Leave behind family and friends and go alone to a distant city is not easy, but Yoongi felt he needed to do it. Even though his twenty-three years of life did not seem to be enough to teach him to face the world, and especially how to survive in it, his motives were greater than his fears.
Several people were there with him inside the bus, but still it was a lonely trip. He tried to relax to the sound of hip-hop music that rang through his earphones and not think of his mother's sad and worried countenance as she watched him go. He was still only a few miles from home, but the longing was beginning to increase.
That was a long trip, the kind that could be done using an airplane, but Yoongi did not have the money for it. He had no money for almost anything. He was walking away from home indefinitely, but he did not carry many things with him, just a single suitcase with his favorite clothes and shoes, nothing too different from the black, white, and gray color pattern. His backpack was even emptier, carrying only a few personal documents, toiletries, and most importantly the address of the place he was heading to.
Yoongi was heading towards a whole new world for him, with places and people he did not know. What made him less worried was that he could count on the help of Namjoon, a friend of many years, but who unfortunately would not be waiting for him at the bus station because of his work schedule.
It was late at night when Yoongi found himself walking the streets of the city so immense and modern compared to the little town in which he lived for all those years. Hurried people passed him, elegant, huge buildings caught his eye. All that tumult typical of a big metropolis was only a confirmation that he had made the right decision when leaving his mother's house.
It was still too early for him to try and take the subway and get to know or get lost in that city that did not look cozy, but which would be his home from there, so Yoongi preferred to take a taxi and go to the address where Namjoon was waiting for him. He mentally thanked the driver for not taking too long to get there. The weariness caused by that long journey was already beginning to show the first signs in his body and he felt that only a warm bath could relieve him. However, Yoongi feared he might have to wait a little longer to finally rest, since in that building he was staring at in a frightened way, he would not only find his friend, but also probably the person who would be his future boss. Yoongi had moved to that city just for a job opportunity, but he hoped he would not have to start work that night.
After a few long seconds just staring at the discreet facade of the old-fashioned two-story building, Yoongi once again analyzed the situation in which he was involved. He knew that by the time he opened that black glass door and entered the building, it would be harder for him to turn back. It was then that he took a deep breath and with confident steps approached the door, not hesitating to open it.
Yoongi was not sure what to expect from that place, but he certainly had not imagined that upon entering it he would find himself in a cozy atmosphere, where men and women of various ages and diverse looks chatted amicably to the sound of soft music while enjoying of drinks and appetizers that in the face of Yoongi's hunger seemed to be even more delicious. He walked slowly around the large hall, watching everything around him. Yoongi was able to conclude that as Namjoon had told him, District 69 looked just like any typical expensive pub or restaurant.
The fact that Yoongi did not know exactly where to go, plus the looks of men and women who uninhibitedly looked him from head to toe, made everything even more distressing. He did not know if they were showing any interest in him or if they were just surprised to see him carrying a suitcase in a place like that. Although he had gone to pubs and restaurants, Yoongi had never been to upscale, expensive places. He felt insecure about how he should walk and act. To his relief it was not long before he caught sight of Namjoon typing something on the computer located on what appeared to be some kind of reception desk.
"You!" Namjoon said excitedly as he realized who was approaching him. "How was the trip?"
"It was tiring," Yoongi answered honestly as he greeted his friend.
"I'll keep this here with me for now," Namjoon said, already taking Yoongi's suitcase and hiding it behind the counter. “My shift ends soon. Do you mind waiting for me a little bit? I can ask them to serve you something to eat in the meantime.”
Yoongi nodded quickly and thanked him for his kindness, for thinking of his well-being in the face of all the chores and demands that came to the front desk. Not wanting to take more time from his friend, he searched the nearest table and picked up the menu. The faster he ordered, the faster he would satisfy his hunger. Despite this, it still took him a few minutes to decide what he would buy. The problem was not lack of choice, but lack of money. There were dishes of complicated names, which Yoongi did not even know what it was about, but there were also those simpler and pleasing to most people, such as potato chips, but the price of both was more than Yoongi was willing to pay. He then discreetly set the menu aside, ignoring the noises in his stomach and pretending that nothing had been to his liking.
He was typing a short message on his cell phone, just to warn his family that he had arrived well, when he noticed a waiter putting a reddish-colored drink, decorated with various fruits on the table.
"I haven’t asked for anything yet," Yoongi said politely, averting his gaze from the cell phone screen for a moment, then typing again.
"It's a courtesy from that lady sitting next to that pot of flowers," the waiter explained in his calm, composed voice, making Yoongi immediately raise his head and look in the right direction.
Yoongi did not know what answer he should give in that kind of situation, especially when it came to his future workplace. Would the fair young woman consider rudeness if he refused that drink? But if he did, could she think he had ulterior motives? What was the attitude expected of his boss, whom he still did not even know?
"Please tell her that I appreciate the kindness, but I don't drink alcohol," Yoongi lied with an embarrassed smile. It did not seem like a good idea to introduce himself to his boss while he was drunk.
As the waiter made his way back to return the drink to the young woman who waited anxiously for an answer, Yoongi just smiled shyly at her, trying to demonstrate by that act that he was a well-mannered person.
"Are you sure you can work here?" Namjoon said in a low voice, taking his friend by surprise. He then sat down with a concerned expression. "You can’t even get a drink from a woman without being shy."
"That's not the point," Yoongi said seriously. "I just didn’t think it would be the right time for that."
At that, Namjoon shrugged, not so sure whether that was the truth or not.
"How is your mother… and your brother?"
"Little has changed," Yoongi replied visibly annoyed at the subject. "Are you ready to leave?"
"Yoongi, I don’t think this is the best choice. Maybe if I talk to my boss we can get you a job as a waiter or even for you to work at the front desk with me," Namjoon replied, preferring to ignore his friend's question.
“According to what you said if I accept this job I can earn in a single day what takes you a week to achieve.
"Yes, but…" Namjoon sighed deeply before continuing, "I didn’t think you'd really consider that option."
“I need money ... and quickly. I don’t think I have a chance to win the lottery or find a millionaire uncle, so ..." Yoongi paused for a moment as the worried expression on Namjoon's face was still there. "I know how to take care of myself, don’t worry. Besides, I'm the oldest. I'm the one who has to take care of you.”
With a subtle smile, Namjoon rose from the padded chair, realizing that it would be in vain to try to persuade Yoongi to change his mind, that decision had not been made overnight. Silently he started to walk towards the elevator and only after security confirmed that Yoongi was accompanying Namjoon, he was allowed to go upstairs.
All the fatigue and hunger gave way to nervousness. Yoongi could feel his hands getting sweaty, along with a slight malaise that was spreading in his belly. Although he had never worked in that business, he knew in a general way what he should do, but the details he did not know were what frightened him the most. He had to make a greater effort to keep his posture calm as ever.
Before opening the large wooden door that led to an office, Namjoon looked once more at his friend, seeking to confirm that he was ready, giving him one more chance to give up. But that did not happen, Yoongi just nodded confidently.
“I thought I wouldn’t see you today!” A shrill voice came from inside the office. “For a moment I thought your friend had changed his mind.”
“Yoongi, this is Hoseok. He'll be your... co-worker," Namjoon said quickly as the smiling young man greeted them.
"My name is Hoseok, but when we're in front of the customers you should call me J-Hope," Hoseok warned as he stared at the boy, assessing whether they could become friends or not. He hoped so. "I’m in charge of welcoming you as everyone else is busy with the big party."
"I forgot about this party," Namjoon grunted as he gestured for Yoongi to sit next to him. “I'll explain it to you later.”
As Hoseok searched for something in one of the office cabinets, Yoongi watched him closely. The boy's orange hair certainly attracted attention, but not as much as the broad smile he did not seem to get out of his face. Hoseok indicated that he was a happy person, and this somewhat reassured Yoongi, more than he would admit.
“Your profile has been traced based on the information you sent by email, after you sign the contract Namjoon will enroll you in the system and you will be ready to receive your first customers,” Hoseok explained to Yoongi while delivering a copy of the contract to he read and sign.
"Here it is written that my job is as a waiter," Yoongi said a little suspiciously.
"What did you want it written on? Gigolo? Prostitute?” Hoseok laughed, "That's just a way to fool the police and stuff. Also, make things easier if you want to get another job.”
"You don’t have to worry, this contract guarantees you some rights and exposes the rules here, for example, the duty to keep confidential," Namjoon tried to reassure Yoongi, who read the few pages of the contract and confirmed that fact was true.
"I noticed you're bisexual," Hoseok said suddenly causing Yoongi to immediately stop reading the contract. It was then that he realized that the orange-haired boy had in hand the form he had sent to the company. "But you've marked that you don’t want to bottoming… you're losing money, man."
"I tried it once, but it didn’t went well," Yoongi confessed, immediately appalled that he had talked about something personal with someone he had just met. It did not match his introverted personality.
"I kind of understand you. Unfortunately I'm straight, so I end up losing some clients too ...”
"You're the first person I hear complaining about being straight..." Yoongi smiled.
“I wanted to be able to have one of those powerful orgasms that the guys tell me, but this ass can’t take anything ... I can’t feel horny. Also, seeing another naked guy is not one of the most enjoyable visions for me," Hoseok admitted as he watched Namjoon's cheeks blushing more and more. "That guy has been working at this whorehouse for months and is still a virgin. It should be the first and only case in the world.”
Hearing that, Yoongi turned to Namjoon, who was even more embarrassed, just shaking his hands, as if imploring them to come back to talk about anything but him and his sex life or the absence of it. So, Yoongi respected the will of his friend and after a few seconds of hesitation, he finally signed the contract.
"I'll leave the contract with the boss, and tomorrow someone will give you the copy of the contract signed by her," Hoseok said as he carefully stored the documents in a briefcase. “Namjoon, I think you can already log Yoongi's information into the system.”
"Who's in charge here is a woman?" Yoongi asked in surprise. "What kind of system is that?"
"Yeah, our boss is a woman, she seems to be sweet and fragile, but don’t make her angry or you'll regret it," Namjoon replied as he sat down in the chair where Hoseok had been sitting previously, so he could have access to the computer that was on the table. “In this system, we enter your personal information and preferences, and also your earnings and your customers. This makes it easy to send someone to you.” When he noticed Yoongi's suspicious gaze, he continued, "Don’t worry, all your information is safe here. I assure you.”
After a few minutes of waiting for Namjoon to finish doing his job, Hoseok remembered something very important. "We can’t keep calling you by your real name. Do you have a nickname?”
"No ... I've never had one," Yoongi replied thoughtfully. He knew he needed a nickname to be able to preserve his identity in that place, but at that moment all his creativity had disappeared. Maybe it was fatigue ... or hunger.
“Suga!” Hoseok exclaimed, smiling happily. "You have pale-white skin like sugar and besides ... you have a sweet smile.”
That was true. Yoongi had a serious way and a look that intimidated people, a deep, masculine voice that attracted attention, but the few times he smiled, his face lit up, he looked a few years younger and all that cockness disappeared in the air.
"I like it," Yoongi said politely, thus authorizing Namjoon to fill out the form.
"The company has its rules, but you can also create yours," Namjoon warned.
"I don't deal with illicit drugs or anything else that could be considered a crime. I don't do anything without a condom and I also prefer to avoid clients with bizarre tastes," Yoongi answered without hesitation. He didn't know if those boundaries would be respected or not, but he felt he had to impose himself from the beginning.
"What would be a bizarre taste to you?" Hoseok asked suddenly. “For some people even sucking someone else toes is bizarre.”
“No, these things I deal well ... now when it comes to things like brown shower level ...”
"Brown shower?" Namjoon asked in surprise.
“Google it,” Yoongi and Hoseok replied simultaneously, but noticing their facial expression, Namjoon was no longer so sure if he wanted to find out what they were talking about.
“What about you? What are your rules?” Yoongi asked Hoseok, who even though seemed to be the same age as him, had more experience on the subject.
"Nothing big... but the main thing is that I never get involved with a client. Fall in love with any of them? Never!”
"It makes sense," Yoongi said more to himself than to the others. "I'm going to adopt that rule, too.”
When everything was done, Namjoon insisted on accompanying Yoongi to his room. This was a mission that had been confided to Hoseok, but he felt he should not leave his friend's side, even though he seemed so calm about the whole situation. Unlike the sex workers, Namjoon did not live on the premises of District 69, he had his own apartment, which he shared with another guy. Even though he lived away from work, he did not mind coming home later that day.
After leaving the office, the three boys went to the front desk to retrieve Yoongi's suitcase, and then walked to a very discreet white wooden door that camouflaged itself on the equally white wall. This door led to a narrow corridor that led to a stairway covered by a beige carpet. It looked a lot like an emergency exit just a bit more sophisticated. After climbing all the steps and reaching another door, Yoongi realized that this was indeed an emergency exit, but it was linking the pub to the District 69’s prostitution house.
"All sex workers live and serve clients in this building," Hoseok explained as they waited for the elevator. "But to outsiders, it's just a residential building like any other.”
As he looked around, Yoongi could understand why. Unlike the pub that had warmer tones, turned to red and black, that building was simpler and neutral in color with no indication of what actually happened there. The flowers arranged in the vases that adorned the corridors or in the paintings hung on the walls gave to the ambience an aura so domestic that bordered the corny. Yoongi could perfectly imagine an old woman with glasses and gray hair coming out of one of those doors.
It was not long before they got to the third floor. Yoongi was not sure what his new home would look like, but from what he had seen up to that point he felt that it would certainly be more comfortable than any property he could afford with the money he got from his old job as delivery boy.
"Apartment 304," Hoseok said with a smile as he handed the keys to Yoongi to open the door. “Mine is 502, if you need anything just go there, but remember to check at the front desk if I'm with a client.”
"He rests in the morning, so it's easier to find him alone and awake in the afternoon," Namjoon added. “I stay at the reception desk all night.”
Yoongi listened to everything carefully as he watched the apartment he would move into and work on, which sounded a little strange to him. Just as he had imagined, the interior of the apartment maintained the neutral tones of the building and was composed of two bedrooms, a bathroom and a small room that housed the living room and a small kitchen.
"In this room you serve your customers and in that other you use to sleep and store all your things," Hoseok explained as he opened the doors and showed all the rooms.
"This bed is a lot bigger and it seems to be a lot more comfortable than the one in the room where I should sleep," Yoongi said intrigued. "Cann’t I sleep here when I'm out of clients?"
"You can ... but I don’t think you'll want to," Hoseok said with a smile from who knew very well what was talking about. “You can use the fridge, but the first two shelves are for things that can be served to customers. More expensive things are charged separately.”
Seeing that the refrigerator contained mostly alcoholic beverages, Yoongi made a mental note to go to the nearest grocery store and buy some things for him. Feeding himself at District 69 was out of the question, however practical it was, it was much more expensive.
"Only rich people frequent this place?" Yoongi asked as he noted that everything in the refrigerator was one of the most expensive brands. Things he had never eaten in his life.
"No, but only rich people agree to pay triple the price for ice cream," Hoseok replied promptly.
“Who the hell pays to get laid and waste time eating ice cream?” Namjoon asked visibly intrigued, causing Yoongi to realize that his friend was not very familiar with that work environment, perhaps because he had started working there a few months ago or simply for not leaving the reception desk so often.
"Some customers throw the ice cream on their bodies and tell me to eat," Hoseok replied looking at Yoongi. “The chocolate chip one is my favorite.”
"Now it makes more sense," Yoongi said thoughtfully.
“Oh, I have to show you something important!” Hoseok said raising his voice, as if he had just remembered what he was about to say. He asked Yoongi to follow him back to the bedroom and then took a small object from the drawer of the nightstand.
"There are still people who use pagers these days?" Yoongi said with a mocking smile. “That's so 90's.”
"This can save your life," Namjoon said in a serious voice, making Yoongi's smile disappear instantly.
"If you have any problems and need help, press this button and the security guards will come here," Hoseok explained. It was the first time Yoongi had seen Hoseok without a smile on his face and with such a serious expression. “If your pager shows a room number, go there if you can, maybe you can get there before the security guards.”
“Has this button been used many times?” Yoongi asked worriedly.
"More than I would like," Hoseok confessed. "But for the few months I've been here I've never seen anything very serious happen."
It was the first time since his arrival at District 69 that Yoongi had a clear signal of possible dangers involving that world that was still so unknown to him. "I hope I never have to use that pager," he said, scanning the object in his hands.
"I also hope this never happens," Namjoon said in a low voice, side-hugging him.
"Well, you must be tired," Hoseok exclaimed, preferring to alleviate the tension in the room. "Since you can’t start working yet, because of the pending contracts, rest a little. Tomorrow I'll come back here to explain to you more about the job and to take you to the clinic.”
“Clinic?” Yoongi asked worriedly. “I already sent my exams by email, confirming that I don’t have any STDs.”
“You’ll have to repeat these exams often. Before serving the customer you must show a copy for them. Some ignore this, but others read every detail.”
Shortly after receiving some more brief guidance from Namjoon and Hoseok, who soon went to their respective homes, Yoongi found himself alone again. He was so tired that he did not even bother to take off his shoes or change his clothes, he just threw himself on the bed and picked up the cell phone that was in the pocket of his pants.
"Hey, Yejun ... is mom awake?" He asked before looking at the clock on the bedside table.
"Yes she is. Do you want to talk to her?”
"Wait, I'll turn on the camera," Yoongi said hastily. When he finally could see the face of his mother, a sweet smile formed on his lips. “Hi, mom ... how are you feeling today?”
"I'm fine son, don’t worry," Eunji replied in a weak voice. That did not seem to be a very convincing response, especially from someone in a hospital bed. "The doctors said that if I keep going this well, I'll be able to take the surgery soon."
“That's great news,” Yoongi replied trying hard to control the urge to cry. It was hard to keep calm, seeing the woman he loved most in the world being so weak, so fragile. "Listen, I talked to my boss, and the payment here is really good. I'll be able to send some money to you next week.”
"Thank you, dear," Eunji said in a voice filled with emotion, "I am so sad to see you and your brother having to sacrifice so much for me. If only your father were alive ...”
"It's no sacrifice, mom. While Yejun is there to take care of you, I will stay here working to help with money. That's the least we can do for you," Yoongi replied without any hesitation. "In the meantime try to just keep taking care of yourself and following the medical guidelines so you can get well as fast as you can.”
"You can trust me," Eunji replied, smiling sweetly, before sending a kiss to his son. “Take care and show a good service ... I know this is the way you are, but at least try to show a smile to the customers. When they notice that you are kind, they will treat you better and maybe even give you a generous tip.”
"Don’t worry, mom. I'll be the best waiter this place has ever had," Yoongi said with a forced smile. He hated lying, especially lying to his own mother, but he had no choice.
Would she treat him just as affectionately if she found the truth about his job? Would she be hurt even if she knew his main motivation was to help her with medical expenses? He did not know the answers to those questions and was very scared to discover them.