stripping because you want me all to yourself. You want to cut off my income so you can control me.”
“Bull shit! I have done nothing but help you for months now. I’ve paid for your studio time, vocal lessons. Jesus Christ, Amber, you live in my house. You have one of my credit cards that has no goddamn limit. If anything, I’ve been your biggest supporter. I’m trying to give you everything you need so you can have the life you convinced me you wanted.”
“Ah, captain ‘save-a-ho’ to the rescue.”
“Don’t even,” Mack scolded through clenched teeth. “I don’t give a shit if you are a stripper. You can shake that tight ass for ones to your hearts content. Frankly, I liked you better when that’s all you were. At least then I knew what I was paying for.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” she demanded.
“What do you want from me, Amber?” he finally asked. When she didn’t answer he went on. “Do you want to be my girl? Do you want to be some chick I sponsor? Do you want to be my protégé? Just tell me. Tell me what you want so I know what this is because right now…right now I have no idea what we are doing here.”
Amber took a step back. She looked stunned as though he had just smacked her across her face. “I’ve told you how I feel about you.”
“You know you’re my man,” she said sweetly. “I’m falling for you, boo.”
Mack took her in his arms and kissed her, but there was no passion or love behind it. It was too late for that. It didn’t matter what Amber said, or how much she professed her feelings, he knew exactly what this was. He knew from the very beginning. He hadn’t really needed to ask.
It was an arrangement. He would keep paying her bills and she would keep him bed warm. No matter how much they denied it, that’s all this was to either of them.
Mack slammed the car door. He tried to quell the rage building inside him, but he was finding it difficult to calm down, even slightly in this situation. The call had woken him up. It was her number. It was a man on the line which sent waves of both anger and fear through him.
“Hey, you need to come pick up your girl or I’m going to have to call the cops,” the man said bluntly.
“What? Who is this? What are you talking about?” Mack stumbled out of bed and started getting dressed.
“She’s drunk, puking in the bathroom. Your number is the last one she called. Is she your girl?”
Mack slipped into his shoes and sighed. “Yeah, she’s mine. Where is she? I’ll be right there.”
If this were the first time this had happened, Mack might have been panicked or shocked. He’d have rushed to her aid and babied her. Sadly, it was a more common occurrence than he would like to admit. Amber didn’t seem to know her limits, or if she did, she didn’t pay attention to them. One of these days he’d let the police come pick her up, put her in the drunk tank so she could sleep it off for the night. Maybe then, she’d learn her lesson and stop being so damn reckless. He shook his head as he approached the club. One day he’d do it, but not today.
“Where is she?” he asked with a sigh to the man at the door.
“Oh shit. You’re Mack. What are you doing here, man? We’re closed.”
“Someone called about my girl. Said to come pick her up.”
“No way. That’s your girl? You’re the Mack in her phone? That is crazy. What are you doing with a wacked out girl like that? I bet you get all the best women.”
Mack wasn’t in the mood to hear it. “Where is she?”
The doorman led him through the club that looked strange with all the lights on. Clubs were dark for many reasons. It was odd to see them any other way. When they arrived at the women’s restroom in the back, the bouncer propped open the door. “Last stall.”
Even though her face was in the toilet, he knew for certain it was her. Her long black hair had been rumpled and pushed to the side. Pieces were sticking to her neck and shoulders where streaks of sweat had gathered. She was missing one shoe, with her clutch still firmly grasped in her hand. Amber always put money first. Mack stood at the entrance of the stall and looked her over for a moment. The future played out in his head. He’d take her home, clean her up, get her some water and put her in bed. The next day she’d wake up and not remember it. She wouldn’t thank him or apologize. They’d fight about how reckless and childish she was. They’d make up, the only way they knew how, in bed. They would be happy for a few days. Then in a week or two she’d do it again, and the cycle would start over. Mack realized he was taking care of her more than just financially.
“Come on,” he said disgruntledly. He reached down and threw her arm around his neck. With one arm around her back and the other under her knees, he lifted her up off the bathroom floor.
Amber took in a deep breath and looked up at him. “I love you,” she said sweetly.
“I love you, too,” Mack replied although the words weren’t true.