"24 hours till death" Eric's phone alerted him before he swiftly dispensed the notification as he had finally arrived in the place where he planned to lose his virginity. His eyes stang from the bright neon crimson lights of the brothel's sign flashed over his barely tanned skin and short, but messy, dark hair. Maybe this time, he'd actually be able to walk inside.

With slumped shoulders and trembling hands, he took a deep breath and finally took the first step past the entrance. "What do I have to lose anyway?" he thought as he walked through the corridors decorated with velvet cloths hanging down the walls and ceilings.

Once he arrived at the reception desk, he noticed that it also acted as a mini candle-lit bar. He could feel the scent of expensive wine permeating the room and the sounds of muffled moans were already being heard from upstairs.

"Good evening."

Eric didn't even notice her approach and immediately felt his attention dragged towards her just from how beautiful her voice and face were. Her dark purple lipstick glistened in the dim light, contrasted by the paler skin tone. Her red hair cascaded down to her shoulders as gentle waves. She had a shapely body, with bountiful breasts that were barely contained by her sharp dark green business suit and a tight short skirt that accentuated her plump rear and a pair of high heels that made her hips naturally sway from side to side as she made her way closer to him.

Then, he looked back up to see the woman's green eyes staring back at him. He felt his cheeks burn as he was just caught staring.

"Hey..." Eric said with a forced smile as the feeling the tension and awkwardness of the moment felt like they were crushing his every limb.

Although he was still taller, she held herself with dignity and self-respect, while he was still slumping, shrinking onto his own body, looking up to the woman before him and feeling her eyes on him for a few silent moments before he had the courage to look back at her again.

"I would like to get- I mean... I... Uh..." The nervousness hasted the timing of his speech, making him blurt the words all at once, tripping over the next sentence until he decided to shut up instead.

"Would you like a company for the night?" She asked with a gentle smile.

"Y-yeah..." She was already typing something on her tablet before he even finished answering.

"Any preferences for the type of companionship you prefer...?"

"...Preferences...?"

"Well... If you prefer a submissive or a dominant partner, what body type... Y'know... Male or female..."

"Ah, yes, female... please." He blurted out in a slight panic and added a short chuckle at the end, in a desperate attempt to make the mood feel a little bit more playful.

A moment of silence proceeded as the receptionist stared into his eyes.

"...I see... Before we continue, I must ask you to show me your documentation."

Eric knew that he had a baby face to him, most people with asian heritage do. Even if he was only 1/4 Japanese, it still showed from his hair and eyes. Eric was also hyperaware that his demeanor, more often than not, came across as childish, so he already had his documents in hand, proving that he was, in fact, twenty-two years old.

"...Hmmm..." The receptionist examined his identity before returning back to him. Her warm smile had faded and Eric felt her patience with him dwindling, already feeling the urge to leave this place. But... He no longer had the heart to care that much for his non-existent dignity. "Do you have any other preferences for your female companionship, Mr. Parker?"

"Umm..." He bit his lips and thought fast. "Whoever has the lowest standards..." He says half-jokingly with another awkward chuckle.

The receptionist froze in place. Eyes glued to the screen for a moment and blinked twice before finally bringing her gaze back to him. He felt his cheeks grow pale.

She simply stared at him before looking back at the tablet. "What kind of room do you prefer?"

"It doesn't matter." He sighed, but notice he came across as snappish and tried to reset his tone. "Just... Anything available will do."

Eric couldn't help but notice the woman's jaw clench at his answer. Something he said had irritated her, he could feel it. Goosebumps traveled down his spine as he wondered what sorts of names she was probably calling him inside her head.

"Please wait a few moments, take a seat, and a companion will be with you shortly." She said as he silently nodded and slowly sat down on a comfy couch. Staring down the floor, headphones blasting the angstiest songs he had on his phone as the minutes passed. He was already imagining that she was calling some security guard to kick him out of the establishment.

With the corner of his eye, he could see a blonde young woman with long hair striding in his direction. Although she wasn't as beautiful as the receptionist, she appeared to have her own type of charm, despite the lack of killer curves. So, he lifts his head up and readies himself to greet her, but, instead, the woman stopped in front of the receptionist and they exchanged a couple of words before the blonde one walked around the bar and the receptionist stepped out of it and, promptly, walked towards Eric, stopped, looking into his eyes with a glimmer of cold impatience and spoke with a surprisingly stern voice.

"I am Celeste and I will be your companion for the night." There was barely any time to react. She took her hand and started to walk deeper inside, dragging him along towards the elevator and, before Eric had any saying in it, he already was inside the elevator with the receptionist as she pressed "4". Top floor.

The creeping anxiety added to the awkward silence that seemed to squeeze his lungs due to him being dragged into what was supposed to be a quick fix, but, instead, turned out in an unusual way. Every breath he took seemed like too much noise. He sneaked a glance at the receptionist, Celeste. The suit fitted her frame perfectly, highlighting her already voluptuous curves but also making her posture feel appear to be taller and firm. An air of cold professionalism oozed from her. She looked back at him and he dodged the eye contact again. The door (finally) opened unceremoniously and she was already walking ahead.

Eric was sluggish to leave the elevator. The muffled moans now surrounded him and, in his mind, they were like an audience was booing him, telling him to go away or laughing at his pathetic state. He felt the walls of the corridor closing down on him in the chaos of a mental earthquake. "This isn't a brothel..." He thought. "This is a goddamn haunted mansion that smells like cum. I gotta get the fuck out of this place!"

"H-hey, I'm sorry I r-r-really gottaaa-" but before he could turn around and finish his sentence, he felt the touch of her hand gripping his own. Eric locked eyes with Celeste.

"...I'm sorry, but... I really need to leave..."

She simply stared, silently, the door to the suite was wide open, only waiting for him. She wasn't gripping that hard but she wasn't letting go either.

"What are you doing...?" He voiced breathlessly and she replied with a calm stare, slowly and gently bringing the young man inside the room.

The doors close. Silence.

The muffled moans seemed to be drowned out by the walls of this room and Eric finally managed to look around.

The lively deep crimson that decorated the entire building wasn't as present in here. The choice of decoration for the room was with softer tones of brown, potted plants on the walls, multiple couches, a large TV screen, a minibar, and expensive-looking lamps surrounding a large bed with a dozen of pillows of varying sizes.

"What is happening?" He voices breathlessly.

She looks up at him with a melancholic look before slowly approaching the bed, taking off her blazer, and sitting at the edge of the bed. "...What are you really doing here, Eric?"

"...What do you mean?"

"...You're not really here to have sex, are you?"

"Yes, I am." The answer was a bit snapped, nervousness increasing in his tone.

"Oh, is that so?"

"Yes." His jaw was clenched, the stress was piling up at each second. "Can we just get this over with?"

"No." She answers simply with a straight face as she watched Eric's face melt in confusion.

"...N-no...?!" His voice was undecided if it wanted to whisper or shout, so it fluctuated between levels of tone. "What do you mean by..." He started to speak but bit his tongue to stop himself to ask something so stupid.

A few seconds passed as he tried to calm down and Celeste observed his body language from a distance.

"Fine. Whatever." He said with a cold tone and turned back, storming towards the door, but before his hand reached the handle, he heard her voice.

"...Are you really giving up that easily?"

He froze in place and his facial expression contorted in fury. "What the fuck..." He turned towards her again. "What's wrong with you? I'm not here to play games."

"So what do you want to do?"

"I WANTED to have sex. But not anymore... You're the worst fucking escort I ever saw in my life."

"Really? I doubt a virgin such as yourself has seen too many examples..." Her response was perfectly calm and collected.

He started to clap ironically. "Oh, good for you, Sherlock Hooker... You proud of yourself that you figured that I'm a virgin? Congrats, really! Well done. It's not like I have 'miserable' written all over my face, isn't it? If you only brought me here to rub it on my face, my parents already do that for you, so you don't have to worry about shit. Thanks for wasting my time and my money..." He opened the door again, he pulled it so hard that it slammed against the wall.

"...You already paid for the money, you know?"

"So what?"

"You could still stay." She spoke softly, in total contrast with his reaction.

His eyes were brought back to Celeste, who still sat at the edge of the bed. The confusion was suffocating.

"Fuck you." And he slammed the door shut.

Suddenly, the moaning corridor felt incredibly comfortable in comparison to the room Celeste was in. He pressed the button for the elevator, but he was so tense and restless that he was unable to wait for it, so he just decided to walk down the stairs. Across all floors, he was able to hear people having adult fun that he missed out on because the escort assigned to him was out of her mind.

He walked past the reception like he was about to kill someone. As soon as his sneakers touched the sidewalk, he received a phone call. It was an unknown number.

"Hello?" He asked, trying not to yell into the phone.

"Good evening, Mr. Parker." It was a soft masculine voice. "This is the staff reception for the brothel you were just in... We've been informed by your escort that you have decided to leave your room, but she insisted to tell you that it is still yours until the end of the night."

"What in the fucking world...??" His hand gripped the phone so hard he thought he was about to break it. "How the fuck do you have my number- No! I don't care about that shit, just cancel the order, keep the money, I don't give a shit."

"...Well, sir, if that's what you wish-" Then, the man stopped talking suddenly and he heard a brief exchange of words on the other end of the line from where he could recognize Celeste's voice. "Actually, Mr. Parker... The brothel staff insists that you may feel free to return here at any point of the night."

Speechless, he ended the call, stuffed his phone inside his pocket, and kept walking in silence.

The train ride towards the bridge he planned on jumping from was a quiet one. Plenty of space to breathe and plenty of time to think. Whenever he closed his eyes, Celeste's gaze was everything he could see and her words were everything he could hear, no matter what music he tried to blast on the headphones.

His absent-minded steps eventually brought him to the edge of the bridge, from where he knew he would not make it out alive.

With no one around, the dark waters below felt too tempting. The exhaustion of a decade of endless disappointment weighed down on his shoulders as all hope seemed to have been lost during last year's heartbreak.

His phone buzzed again and, without thinking, he took it off of his pocket and read the message. "This is tonight's last warning, Mr. Parker. Whether you use the room or not, it is still yours for the end of the night."

He paused, dismissed that message, and, immediately, received another. Another unknown number... "I know you're curious, Mr. Parker. Come back to the room..." It didn't even need a name tag for him to know who sent it, he even read it in her voice.

He bit his tongue and sat down at the edge as he stared at the starless sky. The wind blew cold and gentle. He was so tired... Overwhelming physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion. He laid his back down in the concrete and stared upwards for ten excruciatingly long minutes, thinking about nothing in particular.

It started to rain.

"Well... Shit... I guess I'm going back..." He whispered to himself before getting back up and walking towards the train, not really sure what exactly was driving him to change his plans like that.

After three hours of seemingly pointless train rides, he eventually found himself back at the same brothel, with the neon lights basking over his drenched self. The headphones weren't working anymore because of the water and, although he didn't check, the storm was bad enough for him to assume that the phone wasn't working either.

Eric walked straight towards the elevator, ignoring the odd looks others gave him on the way inside. He pressed the "4", got out, walked through the moaning corridor, not even noticing any sounds anymore, and opened the door to the same room with the same woman simply messing with her phone as she laid down on the bed.

"You're back."

"...Who ARE you?" He asked, not really knowing what else to ask.

"I'm just myself. Just Celeste... And who are you?"

He lifted his hand, gesturing her to stop. "Don't. You already gave me enough existential crisis for one night."

"I didn't do anything, kid... You were the one who walked out of the door. But it was a serious question. Who really are you?"

"...I'm Eric Parker. Just a guy that, despite the headache you gave me, still wants to have sex with you."

"With me in particular? Was that really the reason why you came back?"

"Yeah... for the first question. But a 'Not really' for the second."

"So why did you come back?"

"..." He stared at the ground as if he could have some sort of revelation if he stared hard enough.

"...You're here because you figured that since you plan to suicide anyway, why don't you see where this weird rabbit hole leads you to, right?"

And he looked at her like she was a witch. "Do I know you?"

"Nope. I'm pretty sure that I have never met you in my life either... But the things you said in the reception were way too familiar for me." She hummed as she crossed her legs while sprawled in the bed. "...You're going to get a cold in those wet clothes, you know?"

"...I'm not going to undress." He spoke as he pushed his back against the wall and crossed his arms.

The woman chuckled in return, sitting up and stretching her arms up. "Suit yourself, but you sure say some contradictory things, Mr. Parker..."

"I definitely don't want to hear that from you of all people." He says as he rubs his shoulders together, trying not to show how cold he was. "Now, then... Are you going to tell me why did you call me back here? No, wait... I think a better question is... Why did you even bring me up here if you were already going to refuse your... you know, your services? And, if you're going to start spewing some motivational bullshit to change my life, just know that I'll leave again if that's all you brought me back to." He practically growling in frustration as he speaks as his mind flashed back to unpleasant memories.

In contrast to his expectations, Celeste snorts in response to his words, which threw Eric off more than he was ready. He felt his cheeks burn brighter as he was unsure where to look or where to move until she started to talk again, even if the words were caught in-between giggles. "Hehe... I'm very sorry about that, Mr. Parker... I just found it interesting that, only now, you seem to be showing your true colors."

"Yeah yeah, I'm not even going to bother trying to understand what about any of this sounds funny to you, but... Would you mind stop calling 'Mr. Parker'? That's how my dad is called and I rather not be reminded of him right now. My name is Eric."

"Well, Eric, like it or not, you are still Mr. Parker, even if you don't like the sound of it." She stood up from the bed and was on her tiptoes as she stretched her arms high up, straightening her posture as he remained quietly glaring at her before she started to speak again. "...I called you here because it's my job. And I refused you because you're full of shit. That's why."

The delivery of those words was blunt and dry, but what made Eric's mouth freeze slightly open and breathless was the kind eyes and delicate smile that she was giving to him. The tone of her voice was full of joy and filled him with a contradictory sense of peace.

"You're not buying groceries, Eric. You are here to buy a woman's company for a few hours... I could tell that you were plagued with suicidal thoughts because you weren't the first one to come here with that energy about you... But it is arrogant on your part to think that this shouldn't mean anything to me. Without even knowing who I am, you expect me to take of your problem- which, by the way, isn't even related to your physical needs but your ego- just so you can die without being a virgin and get done with life... But, unfortunately, I'm a prideful escort, so I can't let you do me just so you can feel a bit better about yourself... That's just a bullshit type of thinking. It'd only mean that the intimate time you'd have with my body would have meant nothing but a little badge of honor in your consciousness that would end up not matter anyway." The words were delivered calmly and with a mysterious smile. "I can't stop you to leave and call me names on your way out, but if having sex with me would end up making you die sooner, then... You can't possibly expect me to keep quiet about it and just let you do it."

There was no underlying meaning in those words. There was no holding back on her opinion... It was obvious that she knew something she wasn't saying, but when he asked the right question he was received with the brutal and unbiased truth.

With his mouth shut and eyes locked with Celeste's, he started to understand a bit why he came back in the first place.

Now he was standing up straight, his humid hair casting shadows over his eyes as he looked down to her, only a few inches apart. "...I only want to live the rest of my life with no regrets. So I made a list of things I needed to do before I died. Losing my virginity is the last one..." And, without taking his eyes off of her, he gently held her hand. "Celeste, no matter what you do or tell me, I have already done everything else on my list. I'm far past the point of no return... So will you please help me to have a regretless death?"

"Regretless?" She scoffed, trying to let go of his hand. "What are you even saying...? If you want to not regret this, you have to do this with an escort how could you possibly call it that way...? You have to experience your first time with someone you truly care about."

"It's true that I don't know you... But, honestly, I can't think of anyone else that I'd rather be with when going through this."

"...That..." For the first time, he was the one to left her speechless, not the other way around. And that happened because Celeste could tell that he wasn't lying. "...Why are you putting me in such high regards?"

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