Need Someone

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Chapter 6 - Livin' It Up

I decided to go to the party but brought Max with me. Ziggy was my patient and I was his caretaker. The kiss was inappropriate. Returning the kiss was so much worse. I would be an idiot to think he wouldn’t try to get laid at what he considered his last party. Though it may be conceited to think he would try it with me, I wasn’t willing to take the chance.

I sat in Max’s Range Rover and pulled the hem of my dress down, but the edge of my tattoo was still visible. The watercolor-style flowers were a mix of crimson, purple, and black. Someone who had any knowledge of tattoos would have told me that the blood-colored images with drip patterns might look gruesome when poking out from the bottom of shorts, but knowing me, I still wouldn’t have cared. The full bouquet bloomed over my upper right thigh and hip. At the time, it represented my anger and my desire to make that beautiful. Now, it represented the rebellious idiot I thought I would become. Someone very similar the rebellious idiot I was being tonight.

I had changed my outfit four times before I settled on the sheath dress, cardigan, thigh-high combo. No one puts that much effort into getting dressed if they don’t mean to impress. I didn’t look good or bad, I looked intentionally unremarkable. I was remarkably out of place in Max’s expensive car.

“Just how sick is he?” Max asked me, breaking me from my thoughts. I told him that Ziggy was my patient, but I didn’t go into details.

“Very sick, but I don’t think he wants anyone to know.”

We pulled around a corner to find cars lined up on both sides of the street. People lingered around a refurbished brick building. I grew anxious.

“Must be a cool guy, throwing a party like this.” Yeah. He’s pretty cool.

Max parked and helped me out, then followed another group of people inside the building.

The building looked like a remodeled factory—it even had an old elevator that had a manual drop-down metal gate. Everything was made of weathered brick or wood but accented with modern stainless steel and polished concrete. It was artistic and pretentious. Just like Ziggy.

We followed the signs to his place, though the loud music pointed the way regardless. A sign hanging on the door just under the number said, “Just come in, fuckers.” We were in the right place.

We walked through the door and into a crowd. huge double-height apartment, the interior made of the same weathered brick. Past the foyer was a large kitchen, a spread of food laid out across the stainless countertop. To our right, a dining table covered in liquor bottles, and behind that, a black spiral staircase leading to what I assumed was a loft space above. Ahead of us, a built-in bed sat in the back right corner, and at the other end of the room, a makeshift stage and dancefloor were set up in what would otherwise be an open living space. Along the back wall were huge windows that tilted open to a rooftop deck where people had gathered to smoke.

The apartment was huge and filled to the brim with people. This was one hell of a party.

“There she is!”

I looked over and saw Ziggy approaching. He looked happy holding his red Solo cup. His well-fitted white shirt hung untucked from his dark pants. I was right to dress casually, but it was wrong for him to look so good doing the same.

“Look how nice you clean up.” He hugged me with his free arm and kissed my cheek.

“Thanks. You look great too.”

He smiled at me but it faded as quickly as it came. “Who’s your friend?” he asked, giving me an icy glare.

“I’m Sabs’ boyfriend, Max. Nice to meet you.”

My eyes went wide.

He held out his hand and Ziggy shook it. “Yeah,” he said. “Well, there are drinks on the table and food in the kitchen. Make yourselves at home, okay?”

Thanks, man,” Max said.

“No problem, bro,” he said sarcastically, but Max didn’t pick up on it. Ziggy gave me a look that could kill be he walked away. I felt like I was in trouble.

Max and I stood awkwardly for a moment. We looked around, trying to get our bearings in the crowd. I realized he didn’t decorate much for the party, but he also didn’t need to. Everything looked to be as he would typically have it, minus the abundance of food and entertainment. Against the brick walls hang larger prints of what is undoubtedly his work. Black and white oversize prints of people, in various settings. Each one was a different candid moment—children, men, women, all smiling, laughing, or crying—and each one was more expressive and moving as the last. He was so talented.

A girl came up to Max and squealed. “Hey, you!”

“Hey!” They hugged. She must have been a model. She was tall and rail thin with perfect hair and an oddly beautiful face that mimicked a perfume advertisement. “This is my girlfriend, Sabine.” The more he said it, the more confused I got.

“Nice to meet you!” she sounded a little too intoxicated for it being this early. “Everyone from the club is here. You should come hang with us after you get a drink.”

“We will for sure!” The woman slipped her way back through the crown and I didn’t even care to ask her name. “Wanna grab something to eat?” Max asked me.

“Yes, let’s.”

We nudged our way past a few people and made it to the food spread. It was much more sophisticated than the bowls of chips and untrustworthy dips of the parties I usually attended. We grabbed a couple of chicken parmesan sliders. As I took a bite, I stared longingly at the fried lobster mac-and-cheese balls, wondering if they were worth the calorie count.

I caught myself swaying my hips to the music and smiled at Max as he appraised me. I wanted to dance, but I would need a little liquid courage to do it here. “Do you think his drink spread is as good as the food?” I asked him.

“Let’s find out!” True to his frat-boy persona, Max could drink me under the table. But, at least he had good taste.

We went over to make some drinks and found Ziggy once again. He was leaned onto the driftwood table, talking to a man who could pass as Tyson Beckford’s younger, more handsome brother. Another model, no doubt. When Ziggy spotted me, staring at me from the corner of his eye.

Max looked through the bottles. I smiled awkwardly at Ziggy, but he seemed more concerned with whatever was in his cup. He left the hospital with a handful of pain med prescriptions, none of which mix well with alcohol. When his friend walked away, I moved closer to him to speak quietly. “I don’t want to be that person, but you really shouldn’t be drinking.”

“Oh, but it tastes so good,” he said disingenuously. “Try some.”

“No.”

He handed me the cup, staring me in the eyes. “I insist.”

Fine. I tipped his cup and took a sip. It was tart but has no scent or taste of alcohol. “This is cranberry juice,” I stated the obvious. He raised an eyebrow at me.

“Found it!” Max came over with the Jack Daniels. I grabbed it excitedly. There was a full bar laid out before me, and I took advantage, grabbing a glass bottle of Coke to split.

“So, Sabs says you’re a photographer.”

“I am.”

“That’s awesome, man!” He smacked Ziggy on the back, making him wince. “It’s a sweet gig, you know? All it takes is a good camera and something pretty in front of ya!”

I glanced up to see Ziggy hiding his condescending glare the best he could. “Yeah, that’s all it takes.”

I handed Max his Jack and Coke and try to butt in, but he kept going. “How much do you make as a photographer?” I cringed.

“I don’t really like to talk finances with strangers, Max.”

“I’m a broker, man. Finance is what I do.” He wouldn’t drop it. “I mean, you do well for yourself, we can all see that. But you can’t make that much taking pictures. Between freelancing contracts and small-business taxes, you’re probably losing a lot of earning potential.” Ziggy gave Max a slow blink so cold it could kill someone. “I make six figures a year from salary, but true wealth comes from stocks and investments. It’s all about playing the market.”

“Yeah?” Ziggy’s enthusiastic tone dripped with sarcasm.

“Yeah, man. Let me know if you want my help, I’ll hook you up.” Max waved at one of his frat-boy friends and left me with my drink. I wanted to shrivel up and die in the corner.

“Your boyfriend is a douchebag, and that’s coming from me,” Ziggy teased.

“He’s not my boyfriend.”

“Maybe you should tell him that,” he said, then walked away.

I downed my entire cup and immediately poured myself another.

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