ArrangedBy: Sara Wolf
I settle on an empty couch and glance my fingers through a bowl of hard candy on the glass table. The music is a dull thud through the walls. A girl gets up from the people smoking and sits by me. Her legs are incredibly long and her skin’s a rich amber. Her black hair is wavy and the tiny sequined dress and heels she wears makes me feel completely overdressed.
“Hey,” She puts out her cigarette and smiles. “You’re a new addition.”
“I’m Rose. Jen’s friend.”
“Small world. I know Jen, too,” She laughs. “I’m Grace.”
There’s an awkward beat as I struggle for something cool to say. Grace beats me to it.
“I love your blouse.”
“Thanks. Twenty bucks at a thrift store. I like your dress.”
“Thanks. I got it for free.”
“Oh, like, you made it?”
Grace shakes her head, doe eyes patient.
“Did you, um,” I falter and whisper. “S-Steal it?”
She laughs so loud it makes everyone else look. “Stealing? Oh god, you are one of a kind.”
“I didn’t mean to offend –”
“No no, no offense taken.” She waves a slender hand. “I just…no one’s ever accused me of stealing. It’s sort of a thing, you know. With people like me.”
I furrow my brows. She motions to her face and makes air quotes.
“‘Pretty’ girls. No one accuses us of anything bad. It gets a little ridiculous after a while.”
She seems nice, and down-to-earth. Grace. Where have I heard that name before?
“Here,” Grace passes me a flask. “Drink up. We’ve got a long night ahead of us.”
“Oh, uh, thanks.” I take it. My friends and I drank in high school, but nothing really serious, just a bottle of wine with sleepovers. I take a sip and it burns my throat from the inside out. Grace looks amused, smiling as she takes a sip of her own.
“Never had whiskey before, hm?”
“Whiskey? More like pisskey,” I cough. She laughs again, practically spurting her whiskey over the table. She swallows and starts cracking up.
“Y-You,” She gasps for air. “Are very interesting. I like you.”
The band stops playing and applause ricochets. The announcer’s muffled words introduce the next band.
“That’s Jen!” Grace grabs my hand. “Let’s go!”
She pulls me down the hall and bursts out the door, pressing into the crowd. She’s nearly as tall as I am, and she cranes her neck to see the stage better. I stand on my tiptoes and get a great view – Jen’s strumming her guitar, giving it one last test. The drummer and bassist warm up with a few notes of their own. The singer grabs the mic and clears her throat in it.
“Testing, testing, hey Los Angeles how’re you feeling tonight?”
The crowd roars. Grace shrieks and throws her hands up.
“Thanks for being here tonight. We’re the Break-Ins and this first song is called Spine Fluid.”
Compared to the last band, Jen’s has more feeling, more energy. The singer reaches into the crowd every so often, her fingertips skimming theirs as she croons to them. Sometimes she murmurs, sometimes she screams. Jen’s guitar is incredible – her fingers moving so fast on the fret I can barely see them, and when she kneels on the ground to rip out her solo, Grace goes wild. She pulls my hand up and we jump in place together with the rest of the crowd. Between every song I glimpse at Grace’s face – she’s completely riveted to the stage, and Jen. When the set is over and the last encore finishes, we go back to the VIP room, sweaty, tired, and overhyped with all the adrenaline the music injected in us. I collapse on the couch, completely exhausted, but Grace bounces in her heels.
“I’m going to go congratulate them! I’ll bring her back, so stay right there.”
I nod, grateful for the rest. I lie on the couch, suddenly too tired to care about appearances. I hadn’t slept well; these past few nights were spent worrying about Mom and Dad. I’ll just close my eyes for a second. Just one second.
Something smells like spices and faint chlorine. I groggily open my eyes. Everything’s blurry – did I fall asleep? A very delicate touch slides across my lips, so light it could be the wind. But it’s warm. And it gets warmer, pressing harder against my bottom lip. I sit up and my eyes snap open. Hazel eyes stare into mine, dark bangs messily shading them. Lee.
“Y-You!” I stutter. “Did you just –”
“Kiss you awake?” He smirks. “Yes.”
“Why are you here?” I hold up my hand. “Wait, don’t answer that. I have to go scrub my lips with bleach.”
“Aw, don’t do that. You’ll ruin their softness.”
“They aren’t soft! Just…shut up!” I flush.
“Lee!” Grace sweeps in, Jen on her heels. “You got here too late!”
“We finished twenty minutes ago,” Jen huffs. Lee frowns.
“Damn. I’m sorry. How can I make it up to you?”
“Dinner.” Grace points at him. “You’re making it.”