“I’m pretty sure Sophie isn’t your real name, but I don’t want to use it. I don’t need to know your real name. What name would you like me to use?”
“Fatima.” There was no hesitation, no looking at the ceiling for inspiration.
“It’s just a name I like. Once in high school I was in love with a boy from Jordan and he had a sister named Fatima. She was older, very beautiful and kind to me.”
“Alright, Fatima it is then. How old should we say you are? We can use a fudge, like ‘mid-20s’, but it should be accurate.”
“I’m 23. All my teeth, fully vaccinated.”
“Early twenties and healthy, got it.”
“You catch on quick.”
“I wouldn’t survive long in this business if I didn’t.”
“You said you were gay.”
“Have you always been gay?”
“What an odd question. Can’t say I ever thought about it much. I suppose that means yes? I didn’t come out until I was 16, but who knows.”
“Ever had a girlfriend?” The twinkle in her eyes was unmistakable.
“Why, are you propositioning me?” he replied in kind.
The sound of her belly laugh was both beautiful and fresh.
“No. I wouldn’t charge you and I don’t do sex for fun much any more. At least, not guy-girl sex.”
“Why wouldn’t you charge me?”
“You’re cute. But never mind. I was just curious.”
“Yes, I had girlfriends, but nothing serious. I must have been 14 or 15 at the time, and nothing very memorable ever happened. I’m sure they would agree. But at least two of those girls are still great friends of mine to this day, so I guess there’s that.”
She smiled. “I can see that. Some of my best friends are gay.”
“Why do you work in this business?”
She stared into her mug.
“Listen,” she said after a few silent moments. “I like you, and not just because you’re not trying to climb into my pants. But before I answer any question, I need you to look me in the eyes and promise me nothing I say will get me in trouble. I’ve been very careful so far and I’ve avoided getting noticed by the cops, and I want that to continue for as long as I want it to. And,” she added with a look that suggested messing with her would not necessarily be a smart idea, “I want to be able to transition into something else at some later point, and public arrest and legal troubles aren’t usually helpful with finding an honest job.”
“You think prostitution is dishonest?”
“No, quite the opposite, and we can talk about that later. I guess I should have used ‘respectable’ instead.”
“I understand, and nothing I publish will cause you trouble. You have my word. Even if the cops came to me I would not reveal my source.”
“Even if they arrested you?”
“Yes, even then. Besides,” Marc added with a wink, “there’s no surer way to increase my cred in the media business than to be arrested for protecting a source, so you’d be doing me a favour…”
She did like the sound of that.