Bad Girl Gone Good

By: N. Franko

Growing up on the streets didn’t exactly allow me time to date much. The few guys I had been briefly involved with weren’t exactly Prince Charming, either. Gang-bangers and wannabe pimps did not make for great boyfriends. I refused to end up like my parents, so I stayed clear of those kinds of guys early on. I didn’t really what a prince to come rescue me or anything, but I needed a guy to respect me. Maybe have a job of his own that didn’t include selling drugs.

Needless to say, I’ve been single for a very long time.

I had no idea how to go on a date, let alone be Madison. I confided in Pat when he showed up bright and early for my makeover.

“Oh child,” he drawled as he worked on brushing tangles out of my hair in the bathroom. “Men are easy, you know that. You work at a strip club. Just pull out that Abby charm of yours.”

“You don’t understand,” I began. “I’ve never been on an actual date. Ever.”

Pat stopped what he was doing and swiveled the stool around so that I faced him. I craned my neck up to meet his dark gaze. “Girl, are you a virgin? Do I need to tell you about the birds and the bees?”

Heat filled my cheeks, and I squeezed my eyes shut in embarrassment. “I’m not a virgin. I was homeless for a while, remember? Men aren’t exactly the wine and dine type on the streets.”

“Sorry, I forgot,” he said. He turned the stool around and continued combing my hair. “Okay, then. Tell me about Madison.”

“Okay. Madison is cool. She’s confident. She’s an artist.”

“Sounds an awful lot like you.”

“I don’t think so. She’s who I wish I was.”

“Then, just be who you wish you were but side note, I think you’re already cool and confident. And an excellent artist,” he said. He pointed to the small painting on the wall. It was of a bouquet I had done a while ago. One night, I found old paint bottles and a small painting in the alley when I was taking out the trash. I took them and painted over the ugly store-bought painting. This was actually a luxury because I couldn’t afford to buy canvas from a fancy art store. Usually, I just practiced on pieces of old cardboard or wood I found lying around.

“No,” a voice said from outside the door. “Do not be yourself.” Colin appeared at the door and leaned against the frame, balancing my laptop on one arm and searching through a site with the other.

“And why not?” Pat asked, indignantly.

“If this guy really is Nolan Graham, Abby—or Madison—needs to be his fantasy girl. It says here that he likes science fiction novels, indie electronic music, chess, and steak dinners. You have to like all of those things too.”

Fear coursed through me. I knew nothing about science fiction novels—hell, I could barely read. I had no idea what indie electronic music was, and I knew even less about chess. I certainly didn’t eat steak dinners. “Crap. Maybe I should call and cancel?” I said.

“Nonsense,” Pat said, pulling out his phone. “I’m calling reinforcements.”

Sylvia showed up not ten minutes after Pat called her with a suitcase full of clothes. As Pat worked on turning my hair blond, Sylvia coached me.

“Dating isn’t all that different from pretty much anything we do at the strip club,” she said. She took out a pair of tweezers and began plucking my eyebrows. “Just smile and flip your hair a few times. Always make eye contact but not too much. You don’t want to leer.”

“I just did my eyebrows yesterday,” I protested as she ripped out tiny hairs from my face. Pain that felt like tiny daggers digging into me shot through my face.

“Well, those eyebrows are fine for Abby the waitress but you’re Madison now. Besides, I’m just following the picture.”

Sylvia showed me my photo of Madison on my phone again. I scrutinized it and sure enough, I had given Madison comically tiny eyebrows. “We don’t have to be super strict with the details, do we? I mean, who really looks like their photo online anyways?”

“All right, fine,” Sylvia conceded. “I’ll just pick out a dress and shoes then?”

Pat painted bleach into small sections of my hair and wrapped it in tin foil while Sylvia pulled out dress after dress from the suitcase she came in with. Naturally, the first dress she suggested was a tight, red, strapless dress.

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