Chapter 5 – the encounter
She held two tops up and tried to determine which to wear.
“What do you think?”, she asked Ann.
“They’re both black.”, Ann replied with a quick glance while reading a fashion magazine on the bed now her schoolwork was done.
“Maybe that’s just the colour of my soul.”, Eliza said mockingly.
“As if!” Ann laughed while Eliza dodged the pillow aimed at her.
They laughed aloud and dropped down on the bed to listen to some music. Ann turned the volume up a few notches. “Nothing like some party music to get into the mood.”
“Right.” The first party in months! Eliza only wished she actually wanted to go. Perhaps she just hadn’t digested all the ghost stories yet, even though she liked a good dose of horror. It does make a difference if it’s set in some distant movie studio or in your own house... But she was resolved on enjoying herself, on command if she had to, for Ann’s sake and for her own.
“I can’t believe you could find a club in this dead part of the world. I didn’t even know there was a nightlife here.”
“Or life at all.”
“You’re the best, Ann.”
“Well, just leave it to me to find out where the fun is at.”, she said snapping her fingers to the rhythm and half-rose with a glance at the alarm clock. “But if you don’t make up your mind soon, there won’t be any night left when we get there.” Ann was already fully dressed and ready to go, while Eliza was still fidgeting at her hair and deciding on clothes.
“Like that would stop you!” Nevertheless she thought it best to hurry up and picked up the black cocktail dress Ann had picked out for her from the heap of clothes she had dumped there. Isn’t it a little short? Oh, well. Thank God Ann has an eye for fashion cause I’m hopeless...
Nonetheless she looked at her reflection with a critical eye, or at least attempted to when Ann grabbed hold of her arm and pulled her away.
“You look great, now let’s GO!”, Ann yelled while lugging Eliza, who could just in time pluck her handbag off the bed, to the door.
They left the car in an underground car park in a more residential area and headed for the booming nightlife on foot.
Eliza tried not to notice that the clubs were situated in a fairly unfriendly looking part of town, with just as unfriendly looking people lurking about in the alleys. She closed her hand around the pepper spray in her pocket for comfort. Her uncle made her take it with her when she told him where she was going, go figure... Still, the number of clubs here was a pleasant surprise and it was good to see some other young people in the streets for a change.
“Alright then, ohm... – eenie meenie mini moe - that one!”
An hours later, she nipped on a breezer at the bar while Ann was enjoying herself on the dance floor with a few of the local creeps, who started surrounding her ever since they got there.
Eliza said she went for a drink, but in reality she could really use a time-out. At least Ann is having fun. She turned to look at the group and couldn’t help but wonder how her new friend managed to just about radiate despite a shabby nightclub like this. Almost like a star in a dark sky. I’ve got to make her teach me how to do that some time. The fact that she chose the exact middle of the dance floor and wore her brightest dress while most of the people around her dressed in all black probably had something to do with that, but hey, guess that’s just Ann. She wasn’t exactly one for letting herself go by unnoticed.
She let her eye dwell on the others present until her gaze fell on a young man near the door. He just came in. Couldn’t be much older than she was. What first struck her was how subtle his movements were, like a cat on the hunt, a black cat. He stuck out from the rest somehow and he... was looking at her! When he saw she noticed a faint smile came over his lips, curling one edge of his mouth up just a little, nearly unnoticeable, while he practically floated about.
For a second their eyes locked and then she looked away hoping her cheeks didn’t colour. Off course he was looking at me, it’s only logical the way I was staring at him. Quickly she feigned disinterest by fixing her eye back on Ann. Would he follow her eyes and start watching Ann too? Everyone else did. Great way to get rid of spotlights.
Still it wasn’t long before her eyes mutinied on her and turned back to the door in a frantic search, but the hansom stranger wasn’t there anymore. He seemed to have dissolved. He couldn’t have left, could he? Something in the way he moved was scary but intrigued her at the same time.
She turned and saw him at the bar to her right, looking, sizing her up almost with that revolting yet captivating smile of his. Part of her wanted to beat it off him, another part had a completely different plan for those lips of his. She wished to silence them both.
Best to pay absolutely no attention to him lest he would fancy her interested. She put the empty bottle on the bar and made her way through the crowd back to Ann. This whole thing gave her the creeps.
“Hey, don’t you think we’ve been here long enough? How about we go now?”
“What? Are you kidding? This place is great, why you wanna go?”
She definitely wouldn’t be persuaded to go home, even if she would explain the situation to her. But how could she do that? It didn’t make sense to her either. She just wanted to get away, whether she could understand her unease or not. The guy just stirred up too much in her and not all of it was pleasant. Not all of it was unpleasant either. Something in his gaze made alarm bells go off in her head. So she settled for the next best option: get out of the club. Surely, I can win Ann over for that.
“Come on, Ann. So many clubs, so little night left. The hours are ticking away and we’ve got to do all of them before dawn. What do you say?”
“See it as preparation for when we start college next year.” She winked. “You’re not going soft on me, are you, Ann?”
“Hell no! You’re on!” Ann whispered something to some of the guys around her who looked at her mournfully while scanning the rest of the crowd from the corner of their eye for a girl to replace her with.
“Come on, Liz, let’s go!”, she said while she waggled ahead, trying to lead the way. Better keep her away from booze for the next hours to avoid disaster...
“See, this place is even better! A shame so many others think so too.”, Eliza said while she tried hard to avoid collisions in the crowd as much as she could.
“No worries, the school kids have curfews.” Eliza wondered why Ann didn’t have a curfew. They kind of were school kids after all, at least for a bit longer. “They’ll be gone soon and then we’ll take over the dance floor.”, Ann said winking.
I’m supposed to go home with her if I want a ride back anywhere near home. This might get very late, or rather early. Maybe she’ll be sober by then.
When she wasn’t looking Eliza snatched away Ann’s gin tonic, finished it and put it back. She had been doing that ever since they left the first club to keep Ann from getting completely drunk. Whenever she could, she replaced Ann’s alcoholic drinks with soda’s or signalled the waiter to change Ann’s order while she was distracted. After all, Ann was going to have to drive...
Eliza was snatched from her reverie both literally and figuratively when the DJ threw the newest chart leader on and the familiar tones reached their ears. The club went wild and so did Ann.
“It’s our song, Lizzy!” Ann grabbed her wrist and made her way to the centre of the floor, dragging Eliza behind her like dead weight.
The dancing had made her cheeks turn bright red and they stopped, laughing, to gasp for air and keep each other standing.
Eliza ducked to pick up Ann’s purse that had slipped off her shoulder and wanted to hand it to her when before she was aware of it she was looking right into the dark eyes of the mysterious boy she saw earlier. She froze immediately.
He was back and he didn’t exactly blend in with the party folk, yet no one seemed to really notice he was there and they all just kept moving whereas he and she were standing still amidst the spinning all around them.
“What is it?” Ann asked.
“Him.”, she whispered trying not to nod in his direction but unable to pull her eyes away.
“Oh, he’s kind of cute, isn’t he?”
“Yes, I suppose so.”
His calm air bordered on arrogance, which really got on her nerves and yet he appeared to attract her despite herself. He seemed way too relaxed as he hung back at the bar, watching them, perfectly at ease, while everything and everyone else were in flux, like a rock in a turbulent current. A rock wearing a shiny black leather jacket. What was he puling the good old ‘bad boy’ act? How strangely effective.
He didn’t look away, didn’t even blink, he just kept staring with that half amused grin that really started to annoy her. His look had something almost cruel about it which made the blood in her veins freeze and boil at the same time and yet his whole posture had something immensely appealing as well.
She couldn’t quite put her finger on it, or him for that matter or anything about him, not even what his effect on herself was. That gaze of his was almost hypnotic, almost beckoning, almost magnetic and left no escape as he seemed to look at her so intensely and through her at the same time as if he pierced into her very soul and he kept calling, calling her as if she could hear his voice, low as a whisper, in her head and she... STOP! She shrugged.
The temperature seemed to drop ten degrees as she struggled to regain control over her limbs and the crowd stopped parting to let her through. What happened? What was she doing? What got into her that she would go over to him?
It was as if she awoke from a trance and all was cold and chill and dizzying around as she looked at him and regained her consciousness. Still, she had to battle herself to turn around, to run away, but she didn’t want to yet she was desperate to but couldn’t and so she stood there motionless, an island in moving bodies, like him, and returned his glare while black lights went on and off over their heads.
As she stopped approaching he was startled and crawled up on the bar stool as to almost get to his feet, the crooked grin was almost entirely wiped off his face as they stood about nine feet apart, assessing each other like predator and prey, though it was hard to tell which was which.
He lost his composure and a haze of confusion came over his features. He took some hesitant steps in her direction, then stopped like she had and seemed to change his mind, retraced his steps, took position at the darkest corner of the bar and lowered his eyes, but she knew he was still watching her from the shadows, she felt his glare burning on her skin and below it.
She tried not to pay attention to him or at least make him think she didn’t though every movement, every breath she took was entrenched in his presence.
The intensity of his observation grew. It made her feel very uneasy, yet it gave her a pleasant glow in her stomach, which she hoped wouldn’t spread to become visible on her cheeks and give her away. Better go now...
“How ‘bout we check out this club across the street?”
But fleeing was no refuge; he followed her wherever she went and seemed to enjoy it too, like a child playing hide and seek.
He looked at her somewhat differently than before, more lively, more earthly too and nodded at her almost imperceptibly as if they were in a duel. In a way, of course, they were.
It was not like he didn’t like being challenged at what he was good at and she refused to lose to him and so they both silently accepted the dare.
Her reluctance to lose the game aside, Eliza felt she couldn’t read him, couldn’t penetrate as far beneath the surface as he apparently could and every attempt gave her headaches. It was like looking into a dark, deep pool and trying to see the bottom, yet she wouldn’t give up.
For her the contest of looks and attitudes continued till her nerve disappeared together with the temporary intoxication of the alcohol which always made her braver than she generally was.
An hour before dawn, as the sky was slowly clearing up, he disappeared with a final nod in her direction, a little more obvious than before.
She couldn’t shake the feeling that he was trying to communicate a wordless “We’ll meet again”. She certainly hoped he wasn’t and craved to see him again still. She wondered if it was possible for a person to literally be split in half. If it is, I’m in big trouble...
“Oh, is the hottie gone?”
“Shame. Why didn’t you go talk to him or something?”
“Don’t know. I didn’t intend to even try.”
“Well, if you don’t want him, can I have him?”
“You’re unbelievable, you know that?”
“So I’ve been told.”, Ann said, sticking out her tongue.
“Come on, let’s go. Don’t you think we’ve had enough action for one night?”
All the way back to Ann’s house Eliza was silent, but Ann decided not to go into it and left her to her thoughts, though secretly guessing their handsome object.
That look of his had fascinated her and the power of it had scared her, yet whatever feeling came over her, though it took her considerable effort to regain composure at times, the experience was never really unpleasant. It had been more like the verge of deep sleep, like a peaceful sliding into a state where her head was light and empty.
What worried her was that it had been emptied of herself and filled with him and that he seemed to know her hopes, her fears and her deepest secrets, seemed to pluck them right out of her heart.
She didn’t like it at all when people came too close, and she liked it even less when they knew too much about her. She wanted to be like the dark watered pond in the castle yard, that resembled his eyes so much.
Just for a moment, he had bereft her of her ability to resist but that moment had made all the difference. How long had it been? A second? Two seconds? Three? A whole minute? It didn’t even matter but for that blink of an eye, which he refused to give, he took her over, he made her think and do as he chose and that she would not let him or anyone else accomplish ever again.
However resolved on not ever thinking of him again, his eyes haunted her dreams and were imprinted in her soul whether she was conscious of it or not.
The mist will not go down, it spreads all around me. However, the cool glass of the mirror in front of me remains crystal-clear. Still there is no reflection. I stretch my arm and touch the glass with a fingertip. The surface wrinkles like silvery water, impenetrable to the eye. It is only now that I realize the rectangle is not a mirror at all, but a doorway instead. I slowly hold my hands out and push through the chilly liquid into another room that is not foggy. However, everything still consist of different shades of white, one shading into the other. It is difficult to see anything distinct, all is hazy, I can’t separate one tone from another. Where am I?
“Hello?” My voice sounds shrill. Am I afraid?
Responding to my call, something moves forward from out of the white and very slowly takes form, detaching itself from the background. I see the slightly more greyish spot grow into the form of a girl. She has been here the entire time, why couldn’t I see her before?
The girl is dancing. If I had to describe her dance in one word, it would be exotic. Exotic and eccentric. Unworldly? Perhaps. Perhaps not. I can heart bells on her clothing toll as she moves. I envy her for her enchanting dance. Her movements are liquid and graceful, as herself. She dances to the rhythm of the indistinct white haze around her, matching its patterns perfectly while making the figures and lines it lays out for her in space.
I focus on the girl herself. She is so thin, she reminds me of a vision, a spectre, something unreal, intangible and fleeting. Fragile too. Transparent almost. Like a ghost, the spirit of something that never was and never will, can, be. Her figure is long and she has exceptionally extended slim arms that move like serpents, as responding to a will of their own, one will for the both of them. Such harmony.
On each of those elongated arms, bending and curling, are a number of white masks being joggled along with her movements. Each of them a different expression and the clearest tone of white in the entire room. The girl herself borders on light gray, but still very pale and of a translucent kind. There is such serenity in her entire frame, in the way she curves to a laid-back tempo with such elegance, every part of her corresponding to it.
It must be her visage that lends such a overwhelming calm to her performance. She keeps her head down, her face is hidden in the shadows of her long hair, I take another step, I have to see it. Is she sad? Her posture seems drooping. It must be the untied hair that makes it so. I approach her like one would a wild animal, she does not interrupt her dance, until we are just inches apart. Then she lifts her head. The girl has no face. Only a blank spot looms were an expression should be.
I stumble back in horror. She’s coming towards me. My back slams into the portal, it is a mirror again, he liquid ice had turned back into metal. I’m trapped. I’m stuck in here, with HER.
In the morning the thoughts of him that had lingered in her mind throughout the night had vanished as if the sun had melted them away. She still welcomed the walk from Ann’s house back to the mansion to help clear her head.