Indecent Experiment

By: Megan Hart
Indecent Experiment

Megan Hart

A thousand dollars. That was a lot of money, Melissa Standish thought as she looked over the notice board again. Then one more time. She’d already walked past this notice about four times today, each time stopping to stare and ponder what a thousand dollars could do for her bank account.

She didn’t need new shoes or some fancy designer dress. She wasn’t even going to use it to take a trip, though heaven knew she needed one after almost twenty nonstop years of school. No, Melissa’s needs were far more practical than that. More urgent.

She needed food, rent, electricity. Just for another couple of months, until the semester ended. After that she’d be off to her paid internship with Triple Smith and Brown. She’d already put a deposit down on an apartment, booked her flight and arranged for her stuff to be shipped. In just a few months she’d be on her way to a guaranteed weekly income and the possibility of even more.

But until then, a thousand dollars would stretch a long, long way.

She’d done crazy things for money before. Sold plasma, which left her so weak and sick she didn’t think it was worth it. Waited tables. Delivered balloons in a tap-dancing gorilla costume. Nothing had earned her the type of quick and easy cash she was looking at right here on the board.

The drawback? PSYCH DEPARTMENT EXPERIMENT in big, red letters. That could mean anything. Melissa had once participated in an experiment in which she’d been hooked up to a lie detector machine and forced to watch porn while she answered questions about whether or not she was turned-on. That had only paid a couple hundred bucks and had been an easy enough few hours. Another time she’d agree to be in the control group for a new allergy medicine that had turned out to give her hives. That had been a profitable but seriously itchy couple of days. On the other hand, she’d also been paid less than a hundred bucks to test out the efficacy of underarm deodorant on people diagnosed with hyperactive sweat glands, and that had been disgusting.

Overall, though, Melissa had earned quite a number of paychecks from the psych department over the past four years here in grad school at Winchester University and never had a truly bad experience. On the other hand, she’d never been paid more than three hundred bucks for whatever she’d agreed to do.

They were now offering a thousand.

The number, a nice, sleek ONE with three fat zeroes behind it, kept calling to her. She was going to be late to class if she kept this up, and Professor Spane was notorious about his lack of patience with students who arrived late. He might not dock her grade for it—but then again, he might.

Melissa grabbed one of the tabs with the number on it and tucked it into her pocket. For a thousand bucks, she’d be willing to do most anything.

Anything at all.

Matt Ingram looked again at the ATM receipt in his fist. Dammit. How could he have insufficient funds? Surely he hadn’t spent that much over the past two weeks, which was how long it had been since the last time he’d checked the balance. The machine couldn’t tell him what had gone wrong, of course, just that the forty bucks he was trying to withdraw so he could go grab a couple of beers with some friends didn’t exist. Not in this world, anyway. Maybe in some alternate universe where Matt wasn’t broke.

“Shit,” he muttered, stomach sinking.

No night out with the guys, no beer and wings. He might as well go home and study, and by this point Matt thought if he had to face another evening hunched over the books, he might just jump off a bridge, instead.

“Hey, buddy.” Damian had come up behind him to clap Matt on the shoulder. “You coming out with us tonight? Spend some time with the bros?”

Joining Sig Epsilon had seemed like such a great idea back in his undergrad days, and Matt had to admit there was still something nice about being able to head over to the frat house for parties when he felt like it. But he’d sort of outgrown the whole “brothers” thing a long time ago, while dudes like Damian had totally embraced it, even eight years after their freshman pledge class had first bonded over cleaning disgusting toilets and other pledge chores.

Matt closed his fingers over the slip of paper in his hand. Damian had a trust fund or some shit like that, money from mommy and daddy, not to mention summer and holiday jobs in daddy’s company to pad the bank account. Damian would probably even spot him a pitcher and a platter, he’d done it before. But Matt didn’t want to be beholden to the guy any more than he already was, even if they were “bros.”

“Can’t, man. Got a major test coming up.” Matt didn’t have to fake the look of disappointment. He really had been looking forward to just hanging out tonight, maybe watching the game, just…chilling.

“Dude. You can’t work all the fucking time, you know?” Damian clapped him on the shoulder again. “Seriously. I know it’s grad school and all, but really.”

“Yeah. I know.” Matt wasn’t happy about it, but he’d rather tell the other guy he couldn’t come out because he had to work rather than tell him the truth—he was flat broke.

“Shit.” Damian looked vaguely concerned. “But you’re on for Cancun, right? Spring Break, man. Your last one.”

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