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Pulling my blanket up, I try to get comfortable on the couch. I’ve barely left my apartment the past week, and honestly, I’ve been too sick to care. Most mornings, I have my head in the toilet while vomiting everything I ate in the last twelve hours. It comes out a putrid green color, and I feel even more nauseated after I finish. Then I lie on my couch, dozing for hours, until eating dinner. Then, it’s back to the couch for more dozing, and frankly, days have passed this way in a blur. Clearly, I’m missing work but I don’t care because I don’t care about anything anymore. The entire world is grey as I stare listlessly at the TV on the wall.

A loud knock sounds on my door, and I know who it is. After all, Alana’s been texting me furiously for days now, but I’ve been ignoring her. She threatened to come here in person after the last text an hour ago, and I guess she’s followed through on her word. I sigh, throwing my blanket off before stalking over to the door to yank it open.

Alana’s hand is in the air, getting ready to knock again. Her curls are in a messy bun on top of her head, and she looks like she’s been shouting with how red her face is.

“It’s about damn time,” she huffs, pushing past me into my apartment. My friend stops dead in her tracks and looks around at the trash and take out containers discarded on the coffee table, not to mention the empty pizza boxes strewn all over the kitchen counter. “Michelle, what the hell’s going on?”

“I’m just having a bad couple days,” I mumble, climbing back onto the couch under my blanket. “Leave me alone.”

She throws me a look.

“This is more than a bad couple days. This place is a pigsty. Have you even tried to clean up?”

I roll my eyes.

“It’s just trash. There’s no moldy food or anything, so don’t freak out.”

Alana lets out an exasperated sigh and sits down next to me. But then her gaze softens as she takes in my raggedy appearance.

“It’s not just the apartment that looks like it’s falling apart. Are you okay, hon? I was getting worried.”

I take a deep shuddering breath, and then to my mortification tears begin to roll down my cheeks all over again. I thought I was done with the crying part, but I guess not.

“Remember I told you about Ben? And how amazing he was?”

She nods gently.

“Yes, and how you were falling for him. Why, what did he do?”

My lower lip trembles.

“Well, long story short, it was all a lie. He’s an undercover cop and he just wanted to use me to infiltrate some Russian mafia ring where they were trafficking women. Apparently, he needed a slutty woman on his arm to fool the Russians into believing he was just like them so he could bust them.”

Alana starts, her eyes wide.

“Holy shit! Are you serious?”

I nod miserably.

“Yeah. He picked me because I’m so nasty that he figured I’d fit right in. So there’s that.”

Alana shakes her head slowly.

“But you were a part of a police sting? Am I getting this right?”

I nod, still forlorn.

“Yes. Oh god.” I wrap my hands over my mouth to hold in my sobs. “I just can’t believe he used me like that.”

Alana scoots over closer and puts her arm around my shoulders, and then starts rubbing small calming circles on my back while making soothing noises.

“Shh, it’s going to be okay. This is a lot to process, definitely.”

I raise tear-stained eyes to her face.

“But it’s humiliating right? I mean, he’s a UC. All along, I thought he was a billionaire, but we went to his apartment, and he’s a regular guy. Not only that, but Ben chose me because I’m uninhibited. You know what I do for a living, but I’m out there, even for Club Z. I guess that made me perfect for his purposes.”

Alana nods, her mind still trying to process.

“Yeah, this is a lot to throw on anyone, but at least he’s normal,” she offers. “I mean, we’re always so excited when a guy’s quote-unquote ‘normal’ in this city of crazies.”

I snort.

“I guess.”

Alana nods again, still thinking.

“But how do you feel about it?”

I raise my head again.

“Isn’t it obvious? I was used! I feel terrible!”

My friend nods, chewing things over in her mind.

“Of course anyone would feel used in your shoes. But at the same time, it sounds like he was doing his job, right? I mean, you guys busted a sex trafficking ring, right?”

I nod.

“Yeah, it was at this huge mansion in Long Island. It was crazy, Laney. There were girls on pedestals, and they were up for sale.”

My friend goggles sat me.

“Holy shit.”

I nod. “I know, right? Ben said they’d been following at least one of the girls for at least a year, and that she was likely kidnapped and sold into sexual slavery. It was like out of a movie.”

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