The two women stared at each other for a moment of mutual sizing-up.
The younger one had had enough practice at not flinching but the urge to look around the colourful room was strong. She clamped her back teeth together, the action producing the faintest tremor of flesh but no noticeable difference in expression. Her hostess noted it with approval but she didn’t let on. She was too busy staring.
“What do you think? Shall I move in?”
“Girl, you know that this is not a typing center, no?”
Girl moved her weight and a flash of teeth showed in the new light.
“Yes. I also know that the work needs hands, not feet.”
The matron on the sofa rolled her eyes, giving up the struggle and snorted,
“Arre, but, you don’t even…I don’t have the money to hire an ayah, okay?”
“I don’t need an ayah. With this wheelchair, I can lie down and get up by myself. I can do everything for myself.”
It was an idea. This one wouldn’t be in such a hurry to leave as the others. And yet, how could she do this? The idea was ridiculous. The older woman smoothed the edges of her sleeves, thinking.
“Listen. How many of your customers look at the girl’s feet? Face is good. Everything else works.”
“Some men may not like it.”
But she was really thinking, whatever you displayed here, found some takers. In her career of thirty-five years, if there was one thing she’d learnt, it was that there was no accounting for tastes.
“No man likes to admit what he likes. But that’s why we have a job, no? Because we know how to give them what they like without asking. Madamji, what more do you want?”
Another long pause while she shifted back to the left arm-rest.
Madamji displayed a visible tremor and then she looked away and pulled herself together. She hadn’t risen to the top of the chain, being queasy. The girl was tough and beautiful. And she was right.
“Seventy-five percent commission for me. Baki twenty-five for you. Start on Saturday.”
The girl wheeled out, creaking, but with forty percent. Madam was frowning but she approved. Many women had soft bodies, even perfect bodies. But only a hard mind could survive here. This one’s mind could run as fast as other people’s feet. Someday.
Maybe someday a legless girl would be the madam of this palace of pleasure.