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One Night of Eden

In that moment, I shook hands with the universe and admitted defeat.

By Kelley SteadPublished about a year ago Updated about a year ago 18 min read

I met Eden in the summer, "summer" being far too kind a word to describe the blistering Florida heat, peppered by weeks of torrential rain. In some sort of metaphorical way, it was the perfect season to learn a lesson. And Eden ground that lesson into me, swiftly and harshly, like the rain pounds the shoreline.

She was karma, personified.

The Crazy Horse was a dump of a bikini bar. It wasn't quite a strip club, as the dancers were legally required to keep their tops on, though some refused to comply in the face of a hundred dollar bill. There was a stage at the front, complete with the phallic pole of olde, and a circular bar taking up the rest of the floor space. The bartender operated from the center, so patrons could watch her bustle about through a porous wall of liquor bottles.

A train ran parallel to the Horse, the tracks were the line between the good side of town and the broke side of town. You can guess which side it was on.

The back rooms smelled like mildew and when the summer rains hit, the roof of the dressing room leaked into tin buckets. The girls had to tip-toe in four-inch heels around the puddles that formed when the drizzle missed. Half of them had been there for years. The other half were like Eden, just passing through. On their way to bigger and better clubs. Real clubs.

I was nineteen that summer, a sheltered nineteen. I didn’t know there were better options than the Horse. I didn't know much of anything, except I wanted to be making money instead of sitting in college classrooms.

And I didn't want to take my top off while I did it.

The rain had let up for a moment, and that’s when Eden walked into the Horse. I saw her from my seat at the bar and watched as she asked the bartender where the office was. That meant she'd never worked there before. Not that it mattered. The owner, Bill, was a business man first and foremost, and there weren't any girls like Eden at the Horse.

She strode in with a pink designer duffle bag slung over her shoulder, and a pair of heels in her hand. She was wearing baggy sweats, flip flops, and her hair was wrapped up in a messy pile on her head. None of it disguised what she really had going on. Some people are just born lucky.

No one liked a new girl. Especially one that looked like Eden. I wondered if she could feel the other dancers' eyes on the back of her head. I wondered if she cared.

“Look at that,” said Lulu. She was forty-five and divorced, her husband had weaseled his way out of paying alimony . She never stopped complaining about it. “That girl don’t belong here.”

“Why?” I sipped my drink. No one cared if I was legal drinking age or not.

“You can just tell,” Lulu clicked her tongue in an act of disgust. “That one’s got her head so far up her ass, she could lick her nostrils clean.”

I grimaced at the image. “Gross, Lulu.”

I was drinking sex on the beaches that summer. My nineteen-year-old taste buds hadn’t evolved to whiskey or vodka. Juice was all I could really stomach, but the men didn’t pay twenty bucks for juice. Anyway, I thought I was real cool, sipping my sugary excuse for a drink, dressed only in a bikini and garter.

I watched Eden’s set in a state of hypnosis. She was graceful, almost acrobatic on the stage, not like the other girls who resorted to more animalistic forms of expression. She could do tricks and hold herself in crazy positions on the pole. Her hips were like water, every move was a part of the “act.”

Lulu was right. She didn’t belong here.

Two guys in dirty work shirts threw some singles on the stage and jeered. The DJ was playing some rock song from the late 80s about pouring sugar. There was no one to appreciate this new girl's skills, and she knew it.

When the set finished, Eden scooped up her meager earnings and to my surprise, walked to where I was sitting. She leaned against the bar, little beads of feminine sweat sitting on top of her makeup.

She smelled amazing.

“Can I get a gin tonic,” she asked the bartender, sweetly. “With a lime.”

Her eyelashes were long and fake, and her nose was the sort women chopped theirs up to look like.

“Hi there,” she said to me. “Eden.” She stuck out a pink manicured hand and I shook it. It was calloused, which surprised me.

“I’m Lilly,” I said.

“Lilly, that’s cute. Why Lilly?”

“It’s my favorite flower.” Immediately, I felt like a little kid next to this woman. A little girl who picked her stage name based on a pretty flower. So dumb. “Why Eden?”

“Like in the Bible,” she sipped her drink and I could smell the gin. “Now that was a woman who got what she wanted. Well, got a man to give it to her, anyway.”

“That was Eve. Eden was the garden.”

Eden’s eyelashes fluttered and she paused for a moment, looking me over. Then she burst out into laughter, the kind that came from your gut. It was bright, and confident.

“You're funny," she said. "What the hell are you doing in a place like this?"

"I do pretty good here," I said, defensive.

"What's pretty good?"

"Sometimes I make five hundred."

"Sometimes?" Eden’s eyebrows narrowed. "Girl, we gotta get you out of here." The gin tonic was downed in a second and she stood up, grabbing onto my arm. I snatched it away.

"What are you doing?"

"We're getting out of here. This place blows," her fingers went to my cheeks and she pinched them slightly. Her eyes were blue, and suddenly hyper-focused on mine. "You're better than this. You know that, don't you?"

That moment felt a little like drowning. Not gasping for breath, or sinking. It was like I was caught in a rainstorm. An Eden storm. I felt something brewing, and I was curious.

"I haven't paid my house fee tonight," I said.

"Who cares?" Eden smiled, a perfectly white smile, and that's where it began.


I had a beat-up green Mustang that summer. It was from the mid-nineties, just a little younger than me, and leaked water something terrible. There was more than one occasion I ended up on the side of the road, waiting for the radiator to cool so I could pour water into it.

I loved it anyway.

The seats were ripped and it smelled like mothballs, but Eden didn't seem to mind when she climbed into the passenger's seat. Her car was in the shop, she'd said, but she'd pay for gas, though I wouldn't need it. Her words.

I didn't ask where we were going, there was a sense of adventure in not knowing. I admit there was a bit of intimidation as well. There was something about her that was immovable, unreasonable. It seemed freeing and exciting, the teenage dream.

We took off toward the good side of town, and there was less and less I recognized. Signs on the interstate read "Airport", which didn't seem right, but I followed Eden's directions anyway, bypassing the terminals exit and getting off at the one right after.

"Where are we?" I finally asked.

"Look and see."

We rounded a corner and I saw the building. There was valet in the front, tall men in black dress shirts, and a sign behind them with the name of the establishment.

"Platinum?" I shook my head. "You're going to work at Platinum?"

"We're going to work at Platinum."

"I can't," I said, feeling again like the little girl who refused to jump off the diving board even though her dad said it'd be fine.


"I don't have anything to wear, I haven't talked to the owner or anything... and isn't this like, a real strip club? I'm nineteen, they won't let me work."

Eden directed me around the back of the building, bypassing valet, and fixed her makeup in the Mustang’s sun-visor mirror. "It's not a real strip club, just topless. And don't worry, I know the night manager. His name's Cash, he's a cool guy."

"I don't know-" I said as I pulled into a spot labeled Dancer Parking.

Eden threw her makeup back in her bag and reached over the center console, grabbing both of my hands, and pulling me in so that I had no choice but to look into her eyes. "I can tell you're young, and you're new to this game. And maybe, a long time ago, someone told you a lie. They told you that you're ugly, or weak, or whatever. Or maybe that's a lie you tell yourself, I don't know. But there are few indisputable truths in the world, and one of them is that women have power. And you, you have a little more than most. I'm going to show you how to use that power, to get what you want."

A little fire rose up in me, like heartburn. At nineteen, I didn't know the difference between my gut instincts and excitement. I was like a baby deer, stumbling around, unable to discern between a pile of innocent leaves and the coverings over a bear trap.

"Isn't this what you want?" Eden asked. And I nodded.


Club Platinum wasn’t the Crazy Horse. Not by a long shot.

The front doors opened into a lounge area, set with lush, red velvet couches blanketed in purple lights. It was brighter than the inside of the Horse, and smelled pleasantly like lavender. There were no leaks in the ceiling, no evidence at all that it was pouring outside.

Eden led me through the lounge to the largest stage I’d ever seen. The pole was easily three stories high, it nearly gave me vertigo to stare up at it. There were leather seats arranged around the stage, and a bar on either side.

And there were men in business suits. Lots of them. Now I understood. The airport, business men- it made sense.

I didn’t think to hide my wonder. Eden noticed my face and giggled a little. “This is your new start, baby girl.”

And in that moment, I accepted that it was.

Eden waved to the bartender, a curvy brunette with a winning smile. A man in a security uniform approached and Eden gave him a kiss on the cheek and half a hug. They exchanged some words, but it was impossible to hear over the thundering bass of the music. I stood there with my hands clasped, waiting for him to ask for my ID, ask me to leave.

He didn't.

Eden, satisfied with the conversation, pulled on my arm and we continued deeper into the club, entering a door that read Staff Only in gold letters.

There were no dripping buckets here. No broken mirror where some girl went into a rage and threw her heel. It was a proper dressing room, with those little round lights above the mirrors that hid your flaws and enhanced your features. There were even lockers with mechanisms that weren’t smashed to pieces.

Topless women fluffed their hair or tidied their makeup. One of them sprayed something sweet into the air and stepped through it like she was putting on a costume. They looked like real performers, not someone's bitter ex-wife.

Eden guided me to a little station in the corner, where an older woman sat in nose-rimmed glasses, looking stern, not like an entertainer.

"This is Donna, the house mom," Eden said. "She's going to help you with... all this." She waved her hand over my hair and face. It hurt a little, I couldn't help but flush, but I understood. I wasn't even wearing that much makeup.

"Hello darling," Donna said. She wheeled a five-foot high makeup box over and started running her fingers over the little tubes and compacts inside. "What's your stage name?"

I opened my mouth but Eden was quicker, "It's Eve." She winked at me. It was our own little private joke.

Donna wrote Eve down on a sheet of paper. And now I was Eve. "Alright, it's thirty dollars for the make-over. But don't worry, you can pay me after your first set."

We went to work.


I didn't recognize myself when Donna finished. I don't know how she did it, but magically I had transformed into some alternate version of myself. Eve wore a pink, furry bikini that looked straight out of an old Playboy. Donna had me tape round, tan stickers over my nipples. Something about the law. Boobs were okay, nipples is where they drew the line.

My first set, I was nervous. But I did it anyway. Eden told me we only grow when we're uncomfortable, that it was a sign from the universe that we were moving in the right direction. I had no reason to question her.

I made sixty-eight dollars on my first set, and I even took off my top. One of the patrons asked for a dance, and I made a hundred more in two-and-a half-minutes.

My fears began to fade, exhilaration took its place. I felt so free, so sexy, so powerful. Lilly was a Crazy Horse girl, but Eve was better than that. It was six o'clock and I already had almost three hundred dollars tucked in my garter, folded over and secured with a rubber band.

Eden and I sat side-by-side at the bar. I ordered a gin tonic- with a lime. The first sip was terrible, like drinking hairspray. But I didn't flinch in front of Eden. Not even a little. And by the halfway mark, it didn't taste bad at all.

We laughed at the poor suckers back at the Horse and she asked me questions about my life instead of complaining about hers. I was so busy talking and drinking, I didn't think to ask her a thing about hers.

Around ten, the club exploded. Groups of men in suits and dress shirts filed in and took seats at the bar. Every time I turned around, someone wanted a dance, or to buy me a drink. I ordered gin and tonic every time, and after a while it was like drinking water.

The band in my garter got thicker and thicker. Four, five, six hundred dollars. I traded in my ones and twenties to Donna for hundreds. and paid her for the makeover, plus extra. My mind was getting hazy, but my adrenaline was rising. Even the men were fun and interesting to talk to. They had businesses and education and opinions on things. They seemed to be having fun instead of drinking their troubles away.

At some point Eden came up to me on the floor and pulled me away from some guy I was talking to. I could barely hear her, so she pulled my ear to her lips and said "follow me".

I walked behind Eden as she moved to an area I hadn't seen before, up a flight of stairs guarded by security who removed the velvet rope at the top so we could pass.

"Where are we going?" I giggled drunkenly and tried to focus on each step so I wouldn't bust my ass.

"I got a client, for both of us. We're going to make at least three each."

"Three hundred?"

Eden laughed, "Yeah, three hundred."

There was a row of rooms up here, each with a curtain instead of a door. Some of the curtains were closed, some weren't. There were wrap-around couches in each and I could see groups of men sitting in them, pouring bottles of champagne while entertainers sat on their laps or danced in front of them.

The room on the end had the curtain drawn, but Eden pushed me through and entered behind me.

Sitting on the couch inside was a large, red-faced man in a suit. He was pouring himself a glass of whiskey from a bottle nestled in a bucket of ice.

"Ah! Hello, ladies," he grumbled. "Have a drink."

He was barely conscious, his head tilting to one side as he brought the whiskey to his mouth. With a grunt, he leaned back into the couch. I could see his shirt had become untucked and the bottom of his belly was resting on his belt buckle.

"Alright, honey. I'll pour us some," Eden said, sweetly.

I didn't like whiskey, and I whispered that to Eden. She poured me a miniscule amount over a heap of ice. I took one sip and left it on the table. I was drunk, but not enough for Jack Daniels.

"Want us to dance for you, hunny bunny?" Eden moved over to him and placed her knee on the couch, just to the left of his leg.

"Yar, ya..." he trailed off, his eyes fluttering as he struggled to keep them open. In my gut, I felt a strange sensation I couldn't decipher. Pity? Or perhaps disgust?


I stepped over to Eden and whispered in her ear again. "Do we really need two of us here?"

She took her knee off the couch and turned to face me, ignoring the drunk man altogether. Her eyes weren't the same sparkling blue in the shadows here, they were black, like her pupil had sucked the rest in.

"Listen," she said, scalding. "This guy has over six-thousand dollars in his pocket. I know that because my guy here told me. He's on something, he doesn't even know what's going on. You're going to dance on him, distract him, and I'm going to extract that money from his pockets. And then we're out. Fifty-fifty".

"What? Isn't that like... robbing him?"

Eden sighed and rubbed my shoulder. There was pity in the gesture. "Do you know anything about this guy? He's a scumbag, okay, he works for one of the pharmaceutical companies responsible for the opioid epidemic in this very state. He's rich because of the deaths of thousands of people. Look him up. I'll give you his name. You know what else? He's married. Look at that ring on his finger, he doesn't even care enough to take it off."

The man was staring at us, his eyes rolling around in his head. There was a gold ring on the fourth finger of his left hand.

Eden pulled my face back to hers, lightly squeezing my cheeks the way she did at the Crazy Horse. She spoke softly. "Do you know what we are? We're karma, baby. We're Robin Hood. We take from the rich to fuel our dreams. He's not going to miss that money. Trust me."

She let go of my face and took a swig of whiskey before turning back to the man. He slapped his knee and muttered something intelligible. My instincts were replaced with a sense of purpose, a mission. I didn't know if what Eden said about this man was true, but I was here. This was happening. And nothing in me was powerful enough to go against her.

I did my duty. I straddled the man and flimsily danced over him. He placed one hand on my hip and his head fell back against the couch. He was watching, but he didn't see me. His eyes were unfocused and for a few moments, they closed completely.

I didn't watch Eden. I didn't want to see what she did. As if somehow by not seeing, I wasn't culpable. I had one job, and I did it gingerly.

It took Eden only a few seconds and she tapped me on the shoulder to get off of him. The acrid smell of the liquor on his breath mixed with too much cologne stuck to me, I could smell it in my hair as I moved away from him. He startled for a moment, but his eyes rolled back and he collapsed deeper onto the sofa, grumbling to himself.

Eden waited half a second to see if he would protest my absence. He didn't. We walked back through the curtain, out of the room, and back down the stairs.

The bass echoed in my chest as Eden led me past the dressing room and into the women's bathroom. There was one dancer at the sink, washing her hands. Eden smiled at her and she left. We went into the handicap stall, together.

Out of the front of her bottoms, Eden pulled a stack of bills. She giggled, her face bright and perky. Now I could see her eyes again, that shimmering blue-green against the perfect whites. She counted the money in front of me, saying the last few numbers out loud. "Six-thousand-twenty, six-thousand-forty, six-thousand-sixty!"

My eyes widened and I couldn't help but grin. I'd never seen so much money before. So many green, stiff bills. The rush of what we'd done hit me suddenly, and I could feel my face turn red. This is what pirates and treasure hunters feel. This is what it meant to take something, to make it yours, to have the world submit to your desires.

I was giddy. And not just from the gin.

"That's three-thousand for you, three-thousand-sixty for me, since I found the guy. Call it a finder's fee, if you wish," Eden winked at me. "Great job, Eve. You killed it in there!" She hugged me close and we jumped a little in our heels, squealing. "Alright, let's have a drink. My treat! I'm not touching another guy tonight. And neither should you. It's our time."


The rest of that night is a blur. I wasn't a light-weight, by any means, but that night I pushed my limits in more ways than one. The relief of having four-grand stuck in my garter was overwhelming. It was more than I'd ever had at one time. Nothing could stop me. I was rich.

Eden and I drank until the club closed at three in the morning. There were jokes and stories, and a lot of Eden telling me how amazing I was, and me believing it.

When the lights came on in the building and the men began to stumble out, Eden and I slipped into the locker room and re-dressed. I peeled the stickers off my nipples and wiped the makeup from my face. Eve was asleep, and I was back to myself, drunk and exhausted.

"I'm too drunk to drive," I told Eden, trying to give a devilish smirk and probably failing.

"That's okay. My hotel is up the street. Cash can drive us there. We can crash."

I barely remember the drive, just that Eden and I kept talking, giggling, and making nonsense conversation with the driver, who mostly ignored us. It was still raining as we pulled into the parking lot. Her hotel wasn't a hotel, but a motel. The kind you could pay for in cash by the hour, if it suited you.

It didn't matter to me. I just wanted to sleep and rest my aching feet. We threw our things down on the floor, jumped into the bed, and passed out.


I haven't touched a drop of gin to this day. Just the faintest smell of it makes my insides quiver. The rolling thunder in my head the next morning was frightening. I almost wished I'd have thrown up the night before.

The room was dark, thank god for little blessings, and I opened my eyes slowly and carefully, the sleepy crust around them separating as I did. It took me a moment to remember where I was. Eden wasn't there.

I sat up, rubbing my eyes and praying my head and stomach would find some kind of harmony. I needed water.

I checked the mini-fridge and found only a half-eaten chocolate bar inside. My tongue was thick and scaly in my mouth. I remembered the bottle of water in my backpack.

My squinted eyes scanned the room for where my drunk self must have flung my bag. But there were no bags in the room, not even Eden's pink duffle.

Panic hit me like a sock in the throat. Where was my shit?

With newfound energy, I slammed open the bathroom door. Nothing. I ripped open the closet. Empty. I tore through every drawer in the dresser, nightstand, bathroom only to find a Bible and a white portable hairdryer.

Four. Thousand. Dollars.


"I've been robbed," I said, out loud, to no one. "I've been Robin Hooded..."

And then the laughter spilled out of me. Rumbling, rolling laughter that hurt my belly and made me fall to my knees. My fingernails dug into the wiry bristles of the carpet as I cackled like an insane person. The events of the night came to me in flashes, forcing more roars out of me, causing tears to spill down my cheeks. Sobbing and laughing are two wings on the same bird.

In that moment, I shook hands with the universe and admitted defeat.

Karma was real. And she was beautiful.


About the Creator

Kelley Stead

Grew up on a steady diet of Tom Robbins and Stephen King.

Spinning tales in the quiet moments between motherhood and building a business.

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Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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  1. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

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Comments (5)

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  • JBazabout a year ago

    I was hooked from beginning to end. What a wonderfully written story. You took the reader for one hell of a fun ride.

  • Incredible story. From strangers to friends to partners to accomplices to..., karma with a hangover! Like George Costanza meeting the attractive woman on the subway who wants him to join her in her room. Only he only had $40 on him. Of course, he was left handcuffed to the bed in his boxers!

  • Whoaaaa, I did not expect Eden to do that! God I would've been so devastated! I loved your line 'Sobbing and laughing are two wings on the same bird'!

  • Donna Reneeabout a year ago

    “Sobbing and laughing are two wings on the same bird” well, that’s the truest thing ever! Oh my gosh this was such an amazingly told story!! 👏

  • Nice❤️😉

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