It was ladies’ night at The Beelzebub.
Joss always showed up first and visited so often the bartender knew her by name. She occupied a seat located in the darkest part of the bar and started on her martini when a crowd of women entered the club. The colored lights pulsating through the room illuminated unfamiliar faces. Those who came with friends took to the dance floor. Couples who didn’t dance stood near the bar or stole kisses at the back tables.
It didn’t take long before a stranger in a tight bodycon dress came by to ask if she could sit with Joss. Her voice overpowered the music too much for Joss’ liking. She turned the woman down, pretending she was waiting on a date. A half hour later, a brunette approached, adorned with so much jewelry Joss could hear her hoop earrings clinking beneath her pinned hair. She lied to the newcomer that she was getting ready to leave in a few minutes.
Once she was alone, Joss turned her attention back to the dance floor, watching each new face to see if one of them had what she was looking for. She smelled the dark-haired woman before she slid into the seat beside her. Her jasmine perfume mixed with an oriental scent filled Joss’ nostrils.
“A lady alone on ladies’ night doesn’t seem right,” she said.
Joss didn’t have to strain through the deep bass music to hear the woman, who told the bartender what drink she wanted, then stuck her right hand out.
Joss shook her hand and gave her a warm smile. “Joss.”
The bartender returned with Riya’s drink which she chugged halfway down. Joss observed her, taking in her slender frame, her loose hair, the sleeveless red mini dress that showed off plenty of skin and left more to one’s imagination. Her thigh high stockings ended with a pair of high heels that Joss was sure costed more than her car.
It wasn’t her look that captivated Joss. It was her smell. And not just the perfume. She found herself leaning towards Riya without meaning to as if to bask in her unseen aura.
“Okay. Explain something to me,” Riya said. “What are you here for?”
Joss tilted her head in response, unsure as to what the question meant.
“We’re at a nightclub and yet, you’ve been sitting by yourself this whole time.” She told Joss how she noticed the way she watched a few of the women, some on the dance floor, some at the bar. She thought Joss was looking for a date since she didn’t arrive with one, but thought otherwise when Joss sent the previous two women away.
She was watching before she came over, Joss thought. An observant one, isn’t she?
“Were they not your type?” Riya asked.
“You could say so.”
Riya played with her glass, drawing lines up and down the cup’s stem with her index finger. Her lips, darken with lipstick, turned in a slight grin.
“So then, what is your type?” Riya turned in her seat enough for her knees to brush against the side of Joss’ legs.
Joss smiled but not enough to show her teeth. She didn’t like to show her teeth. What she did like so far was Riya.
“I’m just here to drink,” Joss answered.
“A single martini?”
“I promised myself I wouldn’t drink too much tonight.”
Riya raised her eyebrows and smirked. “Oh, I see. You want to stay sober. I can respect that.” Riya finished her drink and ordered another, something stronger than her last one. “Well, I’m glad you came out tonight. I wasn’t sure the place would be opened because of what happened last week.”
“What do you mean?”
“You didn’t hear about it?” Riya leaned in towards Joss and lowered her voice. “The cops had to come in because someone found a woman passed out in the bathroom. She had blood all over her shirt. It was her own but when asked, she didn’t remember what happened.” Riya took another sip of her drink. “If you ask me, I’d say she was having too much fun with a needle and slipped.”
“That wasn’t enough to shut the place down for a while?” Joss asked.
“People have accidents all the time. In places like this, it’s bound to happen at least once or twice a week.”
“Someone is found with blood all over them and you think it’s an accident." How amusing.
Riya shrugged. “You suggesting she was attacked?”
“What if she was?”
“If she was, she wouldn’t have been found alive in the bathroom.”
“Just because she was found doesn’t mean she wasn’t attacked.”
“Or she could’ve fell and hit her nose on a porcelain sink.”
“A bloody nose is enough to call the police over?”
Riya’s face turned red and she opened her mouth to say something else, but then closed it and let out a soft laugh instead.
“I can’t believe we’re arguing over this.” She shook her head and raised her glass to her lips again.
“We’re not arguing,” Joss said. “We’re admiring your nonchalant attitude."
Observant but careless.
“Let’s talk about something else." After she ordered a third drink, Riya's eyes were half-opened. Her body slightly swayed left and right. "For example, you still haven’t answered my question earlier. What are you here for?”
Joss couldn’t believe how little Riya thought of the incident. It was comforting though, to know a little “accident” wasn’t something that would deter a woman like her from having a fun night. She turned in her seat so her knees touched Riya’s.
“If you want to know,” Joss spoke in a low voice, “you’ll have to go outside.”
Riya seemed to contemplate what to do for a moment. Even in the dim light, it was easy for Joss to see her lick her bottom lip. Riya finished her third drink, smiled, and went towards the front door. Joss waited until she left the building before following. It was important to be seen leaving alone. She paid the bill for her unfinished drink, thanked the bartender, and exited as well.
She found the half-intoxicated woman stumbling on the empty street, looking back at her with a slanted smile which danced across her face. She looked so carefree. So exposed.
Riya giggled to herself for no reason in particular. After a few more unbalanced steps, she turned the corner into an alleyway. Joss followed.
Compared to the nightclub, it was quiet outside. There were no late-night workers rushing to get home before sunrise. No one watching midnight television programs in their apartments. There wasn’t even a cricket.
Riya fell over, laughing and trying to hold herself up against a brick wall. Joss walked over to help her stand. When Riya faced her, Joss gave her a wide smile, this time, showing her teeth and the fangs she kept hidden.
She reminded Riya she wasn't going to drink too much.