Allison applies mostly out of boredom. Her applications at Target, Walmart, Vons, and every single store in the mall have all been completely ignored, thrown in a drawer “to look at later,” or rejected. With her father breathing down her neck about getting a job and her mother making cutting remarks about her phone bill and car payment at each family dinner, Allison really only had so much to lose.
It turns out that she completely disregarded how many girls her age, nineteen, fresh out of high school and already hating adult life, would consider working in a sex shop.
Well, Allison corrects herself as she helps a forty year old woman adjust the shoulder straps on a silky red number, it's more of a lingerie store than a sex shop. That's what her manager, Jennifer, told her anyway, despite the large assortment of vibrators, strap ons, dildos, and other various sex objects stacked against walls and on displays around the shop.
There's even a backroom with videos ranging from cut and dry vanilla all the way to some aggressive, yet safe and consensual, BDSM. The hardcore stuff is kept in the way back of the room, as to not scare newbies and make them run for the door.
All in all, it's actually a very classy joint. Allison expected lots of bizarre looks and maybe some aggressive sexual confrontations, but honestly, she got more flirting when she was sixteen and worked at a burger joint for a summer. Despite how many pictures of genitalia she gets to look at a day, the job is actually the least sexy thing in the world.
Allison will usually stand behind the counter, playing Candy Crush on her phone until it's nine am. and all the little girls and boys of the world are safely in school, learning about addition and writing. Morning shift is actually Allison's favorite to work, because the take no shit mom's who haven't had an orgasm in ten years are actually the easiest customers.
She gets all sorts of request, from the sigh filled, “I need something that doesn't look like a goddamn toy so my nosy six year old won't decide it's a fish and flush it down the toilet again,” to a desperate “Give me something that's completely silent. I swear I will pay you any price you want as long as it's silent and powerful.”
Ladies in mom jeans are determined young things, and god help you if you get between them and their vibrators.
The only annoyance, albeit a small one, of her job is the first timers, the ones who will sneak into the shop with their shoulders hunched, eyes averted as she checks their ID, who pretend to look at the books and lube before finally bucking up the courage and walking toward the vibrators. Allison will usually just watch them quietly out of the corner of her eye until they get this look on their face, like they're finally ready to accept that they're in a sex shop, before wandering over and helping out.
Mothers and grandmothers tend to breeze in, announcing exactly what they want, be it quicker sex or longer sex, an easy orgasm or a long lasting one. These women have been vetted through time and know exactly how to be open about sex through years of having it. They know a proper orgasm is their right and they know exactly how to get it. It's the younger ones who tend to be uncertain and timid, proof that the confident women of the world sometimes need to start out as nervous before growing into a powerhouse ready to take down the world.
(Allison's become increasingly more of a feminist during her time at the shop. She thinks it's the fault of her manager.)
She's always prepared to help the usual suspects: the woman with a newborn looking to get her husband to understand that there's more to life than blow jobs, the middle aged man who comes in to buy their biggest tube of lube once a month with a giant smile on his face, and a sixty year old women who rang up over two hundred dollars in vibrators and nodded, saying, “I think that will be just enough, dear.”
The shop is quiet this morning, though. Allison finishes elegantly wrapping the lingerie with a bow and a smile, asking the woman, “Would you like a fee copy of our magazine? The men in it are really cute.”
The woman pauses thoughtfully before shaking her head, “I'm afraid my husband would feel the need to buy some late at night As Seen on TV workout equipment if he caught me looking at abs, unfortunately.”
Allison laughs and puts the magazine back, making a quick comment about men and their egos.
The phone rings as the women leaves the shop, calling over her shoulder that she'll be back soon for that adorable nurse outfit they tried on earlier. Allison puts on her most sincerely fake smile and answers the phone with her customary, “This is Her Desir e, what can I do to make your day brighter?”
Somedays, Allison wants to kill her manager.
There's a giggle, and Allison fears for a group of high school boys calling as a prank when she hears, “I love calling you when you're working. You should really start answering your phone that way.”
Allison relaxes out of her happy-shop-assistant stance and into something more casual, leaning against the counter with an arm crossed over her torso, “Lydia,” she smiles, “You're the worst. Ever.”
Allison informally met Lydia on her fourth day of work, when the redhead came storming into the store, a frown on her face and phone clutched tight in her hand.
Lydia walked right up to the counter, slammed her ID on it, and said “I need the biggest dildo you have,” with such an innocent smile that Allison was sure the pope himself would arrive and help her pick out something.
It took almost two hours and a lot of searching through the storage room, but Allison finally found the biggest, thickest silicone dildo she had ever seen. It even came with a vibrating option, which surprised Allison. The thing was as thick as her bicep and it's balls looked bigger than her palm. Allison looked at the dildo in her hand and the tiny girl in front of her, wondering: 1) how her life ended up this way and 2) would it even fit inside of this girl?
Lydia assured her it was fine. Right after Allison rang it up, Lydia reached across the counter and grabbed a giant sharpie and a pair of scissors. She carefully snipped off the cord connecting to the remote and wrote JACKSON in thick, black letters across the shaft.
After she was finished, Lydia looked up into Allison's shocked face and asked, “Do you know where the nearest pet store is?”
The encounter scarred her for weeks.
She formally met Lydia a few months later, although she was still on her guard when the petite girl walked into her store.
They talked for a bit and Lydia apologized to Allison for traumatizing her.
“My boyfriend of five years had just broken up with me over an email and I might have overreacted,” Lydia told her, slumping against the counter like saying “I'm sorry” was a physically painful act.
Allison wanted to ask what the hell had happened to Jackson the Dildo but refrained to instead say, “You seriously have nothing to be sorry for. That guy sounds like a major douche bag.”
“Oh he is,” Lydia smiled sadly, “That's what I liked about him, you know? Since I'm kind of a bitch, we just fit together.”
Allison had already learned that her job stretched far beyond the realm of sales. She was a therapist without a degree, listening earnestly as customers told her about what they liked in bed, what their partner liked in bed, a fantasy they'd never told anyone about before. Their confessions would usually start with rosy cheeks, a giggle, and a whispered, “Don't laugh, but...”
Allison listened attentively as Lydia went on about this Jackson, about how they dated in high school and he was the only one who was able to put up with her queen bee exterior and she was the only girl with enough power to get him to focus and apply himself.
Lydia's voice had raised volume closer to the end of her tirade, “And just because I decided not to go to London with him I'm at fault? I'm the one who's stupid and silly for not wanting to go to college in a foreign country? He didn't even have a scholarship! His dad just flashed some money and he left!”
Allison made all the right sympathetic noises and patted Lydia on the shoulder, “Seriously, you deserve way better than that dick bag.”
After that, Lydia seemed to pull herself together enough to show Allison pictures of Jackson the Dildo. He's resting innocently enough in what looks to originally be a guinea pigs cage, porn magazines ripped to shreds to make the lining of it. There's a water bottle, a hut, and an empty food bowl. Allison thinks the dildo even had a collar.
Jackson the Dildo is truly living in the lap of luxury.
Allison had gotten very adept at schooling her face into something that isn't shocked or horrified at this point in her career and smiled kindly at Lydia, mentally picturing the girl wearing a leather Dominatrix outfit with a crop in her hand. Allison had shifted, willing the image to go away.
Lydia left the store that day with two tiny bullet vibrators at half price, an invisible weight lifted off of her chest, and a small, free, bottle of lubricant that's supposed to be used to shoot out of specific dildos in some version of ejaculation.
“For Jackson's dinner,” Allison had smiled as she dropped it in the bag, making Lydia laugh so beautifully that Allison's entire body felt warm.
Ever since then, Lydia's stopped by during her lunch hour to harass Allison into talking to her. After a month of this technique, Allison can safely say they're friends.
“I know, I know,” Lydia now says flippantly, and Allison can picture her waving her hands in the air, “I was just calling to let you know I sent a client you're way. He's planning a special night for his wife and I told him you'd be more than happy to help him out.”
Allison bites her lip, staring out the tinted windows to down the street, where a flower stem is being used as an L in the words Forever Flowers on a window. There's a middle aged man walking determinedly down the street toward her store.
Ever since she's found out that Allison gets payed off of her hours and commission, Lydia's been giving costumers referrals during Allison's hours. Allison shakes her head, wanting to tell Lydia that she's great, that she's amazing, that Allison has never known anyone as kind as her.
Instead she just quietly says, “You really didn't have to do that Lydia. I don't want you getting in trouble.”
“Please,” Lydia breezes, “I'm the only one in this store that knows the meaning of each flower. Like hell are they going to fire me. He needed something to do while I work on his bouquet anyway. Besides,” she adds as an afterthought, “I'm only working here for two more months.”
Allison's stomach sinks at the reminder of the upcoming date. Lydia will be going back to MIT in the fall to complete her associates degree, and then immediately move onto her bachelors. Allison hasn't even started applying yet and Lydia's almost done.
Allison looks around the store, wondering if she's going to be thirty years old and still selling vibrators.
There's the sound of a bell ringing, which can't be her store because Jennifer thinks bells over doors are a nuisance, and Lydia quickly whispers, “I'll be over in half an hour. Take care of Harold for me!”
Allison hangs up just as Harold walks in.
As she listens to Harold's fantasy involving a very romantic dinner, a butt plug, nipple clamps, and a strap on, Allison wonders what it's like at Lydia's store, only knowing the softer side of romance where you buy flowers and make reservations as opposed to letting someone do some rather wicked things to you.
When Harold's done describing some rather intricate and porn inspired positions, Allison calmly grabs a trusty diagram from under the counter and begins to explain to Harold that it would probably be a bad idea to start out with such big sizes on his first time and helps him pick out some small starter plugs and a six inch strap on in red for his wife. She also gets him to downgrade the spiky nipple clamps he'd been looking at to a softer model with feathers which have the added bonus of being feather teasers.
“I just want to make sure you're going to be safe,” Allison smiles at him as she hands him a book and rings up his order, “Don't rush into anything or else you or your partner could risk getting hurt.”
Harold smiles sheepishly back at her, “Thank you. My wife and I really appreciate this. We've been talking about doing this forever but we never...”
Allison shrugs and hands him his receipt, “I'm here to help. Just make sure to look into it more and read that book, alright? We're having a sale in a few weeks. Come back in, bring your wife, and we'll get you some bigger sizes,” She carefully wraps up everything, pretending to not see how Harold's cheeks are mildly flushed and his eyes appear to be slightly more wet than they were when he came in. Allison adds, as gentle as she can, “We're here to help you.”
There's a lot some people don't understand about Allison's work. It's not just about sex. It's about helping people become more comfortable with their bodies and their desires, about helping them overcome the deep seeded shame society has drilled into them about what's between their legs. It's about getting them to understand that it's okay as long as everything is safe, sane, and consensual.
Allison never really thought she would be so passionate about sex products, but here she is handing a thirty year old man a bag full of sex toys and hoping that it'll help him feel a little bit better about himself and the world.
The store is dead so Allison dicks around and goes over their inventory, making notes to order more stock and such. Her mom text her to ask her if she's going to be home in time for dinner, but Allison ignores the text.
She's been working at the store for three months and her mom still hasn't been very accepting of it. In the beginning, Allison told her parents she was working retail at a store downtown. They didn't care to ask beyond that, since they were equally unimpressed that she'd been looking since she graduated high school and that was all she could find.
Allison's mother actually figured it out when she came to buy a small wireless vibe and Allison had to check her out.
They haven't talked about it since Allison got home that night. Victoria yelled at her, asking how that would look on her application, asked if she was even thinking about her future, told her what everyone thinks of those kind of people.
Victoria has since apologized and Allison uses her employees discount whenever her mother comes in, which Allison hopes has become more recent in some strange, supportive gesture, but things have been tense since then.
Thank god her father doesn't know.
The door opens just as Allison finishes blowing up a displayed blowup doll. Lydia's face twist at the doll in her hands, but Allison is sure that Lydia has caught her in more compromising positions and doesn't think twice about it.
She leans the doll against the rest of the boxes and adjust the price sign before heading back to the counter.
Lydia already has her ID out, eyes in a perfect roll as she watches Allison look at it.
Allison knows how old Lydia is, knows she looks absolutely adorable in her drivers license despite Lydia's claim that it's horrible, but it's the law to check each time someone comes into the store. Jennifer would have her head if Allison made an exception.
Lydia has sushi from a little hole in the wall a block over, and Allison has to open a few windows to make sure the smell of fish doesn't stay on the lingerie. She gives Lydia a dirty look and the girl just rolls her eyes.
“Artificial lube is better than flowers all day,” Lydia tells her, grumbling as she uses her chopsticks perfectly, “I swear, some people don't even care about what smells good. They just want the aesthetic.”
Allison shrugs, “We have the same problem. This morning a women wanted a completely silent vibe but she said it was too ugly. She ended up buying a rabbit pearl that sounded like death.”
Lydia shakes her head sadly, “Ah, the joys of working in customer service.”
She goes back to eating her rolls, chopsticks poised ever so perfectly above her plate. Allison watches for a few seconds before looking away, playing with her phone for lack of something better to do.
The store is dead pretty often, which is why Allison appreciates Lydia always popping over on her break. There's usually not much to do besides arrange displays and mess around on her phone. Sometimes Allison tries on corsets or reads the yelp reviews for their store to pass the time.
“God,” Lydia groans, shocking Allison out of her reverie, “I hate working menial jobs like this. I can't wait to get back to school, you know?”
Allison nods blankly, ignoring the fact that she doesn't know. Allison fights the urge to fret about her future, about what college she's going to go to, about what she's going to do for the rest of her life and instead opens up the Candy Crush app on her phone.
Lydia seems to notice the change in her and stops, eyes widening. She looks at Allison and assures, “You'll figure something out. You're really determined, like, look at what you've done to this place! Before you got hired, this was such a sketchy store, and now it's one of the classiest in the town.”
Allison may or may not puff up at that, remembering how dark the store had seemed the first time she walked into it, how shy she was and how scarey talking about sex with strangers seemed.
“You just say that because I give you discounts on vibes,” Allison scoffs, trying to lighten the mood.
Lydia instantly brightens, “Speaking of which! You, young lady, promised me a great deal on a new toy today.”
Allison nods, pretending to ignore the way Lydia's tone changed ever so slightly, and waves her hand around the store, “Go, get your orgasm machine.”
Most girls Lydia's age come into the store shy and unknowing, but the second time Lydia came in, she knew exactly what she wanted and which products were safest for her. Allison didn't have to do any explaining, save for pointing out where in the store the product is.
It's always an experience watching Lydia hop up and walk around the store, fingers tracing over packages and mouthing the names to herself, as if she's able to learn everything about it through touch. Allison tries not to stare too much. It's usually not a problem for her, since she's pretty much always around sex she's become desensitized to it, but it's different with Lydia.
It's not hard liking girls and being in a sex charged environment. It's not like Allison goes bra shopping and is unable to stop herself from drooling at models or leering at girls holding up bras. Men who can't control themselves are just weak, Allison decided long ago.
Sometimes, it's just hard to watch Lydia pick up a toy and not imagine her using it on herself. Allison usually feels bad after, because Lydia trust her with her sex toys. It's like being a therapist. She can't just go off and imagine having sex with her client while they're telling her their life story.
Allison shakes her head, willing away the train of thought and all of the passengers on it away.
Lydia makes her way back ten minutes later, an armful of small vibrators in her arms. She lays them out on the counter, humming as she starts to narrow them down.
“Do you ever think how weird it is that we work on completely opposite ends of the romance spectrum?” Lydia asks, hair curled around one finger as she ponders the pros and cons between a Lelo Alia and a Tango Bullet.
Allison shrugs, “Not really. I'd be horrible at selling flowers. Get the Tango, the sale doesn't cover Lelo's.”
Lydia practically pouts and Allison wants to get out her wallet and buy the Alia for her. But. Therapist. Allison wills her hands to stay on the counter and not scrounge through her purse.
“Fine,” Lydia says, shoving the rest of the boxes at Allison unmercifully. “Get to work or else I'll tell your manager you've been slacking.”
Allison raises her eyebrows, “You haven't even met Jennifer.”
“Of course I have. Comes in three times a month. She loves roses but will not shut up about serpents underneath them. She's a major Macbeth fan.”
Allison sighs and starts collecting the boxes, shouting teasingly over her shoulder, “You better not try that out in the store!”
Lydia gives a snarky reply, but Allison is too busy ignoring Lydia's entire existence to listen.
It takes a few minutes to organize the shelves again, and then Allison decides to write up a quick sign to tell the mass public of vibe enthusiast who shop at Her Desire that Lelo and Picobong aren't included in the sale.
Allison understands the disappointment. Lelos are awesome, albeit very expensive.
When she returns to the counter, Allison finds that Lydia has twelve of their longest, neon glittered silicone dildos arranged artfully like a bouquet in a vase. After Jackson the Dildo, this doesn't even phase her.
“I sometimes wonder if you actually use any of these or if you just put them in Jackson's cage and pretend he eats them,” Allison comments as she rings up the Tango.
Lydia refuses to answer and Allison snorts.
Allison throws in a free bottle of lube, because lube is important and on the off chance that Lydia is actually using the toys she buys, Allison wants her to be comfortable, and starts wrapping it up for the bag.
Lydia makes a face, “Don't only sixty year old's need lube?”
Allison stops in her wrapping and eyes Lydia like she isn't sure if she's kidding or not, “Are you serious? Lube is a vagina or anus' best friend. How dare you. If more first timers understood the importance of lube, then there would be less bleeding or tearing during sex-”
Lydia cuts her off, “Calm down, Ms. Sex Positive, I was just making a joke.”
Allison looks at her critically. She has another three minutes of her lube speech fully prepared, but Lydia is smart enough to get into MIT on a scholarship and has been sexually active in the past. Allison decides to save the lecture for now.
Allison looks at the clock, biting her lip when she notices that Lydia only has ten more minutes of her lunch break left. She informs her of this, and Lydia's eyes practically bug out of her head.
“Are you serious? God. I hate working.”
Allison doesn't so much as spare Lydia a sympathetic glance.
Lydia hops up on the counter and starts eating again, “Hey, I don't think I've ever asked. When's your break?”
Allison shrugs, “Not for two more hours.”
Lydia bumps her ankle against Allison's thigh, “That sucks. Too bad we don't have lunch at the same time. We should get lunch together.”
Lydia bumps into Allison's leg again, giving Allison a look, like she wants Allison to agree.
There's eight minutes left to Lydia's break. The air feels tense, and Allison stands frozen, running the words through her mind again. Did Lydia just...? Lydia keeps staring at her, and Allison finally says hesitantly, “Or we could just get dinner sometime.”
The store is quiet for a long minute, even the noise of cars driving past outside seems to stop as she bites her lip, the question hanging in the air between them.
There's a puff of air, and Lydia laughs, “Oh thank god. Finally. Seriously, I've been dropping hints at you for weeks.”
Allison looks between the vase of dicks and Lydia, a silent question on her face.
Lydia, as predicted, remains silent.
“Why didn't you just ask me out yourself?” Allison asks her, thinking back to the last two months she's known Lydia and how she could have had more. She can't find it in herself to feel mad, just some strange feeling of loss that she can't explain.
Lydia shrugs, “Honestly? I read that it was rude to proposition sex shop workers. I didn't want you to think that I was just out looking for sex or a freak or something.
Allison once again looks between the dildos and Lydia, fighting the urge to bring up Jackson the Dildo.
“It's a beautiful centerpiece,” Lydia huffs indigently.
“Yes,” Allison agrees, “Very tasteful.”
Allison steps closer to Lydia, almost touching but not quite, not sure if she's ready to do that yet. “So,” Allison clarifies, “Dinner?”
Lydia leans forward and grips Allison's hips hard in her hands, tugging her forward so fast that Allison practically falls in between Lydia's thighs. Lydia presses a quick, chaste kiss to Allison's cheek, and nods, “Dinner.”
Jennifer finds them five minutes later, Allison's hands in Lydia's hair, Lydia's arms wrapped around Allison's waist and mouths otherwise preoccupied. Allison hopes she's able to excuse the vase full of dicks.