Word Count: 1,841
CW: Substance use
Related works: N/A
I woke up to the sound of my phone buzzing beneath my pillow, a sensation as though I had personally picked a plantation worth of cotton with my mouth, and the distinct feeling that I might never be happy again. I groaned and slid out of bed, careful not to disturb the still-sleeping figure that was next to me moments before. I smiled in spite of myself as I wiggled out of my skirt and into pajama shorts before tiptoeing out of the bedroom, carefully closing the door behind me.
The living room was a minefield of beverage containers and bodies. I grabbed a pack of cigarettes and a lighter from the coffee table before making my way to the balcony.
Charles – “Adonis”
As I opened the balcony door, I was instantly rewarded with rhythmic drumming and a pretty, shirtless man. I could always see the unique beauty of my friends, but the one thing that being creatures of the night makes you miss are their eye colors. Charles had eyes so blue they almost looked fake, especially when he rolled them. They were also wide and deceptively innocent, like all of the men I hung around.
“Hey,” he said, not slowing in his music as he nodded at me and squinted at the sun.
“Hey,” I said, lighting a cigarette and staring at the ground.
“You went to bed early.” From anyone else, it might be an accusation.
“Hate to break it to you drummer boy, but 5:30 in the morning isn’t early. Plus I have shit to do today, remember?”
Charles nodded and shrugged. “Nervous for today?”
“No. Why would I be?”
“I dunno. It’s a big deal. It’s ok to be nervous and shit.”
“Shush. I’m not nervous.” I made a goofy face, partially on accident.
Charles laughed. “If you say so. He up yet?”
I didn’t have to ask who “he” was. “No one is up yet. We just went to bed four hours ago.”
“Not me.” Charles said with a wide grin.
“Because you’re an insane person. I’m going to throw some cereal in my face or something.”
“Can I bum a cig before you go?”
I tossed the pack at him. “Take it. I have a full one inside.”
I stopped to admire his smile and the sunlight beaming into his eyes. If he were different, I would have taken that moment to tell him that it was those eyes that reminded me of my own destiny and freed me from my previous life. Instead, I shrugged and went inside.
Chuck – “Pretty Joplin”
I must have taken longer on the balcony than I thought, because two of the people previously asleep on the living room floor were sitting in the kitchen, giggling and playing with a small dog.
“Hey.” I said, examining the fridge. No milk. Freezer? Nope, only candles.
“Hey.” Chuck responded, pausing to adjust her tank top. “Are you nervous?”
“Fuck no.” I stuck my hands into the container of Strawberry Frosted Mini-Wheats. They were stale, which made them even more difficult to chew. I tried to maintain my composure through the oral challenge and mental anguish.
Chuck smiled and reached into her pockets. “Want a bump?”
“Let me finish this shit first or I’ll be a mess later.” I gave up on being able to swallow without help, so I stuck my head under the faucet and drank until the last of the cereal slid down my throat. “OK, hit me.”
Vick – “Lady Cobain”
“You went to bed early. Nervous?” Vick asked with a toss of her head. I eyed my peer in cut off shorts and a shit-eating grin.
“Not early, not nervous.” I allowed my real feelings to come through in the form of a smile, acknowledging her alpha nature. I offered her a bump, which she accepted with a sly smirk.
“A little early.” Vick insisted, clearing her nose.
Chuck swatted at her arm. “She had to get up early.”
“We’re up early.” Vick waved her hands as if to get rid of a bad smell. “Was it good?”
I looked down in mock shame. “It was nothing. Nothing happened.”
Both women exchanged a glance.
“Ok, I’m done with y’all. Enjoy your breakfast of champs.”
Chuck frowned. “Oh, come on. Have another bump with us! Vick’s sorry.”
Vick pouted. “I’m not that sorry.”
“One more, but Vick, if you weren’t so perfect, you’d suck.”
Vick snorted as she offered up the small blade piled high with white powder. “I’m perfect because I suck.”
Royce – “Sexy Jesus”
“Are you guys being mean to my wifey again?” A tall figure with long hair asked from the doorway.
I mimicked Vick’s shit-eating grin as I leaned against the counter. “Very mean.”
Royce ran over to me and wrapped his arms around my waist, playfully sneering at Vick. “Be nice to my wife. She’s probably nervous.”
“Ugh.” I untangled myself from Royce. “Not nervous.”
“Yeah and, she went to bed early. Not your wife.” Vick said, earning another swat from Chuck.
“Ohmygod.” Royce said, leaning down into my ear. “You have to tell me how that went.”
“It went no way, nothing happened. I really was tired!” I exclaimed, throwing my hands up.
All three sets of eyes went to my nose.
“Ok, I was going to be tired if I didn’t turn in. Fuck you guys, I’m going to shower.”
I turned on my heel, faking more anger than I’d ever felt around them. I smacked my forehead when I came within eyesight of the still-closed bedroom door.
Di- “The Amazon”
“Good morning, gorgeous. Sleep well?” A luxuriously tall blonde asked from one of the couches.
I dropped my shoulders and sighed. “Like a baby. A sweet, innocent baby. You?”
Di giggled. “Aw, I shouldn’t take the piss. You must be so nervous.”
“For the millionth time, I am nawt nervous. Why should I be nervous? I didn’t beat someone in a hotel room.”
“Of course you didn’t, love. But it’s the first time-”
“It’s the last time.” I finished, guilt seeping in for being so short with her. I sank down on the couch next to her as a consolation prize.
Di wrapped her arms around me and nodded towards the bedroom door. “Shall I wake him up?”
I laughed softly into her embrace. “No, let him wake up on his own.”
“But don’t you have to get ready soon?”
I glanced at the clock on the wall and sighed. “Oh, alright. They’ve got breakfast in the kitchen, by the way.”
Di booped the end of my nose before making her way to the bedroom. I leaned into the back of the couch and enjoyed the feeling of my breakfast making its way to my brain. My body relaxed and I focused on the sounds of pleasant conversation coming from the kitchen, and drumming from outside. I vowed not to think about the day. The stressful, long-awaited day.
Jean – “Cheeky Cupid”
The bedroom door banged open with a flourish. “Moooooorrrrrning sexy!”
Knowing that there was no way that everyone in the apartment didn’t hear that, I winced. “Morning.”
Di set to work cutting neat lines on the table, and the others filtered in from the kitchen. Jean snuggled up next to me, melting all of my mock-annoyance and resolve to be annoyed. What amazed me most about Jean wasn’t how frank he was, or how clever. It was how he always managed to have a boyish sweetness about him, even when he was handing me a rolled-up bill and inviting me to break a law before nine in the morning.
“Sleep well?” He asked with a twitch of his eyebrow.
I leaned in. “Everyone thinks we slept together.”
Jean smirked mischievously. “We did.”
He gasped and grabbed at his heart. “Are you embarrassed to have people think that?”
“No, I just don’t want credit when I haven’t earned it.”
We locked eyes for a moment and smiled in unison. I should have been used to these perfect moments of understanding with this group, but I still wasn’t.
We talked, we laughed, we had more breakfast. I dragged myself into the shower, lost in thought before I noticed that Royce was less than two feet away, taking a piss.
“You can look if you want to,” he said with a smirk.
“Are you waiting for similar permission?”
“As you wish.”
It took me longer than I expected to get dressed, partially because my outfit was so elaborate. Stockings, three piece lingerie set. Sheer, long-sleeved black blouse, black sheath dress. Black and white spectator pumps, black bag, large black hat.
“You look,” Jean started, “like you’re attending the funeral of your old, rich husband.”
“Exactly.” I said, finishing the application of my lipstick. I smacked my lips together and blew him a kiss.
Di stopped me before I reached the door. “You’re gonna be ok, ok?”
“I know. I’m fine.”
Charles flanked her left side and opened his arms. “Come on, you know you want to.”
I did want to. I found that I was hugging everyone. I pushed them away, afraid I would cry over the unknown, over nothing.
“I’ll see you in a few hours.”
I asked to get out of the Uber a few blocks early and walked carefully along the uneven sidewalk, swinging my bag and swallowing tears. No judgement for the wicked, no rest for the weary. I wanted to sit and cry, but instead I took the long way around to grab a drink.
Jean texted me, reminding me that he had told me last night that he had a surprise for me. I promised that I wasn’t far away, but I felt like I was on another planet, somewhere where I wasn’t sexy, talented, brave, fun and independent. Somewhere where I wasn’t worthy of all of the people sprawled out in that gorgeous French Quarter apartment.
I found my way back anyway, after pawning the hat that I didn’t have room for in my suitcase. Jean and Charles were waiting for me on the front steps, smoking cigarettes, which they offered me. I could see the excitement coming off of them, so I let them show me upstairs before we finished.
Rosie – “The Siren”
“Oh my god! I heard about what happened with that absolute dickhead. I’m so sorry, that’s seriously so messed up! Please tell me they hurt him in court, absolutely hurt him. I want him bloody wounded.”
I took a deep breath and looked at her face. I glanced at all of the expectant smiles around her, and I shrugged. “It’s all on a different planet to me, Rosie.”
She kissed me like she forgot, or didn’t know, that that wasn’t something I experienced often, like she didn’t know I would need to recover.
I giggled and looked down in genuine modesty. Looking for anything to distract me, I pointed at the table. “Is one of those for me?”
Seven heads nodded in earnest.
“Well fuck, I have got to get out of this dress first.”