Megan parked in a little pay lot down the street from the club. On our way out she waved to the rather elderly guard on duty at the exit. “I hope you’re getting holiday pay for this, George,” she called out.
George tipped his hat. “And overtime,” he confirmed amicably. “You two be safe,” he added.
“We will,” Megan called back. I clung to her arm and didn’t say anything – I didn’t know George and it was cold. We hastened down the street to the club.
Club Luminescence was a big, windowless building. It took up most of its block face and would have looked like an old brick warehouse if it weren’t for the bright, multi-colored neon letters that spelled out ‘LUMINESCENCE’ over the door and the ornate goth-ish black ironwork that trimmed the foundation, doorway, and sign. Oh, and the small line of patrons outside.
Megan skipped the line and waved to the bouncer at the front of it. “She’s with me, Bob,” Megan said while pointing at me. Bob – an absolutely massive man with an impressive number of scars and tattoos and a leather outfit that I can only describe as ‘bondage chic’ waved us in. I clung closer to Megan and tried to hurry as she crossed the building’s threshold. Bob looked irritable. Also, if his nipples were any indication, he agreed with me that it was too cold for shit like lingering outside.
Inside the club, on the other hand, it was warm – the excessive warmth of too many people engaged in frenetic motion. The warmth of bodies.
And it was dark. There were dim lights around the booths at the edges of the room, and brighter ones around the bar, but the dance floor itself was lit up by pulsating, spinning, colored spotlights that didn’t do much to illuminate what they weren’t sweeping directly over and the glowstick jewelry of the punk-raver portion of the crowd.
The air thrummed to the pounding of the music – a fast, techno rhythm – and the floor seemed to shiver from the force of all the people bouncing around on it.
Megan and I slipped aside, clearing the way to and from the front door, and she stood on tiptoe to peer into the crowd. I don’t know how she did it: I couldn’t see past the first layer of gyrating, gesticulating strangers. Also, I don’t normally wear heels. I felt like I was on tiptoe already, and Megan’s shoes had at least twice the heel mine did.
“There they are,” Megan shouted over the music. She pointed. “I told Katherine we’d meet her and her friend here. I hope you don’t mind.”
I stared into the mass, trying to figure out where Megan was pointing. It took me a minute to spot Katherine, even though she was right in front of us, dancing at the edge of the crowd. It took a double-take to recognize her.
Prim, proper, scary Katherine had gone goth. The internet was wrong. Katherine was hot scary goth. Hot, scary, bondage goth.
Katherine still wore her glasses, but her short hair was slicked back and up in spikes. Her lips were blood red and contrasted sharply against her pale skin even in the club’s dim, flickering light. I’d never noticed how pale her skin was – but then again, I’d never seen her put so much of it on display.
Katherine was wearing a velvety spaghetti-strap black dress with a red leather under-bust corset. The dress’ skirt was way too short for me to imagine her in, and comprised of black, velvety pleats over dark red lace that rose up to just midway across her hips when she spun and it flared out. She wore sheer black stockings that looked like they’d been scored with a razor blade and black, opaque, full-arm gloves.
The high necklines I was used to seeing her in were gone, replaced by a wide, red leather collar with black lace trim and dangling steel loops. Matching bands circled her upper arms and wrists and thighs – even her ankles, too.
But no shoes. If Katherine had come to the club with shoes she’d lost them at some point during the evening and didn’t seem to care. Her nylon clad feet flashed through the ‘Hey, look guys: we just might be lesbians’ dance with a somewhat more modestly dressed blond raver, and didn’t slip once.
“That’s Emma,” Megan shouted once she saw I’d spotted the right couple. “You’ll like her. She’s really shy. She had a bad breakup last year, and she’s still getting over it.”
“Uh-huh,” I said noncommittally – but the club’s noise drowned me out. I don’t think Megan noticed my lack of enthusiasm. She bounced on her toes and waved at her friends. I wondered if the bad breakup from last year had been with Mr. Salvatore.
Then the music shifted to a different song, and Katherine and Emma slipped away from the crowd. Katherine smiled at Megan and Emma waved back at us. I did my best not to be too conspicuous about hiding behind Megan.
I don’t do well with strangers. And it didn’t really help that Emma was supposed to be ‘really shy’ because everyone knows it’s the shy ones who keep to themselves that always turn out to be psycho killers with corpses piling up in their freezers. I watched them coming toward us and tried to brace myself. I had a mission! I had to have so much fun tonight that Megan wouldn’t decide she had to move things to a party where my surroundings would be more familiar, damnit!
“You made it!” Katherine shouted over the music when she was close enough to be heard. Megan stepped forward and hugged her. “Wouldn’t miss it,” Megan said.
“Hi!” Emma said over them with a little wave. “I’m Emma. You must be Abby, right?”
I didn’t really want to reply because Emma had successfully covered both sides of our introduction and anything I might add would probably ruin it – and something about the way Katherine’s hug was lingering and her collar and cuffs mirrored Megan’s choker and ribbons, like they were some kind of set, made my jaw clench.
“Yeah,” I managed to force out.
“Cool,” said Emma. “Great outfit. Do you come here often?”
Katherine pulled away from Megan, but held onto her hand. “Come on,” Katherine said. “Let’s get some drinks.” I was momentarily paralyzed as she pulled Megan away – and then the crowd closed around them.
I stared, gaping, at where they had just disappeared. What just happened? I was alone, in a strange place, surrounded by strangers. Shock set in fast. Everything else seemed to shut down. I was dimly aware of Emma talking. The music seemed slow and unreal. That might’ve just been a new song, though.
“…used to come here a lot,” Emma said, “But then I sort of didn’t for a year, and now I don’t know all the new regulars.”
I tried to fight through my fugue. I need to have fun. If I’m freaked out when Megan gets back, I told myself, It’s over.
“What?” Emma shouted over the music – it was getting louder and faster again.
Shit fuck mortifying holy crap – had I said any of that out loud?
“I need to have fun,” I told Emma in abject terror – so, yes. Verbal filters were officially off, and I was indeed blurting out everything that came into my head.
But apparently I was also sufficiently in my automatic freakout coverup mode that my emotional state wasn’t being conveyed – because Emma smiled widely. “Then let’s dance!” she shouted. She caught my hand.
Oh shit, what?! I thought as Emma pulled me toward the dance floor. I stumbled dazedly after her. Oh shit. Oh shit. Oh, Shit!