Ravina was careful in
her new boots as she entered the club, her freshly stamped
hand clutching the banister as she ascended to the main
floor. Red satin shone beneath the stairwell's spotlights,
laced to her knees, lifting her up on five inches of deep
crimson stiletto. Footwear of the immortal, truly.
grimaced at the couple ahead of her. He was in BDU's and a
Frontline tee, passable, with his girl in the standard
rivitgrrrl uniform: black tank, black capris, 20-eye
ranger-style combat boots. Where did she shop for her club
gear, the army surplus outlet? Ravina flared her nostrils in
disapproval as she reached the last step.
turned to her. As they always did. She paused a moment in
mid-mince, surveyed the room while letting everyone drink in
tonight's confection. Her prior entrances included shocking
pink dreads down to her waist, leather thigh-highs over a
mesh catsuit, even a full Marie Antoinette ensemble, hoop
skirt and all. Her smile was haughty as she tossed her black
curls and made her way up a second staircase, to the bar.
crowd was parked at the balcony's edge, overlooking the
floor. Draco wore a deconstructed tux jacket and gladiator
boots, his ponytail dusted with glitter. Tatiana was in a
1920's tea gown, and as Ravina drew closer, she could tell
the lace was antique, intricate chantilly, fragile and
breathtaking. Nothing but the real deal for Tatiana, always.
gorgeous." Tatiana's blue extensions swirled around an air
stepped back, spun in her black velvet minidress. Suede
lacing climbed between her breasts, and the hem was cut
higher at the front, the perfect frame for showing off all
that scarlet. Tatiana's gaze dropped down, hit the jackpot.
are faboo. Like a pair of little corsets. Where did you find
them? Not Various Nefarious?”
little shop down in the Square. I forget the name.” Ravina
gazed around the bar, played nonchalant, knowing full well
it was not the infamous clubwear boutique on Fourth Street,
but a dusty little shop hidden within the theater district.
The boots had blazed from the front window, the last pair of
twelve that had been specially commissioned for a burlesque
troupe, according to the gruff, bow-tied owner. He probably
told tall tales to every woman who came in, but whether or
not he was blowing smoke, she'd never seen anything like
them. Soft, soft satin, the really good kind, ruched and
rippling down her legs, and they just happened to be in her
size. She knew it from the moment she slipped her foot
within: they were meant to be hers.
well spent, thought Ravina, savoring the covetous twitch
that passed across Tatiana's immaculately powdered features.
no further information, Ravina dropped her ruffled rubber
purse onto the table.
passed her a glass of something dark. "She couldn't make it.
Out with her favorite chew toy, probably."
scrunched her delicate nose, lifted the drink to her lips.
Raspberries stung with vodka, splashed with Chambord. Ahhhhh.
Tatiana was over watching the crowd.
"Oh my God,
look at Lucy. What is she wearing?"
joined her at their perch, duchesses gazing down from their
castle perch. She spotted the target in a tattered floral
gown. "It looks like she cut up her grandmother's closet
with a pair of scissors." She giggled.
Draco came over. "Gotta start somewhere, right?"
I never started that far back," said Tatiana, flinging her
sapphire hair and sipping her drink.
– there's Sindra." Ravina loved to prod. "I didn't know she
was going to be here tonight."
did I." He peered down at his latest ex, who was clad in a
plum lace tube dress and leading a guy in a white billowing
blouse onto the floor. Draco lit up a clove as he watched
her slither against her new paramour.
half-hour, tops," he exhaled. “It won't be that hard to pry
her away from Poet Boy.”
grimaced. "After cheating on you with Nicky?"
say I wanted her back," he grinned, and bounded downstairs.
snorted daintily. She'd had her carnal moments out in the
club's backyard herself.
to the ladies' room," said Tatiana, taking Ravina's hand and
leading her downstairs with all the grace of a golden-age
gentleman. They never, ever went anywhere alone while they
were in the club, both acutely aware of the attention it
drew when two expensively-dressed women were treating each
other like they were on a date. It was all an act, though.
Kissing Tatiana? Or any girl, for real? Ew.
bathroom was down the back hallway. A teenaged blonde in
jeans and a t-shirt was huddled to one side, head down.
Bored or tired or stressed, Ravina couldn't tell, but
Tatiana was already announcing their presence.
honey, we're coming through.”
lifted her head. Swollen eyes, tear tracks. She tried to
scoot out of Tatiana's way but ended up forced to her feet,
and Ravina read the anger in her eyes, having to give up her
space to the gothic glamazons demanding it from her, as if
they didn't have everything fucking else. Ravina passed her
by without the tiniest nod of acknowledgement. Whatever.
disappeared into the ladies' room while Ravina checked
herself in the mirror.
Your dress is beautiful. Did you make it?” asked a girl in
some kind of ripped zombie outfit, inexpertly using lipstick
to make blood drool from her mouth.
said Ravina, face turned away, dismissive. She sure as hell
wasn't sharing. Especially not with someone who didn't even
know how to put on her makeup. Amateurs. God.
opened her mouth, then closed it, and leaned against the
wall. What, was she hanging around hoping for beauty tips?
Ravina sniffed and ignored her.
bathroom door banged open, and Tatiana emerged. She took one
look at the zombie girl and laughed.
Just when you think the all-ages crowd couldn't get any
worse,” as she washed up, took Ravina's hand and led the way
back up the staircase.
Back in the
balcony, a couple had taken their spot. Tatiana went for
fresh drinks, and Ravina was about to tap the guy's shoulder
when he turned around.
he beamed. A teardrop was inked beneath his left eye.
worked at the tattoo parlor down in the broken glass and
graffiti of Twelfth Street, a stocky dude with purple hair
and a perpetual half-smile. Dabbled in witchcraft, if the
rumors were true. And completely immune to Ravina's glamour.
"So nice to
see you, as always." He trapped her hand inside a tight
shake. "This is my date, Jen."
freckles, hair pulled back in a scrunchie. Her dress was a
nylon monstrosity, some bizarre 70's idea of a negligee.
Pink plastic bracelets clattered together as Jen nervously
offered her hand, but Ravina ignored it, looked away for
more important people, quickly. There was Steve. She started
to walk over, but Spidey grabbed her hand.
Jen really likes those boots you're wearing.” Pointed.
Pissed. Not letting her walk away from the slight. Spidey
was usually just a smartass, didn't know he found such
mousey chicks so worthy of a pedestal.
smile was painfully fake. “Thank you.” She tried to walk
away again, but Spidey didn't let go.
what? All this time you've been coming here, I ain't never,
ever seen you out on that floor. Whatsa matter, too much
primp jammed up your ass?”
hardly had a chance to muster up her trademark withering
glare before he laughed, stepped aside.
on, baby. Don't take yourself so seriously.” He brought his
face to hers. “Have a good time tonight, be more than just
the wallpaper. Dance til you drop.”
squeezed her hand, before letting her go.
scarlet heels twitched. Her mouth fell open as her boots
fell into the beat, matched the sliding bass perfectly.
instinct was to reach for an insult, a command, but the way
her body channeled the grind, through the roll of her
hips...moving not to pose, not just to be seen, but for the
thrill of movement itself.
smiled sweetly and led Jen away.
even have to think about what the next move was, it just
came, and she flowed into it. Tatiana returned, cocktails in
hand. Ravina grabbed hers and downed it without a pause,
unmindful for the first time ever of smearing her lipstick.
OK?” asked Tatiana, a strange look of concern on her face.
ignored her, watched the girls downstairs. Flat hair,
mascara running, laughing and two-stepping and completely
unmindful of how scraggly they looked. Why should they get
to own the floor?
traced patterns on the worn carpet, begged for a taste of
Tatiana could say a word, Ravina went back to the staircase,
the boots dancing her gracefully down each step.
was into the old-school part of his set and everyone who
danced was out there. Ravina squeezed through writhing
bodies to get to the center, pressed her blood-red manicure
against bare shoulders, tattooed backs. She hiked her tiny
dress higher, exposed black garters, twisted like a snake
beneath violet strobelights.
clubland filled her mind. The bouncer waiving her cover
charge. How her face had adorned the club's flyers, poster
girl for the children of the night.
her arms up, the velvet clinging to her slender frame. She
could have anyone she wanted. The free drinks sliding down
the bar in her direction, the surefire summons backstage
when the bands came to town and caught sight of her in the
front row. This...this was a new way to be admired: the
strain of her breasts against the crisscrossed suede when
she arched her back, the spray of her curls as she whipped
her head around, the blackberry curve of her parted lips.
This is what I look like when I'm in your bed.
the soft stuff, stomping to the hard. She spun, dipped, her
hands following in whatever felt natural: plucking cobwebs,
shaking her fists, even rolling a chi ball here and there.
Some of the guys turned toward her, their eyes asking
permission, but she turned her back on each of them. Nobody
was good enough to be her partner.
girls, creatures of drugstores and thrift shops, they tried
so hard. How they worked up the courage to talk to her, how
terrified they were to try out new things for fear of her
catty mouth. How everyone looked to her for direction, how
she could devastate with a sigh and a roll of the eyes.
wants to be me.
stiletto heel hit the floor at the wrong angle.
the breath from her. She sat eye-level with a forest of
rampaging fishnets while her ass sang with pain. The dancers
around her backed away, gloved hands covering their mouths,
barely concealing their laughter.
If it had
been someone else, it would have been a fast pull back up, a
little embarrassed giggling. But this was Ravina. Their
self-acknowledged queen, their diehard fashion plate, looked
for all the world like an angry six-year-old in a Disney
struggled to get up, but the stilettos were making it
impossible. She frantically tried to zip the backs down, but
the teeth caught. On both boots. She tried to untie the
bows, open the fronts, but found they were glued on – no
stray shoelaces to trip those burlesque dancers, apparently.
into the next track, slowed down into something sensual.
Something that made the girls run their hands along their
secondhand satin slips, into their tangled hair. Bodies
merged into twos, and a few threes, drawing together to
flirt or make out or just sway gently in a shared moment.
split-second, caught in the middle of the floor, within all
those couples, Ravina felt like a terrified wallflower.
can't control my body.
faces glared at her openly. Every grudge came bubbling up
through shimmying shoulders, gyrating asses, sharp elbows
thrusting themselves carelessly into her path. A thick
rubber sole slammed down on her hand, cracking one of her
talons. She yelped in pain, and tears came to her eyes as a
light sheen of sweat broke out on her forehead.
hands and knees, like a dog. Like a submissive, ugh. Ravina
did not dare look up at the bar. Tatiana was probably
watching her right now. Fuck.
the railing at the edge of the floor and grabbed on, pulled
herself up. And as soon as she was standing, the boots
started dancing again. Horrified, Ravina felt her legs kick
out in a spin. She grabbed for the railing but only grazed
it with her fingertips, and she fell back down to the floor.
the music, she could hear applause and howling from the bar.
breath quickened as she curled up in a little ball, tried to
hold back a tide of sheer panic. Something was horribly
wrong with her, and there was no one in here who would help
her. Even as her legs were folded beneath her, she could
feel the soles tapping against the floor, just waiting to
betray her as she tried to stand up again.
backyard. A place to deal with this without a thousand eyes
against the ratty carpet, aware every excruciating
millisecond of her rapidly decimating reputation, she
crawled toward the hallway. Passed the bathrooms, the
bewildered face of the zombie girl. Fuck fuck fuck.
door was a plank of scratched paint, scabbed over with band
stickers. She raised herself on trembling knees to grasp the
handle when it suddenly swung inward and knocked her against
Draco. Thank God. “Ravina? What are you doing down there?”
please...” Ravina stretched her hands up, but then Sindra
stepped inside behind him, adjusting the elastic top of her
dress. A half-hour, indeed.
The syllables fell from Sindra's mouth in utter disgust.
Draco looked from girl to girl, weighed dalliance against
distress, and took Sindra's hand.
she's just going outside for some air,” he said, sweeping
down the hallway with Sindra in tow. “You vant to be alone,
right, darling?” he called back over his shoulder, as Sindra
shot Ravina a parting glance of pure venom.
for the door handle again, pulled it open. She dragged
herself out into the cool of the night, her skin kissing
filthy brick through the runs in her stockings. Nobody out
here right now, thank God, up to the chain link fence where
she leaned back, stretched her convulsing legs out in front
moonlight, the red satin looked inflamed. It was torn up in
spots, soiled with patches of dirt like freshly-skinned
knees. Ravina broke another nail trying to pull the zippers
down again. They still wouldn't budge. Frustrated, she
slammed an elbow into the fence. Her velvet sleeve tore
it. Was she drugged? Should she go to the hospital? Her
cellphone was still in her purse, upstairs, with Tatiana.
jittered in the dirt.
please, somebody help me as she tapped her ruby heels
together, closed her eyes.
door flew open. Too ashamed to look up, she cloaked her wet
face in the protective veil of her hair.
appeared. Brown eyes, amused. Jen.
smirking behind her.
wanted to spit, to curse, to impale his eyes on her
fingertips. But Jen's outstretched hand was the only doorway
out of this madness. No other choice. Sighing, she took it.
As soon as
their skins made contact, her legs felt warm, relaxed, solid
upon the ground. She felt a surge of strength, muscle hidden
beneath Jen's cheap bangles as she was pulled up. Relief
coursed through her veins, making her dizzy, but she was too
furious to do anything other than stand her ground.
Countless nights, hundreds, no, thousands of dollars, up in
smoke. Her shattered pride a trophy for some plain jane
who'd never even been here before.
shook his head at Ravina, slow, as if she were no better
than any Twelfth Street trainwreck. Jen just gazed at her
with pity, which was somehow a thousand times worse.
wanted you to do,” he said, “was shake her hand.”
disdainful look before curling an arm around Jen's waist and
opening the back door. Flashing lights, heavy beats welcomed
them back inside, and the door slammed shut behind them.
sick to her stomach, but at least her feet were moving
normally, now. She tried the zippers. They came down
perfectly, smooth on the tracks. She wanted to rip off the
boots and throw them in the garbage, but the streets were
too disgusting to walk on in just stockings. She wiped her
eyes carefully, trying to erase the tearstains without
smearing her eyeliner.
surveyed the chain-link fence. Infinitely preferable to
going back inside, but it was topped with barbed wire. She
turned to the door, steeled herself. It would only be a
minute to get back through the club to the entrance, but
what a grueling minute. God, what a time to be barren of
grasped the handle, propelled herself through the hallway.
There was a
spare key hidden beneath the flowerpot outside her building.
She could leave her purse up there, Tatiana would get it.
Tatiana would get it, wouldn't she? If she didn't...would
she really be that much of a bitch? Ravina shuddered.
lips, busy with gossip. The jingling of bondage rings. Black
lace sweeping across the floor. It was all a blur as she
maneuvered through the crowd as fast as she could.
A crowd of
smokers was clustered outside the entrance. Nobody who'd
seen what happened. She bummed a clove off a guy in a
leather kilt and began the walk home.
paradise, unthinkable. But there was no way she could go
back. Her heels clacked against the pavement as neon glowed
from the neighborhood's other nightlife.
A couple of
blocks ahead, someone's hard house set boomed through the
dark. As she drew closer, she saw skinny kids with dreaded
hair and bottles of water gathered outside. Tribal patterns
were scrawled across their clothes and she caught reflective
panels shining from within the pleats of a skirt. Nice.
A guy with
spiky blonde hair and a UV necklace broke away from the
pack, thrust a flyer at Ravina.
probably not your thing, but what the hell. It'll be a good
glanced at the flyer. A woman with flowing art nouveau hair
rose up out of a psychedelic lake, surrounded by the names
of various DJ's coming in for the gig. A huge warehouse at
the edge of town, nonstop dancing until dawn.
A whole new
crowd to start over in. And to sway and bounce and twirl all
night...she didn't need a pair of fancy shoes to do that,
sneakers, maybe...but nice sneakers...
hell,” she said, and stuck the flyer in her boot.
faded behind her but stayed in her head as she walked on,
oontz-oontz-oontz....she remembered a pair of really cool
pants she'd seen in Various Nefarious a couple of weeks ago,
slick and futuristic with cargo pockets, parts that zipped
off, garters that would give everyone a peek at her bare
thighs, oh perfect....