“Walking through an empty underworld of demons dancing...”
“Come on! It’ll be fun. School is finally over with for the summer,” a red-haired girl whined as her friend proceeded to scroll through her phone.
The clatter of mugs and cups on tables muffled into the background. The scent of honeyed coffee and pastries delighted Nari’s senses.
Nearly every table was crowded, with couples on dates, students studying, or friends chattering amongst themselves.
A narrow stage was at the head of the coffee house with a pink-haired petite woman singing softly into a microphone. Her red guitar case was filled to the brim with loose change and dollar bills.
The copper-colored brick walls furnished with vintage records and old French movie posters in glass casings.
“Why do we have to do something extravagant? It’s just a day,” Nari responded, and indifference swelled her tone. “Besides, Déjà Vu sounds like a place where we should go.”
Ara groaned and slumped against the back of the booth.
Her red-polished fingertips played with the string of her teabag that dangled over the side of her cup. She eyed Nari from the top of her nose and asked herself how she would be able to get her shut-in of a friend to expand her horizons.
Not only that, but Ara worked at the club. She wanted Nari to see that life wasn’t so bad and she wouldn’t have to keep her craft a secret.
Nari kept her brown eyes to the bright screen of her phone, striving to ignore the pouting face of her best friend.
She drove her small hand through her raven black hair before sighing heavily. She lowered her phone on to the tabletop and joined Ara’s green stare.
“Fine, but when I say I want to leave, we’re leaving.”
Ara nearly hopped out of her booth and clapped her hands excitedly. A few patrons of the coffee house glanced back at their table, and Nari gripped her arms to keep her seat.
An embarrassed smile spread along her lips. “Ara, shush! We don’t need to get kicked out of this place too!”
Ara giggled and quieted herself back into her seat.
Ara was the most social out of the two, which was no secret. She was also born in the United States, then moved to South Korea for her education.
Nari had met her in one of the classes of their first semester and had been inseparable since. Their bond almost felt like that of soulmates.
“Oh, stop worrying. I’m happy I finally get to see you out of your shell. I mean, you’ve been here your entire life, and I’ve seen more of this place than you have. Hell, I’ve had more boyfriends than you’ve had.”
Nari let go of her arms and crossed her own. She scowled playfully, then shifted her attention back to the woman with her guitar.
“I’ve had a boyfriend-”
“Okay, secretly banging your professor is not a boyfriend. That’s a creep taking advantage of his student. I mean a genuine boyfriend - someone who doesn’t have to hide you and will protect you.”
Nari stayed quiet as she gnawed on her bottom lip.
That was a memory and a decision she was not pleased to remember. She had found herself at the kindness of her alluring mentor, only to discover he was having relations with many of his students.
Since then, she had called herself a fool for believing someone would have desired her in a way that was never touched before.
“Nari, there is someone out there who will look at you like you’re their entire galaxy. They’re just not going to be someone who grades your papers.”
Nari nodded and pulled a fake smile across her face. “We should start getting ready. If we’re going out, we should go all out.”
Ara smirked, “That’s what I’m talking about!”
The blaring music was making Nari uneasy with each vibration of the bass. The boisterous drunks weren’t making her any more relaxed.
She hugged herself, instantly regretting allowing Ara to be the one who had chosen her attire.
A black bodycon dress that ended at her mid-thigh silhouetted her hourglass form. Three-inch heels were making her feet cramp from the foreign angle her toes laid. Her dark eyes were shadowed by glitter and black eyeliner, presenting her innocent face with a smoldering new appearance.
She was having a tough time disregarding the stares by intoxicated men leaning against the bar at the distant end of the night club.
“Enjoy it. Here is a place where you can let loose all your inhibitions, and no one will judge you for it,” Ara shouted into her ear over the music.
The alternating hues of the strobe lights made it painful for her to concentrate on one area for too long.
Nari noticed Ara grinning at a man resting in a secluded area encircled by other suited men. Her best friend caught her eye and only shrugged.
Before she could say anything, someone appeared behind their bench and lowered his face between the girls.
“Ara, so nice to see you both enjoying your night,” a young man in his mid-twenties smiled as he spoke.
His smooth hair dyed blonde, and his bangs were fallen to the side to reveal his forehead and darkened eyebrows. His jawline was rigid and sharp, and full lips teased Nari in the flashing lights.
“Always. Jimin, I’d like to introduce you to my friend Nari. Nari, this is my boss, Jimin.”
Boss? Nari thought.
Jimin gazed at Nari with flirtatious eyes. He licked his plump bottom lip as he examined her dress.
“Any friend of Ara’s is a friend of mine. Tell me, how do you like my club? Any chance of having an additional dancer around here?”
Nari gulped hard and did her best to smile at the beautiful man bending beside her.
“I’m not much of a partier, but I do find this place interesting.”
Ara’s boss smirked and sucked in air through his teeth, ”Interesting is one of the best ways to describe it. I’ll let you ladies enjoy your girl’s night. Just make sure you don’t run into Anthem.”
Ara’s eyes went wide. “When are you going to ban that bastard?”
Jimin chuckled humorlessly and stood upright. “When he stops paying my club for special services.”
With no more words left to exchange, Jimin beamed once more before fading into the strobing spotlights.
Nari glanced back at her friend in complete astonishment. “You work here?”
“A girl’s got to make money somehow. Interested in taking that open position?”
She stammered, “Um- who’s Anthem?”
Ara snorted and cast her head back, “A self-serving asshole. Since Jimin pays him so much mind, he thinks he owns everyone. One day, he’s going to mess with the wrong person and find his head on a chopping block.”
Nari swallowed hard and, for once, had contemplated venturing out on to the dance floor only to tear away from the chat.
She scanned the array of parading people and gasped when her eyes met a man who had just entered the noisy building.
His black hair shined in the flashing lights, and his white dress shirt had been undone just low enough to reveal a little bit of his bronzed chest. His attractive face seemed stern as if trouble was brewing in his mind.
His legs were well-defined in black dress-slacks where his shirt tucked in neatly. Numerous men in similar attire followed after him. They didn’t appear to be the sort of group who were desiring a drink and a dance.
His hard eyes browsed the floor before he discovered her gaze. A trace of a smirk flickered at the corner of his mouth, then dissolved once he started walking to a sectioned off corner of the club.
“Who was that?” Nari asked, in awe of the mysterious stranger.
Ara gritted her teeth. “Shit! Come on. We need to leave.”
Ara grasped Nari’s wrist tightly before hauling her across the club. Any of her questions were left unanswered as they buzzed through the drunken sea of sweating bodies.
They left through an employee-only exit at the rear of the club that led into a grimy and dank alleyway. The haunting moonlight illuminated stacks of trash bags and the murky asphalt.
“Ara, what’s going on?” Nati pressed further.
She had never seen anyone so frightened before. Ara was visibly quaking in her golden heels, and her matching strapless dress added a twinkle to the uneasy air.
“He’s supposed to be dead,” Ara grumbled to herself, disregarding Nari once more.
Dead? Who? What is going on?
“Going somewhere?” A grave voice spoke out from behind the wandering girls.
They both slowly spun around to see an older man leaning on a cane. His white hair gelled back flawlessly, and the left side of his face had a burn scar.
“Anthem,” Ara whispered.
“Ara, I would have expected a much cheerful greeting. Although, you do seem to be possessing a habit of disappointing me.”
Nari remained mute, hoping she’d become invisible. Her hopes wilted when Anthem tipped his head toward her with a grin that made her skin crawl.
“I see you’ve brought your friend. Just like you had promised.”
“Ara, what is he talking about?”
“Nothing, he’s talking about nothing,” she replied, then twisted back to him, “I did what you wanted. Leave us alone.”
Abruptly, Nari was grabbed from behind by strong arms. She attempted to struggle out of his grip, but her trials were to no avail. She was solely shushed into her ear as if that was the code to calming her down.
“Let her go!”
Anthem slammed the end of his staff upon the ground, and Nari released a tiny whimper into the man’s hand that had clamped around her jaw.
“You fail me, sow the repercussions. It’s not hard to understand. It’s simply business.”
Anthem made his route to Nari, taking a closer view of her trembling body. He observed in amusement as warm tears began to cascade down her cheeks.
“Kill her,” Anthem commanded.
Nari made stifled shrieks. Ara pleaded for her life as she struggled furiously to break free from the grasps of men who came out from the shadows.
Then, a loud bang roared into the air, then Ara’s body crashed against the dark pavement.
Nari’s legs collapsed from underneath her as she sank to the ground. The man that had held her released her to cry against the pavement. She made sure to catch a glimpse of his colored red hair and a scar above his right eye before she crouched over herself.
She cried, screamed, and sobbed until her throat became raw.
Then, more gunshots fired, and the men scattered, leaving Nari alone with her lifeless friend. Nari took her opportunity and crawled over to Ara.
“Take her back to my place and get her cleaned up,” an alluring, deep voice commanded.
She refused to look up as she held her best friend in her arms. The display of blood pooling around her red hair made her want to throw up any of the alcohol she had consumed earlier.
Her hands began to tremble as her fingers became slippery, but she continued to rock Ara against her chest.
“Do it. That’s an order.”
I write longish chapters because I love adding a lot of detail to a story. Sorry, not sorry.
Please, comment, vote, and follow. I’m very lonely.