Image courtesy of voraorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Thebe reached into the bag and pulled a mask out. The small domino was black and green. Nature. She had been hoping for sky-blue and white and be celestial like her friend Rhene. Well, at least the green would look great with her hazel eyes. As she moved out of the way, the next girl approached the table. The females behind the table all had red and yellow dominoes; last year winner had been fire and the hostesses at Nymphs and Satyrs had worn the colors all year.
Walking past the growing group with azure and violet masks, those who would be playing water nymphs in the competition, Thebe snapped on her mask. She approached the north corner of the plain room where women in matching masks to her black and green were already in deep discussion. They frowned as she joined their group, and Thebe crushed her inner shame. Her body could not be helped. Two full-time jobs left little room for healthy eating and gym time. Fast food made up all her meals, the ones she didn’t skip because she had fallen asleep. The mask hid the bags under her eyes.
Most women in the room had bodies screaming of youth and vigor or money and privilege. She would need to see if Rhene had bribed someone to get her two-hundred forty pound ass through the front door and onto the list. Sure her six-foot height distributed the weight enough to prevent her from being a complete butterball, but her budget-and-time-driven diet was quickly propelling her Rubenistic proportions from healthy to hefty. Her tendency to fold in on herself only made her look fatter.
Thebe pushed back her shoulders and straightened her spine. Now towering over her detractors, she met their eyes. Tonight was not the night to be a shrinking violet. One million dollars was at stake. Enough to get her out of debt – all her student loans and credit card bills disappearing in one swoop instead of slowly building despite her best efforts with cheap food, Goodwill excursions when clothes could no longer be repaired, and nearly one-hundred-hour work weeks when the commutes were included thanks the capriciousness of public transportation. Her budget was squeezed until pennies whimpered. Nothing helped.
She had to seize the chance.
The week-long contest wasn’t like playing the lottery. Only fifty-four girls were chosen to enter from thousands of photos. These were then assigned to four teams representing the four elements. Even if Thebe didn’t personally win, if she was on the team with the winner, she would be looking at a new job as hostess. A job paying double what her two current jobs paid combined and only taking about thirty hours per week, counting commute from the apartment she shared with four other girls on the other side of the city.
A job with perks like a full-time gym and spa. A job with a clothes budget and meals during the four nights the club was open. A one-in -four chance at catching up and, maybe, getting ahead. A one in fifty-four chance of being set for life.
As a bonus, each day she survived in the competition she pocketed $1,000. If she was knocked out today, just getting this far would mean all her interest payments for the month would be met for the first time in eight years, instead of her shuffling money around like someone running a Ponzi scheme. She smiled at her team. There was no way a girl like her could take first place but she would do everything in her power to make certain her team won.
(words 604, first published 12/25/2016)