Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Tuesday Teaser - Forget Ever After

Another short story taking place in the club On The Edge: Forget Ever After.

Lena almost changed her mind about the whole shindig when the car stopped and she stepped out with the others in front of the club. She had never been there before, but one look at the name scrawling in blue neon over the entrance—On The Edge—told her all she needed to know.

She gave Alice a hard look. “We’re going to a vampire bar?”

Carlos rolled his eyes at her as he encircled Alice’s waist with his arm.

“It’s not a vampire bar. It’s just more…friendly to vampires than other places. And tonight, there’ll be more humans in there than vamps anyway.”

He started pulling Alice toward the entrance, and she looked back at Lena with an encouraging smile.

“Come on, it’ll be fun. Half the campus ought to be here tonight.”

Lena was still hesitating when she noticed the fourth member of their little group, Carlos’ friend whose name she had already forgotten.

“It’s quite safe, really,” he assured her a little shyly.

Still unconvinced, Lena watched Alice disappear through the entrance. “I’ve heard people were killed by vampires in this bar.”

“Not in it,” the guy corrected her. “You’ll be safe as long as you stay with—with the group.”

She could have sworn he had been about to say ‘with me.’

“And there haven’t been any deaths linked to the club for years anyway,” he added when she kept staring at the glowing sign.

Its color had now turned to a bright red, and it seemed to bleed over into the crisp darkness of the night. Hardly the best of augurs, a small part of her wanted to comment, and that thought jolted her into action. She was being ridiculous, if she was putting any faith into supposed signs and what they might mean. Liam had often urged her not to look for meaning where she would find only coincidences.

She started moving so abruptly that the man—was his name Tony? She thought it might have been—needed to take a few quick steps before he caught up with her. He proceeded to walk by her side, offering to buy her a drink then leading her down the club’s suspended staircases and bridges when she politely declined.

Lena had heard friends describe the club before, but what she discovered was nothing like what she had imagined. In her mind, a place that openly catered to vampires had to be dreary, with dust, cobwebs, and cold stonewalls illuminated by torches, or maybe candelabras. On The Edge, she soon had to admit, had none of these dubious attributes. Metal staircases gave access to the lower level, the dancing floor, where pulsating lights played over the dancing crowd, following the fast beat of the latest rock hit. The only flagrant difference that Lena could see from other clubs was the conspicuous absence of mirrors anywhere in sight.

“Would you like to dance?”

She almost didn’t hear the question, Tony’s voice all but drowned out by the sound of the music, but he leaned closer to her as he finished. He had blue eyes, she noticed, and they were as full of hope as Liam’s had once been.

Her reply was a tiny nod, to which Tony answered with a beaming smile. He took her hand and pulled her after him to the dance floor. Lena got a glimpse of Alice and Carlos in the middle of the crowd, but she lost sight of them too fast to suggest joining them.

At first, Tony kept her hand in his as they danced. It made Lena uncomfortable, not because they had to look rather ridiculous holding hands when everyone around them was dancing wildly, but rather because she wasn’t used to anyone other than Liam holding her hand. Tony’s hand was too large, too clumsy, too…different.

Under the pretext of dancing more freely, she liberated her hand and tried to enjoy the music and the atmosphere of sheer enjoyment emanating from the costumed dancers around her, but one song ended, then another, and still Lena kept wondering what she was doing there. Not only that, but she could practically feel someone watching her intently, and combined with her earlier misgivings about the club, she grew increasingly uncomfortable as time passed.

After she gestured to Tony that she was going back upstairs to the bar, she didn’t know whether to be glad or annoyed that he accompanied her. His presence soothed that little voice screaming of danger; yet, on the other hand, she had little interest in spending time with him and no idea how to tell him without being rude.

Lena would gladly have sat at the bar, surrounded by other partygoers, some of whom she vaguely recognized from having seen them on campus before. However, Tony led her to one of the private alcoves at the back of the room. Lena slipped into the booth, sliding to the very far end of it and reclining against the back cushion only to realize she would damage her wings if she did that. Annoyed, she sat closer to the table, leaning onto her elbows, which had the unfortunate effects of bringing her closer to Tony.

A waitress came and took their orders, then returned with tall glasses. Tony started talking, and Lena made the appropriate noises of interest in all the right places. However, the entire time, she paid no real attention to where she was and what was going on around her. Her mind was back in her room, which she shouldn’t have left, and she was mentally reviewing the definitions she would be tested on the following Monday.

It was no wonder, with Lena being so distracted, that she didn’t see at first the man who slid inside the booth to sit opposite Tony. She only noticed him after her companion had fallen silent. Her heart skipped a beat when she saw him staring intently at her, and for a second Lena told herself that she had to be hallucinating. There was no other explanation. Then the man reached toward her to brush the back of his knuckles against her cheek, and suddenly she could breathe again.

“Who do you think you are?” she heard, vaguely aware that the upset voice belonged to Tony. “You weren’t—”

“I am Lena’s fiancĂ©. And who would you be?”

Four words sufficed to erase seven months of pain, fear, and anxious waiting. Four words and Lena slid over the cushioned bench to be as close to Liam as she could, and threw her arms around his neck. There would be time, later, for the questions that had haunted her for all these months. Time for answers too, she hoped. Right now, all that mattered was that Liam had returned.

For long moments, they remained entwined and hugging in the small booth, oblivious to the music and chatter of the club, indifferent to Tony’s huffy departure. Lena had dreamed of this moment many times before. But the tears, laughter, and words she had been sure would spill forth remained at bay, their reunion too intense for her to express in any way other than with her arms around him.

Eventually, it was her need to see him, to look into his eyes that made her move. She pulled back, and smiling, she brushed her knuckles over his cheek, just as he had done to her a few moments earlier. His skin was as she remembered, smooth despite the tiny prickles of hair, although cooler, paler as though he were recovering from a long illness.

“I’ve missed you,” she murmured, choking on the words.


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