Read The Exchange Online

Authors: Carrie Williams

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Erotica, #Bdsm, #Romantic, #Romantic Erotica, #Romance

The Exchange

BOOK: The Exchange
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The Exchange
Carrie Williams

Table of Contents

Prologue

In clothes, he looks almost demure. It’s his boyish face, unlined, seemingly open and frank, of a beauty so pure it takes your breath away. He’s looking towards me, or rather towards my lens, and I feel lucky to have such a prize specimen posing for me. I’ve always liked to take edgy shots, pictures of outsiders, the unconventional or even the scarred. I used to think beauty was boring. Not any more.

He’s holding the camera’s gaze, and not for the first time I feel forgotten, superfluous. Professionals such as him often seem to forget the presence of the photographer. It’s as if they’re making love to the camera itself, the way some of them come on to it. As if they want to fuck it. Not for nothing, I sometimes think, are big long lenses described as phallic.

I don’t know what to make of it all. Demureness meets wantonness in one package. It’s disorienting. I feel as if the ground is falling away from under my feet. I feel as if I’m not in control, and a photographer needs to be in control, or the whole thing falls apart. I’m not the kind to leave things to chance and serendipity.

He’s not dressed in designer clothes. This is not that kind of shoot. Today he’s not a fashion model but just a regular guy in jeans and a striped granddad shirt, a regular guy who just happens to be drop-dead gorgeous. Beneath his arms I can even see traces of sweat, blooming like flowers on the fabric. There’s something about that – slight grubbiness teamed with physical perfection – that drives me mad. Teamed with a hint of stubble, it’s leaving me dry-mouthed.

I swallow almost painfully. ‘If you could just …’ I manage. ‘Just, er, turn so you’re positioned a bit more side-on to me. That’s right, yes. And then … I don’t know, maybe if you could undo the top button of your shirt you’d look a bit more relaxed, more natural. That’s right. Great. Hold it right there.’

I look back through the lens, watch as he undoes a second button on his own initiative, sending me a questioning look. I nod, hold one thumb up.

‘That’s great,’ I say.

‘I brought a different shirt,’ he says, ‘if this one’s not right.’

I shake my head.
I really couldn’t care less about your clothes
, I think.
I want to see you naked
.

As if he’s reading my mind, he lifts his shirt up and over his head. He grins at me and my pussy throbs so hard I feel like I’m going to explode.

Chapter 1: Rachel

We met on Facebook – where else? She came up as ‘Someone You Might Know’ and, though she wasn’t, she looked interesting. So I clicked on her name and added her to my Friends list. There was also the fact that her name was a little bit similar to mine: Rochelle Renaud, Rachel Reynolds. Not that it means anything, of course, but sometimes seemingly random things can have huge repercussions.

When I say interesting, I mean that she looked very different to me, or to any of my friends. The acquaintance we had in common, leading Facebook to suggest her to me, was a runner at an agency called Twist, specialising in offbeat, ‘characterful’ models. I still don’t know how he actually knew Rochelle. But it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that she piqued my curiosity, with her froth of blonde curls, her red sequin top and her mismatching pink feather boa, slung around her frail neck like the serpent from the garden of paradise.

She accepted my Friend request, but for a while that was it. We didn’t exchange any notes or leave any messages on each other’s wall. Then one day I did get a note from her, short and to-the-point.

‘Hey Rachel. It seems you are a photographer. What kind of images do you make?’

I emailed back, told her a little about my work, directing her to a few websites where it was displayed. Then, on a whim, I told her that if I ever came to Paris, perhaps I could photograph her? I didn’t say that I was captivated by her vulnerable beauty, the fragile edge to her. By then I’d browsed some of the photos of her in her Facebook albums and found her gorgeous but somehow damaged-looking, with eyes like shattered glass. Sometimes you look at a photo and you are
desperate
to know more about the person within it. Perhaps that’s what makes a successful photographic portrait. And so it was with Rochelle. I was curious to know more.

She emailed back to say that she didn’t think she’d be around for long, that she was talking about quitting Paris. She didn’t say why, but there was a glamorous world-weariness to her tone that made me quite envy her her wanderlust, however unfocused. Perhaps just to try to look as cool as her, I told her I had itchy feet too.

She live-messaged back: ‘What do you think about coming to Paris? And me to London? A swap?’

I sat back in my seat. It was radical, something that would never have occurred to me.

‘How long?’ I typed back after a few minutes.

‘I’m not sure. Six months? Longer?’

This time I messaged straight back, before the rational, practical side of me could kick back in. ‘Six months sounds good to me. I’d love to get to know Paris properly.’

‘And me London. So when shall we start?’

I was loving this. Rochelle was as impulsive as she looked. She clearly had a screw loose, but I liked that kind of madcap decision-making. It was so alien to me. And it was kind of refreshing to be steered by someone else, to be borne along on a tide of spontaneity.

I started to type that it couldn’t be for a good couple of months, because of this, that and the other. And then I erased it all and just wrote: ‘I’m ready when you are.’ None of my upcoming projects, I told myself, were time-sensitive. And if I needed to hop back to London, the trip was fast and easy.

‘Great,’ Rochelle fired back. ‘I’ll hand in my notice at the cabaret tonight. I can’t wait.’

‘You work at a cabaret?’

‘I didn’t tell you? I work as an exotic dancer.’

I wondered about that for a minute. Did she mean ethnically inspired stuff such as whirling or belly dancing, or was it a euphemism for erotic dancing? Was Rochelle in essence a stripper? I looked again at her picture, thought of her jaded tone. Was that what she was sick of: of showing herself for money? It seemed a legitimate thing to want to run away from – the kind of thing you fell into and then spent ages trying to dig your way out of. I doubted it was ever a career choice.

When I didn’t answer, she messaged again: ‘I live in Pigalle, by the way, close-by where I work. I hope that won’t put you off.’

That confirmed it: Pigalle, I knew, was famous for its sex shops and peep shows, for the Moulin Rouge and the Folies Bergère. To whatever degree Rochelle took off her clothes, her dancing was primarily erotic rather than exotic.

But I wasn’t put off, not by Rochelle’s trade or by her neighbourhood. I knew that’s what she was warning me about – the insalubriousness and potential danger of Pigalle itself, especially as a place for a girl living by herself. But I was used to looking after number one. One of my self-chosen assignments during my photography MA was a series of images of teenage drug addicts around King’s Cross, which involved lots of time spent wandering around the station and its murky environs, lots of approaching people who’d fallen foul of substances that made them unstable and desperate. As a project, it was hugely successful and even influential – it was subsequently published in
The Big Issue
.

In fact, the more I thought about it, the more it seemed that Pigalle was calling to me. Perhaps that was the reason for my recent restlessness – perhaps I was done with London, for the time being, just as I was done with Kyle. I was newly single after calling a halt to my three-year relationship with the latter, but perhaps it was more than a change of boyfriend I needed. Perhaps it was a new home.

‘Not at all,’ I typed back. ‘I’m fascinated by Pigalle. Shall we aim for a week today?’

Chapter 2: Rochelle

I didn’t realise how bad things had become, until I started chatting to Rachel. The very fact I was on Facebook at all shows how bored I was, without being aware of it. I’ve no explanation for it, other than that it was one of those ditchwater-grey afternoons when the rain seems like it will never stop falling out of the sky, and I was killing time until another shift.

I was sitting around in my dressing gown, curlers in my hair, getting ready to apply some new fake nails. As I often did before work, I started to feel a sort of unfocused, languorous horniness. You’d think you’d get over it – all that nakedness, all that naughtiness, night after night. And of course it’s not as if it’s not seedy and cheap and demeaning, at least some of the time.

It wasn’t even about the guys – I’ve never met a man in the club I actually fancy. If it’s anything, it’s about being surrounded by semi-naked girls all night. Not all of them are beautiful, although I know we all have different definitions and expectations of ‘beauty’. But there’s a camaraderie we’ve got going there. Some of us have known each other for years, and we are close – mentally, physically. That, for me, is horny. A lovely topless girl leaning over me, her hand on my shoulder, to adjust my hair just before I go on stage – that sends a thrill through me. With many of these girls, I get what the punters can never have – intimacy.

And often, as I’m getting ready for the evening, making myself as gorgeous as I can be, I think of all this feminine softness – mine and that of my colleagues – and my fingers slip down into my panties and I start rubbing at the wet little bead of my clit. As I do, I picture myself on stage, gyrating to the music, blinded by the strobes. I can’t see the faces of those looking at me, but just knowing that I am looked at – looked at but untouchable – turns me on.

This was one of those days. With one hand on my breast, tracing the soft cherry-pink outline of my nipple, I kept my thumb on my clit and slid two fingers inside myself. It felt so fucking good, I gasped out loud. I never, I thought bitterly, felt this good with Konrad, and that was so bloody frustrating. To have a boyfriend who looked so hot he brought other women out in palpitations but who couldn’t lead me to orgasm made me want to scream.

As my fingers moved in and out, I sped up, pushed deeper, arching my back to meet my own embrace. It was the ultimate irony for someone whose job was to please others – that, so far, at least, I was the one who could give myself the greatest joy.

I moaned and juddered as waves of pleasure started to break over me and a white light of pure joy went on in my head. For a moment I gave myself over to the almost unbearable pleasure that assailed me, and then I threw back my head and let my climax ebb gorgeously away like trails of smoke carried away by a soft, warm wind. Already, I felt nostalgia for my spent libido.

***

I’ve always been interested in photography, which is how come I asked Rachel about her work, after I’d got dressed and was having a last coffee and cigarette before leaving for work. That would have probably been that, only the next day I looked up the websites she mentioned to me and was sucked in by some of her images. They showed a side of London – of England – that has always fascinated me. Of course, Pigalle, where I lived, is an underbelly, a shithole, in so many respects. But much of this is on the surface. What Rachel’s images somehow managed to suggest was what lies beneath the surface of the people she photographs on the street, in the middle of their business. Outwardly respectable though many of them appear, she always manages to suggest something sinister or off-kilter beneath the skin. And to those who are sleazy, unfortunate, deprived, she gives a noble dignity, something transcendent.

As with most things in life, one thing eventually led to another, and after a few more chats with Rachel I suggested we swap lives for a while. I’m not sure that I really meant it – it was more of a challenge, one to which I never imagined she’d rise. Like I said, I was bored. I do random things when I’m bored – things that surprise even me when they come out of my mouth. But looking back, I realise that the thought of spending another night at the club, then going out drinking with Konrad and his gang of fellow models, with all the preening and posing and air-kissing and back-stabbing, made me feel queasy. Without knowing it, I’d come to the end of the line when it came to Paris and what it represented for me.

BOOK: The Exchange
3.33Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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