With seductive prowess, she twirled in a backward arch position around the glimmering brass pole, two feet above the stage. The tips of her brown-chestnut hair swept the clover leaf shaped floor. Her double hip strap thong and scant sequined top reflected a kaleidoscope of colors illuminating the upscale Gentleman’s Club. The song, Paradise City was too tame for, Eden.

Upon completion of seductive spins, cradles, and various leg splitting maneuvers, Eden crept like a predator sneaking up on its prey to the edge of the stage. Elbow to elbow, impatient libidinous men and women waited to slip bills strategically through her thong straps.

Several minutes later, she had worked the perimeter of the stage. A voice announced over the loudspeakers like introducing pugilists ready to battle. “Let’s hear it for San Francisco’s most sexiest exotic lady, Amaaannndaaaa.”

Hoots, hollers, and ear-splitting applause ensued. Cigar-toking testosterone from blue velvet sofa chairs rose to their feet, shoving lap dancers aside. “More! More!”

An explosion stifled the applause followed by the thunderous roar of a Harley Davidson. Two dancers strutted from a billowing vapor as, Mötley Crüe’s, Girls, Girls, Girls began to rock the Club.

Backstage in the dressing room, a pungent odor of perfume and estrogen lingered in the air like a fog bank. Young women crowded around racks choosing skimpy sequined garments, while others were seated at brightly lit vanities, applying foot-long eyelashes over jet black mascara. “Eden, Samantha wants to see you in her office before you leave,” one of the girls shouted from across the room.

A heavy mist of gardenia spray settled on Eden’s face, Samantha’s failed attempt to conceal the stale odor of  cigarettes and alcohol. Dressed in a pair of basketball pants and sweatshirt, Eden took a seat opposite her in front of the wooden desk that took up a third of the office space. “Everything, okay Sam?”

Once a showgirl, the attractive forty-five-year-old Samantha maintained her youthful energy by doing choreography for her Club performers. She concealed the deep lines etched around her eyes by a generous application of cosmetics. A strip of raven-colored hair divided the platinum blonde hair that fell well below her shoulders.

Samantha hesitated before answering with a brittle voice. “Eden, you’re a bright beautiful young woman with a lot of potential, more than this place cold ever offer you.”

Eden recognized a prelude to bad news.

“During the past three years, you’ve earned the respect of everyone here, not to mention the customers who love you to death. You’ve more than proved…”

“Sam, I appreciate the accolades, but it sounds like you’re firing me. Did I do something wrong?”

Ice cubes clanged against a glass permeating the odor of Scotch. “Eden, if I had ten more girls like you I wouldn’t be trying to work up the courage to tell you what I’m about to say.”

“You are firing me. What did I do? I promise I’ll…”

“I’m losing the club, Eden.” Sam’s voice trailed into a whisper.

The Gentleman’s Club had been Eden’s last resort. When no one else would give her a chance, it was Samantha who had noticed her potential.

“How can that be? Don’t we always have a full house?” Eden wondered if Samantha might have had something else on the side. Something that had been draining profits. Again, ice cubes shook the glass. “Between balloon payments coming due and the increase in the lease, I’m afraid there’s no way I can keep this place operating. You make more money than all the girls here and as much as I pay them, I’ve been operating on a thread.”

“What about the bank, can’t they help?”

“Who do you think I owe the balloon payments to?” Her voice wobbled on the edge of sobbing. “This Club is all I have, Eden. I don’t know what I’ll do without it.”

Samantha told her it would take three-hundred-thousand dollars to pay the bills and keep the club afloat for a few months. Eden thought about her eye surgery. Her doctor had told her it wasn’t a guaranteed procedure and to expect the worse. Either way, what am I going to do? she thought.

Just then, a young woman peeked her head through the door. “Sam, there’s someone out here who says it’s urgent they talk to you.”

Samantha waved her hand and muttered, “Tell ‘em to go away and make an appointment.”

Eden had grown to love the Club. Since mastering the pole, it had been her escape into a world of euphoric solace. She’d transcend into a zone of bliss, muting the cheers and innuendos of the sexually immodest audience. Loud cheers and large tips were validation of her desirability. The Club had been her only means of self-worth.

Eden rose and bid Sam farewell. Before turning the doorknob, she turned to Sam. “Remember, if there’s anything I can do, or you just need a shoulder, you know where to find me.”

When Eden cracked the door open, someone nudged her aside rocking her off balance and nearly falling. “Excuse me?” Eden said in a sarcastic tone as the door slammed closed.

In the dressing room, dancers wished Eden good luck on her operation while donning an overcoat and unfolding her cane. “Are ya sure you want your eyes, sweetie?” someone blurted from across the room. “The world can be a scary place, ya know.”

Eden thought a moment as she cracked the rusted metal door open. “At least I’ll be the judge of what I see.”

She stepped out into the chill of the dark alley. Just before the door latched closed, high-pitched yelling came from the other side of the door. Eden wondered if the sudden burst of shivers were from the cold air, or the sound of Samantha’s voice.