Adrienne was new to the city, and didn't know anyone. After a few weeks of stifling solitude, she had decided to visit the local equivalents of her old haunts. Part of her hoped that the city would change around her, spitting out her old friends and familiar environs. The corner pub had been nearly deserted, and it was hard to make new friends at the mall, so Adrienne found herself alone at the gay club.
She wasn't expecting to be alone for long. With her shock of long blonde hair and cute freckles (if she did say so herself), along with what her friends had assured her was a mighty fine ass, Adrienne was usually drowning in phone numbers and more by closing time, at which point she would usually stumble home with some woman who thought of her as the living version of the Barbie doll she had undressed and mutilated in childhood. But they were always gone by morning, overcome by post-coital disgust at their own desires too conventional for comfort.
That was all right, though. A one-night-stand wasn't a shame or a failure if you came to the club with the right attitude. Who was here to meet a life partner to grow old with? How would you even tell if you did meet one, with any conversation drowned out by the pumping bass? Adrienne had decided that, if all else failed, at least she wouldn't go home alone.
She had already had a few drinks bought for her by skinny teenage-looking butches before she met into Sophia. Adrienne realized that she had been waiting for Sophia the whole time – a dark-skinned woman with kinky hair, a full figure, and a curve to her face that hinted at a bemused attraction. "Hi," Adrienne said when Sophia sidled up to her at the bar. No matter how cool she had been before, or the barriers of detachment she had raised in her mind, Adrienne's greeting came out like a slobbering pant. Embarrassing.
Sophia just gave her a warm smile. The two women exchanged names, and Sophia signalled to the bartender. Her voice was like music. "Gin and tonic for me, and for the lovely Adrienne here--"
"Martini," said Adrienne. When Sophia's hand came up with two bills pinched between her fingers, Adrienne batted it away. "Please, I'll pay. I've got enough free drinks for tonight."
Sophia raised one of her masterfully-sculpted eyebrows. "See, I don't believe that."
Adrienne gestured to her empty cocktail glasses sitting on the bar. "Proof enough?"
"You misunderstand," Sophia said. "All I meant was that I don't believe that there's such a thing as too many free drinks."
"Yeah," Adrienne said, "but when someone gives you a drink they always expect something from you. And I hate to disappoint people."
"Would you disappoint me?"
Adrienne raised one of her own eyebrows, and hoped that it came off as clever, perhaps alluring, instead of spastic. "That depends on what you expect."
"Well, I like to set my expectations high."
The bartender returned with the drinks. Adrienne and Sophia clinked their glasses together before they both took a deep sip. Adrienne liked the effortless way Sophia took her liquor, and the shiver that passed down her beautiful neck as she gulped. Sophia was wearing a low-cut, caramel-coloured dress that was several orders classier than anything Adrienne saw on the dancefloor, while still revealing a tantalizing amount of skin.
Somehow, despite the club bangers shouting about big asses and big booties (what were lesbians coming to these days?), Adrienne could hear everything Sophia said perfectly. Their conversation was like that of two old friends, flitting from topic to topic with no particular hurry to go anywhere. Sophia was warm, funny, and frighteningly intelligent – she made some joke about David Lynch that went entirely over Adrienne's head.
On the floor, a throng of women shook and thrust, some in pairs, some just moving on their own. This was normally the point where Adrienne would invite the other woman out on the floor and grind against her for fifteen minutes before they left for a desultory fling. But that all seemed dull now, and insulting to Sophia. So they kept talking.
Adrienne finally got Sophia to laugh, and the other woman's face breaking into a grin was every bit as beautiful as Adrienne thought it would be. Sophia composed herself very suddenly, and looked towards the door. "That's my sister over there," she said, pointing.
The woman – girl, really – that Sophia pointed at was someone who Adrienne's eyes had totally skipped over before. She had the same rich light-brown skin, but that was where the resemblance ended. Sophia's sister was skinny and androgynous. Her ink-black hair hung in short bangs, and her unpainted lips were fixed into a scowl. She was dressed in a poofy jacket with big shoulderpads that looked like it had come out from either a failed haute couture show, 80s night, or the apocalypse. She was cute, but looked like a bad influence.
"Her name's Daphne," Sophia said.
"Dad into the whole Greek mythology thing?" Adrienne said. Was there a mythological Sophia? She couldn't remember.
"Actually, we're half-Greek on my mother's side," said Sophia. "But as I was going to say, Daphne is having a rough time. She just lost her girlfriend."
"Oh." Adrienne wasn't sure why Sophia was telling her this, but she had a depressing idea. "That's too bad. Lost as in broke up, or..."
"Not broke up," Sophia said. "And not really 'just' any more either. It's been a year. I think she just really needs to meet the right girl to start to recover."
The other shoe – a high-heeled shoe, from what Adrienne could see – was about to drop. "So you're chatting me up for her, not for you."
"I'm chatting you up for both of us," said Sophia. Now that had potential. But all the same, this sounded like a strange situation. "I would really appreciate it if you talked to Daphne." The look in Sophia's eyes implied all it needed to.
Well, Adrienne supposed there was no harm in talking to the girl. It wasn't like she had never had a disastrous conversation in a nightclub before. She finished her drink and got off the stool.
Sophia grabbed her by the arm, her touch causing a warm and electric sensation. "You said your name was Adrianna, right?"
"Right. Well, when you talk to Daphne, your name is Rose."
Adrienne furrowed her brow. "Rose?"
"It was her name." That "her" had the weight of years on it.
Adrienne backed up. "Look, I don't want to get involved in what ever weird head trip you and your sister have going on..."
Sophia brushed off the objection with a casual smile. "Just go talk to her. You'll like her. I promise."
At the very least wasn't the most humiliating thing that Adrienne had ever done in an attempt to get laid. (High school had been rough.) If she had to be Rose for a little bit, she would be Rose. Adrienne made her way across the bar to the darkest and least populated corner off the nightclub. Daphne looked up at her with no surprise.
"Hi!" Adrienne said. "My name's Rose. Do you want to get a drink?"
Daphne said something too quietly for Adrienne to hear. With the volume of the music, she might as well have just been moving her lips.
Adrienne made sure to raise her voice. "I'm sorry, I didn't hear that."
Daphne stood on her toes and leaned in to Adrienne's ear. The intimacy of the moment, Daphne's pale lips up against her face, was undercut by the hostile tone in her whisper. "I said that you don't look anything like Rose. Sophia just thinks that all white girls look alike."
"I'm sorry," said Adrienne, although she wasn't sure what she was apologizing for. "Do you have a picture?"
With a look of suspicion, Daphne drew a slim black wallet from the jacket of her coat. She took out a small photo and kept a tight grip on it as she showed it to Adrienne. In the picture, the girl that must have been Daphne was almost unrecognizable from the glowering and unpleasant young woman in front of her. Photo-Daphne was in the midst of goofy laughter, overflowing with teenage emotion, wearing a pink T-shirt and a beatific grin. The girl with her didn't look entirely unlike Adrienne – there was the blonde hair and the freckles and the long sunburnt body – but she had a kind of innocence and youth that Adrienne knew was long past her.
It was obviously from one of those phone booths in the mall, and part of a storied genre of goofy teen photo-reels that were only just starting to be supplanted by Instagram accounts. "It's a good picture of us," said Daphne. Adrienne realized that the other woman was still interested in playing the game, despite her apparent contempt.
"It is," Adrienne said. "That was a while ago, though."
Daphne shrugged. "Well, it was your eighteenth birthday, so I guess a couple years. But everything just feels like one long day to me now."
"More like I can't wake up."
This girl was just a ray of sunshine. Adrienne put a hand on her shoulder, more for support than as a come-on. "You want to dance?"
Daphne looked up into Adrienne's eyes. Her look was skeptical, but there was a little gleam of hope deep down in those dark pools. "Yeah. Let's dance."
The music still sucked and the floor was crowded and Adrienne didn't really have much sense of rhythm. For a minute, she was sure that this night was going to be another awkward failure. But then somehow it all clicked into place. The dumb carnal experience that the club promised materialized, and all she could feel was the beat. Adrienne found herself swirling her hips and beckoning her partner on.
.... There is more of this story ...