Leila realized that it was wrong to eavesdrop, but it was kind of hard not to hear her. Her voice was so melodic, it entranced her. She stepped closer, pulled against her will towards the stranger’s lulling voice. She didn’t want to get too close, didn’t want to be seen. It seemed like it was a private moment between Nikoli and....whoever she was, but she was hoping to get a glimpse of her.
She could understand why Nikoli wanted to hide this, but then again it was not really her business to begin with. They were not involved, yes she was interested in him slightly, however she also thought him strange. Maybe she would get the chance to find out why, but for that she couldn’t be certain. She felt childish, peeking around the corner of the hallway, but she couldn’t help but be curious about what was going on in the other room. She couldn’t fully make out what was being said, but from what she gathered he had left her and she wasn’t over him. She wondered what had happened between them.
Was she prettier than Leila? A couple of words were thrown around that made her concerned about what kind of conversation she had stumbled upon, “savage” being one of them. How had he acted like a savage? The woman had called Leila a filthy human. What did she mean by that? Leila sniffed her hair and her armpits, wondering if she really did stink. She had showered that morning and her clothes were freshly laundered, even still smelling of the detergent.
She was a little insulted by what this woman had to say about her and it made her feel a little indignant at her baseless insinuations. Leila had so many questions pop into her mind, but didn’t feel that she had the right to pry. The longer she stood there, the dumber she began to feel. She didn’t need this kind of drama. Leila knew it was time for her to leave. So, why was she still standing there like an idiot?
She started out of the hallway and down the stairway, prepared to leave, when the door to the other room opened suddenly, causing her to scurry faster down the stairs, tripping over her own feet but thankfully not falling on her face. She bustled as quietly as possible back down the stairs, trying to avoid Nikoli’s ex girlfriend drama as well as Nikoli himself. She managed to escape the winding staircase without breaking her neck just in time to miss running into Nikoli’s mysterious, angry ex girlfriend, or whatever she was. She wasn’t completely certain in that matter.
Breathing a sigh of relief, she plunged into the crowd, intent on finding Elaine and leaving. A few guys pawed at her and tried to wrap their arms around her waist, but she managed to pushed them off, effectively avoiding their drunken advances. Finally spotting her friend across the room, sitting at the bar, Leila tried to get her attention by waving her hands around in the air, but it was to no avail. Elaine was too busy chatting it up with the sexy bartender, Jay. That would figure thought Leila with a wry smile on her face. He seemed like the perfect guy to her. He was hot, nice, flirtatious. Not to mention the fact that he made every girl feel special. Intending to get out of here before Nikoli came back, she pushed her way through the crowded room to get to Elaine, all the while wondering why she kept putting herself through this torture. She hated crowds and yet she had let Elaine once again talk her into coming here.
“Elaine!” Leila cupped her hands to her mouth to shout, using them like a megaphone.
“Leila! Hey!” Elaine waved Leila over excitedly, pointing to the bartender, “Have you met, Jay? He’s great isn’t he?” said her friend, giggling and teetering in her glittery blue heels.
Leila and Jay both rushed to Elaine’s side, but Jay beat her to it, helping the inebriated girl onto the bar stool.
“Are you okay?” Leila and Jay asked simultaneously, causing Elaine to giggle again.
“Yeah...I’m fine.” Elaine said, smiling as she squeezed Leila’s hand.
“Are you sure?” questioned Jay, concern washing over his handsome features as he freed a strand of the red wig from her sticky lip gloss.
“You guys worry too much. I’m just fine…” Elaine blurted out before she covered her mouth with her hand, her eyes going wide and darting around.
“Oh god! She’s gonna puke! Help me, Jay,” Leila said quickly, grabbing Elaine by the waist and hanging on tightly.
“Sure, just a sec.” He told Leila. Then he shouted to a nearby waitress, who was about to carry drinks out, asking her to watch the bar for a minute. She looked annoyed, but nodded at him reluctantly, setting her drinks down until he returned. Jay slung Elaine’s arm over his neck and helped half-drag her to the bathroom. Jay held the door open for them as Leila rushed Elaine into a stall, hobbling in her own heels that she now regretted.
“Thanks Jay!” Leila shouted as they made it to the toilet just in time for Elaine to empty the contents of her stomach into the bowl while Leila bent over holding her friend’s wig back.
“Uh yeah, no problem.” Jay said, looking out of place standing in the doorway of the girls bathroom, “Is she gonna be okay? Do you want me to call a cab?”
“Yes please. That would be great,” Leila said, cringing as her friend started to dry heave, but trying to be supportive by rubbing her lower back.
“Okay, I’ll uh...i’ll meet you by the bar,” Jay gestured with his thumb towards the bar, obviously uncomfortable in the girl’s room if the way he kept fiddling with the change in his front pocket was any indication.
Leila nodded at him, mustering a small smile and a wave with the hand that wasn’t holding her friend’s hair back from her face. Jay waved back and let the door swing close in the wake of his absence, leaving the bathroom quiet aside from Elaine’s labored breathing. She managed to stop throwing up and was now starting to nod off against Leila’s chest as she held her, wiping her friend’s face off the best she could with toilet paper.
“Thanks, Lei. I promise never to drink again…”
Leila chuckled at her friend’s drunken remorseful statement, knowing that it was something she had heard from Elaine before.
“If you say so. We both just need to learn how to pace ourselves better. I was pretty bad off myself last time we were here.” Leila hugged her friend and helped her stand up so that they could leave.
“Yeah… That was pretty bad….”
“Ready to go home?”
“Yeah. I’m totally drunk….” Elaine giggled, letting Leila help her up.
“Do you wanna stay at my house then?”
“Yeah I kinda don’t wanna be alone tonight.”
“How come? Did something happen?”
“Jake broke up with me…” Elaine sobbed into Leila’s shoulder, her tears soaking into Leila’s costume.
“Jake…? Which one was he? Did I meet him?” Leila struggled to put a face with the name.
“Yes… He was the grocery store guy remember? We met him together last week. He asked me out by the watermelons.” Elaine brushed her damp hair out of her face and looked at Leila, her mascara leaving streaks of black trailing down her cheeks.
“Awww sweetie…I’m sorry.” Leila squeezed her friend’s shoulder, pulling her closer to her.
“I guess I shouldn’t have expected it to last long, but I was really hoping it was one of those defining moments, you know?” Elaine smiled sadly.
Leila admired Elaine for her positive outlook on life. Elaine was a hopeless romantic, constantly in and out of relationships, always searching for Mr. Right. She put her all into each guy, hoping for the best and when it failed, as they always did, she’d move onto the next guy after a really good cry. Leila wished she could move on like that, but she tended to hold on to the bad things for far too long and then run away from guys. Somehow she always found some flaw in them, really it was just an excuse for her not to have to commit. She knew her dreams about her mystery man were just fantasies that she would ruin if he were an actual guy.
They walked out of the bathroom with Elaine clutching Leila’s arm with one hand and Leila’s hand with the other, clinging to her as if Leila was a life raft offering her shelter from drowning. While Leila had hoped to leave without Nikoli noticing, he had surprised her once more by waiting for her, leaning his back against the bar. Leila gasped when she saw him, startled by the very sight of him. He smirked at her, his arms crossed nonchalantly across his chest. Leila smiled despite the fact that she had just overheard his melodramatic conversation with his ex. Biting her lip, she tried to go around him to avoid the awkward conversation, but he stopped her by stepping forward with his hands raised in front of him.
“Wait...I know you were listening in on my conversation upstairs.”
Leila looked at him, perplexed.
“How - how did you know….”
“That you were listening to my conversation? I…. Saw you running down the stairs and then you disappeared. Jay told me you were in the bathroom when I asked about you.”
“You asked about me?” Leila felt a smile start to spread across her face of it’s own accord. Nikoli smiled back, plunging his hands into his front pockets.
“Yes. I did, but please let me explain about -”
Leila raised her hand, cutting him off with the gesture.
“Stop. It’s okay, you don’t owe me an explanation.”
Nikoli sighed and ran his fingers through his hair.
“Can I buy you a drink?” He cocked his head to the side and smiled sheepishly.
Leila glanced from Nikoli to Elaine, still clinging to her, waiting to be taken home and shook her head no.
He looked at her with determination. His eyes seemed to light up from within with an intense fire. Elaine poked her in the side, urging her to respond. Leila cleared her throat, uncomfortable with the pressure she felt answer.
“Um… Well actually I was just about to take Elaine home…”
“Your cab is ready girls.” Jay interrupted, leaning over the bar to smile at Elaine who waved back, attempting to appear coy. Unbelievable, even with vomit in her hair, she still managed to charm the guys. Leila didn’t understand how she did it.
“Thanks Jay….” Leila offered him a small smile and then turned her attention back to Nikoli, “Sorry… Maybe some other time? I’ve really gotta get her home.”
“How will I get ahold of you?”
“Seriously? Can we go now? I don’t feel so hot….” Leila glanced guiltily at Elaine who was swaying on her feet, pale from the effort to stay on her feet.
“Here, this is my number. Text me.” Leila blurted out while scribbling onto a scrap of napkin with a pen from the bar, figuring he would never want to talk to her again since she was basically running away from him.
“Okay…” he looked at her longingly and her breath caught in her throat. She was thankful to have a reason to leave because even though she had tried be bold, her courage was faltering and she was beginning to feel overwhelmingly shy once more. As Leila got into the cab with Elaine, she found herself wondering what could have happened if she had stayed, but she immediately dismissed the thought, knowing that this was the only way to continue protecting her heart from being broken. If she never fell in love, she could never again be hurt… Right?