OH. MY. GOD. What the . . . ?
My heart thumps wildly as I snatch a City Girls magazine off a Lincoln Park newsstand. I clutch the glossy little weekly in horror as my eyes zero in on the headline: wingwoman bares all.
Shitty! It can't be . . .
Chills prickle down my spine as I rip off my Diesel sunglasses to take a closer look. The mortifying picture just below the headline is every girl's worst nightmare. And it's right smack on the cover of the dishiest, most well-read social magazine in Chicago.
A butt photo.
Yep. There it is--a way-too-big snapshot of a girl's flouncy white miniskirt tucked into a lacy pink thong, her pearly white butt peeking out for the entire world to see.
I clap a hand over my gaping mouth. This can't be happening. It just can't be. I mean, that girl in the picture? It's . . . well . . . it's . . .
My cheeks flush feverishly as I inspect every inch of my high-resolution butt. Hands shaking. Head pounding. Panic. Panicky. Panicking. I mean, this is humiliating. This is a nightmare. This is . . .
Aaack! Is that cellulite? I squint hard, slowly turning the magazine right, then left. It is! I can't believe this. I close my eyes in pure torture.
Just then, a gaggle of girls struts past. They spot the picture from four feet away and immediately huddle around the newsstand. Their squeals of laughter hurt my ears.
"Look!" one girl shrieks, pointing. "That's hilarious! Can you imagine?"
"Eww!" another girl hisses. "Her ass is droopy."
I whip around, shoving on my sunglasses and pulling up my puffy black North Face vest all the way to my ears. Tears well up as I glare down at the photo. At least you can't see my face. Someone is bound to find out, though. Aren't they? They'll recognize my outfit or my blond hair or something. I'll be discovered. I, Victoria Hart, will forever be known as the girl in the butt photo!
I need to get home--fast. Stuffing the magazine under my arm, I rush back to my apartment a few blocks away.
Damn my job.
Damn that reporter.
Damn last night.
Why do these things always happen to me? I mean, the night started off sooo wonderfully. You know . . . kind of. At least I thought so. (Okay. Okay. Maybe it was a tad shaky. But that's totally understandable. Right? It was my first night on the job!) Hmph. Maybe I should see what you think . . .
THERE WE ARE, flying down Lake Shore Drive in a sleek black SUV limo with the tinted windows rolled down, moonroof open, and our hair flipping all around. Just me, two other wingwomen, and a City Girls magazine reporter. It's a gorgeous April night. Crisp and cool. There are dark foamy waves from Lake Michigan crashing to the left and the Chicago skyline sparkling to the right. I gaze out the window at the Sears Tower as I nervously sip my bubbly champagne and try to remain calm.
Tonight I'm training to be a wingwoman. And I'll admit it, I'm freaking out. I have no clue what I'm doing. None. I mean, I went through wingwoman training and everything, but tonight is for real. Tonight I'm actually be meeting clients and trying my best to hook them up with all the hot girls they're interested in.
I'm completely nervous. And it doesn't help that this stupid City Girls reporter is going "undercover" with us tonight to see if this new dating revolution actually works. I don't even know what I'm doing yet and he'll be analyzing my every move.
Oh God. I bite my lip. What if I screw up? What if . . .
Okay. I just need to relax. Everything will be fine. I take another sip of my champagne and glance over at the two other wingwomen. I barely even know them, but they seem nice enough, I guess . . .
There's Lexi, the Tyra Banks wannabe. She's a total diva--decked out in shiny gold everything and currently on her cell phone fighting with her agent in L.A. Something about a toothpaste ad? I don't know. Whatever it is, Lexi is livid and keeps screaming, "No fucking way! Tyra wouldn't be caught dead."
And then there's Redd, a strawberry blond babe in a skimpy red skirt and shockingly tall black boots. She's a self-proclaimed gold digger. Rough and tough in every way, with a set of pricey double Ds proudly stuffed into a black sequined top.
I eye my nonexistent cleavage self-consciously.
Anyway, I guess these two girls are the pros. They've been wingwomen since the very beginning, ever since Chicago Wingwoman opened its office down on State Street by Marshall Field's about a year ago. And they're supposed to be showing me the ropes tonight.
"Oh yeah? Well, fuck you!" Lexi suddenly shouts, snapping her cell phone shut and tossing it into her gold hobo bag. "Hmph. Minty fresh my ass!" she huffs as she steals a flute of champagne from the limo bar and downs the entire thing. "Look at me!" she bellows to no one in particular. "I have an amazing body! I should be doing Victoria's fucking Secret."
That's when Jay, the City Girls reporter, pulls out his spiral notebook and silver voice recorder. "Can I ask you girls a couple of questions before we get to the bar?" he asks.
"Shoot," Redd says, fluffing her strawberry blond hair.
Lexi gives Jay an evil stare, but shrugs. And I nod, trying my best to appear cool and confident like the other girls.
"Great." Jay grins, peeling off his suede sports coat. He clicks on the recorder. "Since we don't have a lot of time, let's get straight to it. Tell me. Why did you girls become wingwomen? Because it's fun? Because you get paid to party?"
"Screw that. I'm in it for a husband," Redd rasps, lighting a cigarette. "A rich one."
"Don't be stupid. You know we can't date clients," Lexi snaps, lowering her gold glittery eyelashes at Redd. "Talk about desperate."
"Speak for yourself, prissy pants." Redd laughs heartily, taking a long drag and blowing out a white puff of smoke. "I don't care what management says. You're crazy if you think I'd pass up an eligible bachelor with a fat wallet. Forget that! He's mine. Finders keepers."
Jay scribbles in his spiral notebook, then turns to me. "Okay. So. What about you? It's Victoria, right?"
I nod, shifting uncomfortably in the leather seats. "Um . . . I don't know . . . I guess I like being a matchmaker. I always have." I wrinkle my nose, realizing how naive and dreamy I must sound. But it's true! I've always played matchmaker for all my friends. First there was Julia and Kevin. Then Gwynn and Bryan. I mean, I'm really good at setting people up. And, well, that's what being a wingwoman is all about. Right? I was born to do this job!
"How cute." Lexi smirks, batting those eyelashes again.
"Oh Vicky, doll!" Redd coughs and slaps her knee. "You're cracking me up. I almost bought that bullshit. You're good. Really good."
"Sounds like you're very dedicated." Jay smiles, ignoring the others. "How long have you been a wingwoman?"
"Um . . . actually it's my first night," I say. "These girls are showing me how it's done."
Redd yanks up her black sequined top and lets out a huge, "Hell yeah!" She holds up her champagne in cheers. "It's gonna be a real good night."
"To a good night!" Everyone whoops and clinks glasses. Well . . . everyone except Lexi. She's already on her cell phone again.
As we pull up to Fulton Lounge in the trendy West Loop meatpacking district, I can already hear the gyrating music thumping onto the streets. This is the city's new ultrahip neighborhood, filled with cool brick lofts, art galleries, and loads of chic lounges, restaurants, and clubs. Our driver runs around and opens the limo door.
"Ready?" Redd grins, a fresh cigarette dangling from her lower lip.
"I think so," I say, taking a deep breath and dabbing on some sheer pink lip gloss.
Jay is already on the sidewalk, snapping photos as we climb out of the car. We squeeze our way through the designer crowd milling around outside, blue spotlights flickering all around our heads. I guess the clients are meeting us at the door. They have our pictures, so they'll find us. All we know is that they're businessmen from Texas with a lot of cash to throw around.
"I bet that's them," Lexi hisses, pointing a slick red fingertip at a pack of cowboys looking outrageously out of place among all the hipsters.
Redd stamps out her cigarette and nudges us toward them. "Hee-haw, ladies! Let's get after it."
Suddenly an arm sweeps around the four of us. It's attached to an enormous, red-cheeked man with a five-gallon cowboy hat and an expensive white suit.
"Howdy there!" he hollers. "I'm Max. Are you gals our wingladies for the night?"
"That's us," we say in unison.
"Boy, ya'll sure are a sight for sore eyes." Max tips his big white hat. "Meet the boys," he says, waving over the crew of cowboys. And suddenly we're surrounded by boots, blue jeans, and big ol' belt buckles. I can barely keep up with all their names. Billy, Clint, Austin, Luke, and . . . is it Dusty?
The girls decide they should take three clients each and I should stay with the reporter, so I can watch and learn while they do their thing. Lexi leads her Texans past the bouncer and into the glitzy crowd. And Redd flips her strawberry blond hair off her shoulders, hooks arms with Max, and flashes a big, dazzling smile.
"So tell me about your ranch," Redd purrs sweetly as she makes her way past the doorman. "Is it big?" Her other cowboy clients lag a few steps behind.
Jay turns to me, swinging his sports coat over his shoulder. "Should we grab a seat at the bar?"
We watch as Redd and Lexi work their magic. They flutter around the lounge like social butterflies, a brightly colored martini in one hand and a cowboy in the other. It looks effortless, how they work their way into conversations. How they flirt and laugh. How they casually introduce their clients. It all seems so easy. So natural.
And just look at how happy all the cowboys are! Max is beaming from ear to ear, chatting it up with a gorgeous brunette in a powder-blue slip dress. Lexi and Clint are working their game with a feisty redhead. And the rest of the cowboys are surrounded by six-foot blond models.
All of a sudden, I have an urge to give it a whirl myself. I mean, I can do this! Totally. I'm practically giddy with anticipation.
Just then, Redd struts up. "It's your turn, baby cakes. Show us what you've got."
"Awesome!" I hoot, leaping off the barstool.
Jay looks nervous. "Are you sure you're ready? Maybe I should go with Redd?"
"I can do it." I put my hands on my hips, slightly hurt. Why is Jay doubting me? How hard can this be?
"Go get 'em." Redd gives me a thumbs-up. "I'm gonna grab a drink. Yell if you need backup."
"Will do." I beam excitedly. I'm going to be fine, though. Better than fine. Brilliant!
"Let me take a closer look at you," I say to Jay.
He takes a few steps back, and I carefully eye him up and down. Cute enough. Very stereotypical writer. Tasseled loafers. Levi's. Rumpled blue oxford. Suede jacket thrown over his shoulder. Let's see . . .
My professional opinion: we're going to need someone a tad on the artsy side. Not funky, though. Very well read. Down-to-earth. A nice girl. Hmm . . . I scan the crowd.
Too high maintenance.
Too girlie girl.
Too porn star.
Ooh. Wait a minute . . . there! "What about her?" I point to a cute girl with rosy cheeks, tiny wire-frame glasses, and dark curls flowing all around her face.
Jay wrinkles his nose. "She's kind of nerdy. I can do better. Don't you think?"
What? Nerdy! She's cute. Adorable, actually. Doesn't Jay realize I'm a trained professional? Hmph. He should trust my judgment. That could be his soul mate! His entire reason for . . .
"What about one of those girls?" Jay points to a pack of Paris Hiltons, all skin and legs. In fact, as I look closer, I'm not entirely sure they even have clothes on.
"Um . . . yeah. Sure." I scratch my head, suddenly wishing I had downed more than one drink. A little liquid courage might be handy right about now. "Let me go feel out the scene. I'll be right back."
As I walk over to the Hiltons, my hands shake and my knees wobble. Okay. I just need to stay calm. Everything's fine. This is my calling. Get it together, Vic.
I plaster on my best glittery grin and prance right over.
"Hey!" I squeak. The flock of fake eyelashes, heavily lined lips, and big blond hair stares back at me.
Um. Okay. This is awkward. Let's try again. "What's going on?" I say, a bit louder this time.
They all frown.
Wow. Are you kidding me? No wonder guys need a wingwoman. These girls are like ice queens. "Don't you just love this place?" I say, even louder.
"We're trying to work," one girl snaps. "Do you mind?"
"ME TOO!" I yowl, practically throwing my arms around them. "This is my first night! Can I just tell you . . . I am sooo incredibly nervous."
The Hiltons eye me skeptically. Hmm. They're probably not used to running into other wingwomen, that's all.
"So where are your clients?" I smile, feeling totally relaxed now. I mean, I'm bonding with coworkers. This is so great! I wonder if they know Redd and Lexi? Ooh. Now that I think about it, I should really ask if these girls have pointers for me. They look like they've been around the block, um, a few times and . . . "Oh, I'm sorry. Were you saying something?"
"I said that's who we're looking for. Clients," one girl grumbles. "So if you could just . . ."
"You lost them?" I gasp. "Oh my God! I'm so sorry! Can I help? Maybe they're in the bathroom or something. How awful. Can you get fired for that?"
The Hiltons look at each other strangely and then burst out laughing.
"What's so funny?" I ask, my eyes growing wide. "Did I say something wrong?"
"Oh, sweetie! We're working girls."
From the Trade Paperback edition.