I am being drawn, down the smooth cobblestone streets, the moon dangling in the sky like an oversized ornament. In the pockets of my overcoat my hands clench, and I breathe out visible wispy clouds. A metallic sound clangs nearby and I throw myself against the wall of the alley in the shadows, holding my breath, scanning. From the next street down, a raccoon turns and watches me with greedy eyes, its paws clutching something from the overturned trashcan. As I pass, it shows me its fangs while holding its prize, and I hiss back without breaking stride.
It is not safe at this time, through the maze of streets and alleys, for there are others who are stronger. Evi should be with me but she went on ahead so I am alone in the night watching my own back. My feet step quickly and when I get closer I will be under the circle his protection. I can feel him calling me, a burning itch somersaulting in my head.
Even now, I know he is watching me from the corner of the room filled with people drinking from glass bottled necks and fragile vases. Inside my chest I try to push away the anger that he is testing me, calling me alone into the night, where he knows I am unprotected.
As I take the next left turn, my heart heaves relief as lights shine, and the hum of music thumps a heartbeat against the walls, filtering out in sound bites with each opening and closing of the door. Making my way past the line of people glaring, I stand before the doorman who looks down impatiently.
“I’m here to see Julian,” I say quiet enough, so only he can hear. His eyes glance towards the line and then the heavy door sways open with a pull. Sound and color rush over me, pulling me towards the girls decorated with vines in patterns along their naked skin, weaving through their fingers that carrying trays with bright green drinks and fiery rims.
Evi finds me immediately even though I have not told her I was coming. She traces her viney fingers along my back and tips her tray towards me. Cherries and pineapples kiss transparent glasses, lingering like a tease suspended on the toothpick handles of tiny blue umbrellas and red swords. Perhaps it’s a premonition that we may need to fight later in the rain.
She raises a brow, reading my thoughts, without revealing what she has seen. She doesn’t like how I constantly look for signs, accuses me of making things happen by projecting my ideas of them. What she doesn’t understand, is that it’s the looking that has kept me safe on my own. She says, now, we have each other and Julian, but I know that Julian only agreed to take us under because Evi refused to accept his deal without me.
“Stop it,” she tells me as she swirl the blue umbrella.
“Fine,” I answer pulling it free, biting into a dark cherry, holding the pit on my tongue and removing it with my fingers, setting it down delicately on the stack of off white napkins.
She pulls me against the bar with one hand, the other precariously dangling my drink, a stormy sea of clouded cream-sickle ocean with icebergs clanking together like bumper cars.
Upon my tongue a multitude of tinglings dance upon dots of flavor filled possibilities. The room floods with a torrent of bodies, swaying with ocean waves, their throats exhaling slurred laughter, curling its delicate tendrils through the gray smoke dust.
Lights filter through the room like a box stabbed with pinholes, the pink glow of her lips, the thin line of glue I watched her dot as she attached the black feathered lashes that are falling towards her mouth that curves, ever so slowly, as the drink slides, smearing tracks of water along the glass.
“Go to him,” she whispers, but her mouth hasn’t moved. I touch the glass as her lashes swoon towards the table in the back. The vines tug at her skin as she slithers through the crowd, a tray of drinks held high above her head.
Through the crowd I glimpse him, a faint image surrounded by a thin vibration of silver. The shadows hide his face, but I know he is watching me, and I must go to him. A flick of my wrist sets the umbrella spinning on its head, the red sword balancing on top as I push through the crowd, the noise pulsing through my head like a rising tide, fingertips sliding along my arms and torso, the static generating microscopic sparks striking my hairs on end.
His eyes hold focus on me as I stumble before him, woozy with sea legs from the drink, or the sparks, I cannot tell. His hand steadies me, holding delicately under my chin, as though my jaw were made of glass. He holds my face steady with his.
“Julian,” I whisper softly, loosing all my strength, feeling like I’m looking down a tunnel into the focal point of his green eyes.
“Shhh,” he says like a low rumble, the sound rushing over me, causing the current to buzz in my skin. He steps closer. His thumb pulls my lower lip as he bites it, softly, sending static shooting through my veins. My eyes close and he is kissing me, his lips on mine, interlocking, flames burning kerosene along the nerves, his tongue in my mouth, his body warm and electric against mine, my mind growing foggy.
He begins to gaze into my memories, feeling through them, sifting them like coins for the ones with the highest vibration.
I feel him there inside my head where everything moves slow and heavy. There are things I do not voice, secrets held behind laughing smiles. There are things I must protect, from everyone, even Evi, especially him. I must protect them.
It takes all my strength to gather the current in spirals and force it out through my hands as they push against his chest, snapping the connection. His eyes open wide, releasing me with interest, clamping his hand over mine, locking mine against his chest. He is inches from my face, the piercing green of his eyes hypnotizing.
We gasp for breath and I listen to the sound of his heart drumming violently beneath my hand, the warmth of his skin on mine. It pulses through me, echoing along my spine.
“Let me, go,” I gasp raggedly, lightheaded.
He relaxes his hand slightly. “I didn’t mean to,” he says staring into me, pushing for me to believe him.
“What are you looking for,” I ask, letting the betrayal guide my words so he can’t read the current that lingers, buzzing in my veins.
“Nothing.” He watches my eyes, knowing when I have calmed down enough for him to let me go, without me leaving. He takes his hand off mine and I break eye contact, for the first time noticing that, Milo, has been sitting back in the shadows, watching us. He nods a hello, tilting his glass in a toasting motion. My eyes flash back to Julian.
My stomach floods with shame and anger, churning into each other.
Jullian grins and licks the taste of me on his lips. “It is still quite amusing to me that you can resist.”
“You called me here,” I say looking away, “What do you want?”
“Must I always want something,” he says feigning innocence, running his tongue against his lower lip.
I stand there, refusing to answer. He glances me over, and I feel flickers of something radiate from him, but he immediately pulls it back, and it is gone. He looks away.
“Evi,” he says.
“Evi what,” I throw at him.
“I want Evi.”
The words linger there, bruising my heart. “You can’t have her,” I say steadily grounding my emotion, “I need her to get home safe.”
“Evi will stay here tonight. I will go with you.”
“What,” I ask glancing at Milo, “No.”
Julian smiles and then grabs my wrist with force, pushing just enough into the bones so that a little sound escapes my throat. He releases me, flustered, and regains himself. Into my ear he whispers with even tone, “You do not tell me what to do.”
I step back and nod once.
Glancing over my shoulder he scans the crowd of people. “I suspect Evi hasn’t been telling me everything she sees lately. Perhaps she tells you?”
My hands brush against the outside pockets of my overcoat, “I wouldn’t know. Perhaps you should ask her.”
Julian holds my gaze as the corner of his lip curls into a smirk.
“Let me tell Evi,” I say.
His head tilts slightly at an angle, “Why, you don’t trust me?”
My hands slide into the pockets of my overcoat, my fingertips rubbing the silk lining. “I’ll trust you when you stop lying to me.” I turn to lean into the crowd but he reaches for me, catching my elbow, spinning me towards him.
“I’m sorry,” he says, awkward, looking lost, dropping my arm.
I’d never seen him apologize and mean it. “I’ll be right back,” I answer before turning into the sea of people and bright lights. As the people moved around me I press my jaw, so a smile won’t form. Evi swims through the crowd a distance away, her tray hovering above her, balanced from her pointer finger. My tongue runs along my lips, the taste of him lingering there, permeating through me, osmosis.
Sensing me, Evi looks behind her to locate me. I motion her over to the bar. She nods making her way through the crowd.
“Hey,” she says sliding her arms against the wood edges, setting the tray down on the glass top.
“Those visions,” I say as she eyes me suspiciously, “the ones you’re not having.”
She glances around turning towards me. “I’m listening.”
“You’re staying here tonight.”
“You can’t go out there alone.”
“I won’t be alone,” I say, “Julian’s coming with me.”
Evi’s eyes flush, the iris’ spiking.
“Which is why,” I continue, “you have to drink this.” My palm forms a seal on the top of the glass. The liquid begins to spin, blue ink pooling in from the sides, allowing the liquid to settle, before reverting back to its cloudy cream-sickle color. “When I walk away you need to drink it all and wash out the glass immediately.”
She nods and touches my arm, “What about you?”
“Julian is after something you’re seeing,” I say, “I need to figure out what.”
Evi watches the drink with a steady eye, curling her fingers around the glass. “You trust me right,” she says.
“With my life,” I answer.
She swivels the drink in a circular motion.
“Which is why I need you to drink that drink.”
“Insurance,” she says, “because you trust me but you don’t trust me.”
My palm presses into the glass table, “I trust you always, when you’re you, but not when you’re under sway. There’s no telling what you will willingly offer.” The lights move though the people, throwing smoke particles into the air like mini tornadoes. “It’s not your fault. But like I said, I trust you with my life, which means you know too much.”
“Be well,” Evi winks, emptying the tall thin glass down her throat. I turn towards the room. It swirls with hundreds of smoke cloud tornadoes.
Joining the sea of bodies churning in the waves, people’s fingers slide along my arms, across my torso, reaching. From the shadows Julian rises. I snake my way through the pulse of the music and the static of the bodies. He steps halfway into the light, holding out his hand.
“Let us go then,” he says, watching my hand touch his, awaiting the pleasant tingle.
“You and I,” I answer as the circuit completes, and he is walking closely ahead. The warmth from his hand leads me down the dim hallway that seems to be full of stars. We step towards the back entrance, the one with the red door. Our footsteps echo into the pinpricks of light, and the one verse of long song comes like a lullaby, pushing through my head, forming itself over and over again, until I have no choice but to take it as a sign. It hums and I listen to the words. The red door opens, and the night pools in.
Let us go then, you and I, when the evening is spread out against the sky, like a patient etherized upon a table.