Each bite was a struggle against the awkward weight of discomfort. I squirmed in my seat; letting the jeans bite into my crotch like it was too tight for the oppressive disappointment I felt from my Dad’s refusal to look directly at me. He had invited me over to dinner. He had reached out to me two weeks after he kicked me out. I was doing my best to be the dutiful daughter I’d been before he saw me fucking a dildo and sucking on a plastic cock in my bedroom. If only he had knocked and respected my privacy none of this would have happened!
We were eating some baked chicken, or maybe boiled, I never knew with Cindy. My step-mom was obsessed with nutrition and remaining “thin for your father.” At least she had seasoned it enough to taste like more than shredded cardboard.
My dad’s house felt smaller somehow despite it being the open floor plan. I felt like I outgrown the home and that two weeks ago when I was prancing about the house without a real job and recently flunked out of school I had been a child. Now, with a career budding and making regularly a couple hundred to a thousand dollars a night doing my cam show, my old world felt smaller. Like the dining room wasn’t my world; it was just a room I was in at the time.
With all the cash I had coming in I was free.
Too bad my dad wouldn’t look at me, and Cindy took furtive glances with her trembling hands while she ate. Maybe she was calorie deprived and looked nervous because she was too weak to feed herself. Or maybe my dad had told her.
“Where’s Jonathan?” I asked. He was their 15 year old child and my half-brother.
“He had soccer practice and then went to his tutor,” Cindy said.
My dad watched her speak, gave me the briefest of looks, then picked at his dry chicken.
Silence pressed on us like a cloud of pornography in a christian home. It clung to us like skunk smell after showering. I couldn’t take Cindy’s mouseish shaking fingers, her tentative bites, or my dad’s complete reluctance to acknowledge me. Why the fuck did they invite me over if they were going to sit in silence and pretend like nothing happened.
I slammed my fork on the table.
“We have to talk about this.” I said, and folded my arms beneath my breasts looking at both ends of the table.
It felt like the moments before a thunderstorm you know is going to be bad, but you can’t do anything but wait, and stand in your garage watch it to come.
My dad froze staring at the food plate. Cindy put her fork and knife down as slow as she could, and put her hands in her lap, laced together.
“I strip for people online; I’m a stripper and I make money from it. And yes, sometimes I do a show with toys.”
“Oh dear!” Cindy said with a hand over her mouth.
My dad’s fist clenched against the fork. Veins exploded out of his neck shoving against the skin. His face went red.
“This is how I make money now; here.” I slapped a wad of cash on the table I’d been lugging in my purse. “My first repayment for school like you wanted me to pay back since I failed out.”
“Oh, sweetie, you don’t need to pay that back yet. We meant when you get a real job.” Cindy said.
“I’m making $1,000 a show! I work four days a week and make more in a day than I would at Wal-Mart!”
“Well, you don’t have to work at Wal-Mart, honey, you can be a receptionist, or at an office or something. Your father has some contacts…”
She trailed off when he snapped up and glared at her. He finally unclenched his fists enough to set the silverware on the table without damaging anything, and took a deep breath.
“Violet.” he said my name like he was lingering it on his tongue to measure what words would follow. He said my name so condescending and commanding I both hated and loved him. “You are a, a whore, you’re stripping! You’re my daughter exposing yourself for other people to to, ugh! And it is the internet! Those videos,” he spat the word with disgust, “will be around forever! They’re going to follow you the rest of your life! What if you have kids?! They’ll get to see their mom naked, and doing things. Do you want them to see that?”
“I don’t know. I understand about the internet, Dad. And it is perfectly safe. I’m in a private room;” I glared at my dad, “it is totally anonymous, the site hides my IP so no one can trace me and I never talk about where I live. It is safe, and there is on contact with anyone. Lonely strangers give me money to see me naked.”
“That is fucking stripping! You’re my daughter! I don’t want you getting naked! If you needed money…” he stopped talking.
I think he realized what he was about to say. I’d turned to camming because when my grades slipped he cut off my allowance. When I got kicked out for bad grades he let me come home, but under the condition that I get a job and pay him back for the semesters at school I’d already paid for. With the cam show I’d started to do exactly that. It was a good job; just not what he wanted me to be doing.
“Dad, it is perfectly safe, I don’t do anything I don’t want to; I’m private in my own room, and I control what they see. No one will ever come find me because they don’t know my name, and don’t know where I live.”
“Don’t be so naive, Violet. People can find a way. The world is full of sicko’s and you’re making yourself a target.”
“I am not, dad. Relax.”
“Relax! Relax! You’re fucking toys on camera for strangers! It’s wrong!” He shouted and I jumped back in my chair. Cindy gasped like a startled rabbit. “FUCK!” he slammed his fists on the table and all the silverware and plates rattled with the force.
I picked at my chicken with my fork, and looked down at my plate. I knew it was best to wait out his rage than say anything else. I wasn’t going to change my mind, and he wasn’t going to change his.
“Violet, dear, we’re just worried about you.”
“Your father is upset; we both think that you don’t need to get naked to make money. You don’t need to, shame yourself, for money. If you need it that bad we’d be willing to help you out.”
“No.” Dad said.
“But we talked about this,” Cindy said sharper than her voice had been all day; she may look waifish and weak but she kept my father on a tight leash.
He grit his teeth and pinched his lips taut so they went white and dark bloodless red.
“We can give you an allowance and will match whatever funds you earn at a real job.” Cindy said.
“I don’t want your money. I have my own place now. I’m moving in this weekend; and I make enough money alone doing this. I make more than I ever thought I could. No.”
“I’m sorry. No. This is what I’m doing. I’m sorry that you burst into my room without knocking, Dad, I really am, but.”
“What?! Are you saying this is my fault!?” He roared.
“YOU DIDN’T KNOCK! You wouldn’t even KNOW if you just RESPECTED MY PRIVACY!”
“YOUR PRIVACY!!! YOU FUCK YOURSELF ON CAMERA FOR STRANGERS NAKED!”
I screamed in rage, a wordless head thrown back howl, “RRRWWAGGGHH!!” I got up and walked out of the dining room. I still didn’t have a car, so I put my shoes on and began looking for my sweater. It was nice out, but I didn’t want to leave anything here.
“Sweetie, please, don’t go. Stay; we can talk about it more.”
“I’m sorry Cindy. I’m not quitting, and I can’t handle this anymore. I love you, I love dad too, and I’m sorry, but I’m not stopping. You’re both going to have to deal with that.”
Her face was a ripple of worry lines and concern. I felt braver and more powerful in that moment than I ever had in my life. I felt strong; like I was resilient and fully understood the ramifications of my choices. If they knew what I’d done before with my ex-boyfriend I’d be even worse off. What I did now for more money was tame in comparison.
I hugged Cindy in the foyer under the chandelier. Their house was so spacious. I loved it; but I had to live on my own now. I had to support myself, and I was going to do it the best way I knew how; online doing cam shows.
“Don’t worry,” I said to Cindy’s neck, “I’ll be fine.”
“I hope so. We’re here if you need us. Don’t hesitate to ask.” She looked to the dining room, “he’ll come around. You are his little girl.” She said.
“his little girl.” She said it like an accusation, and explanation, and as reassurance. I felt that shameful pit grow again in my throat, threaten to explode tears in front of my brief manic bravery, and I turned away.
“Everything will be fine.” I said.
I didn’t have a ride lined up, but I walked down the street putting my pickup point for Lyft a few blocks away. I could walk off some of my rage before heading back to my hotel room. I looked at the time on my phone. It was still early, and I didn’t have a show planned on my calendar, but I could always pop in for a quick hour show. I started thinking about what I’d wear, and what I should set my tip goals at for the night.
My parents were going to have to just accept what I did, and if they didn’t I’d support myself. They’d come around eventually; they needed time. Until then, I had money to make.