“Do you believe in love at first sight?”
Without even looking at him I threw back the fiery liquid from the shot glass and slammed it back on the bar.
“Nope,” I answered.
As Huey Lewis sang “Do You Believe In Love?” overhead I heard him say, “Do you believe in love?”
Could this guy be more cliché? Then who was I kidding… sitting in a club on New Year’s Eve wearing a cheetah patterned mini-skirt with a matching bra top, more makeup than a prostitute, and bleached-blonde hair that was so big it could’ve been four cats sleeping on my head. I was the biggest cliché in the place.
“No, I certainly don’t,” I finally answered, still refusing to look at the stranger. I hadn’t believed in love in a very long time. Love of any type.
“Do you like to party?”
I swiveled on my stool to face him, dramatically crossing one leg over the other, my silver studded ankle boots sparkling under the club lights. “Now you’re talking,” I replied, looking him up and down exaggeratedly, taking him in with my suspicious brown eyes.
He looked to be about my height, maybe five foot eight, and he was dressed all in black with a pair of ripped up jeans, button down shirt, leather jacket and boots. More clichés. His long dark hair fell to his shoulders, curling up once it touched down, topped off by a middle part that didn’t seem to know which path it wanted to take, crooked like a bolt of lightning.
I watched his face as he ordered a shot for both of us then smiled at me. In the dim lighting of the club it was difficult to discern his facial features clearly, but he was cute, and all I really cared about was the party he was offering.
“Happy New Year!” he cheered, clinking his shot glass against mine.
We threw back the liquid and slammed our glasses on the bar. I stood up and Carl, the bartender, said, “Take it easy, Marla. If you’re not in that cage by eleven-thirty you’re gonna get fired. And you’re already drunk.”
The stranger gawked at me and chuckled, “You’re one of those dancers? In the cage?”
“Is that a problem?” I snarled.
He grinned. “Not at all. What’re you drinking?”
“Marla…,” Carl warned.
I waggled my fingers at Carl without even glancing his way. “Martini. Extra olives.”
“Make that two,” the stranger told Carl.
I could hear Carl grumbling as he made our drinks and when he was finished the stranger gave him a wad of cash, handed me my drink, and I led the way through the crowd into the club’s front foyer to an elevator where I punched in a code before we stepped in and I got a much better look at him. He looked much younger in the light than he did inside the club, but it didn’t matter. I didn’t even want to know his name.
“So where are we going, Marla?” he asked, grinning at me.
I was mesmerized as I looked deep into his hazel eyes that at the moment were flecked with sparks of green and blue, like a kaleidoscope pulling me under his spell.
“Top floor. VIP,” I answered.
I watched as he plucked the toothpick out of his drink with his long, slender fingers and ate one of the olives. He looked at his watch and said, “It’s a shame you have to be in a cage at midnight.”
“How much time do I have?”
As the elevators opened I stepped into the foyer then grabbed his hand and pulled him into the VIP club which was very dimly lit, the music was more subdued and everyone up there was interested in privacy, therefore paid no attention to anyone else. I chose a comfy couch in the farthest corner of the massive space and sat down, pulling him next to me.
“So Marla,” he said, gazing at me as he sipped his drink. “If that’s your real name.”
I laughed. “Hardly. All the girls here have fake names because of stalkers.”
“It’s an old church turned into a dance club… it’s not like you’re strippers or something.”
“You’d be surprised,” I scoffed, my head feeling a little dizzy.
“So what’s your real name?” he asked.
I finished my drink and set the glass on the table. “Look, you wanna party, let’s party. I’m not interested in getting to know you.”
He feigned sadness as he placed a hand over his heart. He leaned closer and I saw that he was looking at the “P” charm dangling from my necklace.
“P,” he said. “I guess it’s as good a name as any.”
I was getting impatient, crossing one leg over the other and nervously kicking my foot up and down. “Why is it a shame I’ll be in a cage at midnight?”
He set his drink down, throwing his right foot atop his left knee. “It’s New Year’s Eve and you’ll be spending midnight locked in a cage instead of getting kissed by some handsome guy you just met.”
I had to cover my mouth to keep my laughter from exploding out of me. He was awfully presumptuous! And yes, on that evening, I preferred to be locked in a cage than locking lips with anyone. For me, love didn’t exist unless it was a one-time fling where I didn’t have to see the man again.
“I’d rather be in a cage,” I chortled. “Men don’t know the first thing about kissing.”
He pulled a face, looking like I’d just stabbed him with one of my dangerously long fingernails. “Who do you kiss then?” He grinned, taking another sip of his martini but never taking his eyes off of me.
“No one if I can avoid it.” My answer was short, but sincere. “Kissing is for teenagers.”
“Hold that thought.”
I watched as he got up and went to the bar for more drinks. I fanned myself, feeling the heat of the alcohol making its way to my face like a thermometer from my belly. The stranger returned quickly and set two martinis on the table, full of olives.
“Are we going to party or what?” I hissed. “I don’t have much time left.”
“Yeah, but I have rules.”
I pouted and rolled my eyes. “I don’t play by the rules.”
“Good,” he replied, leaning close to my face. I leaned far away from him and he said, “Trust me.”
What the hell was this? Was he going to drug my drink so he could drive me to some isolated wooded area to kill me then bury me where I’d never be found?
“I don’t even know you,” my voice croaked.
He leaned back and spread his arms along the back of the couch, then smiled. “Look, its New Year’s Eve… I’m lonely and I was just looking for a pretty girl to party with tonight. And seeing as you don’t have much time left until you’re up in a cage, we’re wasting a lot of party time.”
He was winning me over and he was far too cute to turn away. “Okay fine,” I conceded. “What do you want me to do?”
“All you have to do is sit there. Close your eyes and don’t move.”
He’s going to kill me.
I sat up straight with both feet on the floor and closed my eyes, my hands clasped together and resting nervously on my lap. He shifted his position on the couch, sensing him very close to me, then both of his hands were holding mine and my eyes flew open. He smiled at me and for some reason I believed I could trust him; I felt safe and closed my eyes again. My heart raced for two reasons — one, it was getting closer to eleven-thirty and two, I could feel his warm breath on my hands as he brushed his lips against the top of them. His lips were slowly leaving soft air kisses up my arm until he reached my neck where I felt the wetness of his tongue. He placed his hands gently against either side of my neck and I could feel my chest heaving as I tried to stay in control, wondering what he was going to do next. I felt his breath against one cheek, then the other, but his lips never touched my skin. I tried to calm my breathing but he was really getting under my skin and I was afraid of letting him get too close. His thumbs caressed my neck as his hands remained there, and I soon felt his mouth hovering close to mine, but never touching it. I opened my mouth slightly and he did the same, touching his lips gently to mine but doing nothing else. My entire body was on pins and needles waiting for what he’d do next but all he did was breathe. I opened my eyes to see that his were closed and his long eyelashes fluttered as his breath warmed my mouth like a summer breeze.
“I can turn you on without ever taking your clothes off.”
I broke the spell by pushing him away from me, then grabbed his hand and dragged him out of the room, down several flights of stairs and outside into the bitter cold.
“Where are we going?” he asked.
I pulled him along until we reached the parking garage next door and when we reached my beat up old yellow Chevy Chevette hatchback, I fished the key out of my cleavage and opened the door, telling him to get in the back seat. It was a struggle, but we managed to force ourselves into the cramped area with him sitting on the seat and me straddling his lap.
“You better be a good kisser,” I said breathily, the excitement of this stranger almost too much to take.
“What about the party?”
“Kiss me first.”
I watched his glorious Adam’s apple wiggle as he chuckled nervously, as if he weren’t as confident about his kissing abilities now that we were alone in the back seat of my car. He was probably a liar and a fraud just like all the rest of them but I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt, so I waited for him to make the first move. He cupped my cheeks with his hands and pulled my face to his, gently touching my mouth with his, then slowly, almost agonizingly, he tilted his head and introduced his warm tongue to the inside of my mouth. It wasn’t the usual animalistic, wide open-mouthed kiss, or even the snake-tongue sliding down the back of my throat that most guys were guilty of, but a kiss so sensual the enormity of its affect on me traveled from my tongue through the rest of my body until it reached it’s intended target… the throbbing sensation between my legs.
His kisses were soft and sexy, not hard and hurried, which is something I’d never experienced before. Most guys were more interested in eating your face off while they tried to get in your pants, and I was always a willing participant, but I’d gotten to the point where I barely allowed kissing at all, almost like a prostitute. This guy… this stranger… kissed me like he cared, like he was actually a pretty decent guy who wasn’t a douchebag. But if he was coming after me for a party, he most certainly must have been a douchebag. I never attracted decent guys, and that was okay because I never wanted to stick around anyway. I was all about the party and the quick exit. Time to get this one moving along.
As his kisses continued pulling me under his spell, my fingers quickly opened the buttons of his shirt as his hands slid down and landed firmly on my backside where he squeezed. Without ever separating my lips from his I deftly unbuttoned his jeans then slid down the zipper, and as he struggled in the cramped space to wiggle them down, I told him to hold on.
I managed to turn around and stuff myself between the two front seats, leaning over the emergency brake and stretching to open the glovebox. As I succeeded in opening it and grabbing the condom I was searching for, I felt him slide my miniskirt up and my panties down. I tried to reach back and hand him the condom but I was stuck and there was no way he was putting that thing in me without covering it up.
I was frantically trying to loosen myself when I felt him tapping lightly and the next thing I knew he was snorting blow off my ass. Not just one cheek, but both. This pissed me off because we were supposed to have that party together and he was cheating because I was bare-assed and wedged between the front seats of my old, broken down car.
“Hey!” I shouted. “That’s not fair!”
He began laughing hysterically and offered to help me, and as we both maneuvered my body back to him, which caused him to get a face full of ass with each movement, he managed to pull my panties away from my ankles and placed me back on his lap, where I felt his full arousal underneath me.
I watched as he lightly tapped my portion of the party onto the top of his hand and I eagerly inhaled it, squeezing my nostrils tightly closed with my fingers until the burning sensation subsided. I saw him gazing at me with those kaleidoscope eyes and dove forward, covering his neck in hot, wet kisses until he brought my face back to his. He kissed me urgently as he expertly slipped on the condom and I wasted no time filling myself with everything he had to offer.
By the time we finished my windows were steamed to perfection and we were both panting like we’d just run a marathon neither of us was prepared to take part in. I pushed his sweaty hair away from his face then playfully nibbled on his neck before leaning back to open the car door. I managed to push my miniskirt down to cover my naughty bits before stumbling out of the car as I waited for him to pull up his pants and fall out after me.
“What time is it?” I asked.
He struggled to read what his watch said, then replied, “Twelve-thirty.”
He pinned me against the car and kissed me. “Happy New Year,” he whispered with a grin.
“You go back inside and find us a table. I just need to freshen my makeup.”
“Don’t be too long.”
I watched as he jogged away and as soon as he disappeared from sight I got back in my car, started the engine and sped off. It didn’t matter that I couldn’t see two feet in front of me with the foggy windows; I knew the streets of Chicago with my eyes closed and I wasn’t stopping until I made it home.
I felt the rain splashing my face, gently at first, then a cold, torrential downpour pelting my skin so hard it felt like needles stinging me. I gasped for breath as I struggled to open my eyes, then saw my mom standing over me with the shower head in her hand, hosing me down like a car needing washing.
“Oh good,” she grumbled. “You’re awake.”
As she turned off the water and placed the shower head back in its holder on the wall, I tried to remember how I got into the bathtub.
“Dinner in an hour.”
“Dinner?” I groaned. “What time is it?”
“Four o’clock. Before you make yourself presentable, you need to come downstairs.” She grabbed my towel off the rack and held it out to me but I never moved from my fetal position at the bottom of the tub. “Don’t make this more embarrassing for yourself than it already is. Get up. Now.”
She threw the towel at me then stormed out of my bathroom and down the stairs, her thunderous footsteps echoing in my painfully throbbing head. I gingerly stretched my limbs and unraveled myself from myself, slowly standing up. I didn’t have to see my reflection in the mirror clearly to know I looked like a drowned, deranged clown covered in skimpy cheetah skin. I dried myself off as well as I could, clothes and all, wrapped the towel around me and headed down to the kitchen where my mom ordered me to put on shoes.
I slipped on my boots and reluctantly followed her outside to the front yard. I shivered in the bitter cold, my teeth chattering so loudly I thought they’d crack into tiny little pieces. My breath caught in my throat as I saw the front of my car smashed into a pine tree with mass destruction all around. A flattened mailbox, winter-dead rose bushes uprooted and lying on the ground, and one of the porch handrails ripped from its cement foundation. I could see the neighbor’s window curtains moving as I realized they were watching us from inside.
“So this is how you celebrate your sister’s memory?”
“I was working,” I mumbled.
She grabbed my arm forcefully and dragged me closer to the car where she opened the driver’s side door and flung the front seat forward. I peered into the back seat and immediately shrunk next to my mom, her judgmental glare burning fire into my cold skin. I spotted the used condom on the floor next to my panties… I clenched my butt cheeks together and yep, I apparently never put them back on. I was horrified as my mom picked something off the back seat and shoved it in front of my face.
“And what kind of work do you do exactly?”
I stared at the small vial and knew instantly it must have fallen out of the stranger’s pocket as he exited my car.
I squirmed as I quietly answered, “You know I’m a bartender.”
My dad came out of the house to meet the tow truck that arrived as my mom grabbed my arm and dragged me back into the house. I headed for the stairs to go back up to my bathroom, but she ordered me to sit down in the kitchen. As I opened my mouth to protest she started screaming at me like a lunatic and I could only catch bits and pieces of what she was trying to say.
“The last straw… rehab… trashy behavior… embarrassment to our family… we raised you better… your sister….”
As soon as she mentioned my sister, I went upstairs and locked myself in the bathroom. Nobody missed Prude more than I did, and every day I wished it had been me, not her. She was the sweet sister, the kind sister, the one everybody looked up to and adored because, unlike me, she was worthy of such adoration.
I stared at my hideous reflection in the mirror as my mom’s cringeworthy screaming got closer, reminding me what a disappointment I was.
The first week of the new year brought about an ultimatum — I go to rehab or my parents kick me out of their house. I argued that I didn’t need rehab; I partied for fun, not because it was something I couldn’t control. I wasn’t an addict or an alcoholic or a whore. Well maybe a little bit of a whore, but only because I needed to feel wanted without getting emotionally attached. I started to pack a suitcase, having no idea where I was going to go, but I couldn’t stand living under my parents’ roof any longer. I was twenty-two years old, my twin sister and best friend was dead, and I needed to start over somewhere new. My parents had a change of heart when they realized I was going to leave and never return, giving me one other option — change my image and get a real job. I didn’t even know what that meant!
My mom dragged me to her hairdresser to have my bleached-blonde hair obliterated, trimming the dead ends and coloring it a light brown shade, which was close to the color of my natural hair. I loved being blonde; it was true that blondes had more fun. I sat in my mom’s car fuming afterward and she had the audacity to think taking me for ice cream would heal the wounds inflicted on me.
“You looked like a stripper!” she yelled. “Your sister was blonde and you’re not!”
I wanted to hurt her and the only weapon I had was words. “I thought you’d love me more if I was blonde.”
“You’re being ridiculous!”
My parents were hoping for a girl and a boy so there would be no competition, and while my sister was the blonde, blue-eyed princess, she was also deaf. This somehow became my fault, simply for being the hearing child.
“I know how disappointed you were that I was a girl,” I continued as she drove. “And that I could hear.”
Taking one hand off the steering wheel my mom lashed out at me, barely clipping my cheek with her fingers.
“You may try to look like your sister, but you will never be anything like her. It’s time you grew up and took control of your own life instead of trying to be something that’s impossible!”
“You’re right. Expecting to be someone my parents love is impossible.”
My mom’s voice shook as she replied, “You’re being completely unfair.”
“She was my best friend! The only one who ever understood me! It’s not my fault she’s gone… you think I don’t wish every day that it was me instead of her?”