Twenty minutes in line felt like eternity before the bouncers waved us in. As we stepped through the door, pounding music shifted abruptly from muted to mind-blowing. I felt a pang when no one asked for my ID. My twenty-fifth birthday loomed large, just one week away. Somehow finding myself at this mid-point ate at me.
The club was Chris' idea. Things felt pretty fresh and raw between us - we'd wanted to be together for awhile, but had only recently admitted it. I had left another man for him, and that made things a bit squirmy. Worse, I'd arrived in the city three days before to share his small apartment, and we hadn't even dated yet. From fantasy to serious in a quick series of romance-charged moves, without any nods to the reality and scariness of joining our lives. So here we were.
He'd suggested this chic club, when I'd have rathered stay in or go somewhere quiet - or maybe I just felt like a tag-along on his life. Regardless, I was in the mood to secretly disdain his choice, and smugly did so. Just like him to choose the kind of pulsing, noisy joint where artists, ruffians and musicians hang with rich kids and other wannabes, so everyone feels very cool and cultured. That's how he wanted me to see him.
Three guys waved and hooted at Chris from the other side of the room. Appreciating recognition, he smiled big and headed that direction, leading me by the arm. But I wanted to dance. I tugged his hand, shimmying backwards towards the floor, trying my best to be enticing. Chris shook he head and pointed to the guys, as if I hadn't seen them. I puckered my brows and shook my head with a smile, but it wasn't enough - he hesitated. I've never had much patience for hesitation. I dropped his hand and spun into the crowd.
I had my choice of partners out there, but I couldn't seem to get into it, turning from one hot, moist body to the next until finally, I danced with the music itself. I closed my eyes, the bass line pounding through me and my arms and torso flowing with the melody. Typical club fare suited me fine, steady and upbeat, no thought or analysis required. I let my body be with time and space and sound in the moment. I breathed in the smells of sweat and perfume, flesh and want, while lights danced over my eyelids. My body let my spirit take over and it felt like sweet release.
One after another I shook off the last month's flashes. Chris' shy smile behind another man's flowers - zapped with a head-shake! Our hands clasped across a coffee table - flicked away with my wrists and fingers in the air! The moment Ethan's face morphed from disbelief to pain - smashed with a stomp! The instant his face switched from pain to anger - shoved off with rolling hips and swinging head. One by one I cleared the distractions until I felt alone in a clean, white space with the music and my body's motion. I held myself close, feeling my muscled thighs and soft-skinned face, finally finding the joy-spot, being in a body in motion. I just moved.
Out of nowhere, I started back to myself, stumbling as the rhythm flew from me. I opened my eyes to see only hers', piercing into my soul from across the crowded room.
Trix sat taller than anyone around her; regal, contained, like a feline queen. Short-cropped, serrated black hair accentuated her high cheekbones and long face, culminating in a wide, full-lipped mouth. Each feature on its own looked exaggerated - together, they settled into place on an exceptionally striking face. Everyone at the table had situated themselves around her and she took it as her due. People pawed for her attention while she kept her eyes on me. And those eyes - dark, intense, large and slightly too wide apart - shone with recognition like she already knew me inside out. It felt like an electric shock, alarmingly intense.
I felt suddenly too self-conscious to be visible. I realized I was standing statue-still when people started bumping me around. I suddenly needed to be out of the crowd. Where was Chris? I quelled what felt almost like panic when I didn't see him right away. There. Elbows and hands won me few friends but got me through the crowd. I slid up beside Chris, my heart racing, and tucked myself under his arm. He absently pulled me closer, still intent on conversation.
Then she suddenly stood there, in front of me, her eyes unwavering from my face as she spoke up.
"Well, Chris, you've brought us a new mouse to play with?" Her words sounded slightly accented, elongated and clipped at the last second.
They knew each other? Chris' face held clear distaste. He couldn't help scrunching up his nose at what smelled to him of pretense.
"How're tricks, Trix?" he asked, which from someone else might have sounded lame, but I thought he pulled it off. He seemed wary. She didn't even glance at him.
Trix reached over and took my hand in hers. Her fingers felt long, like a man's, and bony-strong; soft and firm at the same time. Her thumb lightly traced the calluses on my fingertips. I searched her eyes but all I could see was black.
"Come sit with us," she called over the music, the words for me. She lifted my arm to lace our hands over Chris' head, lifting me onto tiptoes as I found myself spun around, Chris trapped between Trix and I. Trix grabbed Chris' hand firmly in her other, and dragged us both behind her like small children at a fast clip. Chris rolled his eyes back at his friends, but he didn't resist.
Trix waved two people away from her table and deposited us in their chairs, backs to the dance floor. I shrugged apologetically but the dethroned couple had disappeared onto the floor. Trix crouched by my side so our faces sat level.
"Perhaps she has a name?" She still did not let go of my hand. She leaned in close to my ear, and her exaggerated whisper sent a thrill down my neck, "Tell me your secret name."
I couldn't respond. I felt her words sinking into my chest, speeding my heartbeat then seeping through my stomach and lower, spreading a sweet, achy trail. Trix spoke directly to my body. I felt almost paralyzed. I wondered briefly if I'd been drugged.
Chris broke my moment with a nudge, drawing my attention to a stunning woman across the table, watching me through narrowed eyes. I gathered she'd been speaking to me, and I'd been caught out in reverie. I signalled to my ears, as though I just hadn't heard her over the music.
"I'm Trace," the woman shouted from across the table, with a hint of expectation that the name should mean something to me.
Trace looked like exactly the kind of woman to intimidate me. Beautiful and self-assured, she sat askew in her chair, legs draped over the side so her feet rested against the man beside her. Dancer or gymnast? I wondered as she flexed her toes and I caught sight of taut calf muscles under paisley tights. She had pulled back her thick blond hair in a high cheerleader pony-tail, allowing the full force of her lovely features to shine without obstruction. Clear skin, ironic pout, large, round breasts and a confidence fully justified by appearance. She was the popular rich girl who never needed to ingratiate herself or even consider how others might feel. At least, I put all that on her in the ten seconds we'd been in eye contact.
While Trace and I regarded each other, Trix used a single fluid movement to grab a chair from another table and sit, chin propped on her hand, gazing at me as though nothing could interest her more. I felt disconcerted, so I tried not to seem uncomfortable and only got more stiff. On my other side, Chris leaned in conspiratorially, but he spoke at full volume,
"Trace performs with Trix. They have a little act."
Irritation flashed across Trix's face before she smoothed it into a smile. Trace looked away, bored.
"We have a band. Trix and Traces, maybe you've heard of us? Bash plays bass." Trix indicated the dark, serious man acting as Trace's footrest. He lifted his hand in a friendly wave, his raised eyebrow substituting for a smile.
These people were too cool for school, and I was starting to feel like I'd had enough for one night. I turned to Chris for help, but his eyes sparkled with interest. I realized he enjoyed seeing me squirm a little - it told him more about me, I guess, to see how I acted in unknown territory. Instead of help, he decided to stir the pot.
"Christine plays guitar," Chris offered the table mischievously. I glared at him, incredulous. Did he really want to force me into this conversation? Couldn't he read me at all?
"Chris and Christine?" Trix asked me, her right eyebrow raised like a mime miming surprise. "Cute." Her tone said this accidental cuteness undermined our entire relationship and made us somehow pitiable. I couldn't tell her teasing from scorn, and I felt on guard. I looked away.
"So you play," Trix asked, but she'd already known.
"Since I was small," I admitted. "I just finished two years with the University orchestra back home while I did my degree." Did I sound like I was bragging, or just lame? She continued watching me, waiting for something else.
"And, I've been in a couple of bands?" I offered shyly.
"Covers or originals?"
"Not really. Sort of?"
"No!" I sounded too insulted and laughed to cover it up. She regarded me sceptically, then smiled, deciding to play.
"Punk." She tossed it out expecting an easy no, but she didn't know me.
"A little." She tilted her head with interest. "Green Day, My Chemical Romance, Rise Against..." These she dismissed with her hand - not surprising, I could tell she was a purist.
"So, no Minor Threat I'm guessing." I shook my head. Had I even heard of that band?
I hesitated. Did she want a yes or a no? I knew I shouldn't care, but I wanted her approval.
"Maybe a bit?" She smiled to herself.
"Metallica?" she tried. I shook my head. "Guns and Roses?"
Trix chuckled, like she'd seen three moves ahead in chess.
"Sweet Child." she drawled, knowing she'd score a hit.
"On the classical acoustic, alone," I retorted a little defiantly, to cover my embarrassment at being caught in sentiment.
Trix narrowed her eyes, willing to give a little credit. "Could work. Well then. You a Black Keys kinda girl?" She sounded almost bored.
"More...White Stripes." Her eyes widened just slightly, letting me know she hadn't pegged me yet. I wondered what she'd expected.
"What kind of audience are you playing for, Mouse, that would put up with the mix you're spinning me?"
She snorted a laugh out her nostrils. "Clearly. So you likely eschew Sam-Roberts-easy-going?"
"I've played it under protest."
"Tool?" Her chin thrust forward just slightly in challenge.
"Ænima." That surprised her. Her lip curled in reluctant appreciation. "Like, the whole thing? For a crowd?" I nodded solemnly, proud smile pulling the corners of my mouth in spite of me.
"System of a Down?" She pushed for my boundaries and hit one. Not that I'd let her know that.
"Not yet." I earned a muted guffaw.
"Rage Against the Machine?"
"No, but I'd like to. At least, Take the Power Back could feel pretty triumphant..." I offered.
Trix regarded me as a different creature than I'd been five minutes ago. She sat back, pressing her fingers together reflectively, eyes closed. Suddenly, her eyes flew open and speared mine in place.
"Female musical hero?" Trix watched me closely. I didn't hesitate - this one was easy. "Joan Jett!" I cried with enthusiasm. I didn't care what anyone thought of that. It wasn't even the music - it was her single-minded quest to ROCK OUT!
"Hm." Trix's eyebrows contracted together for a few seconds in thought. She nodded once to herself. "I see. You'll do, Mouse."
I felt I'd narrowly passed a test I didn't quite deserve to pass, but I'd had fun rising to the challenge. I could play almost any style, but Trix did me the honour of trying to guess my musical heart. I thought maybe she'd stopped short, but at least she had decided to take me seriously.
"Ozzy or Dio?" The test had clearly ended - now we could have fun.
"Ozzy, but it's apples and bananas." She raised her left eyebrow appreciatively, and I realized she gave me credit for an accidental double entendre when I'd just been playing with the metaphor.
"Zeppelin or Floyd?" We had reached the last question, and I had an answer.
"It's Sophie's Choice."
Trix laughed out loud and I felt like I'd won a prize. She clapped her hands together.
"Good. Bash, Trace - a guitarist! We were just talking about a change, and now we've found her."
Bash eyebrow-raised and half-waved again. Trace widened her baby-blue eyes and huffed out a breath of incredulity. She opened her mouth. She closed it again, shook her head slightly. Then slowly, gracefully, she unwound her legs to stand, and simply walked away from the table. Trix didn't look up. Chris silently chuckled beside me. He leaned in close and whispered, "I could use some popcorn for this show."
Then, almost like a light switched, Trix lost interest. She stood and reached for Bash's hand as he came around the table to join her. Without another word, they strode to the dance floor. Trix stroked the top of my head on the way by. The gesture felt as intimate as a lover's touch.
"Let's dance," Chris whispered against my neck, his arm slinking around my waist as he stood. I focused my attention back to him as we melted into the music and each other. Chris liked to be in the moment so his creative intensity made up for any lack of technical skill. We could really work each other up on a dance floor, sliding together and apart, appreciating each others' bodies and physical control. He wore a green-sheened black t-shirt, fitted to his muscled chest and cutting his biceps at a nice angle. I enjoyed the lights dancing on his clean head, and the intensity that gripped his face. I relished looking up at him, always a little taller than I expected. He looked like a contender, after all.