Marina was sitting on the edge of the bed and looking at a small pile of clothes.
A few months ago, she came from the outback to the city, but she never got used to modern, metropolitan life. Whether it’s in her native village. Everything is quiet, modest there, people are simpler, and life itself flows somehow steadily and calmly. In the city, everything is different.
Marina was born in a poor family with modest means. The girl’s father is a strict but fair man. He was ready to give the last, just to please his daughter. The mother was a reserved but practical woman.
Marina has dreamed of a beautiful life since childhood. She studied well. After graduating from school, she firmly decided to go to the city. There are more prospects there, and there is a chance to get married successfully. The girl’s parents were against it at first. But she strongly made it clear that she did not intend to retreat. And then they decided not to interfere. Marina was accompanied by the whole village. She had money for the trip and for the first time. It remains only to gain a foothold in the city and acquire the necessary connections. And soon the girl did it. Marina successfully enrolled in one of the universities, where she met Polina. The girl was a year older than her. She herself had once come here from the provinces, but she quickly got used to it, got the right connections and felt like a fish in water.
«You’re lucky to have met me. I usually don’t help anyone,» Polina winked at Marina, reviewing the entire wardrobe of the newcomer. — My dear, you definitely shouldn’t go anywhere in these rags. Now I’ll pick up some of my things for you,» she said and brought some stylish dresses.
Polina was a practical girl. She taught Marina how to behave in urban society, how to eat, walk, talk.
— I think the dress is beautiful, but it hugs me very tight. And short. I don’t wear this,» Marina said, trying to lower the hem of her dress lower.
— I’ll tell you only once and I won’t repeat it. If you want to hook up with a rich guy, listen to me.
Polina considered herself an expert in the field of pickup. She had a pleasant appearance, an inquisitive mind and knew at what moment it was worth pretending to be a fool. At one time, she met the son of an influential businessman, Arthur. The guy is silent. According to the girl herself, he had some kind of trauma in childhood. He hasn’t said a word since.
— But it’s for the best. Some guys talk worse than girls. And mine is silent as a fish,» Polina joked.
Arthur is a tall and large young man. Against his background, the thin and short Polina looked completely doll-like. But he easily carried her in his arms. Marina looked at them and was even a little jealous. Perhaps someday she will find such a person who will carry her in her arms. Thinking about it, she sighed heavily.
— What are you sighing for? Have you looked at your watch? Go. The rich don’t like to wait. Polina commanded, correcting her friend’s makeup.
A few minutes later, Arthur drove up. He waved his hand to the girls, and they sat down safely. The young man adjusted the mirror and loudly clicked on it with the knuckle of a huge index finger. And when the girls looked at him, he clenched his fingers into a fist and threatened his girlfriend, saying look at me.
— Yes, yes. I got it I’ll behave myself. Marina said, rolling her eyes.
A few minutes later they arrived at a popular restaurant. Polina kissed Arthur goodbye and together with her friend entered the room. The girl did not pretend to be a matchmaker at all. She met her silent big man by chance. His car was backing up and gently pushed the girl who was standing behind and talking on the phone. They’ve been together ever since. Applicants for the role of sponsor for a friend, she selected more carefully. She said she had a nose for such things.
— Remember, listen more and nod. Try not to talk too much. Speak only when asked a question directly to you. But answer it briefly and ambiguously. If you don’t know something, smoothly change the subject. – Polina taught her friend.
— And if I mix something up or get confused?
— Improvise. If anything, I’m in touch.
They came to a table where three young men were sitting. They ate, talked and laughed loudly. When they saw the girls, they immediately fell silent.
— Good evening! Meet Pavel Konstantinovich, this is Marina. I told you about her. Polina squeaked, waved her friend with her hand and hurried away.
Pavel Konstantinovich is a stately and tall man with large and broad shoulders. He wasn’t handsome. Not at all. His cunning and deep-set eyes unpleasantly examined the girl’s body from head to toe. Licking his dry lips, he motioned her with his hand to the seat next to him. He had been talking business with the other two men all evening. Then he agreed on unloading some wagons, then on purchases. He did most of the talking. Marina was getting bored and terribly uncomfortable. During the next conversation, Pavel Konstantinovich moved the girl closer and put his arm around her shoulders. It gave the impression that he needed her for some kind of entourage. And when he began to sign some documents, he even asked Marina to take a walk to the kitchen, since he had run out of some kind of French sauce for fish.
— Well, manners. I didn’t hire myself as a waitress,» the girl was indignant, making her way through a rather narrow corridor to the kitchen.
Waiters were rushing back and forth. The girl almost ran into one of them. Passing on, she saw the chef. He masterfully sliced vegetables, danced and hummed something to himself. A cute, young guy was passionate about his business and therefore did not pay any attention to the girl who entered.
— Pavel Konstantinovich asked me to bring the sauce to the fish, – the girl said and came closer.
But she didn’t see a small puddle of oil on the floor, slipped and almost fell. The cook’s strong arms caught her and saved her from falling.
«Be careful, Mon Cheri,» he said, smiled and gently moved the girl to a safe distance from the puddle. — Ah, Pavel Konstantinovich’s new protege? He always had excellent taste in women. Hold. He needs this sauce,» with these words, he handed the girl a saucepan and smiled again.
Marina took the sauce pan and walked down the corridor, looking back at the young chef. When she returned to the table, Pavel Konstantinovich was already laughing and shaking hands with his opponents. At the end of the evening, the man said goodbye to his partners, took Marina by the arm and walked with her to the car. On the way to the hostel, he only specified her address and free time for the next day.
— Tomorrow I’ll be waiting for you at the same restaurant at 8 pm. Take Polina with you and go shopping. You need something spectacular. Take the card. I consulted your friend. She’ll explain everything to you. – with these words, he handed her a credit card, dropped her off at the hostel and left…
— Well? Tell me? How did everything go? – Polina rushed to her with questions.
— Actually, I didn’t understand anything. He sat next to me, hugged me. I chatted with my friends all the way. I felt like some kind of furniture, or something. I never asked anything. In the end, he gave me money for a new dress and tomorrow he is waiting for me at 8 in the same place. Marina shrugged her shoulders.
— Well, that’s great. So, everything worked out. Now he will take you everywhere with him. It’s called an escort. Besides, he doesn’t demand anything from you. Accompany him wherever he says and be done with it. You’ll have money and new clothes. Pavel Konstantinovich is a very influential and rich man.
— I don’t know. In my opinion, this is not for me. Everything is strange somehow.
— Don’t make it up. Tomorrow we’ll go shopping,» Polina patted her on the shoulder and left the room.
Starting from the next day, Marina continued to accompany Pavel Konstantinovich at various events. His meetings were very different, which is why the girl had to change clothes several times in the evening. Later, the working day of the girl was increased. Sometimes she had to skip couples to escort a wealthy, young man to another party, reception or meeting. And when her schedule became very busy, she was forced to transfer to a correspondence course. Marina didn’t particularly like this job. She still felt like a thing or piece of furniture. The only thing that pleased her was that her employer treated her more or less respectfully, without a hint of intimacy. In addition to the main escort duties, the girl had to control the amount of alcohol drunk by her boss. It was rumored that he had problems before and therefore he asked her to look after him at banquets. One day, she had to literally drag him to a taxi on herself. Sometimes Marina had to learn something very quickly. For example, to learn several Italian expressions in order to insert them into a conversation at a certain time and in a specific context. One day she felt like a heroine from the movie «Pretty Woman», as she had to learn the subtleties of table etiquette.
— Tomorrow I’m meeting with a delegation from France. You must not lose face. – Pavel Konstantinovich once said to the girl, inviting her to his favorite restaurant in the afternoon.
«What am I supposed to do?»
— Nothing unusual. Sit next to me, nod, smile. An exquisite dinner awaits us. I noticed that you don’t know much about table etiquette. Sometimes you confuse knives and forks. – the man winked at the girl and called out to the young chef, — Michelle, get busy.
— Bonjour, sweet girl.
A young man she already knew came up to Marina and smiled. Several waiters began to bring cutlery, plates and much more. Michel sat the girl down at the table and began to show her various cutlery, saying the name of each.
— Michel, have you lived in France?
— yes. Several years.
It was noticeable not only by his name, but by his manner of weaving various French words into the conversation.
— Do you want a snack? – he asked, making sure that the girl had learned her lesson.
They spent several hours on training and Marina’s stomach rumbled treacherously. Hearing this sound, both of them laughed.
— Come here, I have something for you. – with these words, the young man called Marina to the beautiful terrace and handed her a plate with a couple of toasts and poached eggs. Accepting the plate, the girl climbed onto a small, soft pouf and began to eat. They sat in silence for a while. And when the dishes were empty, the girl wiped her mouth with a napkin and looked at the young man with gratitude.
— Thank you very much. I feel full and happy.
«Weren’t you happy before?» After all, you came here from the outback. I know. – Michel’s eye narrowed, — Now you get the right connections. If you’re lucky, you’ll meet someone influential who wants to become your patron. In my opinion, this is what is needed.
Marina was impressed by the guy’s awareness.
— You know, it’s a little not what I would like. Sorry. – said the girl and hurried away from the terrace. The chef’s words made her wonder if she was doing the right thing and if she was following the right path. She thought about it for the rest of the day.
The next day she successfully passed the exam on table etiquette. Pavel Konstantinovich was very pleased, but saddened by something. His French guests were smiling. They had just pulled off a lucrative deal, which prompted the host to continue the conversation in a closer circle. They moved to another place, where the waiters began to bring alcohol to their table. This evening the businessman behaved somehow differently. He drank more than usual and waved away Marina’s next request to moderate his ardor. After a while, he got very drunk. At some point, he grabbed the girl and dragged her by force to dance. Swaying on his short legs, he clumsily guided his partner, moving her from one place to another. In the next visit, I accidentally took a ring from Marina’s finger, which rolled away somewhere to the side. The girl rushed to pick him up, but he forbade her. Instead, he gestured to the singer entertaining the audience.
— Hey, you, come here. Lift it up. – he pointed with his finger at the ring lying almost at the very feet of the tipsy man.
Marina was indignant, but her boss shouted that he was paying money to this poseur, which means he should do whatever he wants.
— Do you want him to kneel in front of me now? On your knees. – the man shouted when the singer handed him a ring picked up from the floor.
— Stop it, Pavel Konstantinovich, you’re drunk. No more is needed. And then the girl saw that the singer was going to do the boss’s errand. She began to persuade him not to do it. But he did not listen and still fulfilled the businessman’s wish. It was humiliating.
— Here. Know your place, you jerk. And you, too, stand by. How are you different from him? I pay the money. On your knees. Pavel Konstantinovich commanded, addressing Marina.
— Wealth awakens in a person the most «base instincts» and he quickly forgets about humanity. You’re just a pathetic, rich animal trying to assert yourself by humiliating other people. I’m quitting. – with these words, the girl pushed aside the body of the former boss that was leaning on her and rushed to the exit with quick steps.
She was about to hitch a ride when she heard the signal of a foreign car approaching. The tinted window rolled down, and the girl saw Michel’s face.
— Sit down, Mon Cheri, I’ll give you a ride.
Without thinking twice, Marina got into the car, and they drove off.
— I saw your final performance. Well done. It is unlikely that the father will remember the details, but he will certainly not take you to work,» the young man said, smiling.
— Pavel Konstantinovich, your father? – the girl couldn’t believe it.
— yes. And don’t be angry with him, sylvouple. He can do a lot of stupid things and say things when he’s drunk. He can’t drink.
— I know. Before that, I managed to control him. But this time…» the girl faltered.
And then the young man told her that his father was seriously ill. Lately, he had been thinking only about the future heir. I tried to convince my son to get married… I wanted to see my grandchildren. But Michel didn’t want to. It was a bad experience. The girl he was seriously in love with needed only money.
— And you’re not like that. I’ve been watching you for a long time. I like that you’re not fixated on money.
Marina objected. She said that she left the village in search of a better life. A friend advised me to find a sponsor and thereby solve my problems.
— That’s why I got to your father. However, recently I realized that all this is not mine. It won’t make me happy.
— Mercy for the revelation. Will that make you happy? – the young man asked, opening a small box with an airy, French dessert made of beaten cream and sugar.
— Not for long.
— But this is a great start. Michel said, putting his hand on top of Marina’s…