Growing up Hester didn't know what she wanted except for a non-biblical name.
But tradition was just strong enough - as well as her mother's likely despondency - that she never seriously considered changing it or going by her middle name (Anne).
Maybe shorten it to 'Hess', and lightly twisted that into 'Tess'. Or 'Jess'.
Just make sure it doesn't come up at Christmas dinner or the odd family birthday.
And maybe it was because of an unwelcome first name that she sought a profession that would permit a nom de plum of sorts.
Not many of those. And most of them have some considerable social stigmas attached. Selling sex in some shape or form. Your Crystals, Tiffanys, Diamonds, Brandys, and an assortment of colours as the fake first or fake last name (or both: Amber Blue).
Hester had two flat feet so the strip club was out. So was sex. Not because she didn't enjoy it (she did), or the idea of making good money doing an activity that she did enjoy, but because she couldn't have sex with just anybody. The quality control level would be too high and inconvenient for whoever would set up the rendezvous (a pimp? Yeah, that's another thing she knew she wouldn't care for about that job. Having a pimp), that it wouldn't be worth keeping her on the roster.
But then she watched a documentary on the industry and some of the women interviewed said that some of their high end clients didn't even sleep with them, but wined and dined them and opened up emotionally about their problems, both at work and at home. And that was it.
Which intrigued Hester to no end.
No sex. Just talk.
She mulled it over with a friend of hers who had no romantic aspirations towards her whatsoever.
-like a therapist.
-but in hotel rooms.
-and you're dressed like a...
-like a woman, Jason.
-okay, okay, and you're going to advertise this how? With a bunch of other escort ads? As an unlicensed psychiatrist?
-I'll get a professional photographer.
-And read the wiki article on Freud and Jung.
Which seemed like a good idea in theory, but Hester did about three months of therapy when she was sixteen because she didn't really want to do any extracurricular activities in high school, which - when combined with an overzealous guidance counsellor and a worry-forward mother - meant twelve once-a-week appointments with Dr. Hague. Who was good and understanding and passed the word on that sixteen is the age where not only are you supposed to not really want to do anything, but also the age where you can get away it.
Looking back on this fifteen years later, it became clear that the first step of therapy is just opening up and complaining and wondering out loud so that someone can offer an opinion. Hester could do that. Framed diploma on your office wall be damned. Especially if your office is going to be transitory.
But right off the bat the problem was, as Jason not-so-astutely pointed out, getting the whole thing started. It all has to look like a high class prostitute, without the one thing everyone assumes about prostitution.
So Hester frequented upscale bars and clubs and lounges and flirted and insinuated enough that she felt there was no way the gentlemen would mistake what her intentions were.
And in the first couple months she batted about .500 with that feeling, which is where those self-defence classes came in handy. Not that every miscommunication resulted in a physical fight, but it was a nice skill to have when the guy ranted and raved about how if she looked like a hooker and acted like a hooker and if he was paying hooker-like prices, we better start doing hooker-like stuff.
Slowly but surely, though, her name made the right kind of reverberations in the right kind of channels. Friendly, flirty, smart, confidential, trust-worthy, easy on the eyes. Good over drinks, can be introduced as someone else to anyone else and she'll play along.
Just another name for a few minutes.
And the men (and odd woman) found that if someone was genuinely open to listening, it didn't take much reflection before anything and everything started spilling out.
My job is taking up so much of my life its destroying my life.
I lost my job and I haven't told my family.
I lied about the funding for this project and I'll probably be fired at the end of the next financial quarter.
I hurt people. Emotionally.
I accidentally ran over a homeless person and just kept going.
I have everything I'm supposed to want and I'm not happy.
Everything feels like it's spiralling out of control when I don't have a drink in my hand.
I owe my brother thousands.
My brother owes me thousands.
There was a problem but hey there were always problems and that's just the easiest and therefore best rationalization you could use right here.
-We all got problems. Have you tried [insert the most practical and therefore unappealing answer here]?
And sometimes it was a pain or catastrophe beyond words and she could tell and said nothing because she could read the pleas in their eyes: 'Don't tell me the feeling. Don't ruin all of this for me with your empty, unfulfilling consonants and vowels.'
In those odd cases she did walk them over to the bed and just held them. Not a single kiss on the cheek, just the warm, constant feeling of a body embracing another in perfect understanding and silence.
It was hard to call this a calling, but soon Hester found that something else was sticking around after each session other than the money.
Ideas. Whatever her clients blagged on about seemed to be placed in a mental lockbox that ensured it was saved in mint, easily recallable and recite-able condition.
At first she thought it was some sort of overcompensating quirk as she started the job, proof that she was really putting the effort into listening, which she tried to make her chief selling point. But then she found it was effortless. Whatever tiny or massive confessions these people eventually spilled, they were all imprinted in her memory.
Suddenly she wasn't jut listening, but stealing from their minds. She allows them to let their guard down with a drink and kind demeanour, and when the tongue loosens the trap's already been sprung. She alters the rhythms and bursts of the brain. She finds the wavelengths and rides them and hijacks all the best moves then splits. And they don't know it because it comes on slow. Days, weeks, maybe even months after they meet up, her clients will feel like something has been lost. The sense that whatever the held close has been taken from them. Weakening them, filling them full of fear. Which means they need to see her again to complain about it.
Back into her waiting arms.
A zombie that appears to leave their victims completely untouched.
|66% of all good ideas ultimately become bad ideas|