Chapter 1: The Glow of the Ocean
Sometimes a song so perfectly encapsulates a moment that it takes your breath away. The club beats pounding in my ears that Tuesday evening held no such significance. The young man I was dancing with would be impossible to pick out of a lineup in the morning, which was precisely what enticed me to him.
The music pulsing through my veins mixed with the martinis and gin to form a new pulse beating in disharmony with my heart. The lights bounced off the water, yellows and blues illuminating the darkness of the night. I had been trying to convince myself for hours that the unsteadiness I was feeling was from the rocking of the boat and not my choice of drinks, but the longer the feeling went on, the less likely that became.
Mr. Tall-and-Handsome slid his hand lower down my back, and I spun out of his grasp. Even as I stumbled away from him, the boat kept spinning and I struggled to keep myself upright on my stiletto heels. A strange hand pulled up on my elbow and a face mouthed the words ‘are you okay?’ but I just shrugged it off and stumbled toward the bathrooms.
The door into the hall was finally in view when my best friend Kat popped up in front of me.
“How did you get here so fast?” I asked, but she just waved her hands around in the air and gestured wildly.
“What?” I shouted back at her, hoping she could somehow hear me.
Through a series of shaky hand gestures, I gathered she wanted to go in to the bathrooms or maybe jump into the ocean. Both of those sounded like fun, but falling in the ocean right now was probably a bad idea. Then again, it would be cool, which would probably feel nice.
Suddenly, my arm jerked away from my body as Kat tried to drag me behind her. I guess we’re going for it.
The next thing I knew, the hard deck of the boat collided with my shoulder and my chin, sending a shooting pain through my left arm.
“Ouch!” I called out, only to have my cry escape on the breeze, drowned out entirely by the pulsing of the music and the roar of the engine.
When I finally picked myself up and followed Kat far enough away from the music, I ignored the throbbing in my shoulder to smack her with my free hand. “What the hell was that for?” I shouted.
“I saw your ex! And my ex! And everyone’s exes!”
I tried to cross my arms across my chest, and when that didn’t work, I put a hand on my hip and raised an eyebrow at her. “Excuse me?”
“Nico is here. At the party. And he was like really close to the edge and then I think he’s behind you?” Kat’s words were starting to slur together.
The boat rocked under our feet and I lurched forward, instinctively reaching out with my right arm to catch me as I fell. The searing pain in my shoulder once again spread throughout my body as the hot warmth swelled at the joint.
“I gotta get out of here, Kat,” I said as I turned. Nico, of course, was nowhere to be found. Kat was out of her mind, as usual. I turned around to grab Kat’s hand and pull her along with me down the dock to shore. The wood teetered underneath us in a way it hadn’t on the way to the boat, and I stopped to take off my shoes so I wouldn’t fall in the ocean.
Kat would owe me for this. Leaving the party early to take care of her was not my idea of a good time.
A slight buzz shook through my body, and it seemed to originate from my hip. Unfortunately, it shook my arm just enough to remind me of how unceremoniously I’d fallen to the floor.
“Keep up, Kat!” I shouted at her, wanting to be somewhere with pain medication.
After we reached the shore, we abandoned the idea that either of us was sober enough to find her car. We were rounding the corner toward the train, now both carrying our shoes, when my hip shook my body once more. What is going on with me?
I must have said that part out loud, because the next thing I knew, Kat was patting me down to find the mysterious ailment. She was awkwardly sliding her hand along my back when I heard a voice behind me that I’d recognize anywhere. “Do you two need a lift?”
“A lift?” I mimicked his London accent in a high-pitched voice. “What are you doing here, Nico? I thought I left you in last year.”
“I was going to a party,” he said simply. “Which I was invited to, by the way.”
Before I could think of a witty retort, Kat stabbed a finger into the centre of his chest. “A-ha! That would explain why you were on the boat! But not why you are on this like this exact corner, you know?”
“Yeah,” I added, trying to make Kat’s words make sense. “I mean why are you on this corner probably several blocks from the party boat place.”
“Well…” he caught Kat’s elbow before she could topple over. “I followed two stumbling girls out of a party because, despite our history, I still care about them and really don’t want them ending up dead in any alleyways.”
It was at that precise moment that my brain caught up with my feet. We are not anywhere near where I recognize. Where are we?… How did we even get here?
“How long were we walking?” I accidentally asked that one out loud.
“Only about ten minutes,” Nico answered my rhetorical question. “So do you want the lift or not?”
I wanted so desperately to say no, because I already knew the scent of his cologne was about to send me somewhere I didn’t want to return, but Kat took the opportunity to collapse on the sidewalk, leaving me no choice.
“I guess we’ll take the lift.” I pointed to Kat. “But you’re going to have to get her to the car.”
The annoying buzz in my hip struck again as I was getting into the car and the next thing I knew I was waking up to a buzzing sound under my neck while looking up at the underside of what seemed like a coffee table.