"Convent Sacred Heart!" The girl snapped without looking at me as she stepped into the back of the taxi. She was 15 and, except for being a few inches taller, looked almost exactly like her mother, Brandi, who followed right behind her.
Brandi did glance at me but showed no sign of recognition. This hardly surprised me. The girl might not know what her mother did for a living. Besides, I hadn't been with Brandi for a few years and, with all the men in her life, I'd be easy enough to forget. But she still had to be selling it. No way she could've afforded to send her daughter to that school as a grocery clerk or a waitress.
Just by looking at her, you'd never guess her profession. Brandi was attractive but plain and dressed plainly - usually in slacks, a blouse, a light jacket and sandals. She seemed a little simple when you talked to her but she had to be the smartest pro on the streets. Her attire was a disguise that no cop could penetrate. In the dozen years I'd known her, she'd never been arrested.
She always worked a little outside of the mainstream. When the whores took over O'Farrell, Brandi cruised Post. When they moved uphill, so did she. When the cops busted the bitches on Sutter, she was already comfortably cruising Bush and Pine. She stayed away from bars, picking up her customers in bus stops, at sandwich shops and breakfast places, at laundromats and bookstores. She was so subtle in the way she went about her business that the owners of the stores where she hung out never realized what she was doing.
And she treated her customers right - giving them what they paid for instead of ripping them off like so many of the other sluts. She had a steady stream of regulars.
Still - for her to pay the bills at a prestigious private school was quite a feat. She was from the street - uneducated and unpolished. She couldn't have worked out of exclusive hotels or for an elite escort service. She couldn't have had too many thousand dollar paydays.
Brandi and her daughter gossiped in the backseat like they were sisters. They talked about an upcoming dance and one of the teachers. But mostly they gossiped about a social world populated with girls named Megan, Danielle, Stephanie, Vanessa and Jade.
When we arrived at the school, a Mansion overlooking the bay, Brandi paid and thanked me but her daughter ignored my thanks with a look of destain.
They walked toward the front door still gossiping when two teenage girls, walking from another direction, waved. It might've been Vanessa and Jade. The daughter gave a big smile, waved back and started walking quickly toward them.
Brandi also picked up her pace to keep in step. The daughter suddenly turned and gave her mother a look - embarrassment covering a hint of that destain. "What are you doing?" It asked.
Brandi stopped while her daughter turned and ran to greet her friends.
Brandi lit a cigarette and watched them disappear through the doorway.
As I drove off, she was wandering slowly back and forth near the top of the hill, smoking and glancing from the Mansion to the bay.