“She's too pale and can't dance for shit,” Dale slurred as he finished his drink in one swallow, and then quickly returned both elbows to the table top to keep from falling over. His toothy under-bite made him look a little punch-drunk, but he was actually drunk, and he knew it.
“The fuck do you know?” asked Athan. He could see the alcohol oozing out of his friend's skin; his eyes were red, swollen and vacant. Useless , he thought. The chick is gorgeous and she's out there at the end of the night, dancing by herself. Sure, she looked a little pasty and danced like all her hinges were wing-nutted a little too tight, but damn, the rest of her was all right and everything was in its place.
“Go ahead, but you know what they say—ten at two, two at ten.” Dale's cheek slipped off his hand and his chin almost hit the table, like a boxer on the losing end of the fight. “I'm cabbin' it, Athan.”
“Some wing man. See ya on the trade floor,” Athan said. He knew he wasn't sober, a quick check of his breath in his cupped palms told him that. He felt beyond drunk, though, a perceived hyper-sobriety that leads to late night car wrecks because the driver doesn't recognize it for what it is.
She smiled at him, a wooden smile, and undulated with just a hint of stiffness in her slinky black dress. Still, Athan found that somewhat sexy, in a vulnerable sort of way. He leaned in to kiss her, and he smelled her at the same time. No sweat, just the scent of makeup―the smell of desperate women who found their value in how quickly they could fill the void between their legs. Athan liked that smell. It made his job easier. Her lips were dry, but she kissed him readily.
“What's your name?”
“Ethyl. It means 'noble,'” she answered in a husky voice. “What's yours?”
He wrapped his arm around her waist. “Athan. Like Nathan, but without the 'N'. Short for Athanasios. It's Greek for 'immortal.' You sound thirsty.”
“This is the last dance,” she said. “The bar is closed, but I have plenty of alcohol back at my place.”
That makeup smell never disappointed , thought Athan, as he clutched her on the 'L' train as tightly as she clutched her purse. He wondered what was in there. Condoms? Maybe. That'd be a good sign, but he brought his own. Always prepared, like a boy scout. Ecstasy? The cherry on the sundae. He'd settle for a little pot, but a roll with Ethyl probably didn't need any help, by the looks of her. He kissed the nape of her neck. Cool and perfect. She smiled.
Athan's game plan changed to something more long-term when she led him into the Gold Coast, and he realized the jewelry she was wearing might be real and not paste after all. He wondered how a woman as visibly youthful as Ethyl could have climbed as far as all that in just a few short years. Maybe she was a call girl. But then , he wondered, why would she be picking men up at a club that late at night? He supposed that she might be living with her parents, and if that was the case, it would require the delicate touch. He didn't want them to dislike him.
She walked up the stairs like it was the end of the evening, not the beginning, and he had to slow himself down to match. Her keys made it to the lock like she had numb fingers. Athan didn't know the exact temperature, but it had to be hovering around 65 or so―pretty warm for Chicago during the middle of the night in mid-May, but the way she smiled at him with those come-hither eyes made him forget all about it.
The door creaked open, and she pulled him inside.
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