A/N: This is the continuation of my quick fic #100 (What Have I Gotten Myself Into?)
"I'm sorry, Mr. Wicks, but I don't think I'm going to be able to work here anymore."
The brothel owner looked up from the papers he was rifling through to check that the young girl standing in front of his desk was serious. When he saw that she was, he knew he would have to play along until he could convince her that this is where she belonged … after all, this was her permanent home now, even if he'd forgotten to tell her that one tiny detail of her job description.
"Louise, I'm very surprised to hear that."
When her employer paused, Louise began to feel very nervous. Maybe she'd made a mistake about not going to Charlotte before coming here. Initially she was going to ask the older woman how she thought their boss would take the news that Louise planned to leave her job but Charlotte had been near impossible to catch alone lately; either she was with one of the other girls who worked in the big house or she was off in her room doing her entertaining of gentlemen callers, the entertaining that scared Louise so much and was the reason she was now willing to give up the decent pay she made. However the young girl's fears were laid to rest when she didn't see any anger on his face; in fact she couldn't read his features one way or the other.
"I didn't know you were unhappy here," Wicks continued with his, by now, well rehearsed speech.
"I'm not!" Louise exclaimed quickly then bit her lip, hoping it hadn't been too quickly. She was unhappy here now, that was the reason she wanted to leave but she couldn't let him know that. "I mean, it's not that …"
"Haven't I been good to you?"
"Y - yes …"
"Given you a warm bed to sleep in …"
"Three solid meals a day …"
"A decent pay wage …"
"Oh yes, Sir."
"Gave you a job when no one else would?"
"I'm grateful for that, of course, Sir."
"Then what could be the reason for you needing to leave then?" Wicks bent his head as he went back to shuffling through his papers, hiding the satisfactory smile that was evident on his face. Any second now she would be saying 'you're right, Mr. Wicks' and head on back to her room.
Louise began to get nervous again. He was making all valid points as to why she should stay there but aside from running away, which she'd done already when she'd left the orphanage and didn't really want that to become a trait of hers as a way to deal with a problem, Louise knew she had to choose her words carefully to convince him.
"I, um … well, I thought since I was older now that I would leave St Joe and go find work elsewhere. I appreciate the opportunity, Mr. Wicks, but I feel it's time to move on." Louise breathed a sigh of relief; that explanation sounded believable to her.
The word 'older' caught Wicks' attention and he slowly raised his head again to look at his young employee. He'd been trying to deal with a money problem when Louise had come in to see him. The problem was definitely more important than the ramblings of a young girl so he'd sat there half listening to her.
So she wanted to leave; well, that wasn't going to happen. Wicks had let her finish with her reasons and if he had to, he would offer her a raise and that would be the end of it. He didn't pick just anyone to work for him. One day she was going to be a beauty and he was counting on her bringing in a lot of money for him.
Looking at her for the first time since she'd entered his office, really looking at her, running his eyes from her face to the middle of her body, Wicks was amazed at the changes in his young laundress. There were curves, slight curves, but they were definitely pressing against the small childish clothes she was wearing. When had this happened? He hadn't expected her to come of age for at least another year.
A sly smirk began to play across his face until he caught himself. Suddenly the problem he'd been dealing with didn't seem so big anymore. Louise was going to make up for it.
Louise was beginning to think her coming to see him had been a bad idea when she noticed her boss giving her a smile of sorts. Not knowing what to make of it, she glanced away, wondering if she should say anything else. She didn't have to, though, as Wicks began to speak.
"How old are you. Louise?"
"I just turned fourteen last Tuesday."
"You did?!" Wicks sat up straighter in his seat as he leaned across the top of the desk toward her. "Now I wish I had known that."
As he came closer to her, Louise automatically took a step backward. There was something about her boss that had always made her nervous but her mother had taught her to respect her elders so she always accounted her feelings to the hatred she felt toward her father and brushed her nervousness aside in her desire to be polite to him. However, the way he was looking her up and down made her forget everything her mother had taught her so the only thought on her mind was getting this conversation over with.
"It was just a birthday; it ain't no big deal." Louise shrugged.
"No big deal? Why in the public's eye you'd be considered an adult now. That in itself is cause for celebration." Wicks reached into his coat pocket. "Hold out your hand," he said as he held a balled up fist out in her direction.
Louise didn't know what to make of his actions but she couldn't afford to have him mad at her so she tentatively raised her hand, staring at her palm as she slowly opened her fingers. The young girl then reached out toward his fist. She wanted to jump back and leave the room, never to return, when she saw his fist come over top of her hand. Louise looked at him in confusion as instead of him touching her or taking hold of her hand, he dropped something into it instead, her fingers automatically closing around whatever it was
She brought her hand close to her body and once more opened her fingers. Louise's eyes grew wide in surprise. "Sir?"
Wicks sat back in his seat, his fingers weaving together as they rested on his chest. "I always give all my employees a birthday present. Go out and buy yourself some new clothes; your skirt should be reaching to the ground now," he told her with a smile.
Louise blushed, not liking the direction this conversation was going on. She stared at the coins in her hand. "Sir, I can't. This is too much." She tried to hand the money back to him but he waved her away.
"Nonsense. Go out tomorrow and have a fun afternoon. Besides, you'll be needing new clothes if you're going to be traveling and looking for a new job. All I ask, Louise, is that you stay on until the end of the week … give me some time to find someone to take your place."
She stared at the money then at her boss then back at the money, thinking about all he'd told her. She'd noticed that her clothes had been getting tight on her as of late and the thought of going out shopping with the amount she was holding was awful tempting. He was giving her this and all she had to do was stay there for the next six days; that didn't seem like such a bad thing. Louise nodded her head to him in agreement. "But, Sir, are you sure? It's a lot of money. I haven't earned an amount of this sort yet."
Wicks smiled at her. "You will, Louise; trust me, you will."