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Cinderella Backpacking

By alaskarue All Rights Reserved ©

Adventure / Romance

He was such a damsel in distress

For a while, all I could hear was silence - the kind of silence that rings in your ears, a shrill cutting through the heavy, humid air. Red and blue lights, flashing rapidly, made everything hard to see, twirling all over the place so fast that one really couldn't see a thing. There were too many people now, pushing into any spare inch of the floor that might have existed an hour ago, elbowing and blowing bitter breath in my face. Their faces were all shadowed, so I couldn't see their expressions, but I could feel their energy, excitement barely contained under the surface, mixing in smooth lines in these tight quarters. The world felt like it was spinning - and it was.

A microphone suddenly cackled to life. I looked over at the DJ station. "Let's get this party started, shall we?"

I grinned sloppily, eyes half closed, as the people around me screamed and shrieked to bass beats winding out slowly from the speakers, gaining speed and volume as the song unraveled. Soft skin and fabric brushed against me as I wiggled my way across the room, the occasional hand reaching out to tug at my arm. "Hey, where are you going, babe?" I heard this as if from a distance and shrugged it off.

The artists who'd taken their turn on the discs were all pretty great, the star attraction that night being Kygo. One of my all-time favourite artists, he was the main reason I'd come to Canvas tonight, determined to kick off my last night in Amsterdam with a bang. I snapped my fingers in time with the DJ's play and wiggled through the crowd. A new DJ had just taken over the turntable, someone called Lefto, but I'd been dancing nonstop for three hours already. I veered to the left and found the ladies' room.

There was a man slumped against the wall, legs splayed out across the floor of the narrow hallway. Drunk girls gingerly stepped over him, giggling loudly. Waiting till they passed me, I slowly walked over to him, crouching down when I was next to him.

His head was tilted to the side, his hair a sweaty mess clinging to his cheeks. I gently tapped his shoulder. "Hello sir? Are you okay?"

He didn't respond and I took to prodding him harder now, more insistently. Even in my woozy, flushed state, my eyes widened and I felt panic dimly flare within my chest. Had he drunk him to complete oblivion? Was he completely unconscious? Or worse, was he-

"Hey, hey, stop that." He roused slightly, weakly bringing his hand up to swat away my hand. I pulled away, instantly relieved. "I'm sleeping here, lady."

"In front of the girls' bathroom? Really?" I couldn't help but ask, raising my eyes dubiously. A group of girls exited the bathroom then, glaring down at us for the inconvenience of blocking their way. "Are you okay?"

"Just peachy," he replied, slurring. "Now can you leave me alone? I need to pee."

My eyebrows flew up at that. I teetered on my high heels as I looked up and saw the sign clearly stating ladies above the open door. The men's bathroom was on the other side of the 7th floor.

"Well, you're not in the right place. You're lying all comatose-like in front of the ladies' room."

"How..." He started, only to lose his train of thought. I began to tug at his arm now, trying to get him to stand up. He apparently found his train of thought again because his eyes cracked open just the tiniest bit and he continued, "... can I possibly... be comatose... like... if I am talking... to you?"

I chose to ignore his obvious doubt in my logic and tugged even harder at his arm. It was only dead weight in my hands though. "Come on, you've got to get up. I'll even help you get to the washroom, just... don't pee all over the floor."

He apparently found this uproariously hilarious because he started guffawing, his other hand finding the sudden energy to repeatedly thump the ground beside him. For a couple of seconds, I just let him laugh, but eventually fed up, I gave him another hard yank. Unfortunately, his leg happened to swing left at the exact same moment, tripping me as I tried to steady myself backwards, and I went crashing on to the floor. My butt smacked the tiles hard.

"Ow," I moaned, shifting to rub my tailbone. "I really don't appreciate you right now, just so you know."

"That's how I felt," he mumbled, collapsing back into the wall. "When you decided to annoyingly jab me in the shoulder. What were you trying to do, kill me?"

"As if that hurt you," I grumbled back. He was now back to slumbering.

"Could you please, like, move out of the way?" I looked up to see an unpleasant frown on a brunette. "You're, like, blocking my way." Seriously? I was only trying to help the guy and this was what I got for trying? Attitude? I picked myself up, dusting off my dress, and stepped to the side, exaggeratedly bowing. She huffed and strode past.

"She was a real meanie, wasn't she?" The guy intoned from the ground.

"Yeah, well, you're not helping," I shot back. Still feeling hazy from the alcohol and the euphoria of late-night dancing, I stepped over him and headed into the girls' bathroom, over to the sinks. Splashing some cold water on my face, I immediately woke up, the world coming into much more searing focus.

I looked at my reflection. My hair had come completely undone from the high ponytail I'd had it in when the night had begun, and my make-up was running down my face in black streaks. In short, I looked like I'd just bawled watching the Titanic while crawling through a garbage can. Not pretty, in other words. Sighing, I scrubbed away at my face. Each hard yank down my cheeks punctuated the thoughts that raced through my head.

You can just leave him here and inform one of the bouncers. They'd sort him out, right? I stared into my mirror image's eyes, willing myself to agree so I could just go back to partying until dawn, until I had to hurry back to my hostel.

I mean, these are my last seven hours in Amsterdam, I pleaded with my reflection. I'm here at a fantastic club, listening to gawddamn perfect music in one of the most beautiful cities on Earth. I shouldn't let some drunk menace mess with my last night. Right? The figure in the mirror just shook her head at me, glancing away, disappointed. I scrubbed the underside of my eye, wiping off the bleeding mascara. My reflection knew what I was trying to ignore - that the bouncers would only dump him out on the streets, maybe call a cab to take him back. But what then? Who knew if he'd get home safely if left to his own devices? And what if he didn't have enough money to pay for the cab? The what ifs nagged at me until I grudgingly gave in, huffing. A loud flush rang out across the bathroom and the snobby girl from earlier stepped out of her stall, looking at me weirdly. I pointedly ignored her.

How had I arrived at this moment? I couldn't believe it myself but I'd resigned myself to take the dude home. The fact that I would be spending my last hours in Amsterdam - in Europe, in fact - playing babysitter kind of depressed me, but I steeled myself, swiping my lips with a towelette. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the prissy girl shoot me another glare before stomping out the room.

Spying a cup in the corner, it was like a light bulb flashed on in my mind. I grabbed it and filled it to the brim with water before stumbling slightly back out.

"Hey!" The Drunk Menace yelped, as cold water splashed down on him, drenching his hair and seeping through his white button-down. "You bitch!"

"Hey, you don't get to call me a bitch!" I yelled at him, flinging the last few drops at him. "I'm going to be hauling your sorry butt home, so don't make me regret this more than I already do."

"Gawd, I need to pee." The Drunk Menace suddenly seemed much more awake and I nodded to myself. Drenching him had been the right call. Without my help at all, he stumbled up, steadying himself against the wall, before practically throwing himself through the door and heading, full-force, towards one of the cubicles. I rushed after him, wanting to scream but instead laughed. It was kind of funny, after all. I just hoped no one decided to come in at that moment.

My laughter only doubled as I crossed the bathroom to see that he hadn't closed the cubicle door. He'd let his jeans fall completely to the floor so that they pooled around his ankles. I'm not one to judge (or at least I try not to) but he had one hairy ass. I bowled over giggling at that, grabbing at my side. I could clearly hear the sound of his pee hitting the water (at least he was aiming, I'd give him that) and his absent-minded humming.

"Dude, you do know you're giving me and any girl who happens to walk in unwittingly a clear view of your behind? And it ain't a pretty sight, let me tell you." Actually, it was a pretty nice, firm shape, but I wasn't going to let that on. I turned away just to be polite, even though I had a feeling he didn't really care about politeness in his drunken state.

"You love it." He turned his head back to wink at me and I blinked. Now that I could clearly see his face, not hidden by his hair, not drenched by cold water, I could see that he wasn't bad-looking. In fact, he was actually quite handsome, with light blue eyes and chiseled cheekbones. He smirked, returning to the business at hand. Pulling his pants back up, he managed to zip it but fumbled with the belt, his hands doing a clumsy dance. I rolled my eyes, tentatively stepping forward.

"Do you want help?" He glanced up at me, a slow smirk breaking out across his face.

"Oh, it's like that, is it?"

Again, I rolled my eyes, huffing, before bending down to push his hands away and take the belt in my hands. Threading it quickly through the loops and fastening it, I looked up at him and sang tauntingly, "Now, that wasn't so hard was it?"

"Oh my gosh, ew!" I whipped around at the shriek. A girl had somehow click-clacked into the bathroom without my knowing and seen us together in a single cubicle. I blushed as I realized what this must have looked like from behind. I quickly stood up, nearly tripping over my own heels, feeling the Drunk Menace steady me, a surprisingly gentle hand on the small of my back.

"It's not what it looks like!" I tried, but she was already dashing out of the bathroom.

"Thanks," I shot at the Drunken Menace, glaring at him as I hugged my sling purse tighter against my stomach and backed out of the cubicle. His hand slipped off my back.

"No, thank you." The Drunken Menace laughed. I rolled my eyes, smiling slightly at that.

"Let's get out of here before she calls security." I waited while he washed his hands, slopping water all over the sink. With the alcohol mostly out of his system now, he appeared much more on this planet again, although his face was as bright as an evening sunset in Thailand and he still stumbled as we exited the bathroom. My eyes widened as I caught sight of the girl who had walked in on us pushing her way back through the crowd, a bouncer in tow.

"Oh no." Without thinking, I grabbed the Drunken Menace's hand and started pulling him forward, knocking him roughly to make a quick right turn. "We gotta bolt."

"The party's over?" The Drunken Menace whined, nevertheless following me, though at a much slower and clumsier pace. Back there, in the shelter of the bathroom and distracted by the Drunken Menace, it was like the music in the club had completely faded out, but out here, the music was so loud I could hear it like an additional heartbeat in my chest, practically shaking the walls. Amazingly, the elevator dinged open just as we got there, sliding in (well, I slid in; Drunken Menace tripped in) behind some other people leaving the party. I breathed with in relief as the doors closed.

"That was close," I muttered, glancing over at Drunken Menace. He didn't seem to know what I was talking about, alone slumped once again against the wall and closed his eyes, shielding himself from the sudden harsh white light in the elevator. "Ugh, gross," he muttered back. Only then did I realize we were still holding hands - clasping them tightly, in fact, as if we were a lifeline to each other. I dropped his like I'd just realized it was a hissing skunk.

The elevator spat us back out on level one. We walked in silence, a stark contrast behind the happy clubbers gossiping and giggling in unison. When we got out on to the street, the Drunken Menace turned to face me, struggling to give me a wide smile. "Thank you... Although I'm not really sure what I should be thanking you for. I just felt like I should say it."

"Well, we're not done yet." I surveyed the street. There were still quite a lot of people milling around, and quite a lot of taxis patrolling the cobblestone lanes, on the look out for people needing a ride. He cocked his head to the left, so I continued, "I'm walking you home. You're too drunk to get home by yourself and I'm not going to leave you to wander around and fall into a canal."

He opened his mouth to protest this but I only shook my head, sending him a warning glare. "Don't argue with me, Drunken Menace."

"Drunken Menace?" He stepped back, a stunted laugh of surprise leaving his lips. "Well, it has a nice ring to it."

"Glad you think so. Now, lead the way. I have a plane to catch in" - I glanced at my watch; it was now 3:27am - "six and a half hours." I looked back at him. "You better not make me late."

"A woman with a lion's breath," Drunken Menace sang, tossing the words out into the night air before looping his arm through mine, which were crossed over my chest. I quickly wiggled out of his hold. He only laughed. "You're a skittish one, aren't you?" He started down the street, passing under the lamplight.

"A woman with a lion's breath?" I called out incredulously, hurrying after him. "Are you trying to say that I smell like I just ate a zebra?"

His laugh burst out of his chest like a triggered airbag in a car. Some people across street jerked their heads in his direction.

"You really are a precious one," Drunken Menace said, smiling at me for a second, almost like he was kind of fond of me. That look quickly dissipated, replaced by his classic smirk. "My name's Travis."

"Winter," I replied. He raised an eyebrow at me. I could see delight in the twinkle of his eyes as he smiled down at me, even as I shook my head. "Don't ask."

"I like it," was all he said. Then he was pulling me forward, breaking out into a run. "First one to jump into a canal is a rotten egg!"

Like that made any sense. But, like all that had happened that night, I decided to run with it. After all, I had a damsel in distress to save from himself.

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