I picked up the blaring phone on my desk. “Yes, David?”
“In my office,” he said and then hung up.
I was tired from the long day and the last thing I needed was David reprimanding me on another edit. I’d been slacking lately and it has nothing to do with work and everything to do with me. Physical exhaustion can take a toll, but right now I was experiencing mental exhaustion. After my little confession with Daniel I’d been worrying about his response. You know, us talking about it later and later hasn’t happened yet according to his time frame. Slowly but surely I was becoming less worried, but my head wasn’t in the game this week and I was sure David could tell.
“Yes?” I asked as soon as I popped into his office, stretching a bright smile across my face. Hoping for the best.
He held up a manuscript and then tossed it with a loud, blunt thwack onto his desk, making me flinch. He took off his glasses and addressed me straight on. “This is not your best work.”
“I know,” I sighed.
“You know?” he lifted a brow and narrowed his eyes. I nodded. “Don’t you think you should have done something about it if you knew, then?”
“I know,” I nodded vehemently.
He breathed out and lifted his chin up slightly. “You’re better than this.” All I could do was nod like a bobble head. “Is there something personal going on?”
As soon as he asked that question I felt a strange weight lift from my shoulders. I stared at him thoughtfully. I hadn’t considered any other definition of my emotions besides worry to even consider that I might be overreacting. Just a tad. My mind is rattled with thoughts going left, right, up and down, and I just need to calm down.
I straightened up. “No.”
“So you don’t need time off or anything?”
“No,” I said, confidently.
“Then get your shit together, yes?”
I nodded, feeling a warmth lick my cheeks. “Yes.”
“Alright. I want you to go down to Barnes & Noble on fifth and check out Brad’s reading and signing. I want you to get a further feel of the business we’re dealing with because right now, you’re sort of blind to where art and corporate interest meet. Judging by these manuscripts you’re going to need a push after taking a few steps back.”
“After that you can go straight home. Stay as long as you need to to get a feel of everything. Noelle and Justin will meet you there.”
I masked my groan by clearing my throat. “Awesome.”
David put his glasses back on and looked down at his desk. “Now you go.”
Man, is it just me or is David starting to get a little tough on me? Maybe he’s being hard because of my simple mistakes throughout the week. I guess I can’t blame him.
I packed up my things and switched off my desk light, heading for the elevator. I caught a cab in the street and on the way I checked my messages. One from Daniel: ‘Hey, baby, want to hang out tonight?’
I smiled and starting tapping away a reply. ‘Excuse me. Do I know you?’
I was still in traffic when he replied a few minutes later. ‘Tall, handsome, twenty-something, guy in your life ring a bell?’
‘Can make you come like no other?’
I giggled. ‘I’m starting to remember…’
‘Loves you deeply.’
I paused and sighed happily. One of those breaths that you let out in content. ‘I’m heading to Barnes & Noble for a reading. Might be a while.’
‘I’ll meet you there?’
I stepped into the large bookshop, not seeing anyone I recognised until I did a bit of walking. I saw the stack of books water-falling on a table first. Then the chairs filled with people facing the podium where Brad stood, reading from his book. Shelves on either side of him, each row littered with his book. I rolled my eyes.
“Anna!” I heard someone hiss.
I started scanning the room until beside a pillar to the left I saw Noelle waving her hand for me to come over.
“How long have you been here?” I asked.
She shrugged. “Maybe half an hour.”
“Meh,” she shrugged. “Fuck if I know.”
“The girls look like their drooling.”
“I know. It’s like Edward Cullen and Christian Grey are fucking on stage and everyone wants to see.”
I furrowed my brows. “That’s an elaborate description.”
“I know. I’m just so bored. My mind goes haywire.”
A woman cut through onto the stage. “Alright everyone, the line will start from here—” she pointed off to the side— “publicity shots will start as he’s signing so if you have any concerns about that please see the photographer or me.”
As they changed the podium for a desk and a chair the girls started bouncing giddily up and down. When they waved at him and he waved back they shrieked in excitement. Brad, oddly enough, looked shy with a hint of gentleman-y suaveness. It was a better look on him than arrogance. Maybe that’s the image he puts out to the public that I don’t see so it was interesting to see him in action.
Brad caught my glance and smiled. Waving only his fingers an inch parallel from the table so no one could see. I nodded and did my own little wave underneath my crossed arms.
“Learning anything yet?” Noelle asked.
I scanned the room. “Yup. I’m really pessimistic.”
“No I meant about the book signing and all.”
I nodded. “Yeah, I know. Turns out if I can’t make women wet with my book I’m fucked.”
“You have a book?”
I shook my head. “No, I don’t. It’s…it’s something I’m working on. A story.”
“Can I read it?”
Noelle scrunched her nose and let the conversation go. After a while I went off to the bathroom where it was teetering on 7PM and I was so ready to leave. By this point the line was wrapping up and I pulled out my cell from my bag as I was walking out.
“Hey, thanks for coming,” Brad said, catching me out.
I angled my brows down and smiled. “No, David suggested I come here.”
Brad stopped to turn around, I was a few steps away from him. “Yeah, but, you had the choice.”
I shrugged. Something behind me caught his attention and his eyes flickered. I turned around to leave when Brad started speaking again. “You know…” he started walking closer. Here we go. I rolled my eyes and leaned back on the wall. He made his way on the opposite side of me with his hands in his pockets.
“It’s not as glamorous as you may think.”
He gestured with his chin in the direction of the signings. “The thug life out there.”
I chuckled. “I didn’t think it was.”
“Because, most of the time, a person isn’t successful.” He stepped closer.
“But you are.”
He took another step closer. “I’m different.”
I took my weight off one leg and spread it between the two, straightening up in caution. “Do you want to go back out there with a black eye or something?”
Brad laughed at my threat and put a hand up against the wall beside my head. In that same instant I breathed in shakily and a flash set off the hallway we were in. I flinched and turned in the direction of the flash, a cameraman was preparing to take another one. Noelle was next to him. He dropped his camera from his face and frowned, I turned back and last saw Brad walking into the bathroom. With the light from the camera flash still dazing me momentarily, I robotically started to move, feeling the hallway expand.
“Umm, you good?” Noelle asked.
I grinned, a weak attempt to hide my shock. “That was weird.”
Noelle coughed a lazy laugh. “Yeah…weird.”
A few minutes later I noticed Daniel and smiled in relief. “Hey!” I called, covering my mouth to contain my shout but still waved my hands. “Daniel!” I hissed.
Daniel found me and smiled. I hugged him when he came over. “Whoa, warm reception,” he said.
“I just missed you.” I stood on my tiptoes and kissed him.
“Aww,” Noelle cooed.
“Hey, can Daniel come tonight?” I asked Noelle. Then I turned to Daniel. “You don’t mind do you? Noelle asked me and I completely forgot—”
“Yeah, yeah, no, yeah,” Daniel said. He paused, closed his eyes to calm himself and smiled. “I mean, yeah sure. If you don’t mind,” he pointed at Noelle.
Noelle started chuckling like an inside joke was spoken. “Totally. I mean, if you don’t mind where we’re going.”
“Where are we going?” Daniel asked. I shrugged.
Before we left I caught a glimpse of Brad, the photographer and money changing hands.
Noelle, Daniel and I were all stuffed in a cab ride to a club. Leo and Stella were apparently going to meet us there and I was of course dreading the latter. Riddled with a slight tinge of annoyance because of Stella’s impending presence I was momentarily detached from thoughts of Brad. Momentarily. The only question that was rallying my mind was whose money was going to whom? In the short time I glimpsed Brad and the photographer, I only saw the money and knew a shady exchange was going down. I, of course, thought it was Brad paying the photographer to take a shot of me and him. But why? What purpose would that serve?
“Hands,” the bouncer said.
He stamped the top before we all shuffled inside the dark room. Lights of purple, red and blue blazed the room in a random disarray. There was a small flight of stairs onto the main floor where the tables were. It was a cosy club, for cosy people and balls everywhere. I was confused only because my mind was so distracted that I leaned over to Noelle and asked her where we were.
“Drag club, duh.” She said it almost like I offended her. “Hey, there’s everyone!”
I was secretly hoping Stella wouldn’t be there, but at least I can be glad that she was sitting as far away from me as possible. There was a little show happening on stage. Daniel and I watched and got into the music while his hand sat atop my thigh. Guys in shiny, metallic underwear and dark makeup with damn-girl-contours were dancing in cages off to the sides of the room. I have to say, I was needing a break like this and was enjoying it very much so.
“I’m getting the drinks,” Leo stood. “Who wants what?”
We started shouting our orders over the music. I ordered a couple of shots for me and Daniel plus a vodka for me. I was planning to get drunk!
I downed my shot and started sipping on the vodka once Leo came back with the drinks. Daniel leaned over. “You okay?”
“Yeah, of course. I’m going to get another shot. Want one?”
Daniel shook his head. “No, I’m good. Thanks.”
I took a couple more shots at the bar and another vodka, forgetting that I was still working on my first. When I came back with my drink, though, Noelle woo-ed and clapped. “That-a-girl!”
I laughed, feeling myself burn up. I took off my blazer, realising now how stupid I must look still in my work clothes at a club like this. A girl wants to look fly as much as the next bitch, too! I leaned over to Daniel, propping a hand on his shoulder for balance. “I love you.”
Daniel chuckled, pushing me back to appraise me. “I love you, too.”
The show was just about to end when we heard an announcement. “All the ladies and gents here for amateur night, please sign up at the DJ booth.”
“Amateur night?” I yelled at Noelle. “What’s that?”
She shrugged. “No idea.”
I stood and was just about to take a step when Daniel wrapped a hand around my waist, pulling me in. “Hey, babe, where you going?”
“Not going to the bathroom,” I rolled my eyes. “I’m fine.”
Daniel cut through his worry with a smile. “Okay…”
“Don’t worry,” Leo called across the table. “I got my eye on her, too.”
Daniel’s jaw ticked and his smile dropped. “That won’t be necessary.”
Leo held up two hands and his brows shot up and down simultaneously. He returned to speaking with Noelle, and I started stumbling my way to the booth.
“Hey!” I called at the DJ.
He removed his other ear phone and sat the headphones on his shoulders. He leaned in. “Yeah!?”
“What’s amateur night?”
The DJ smiled and started to explain it to me. It was probably a dangerous thing to have done to a drunk person, because I signed Daniel up on the spot.
“He’s going to love it!” the DJ said. “We all are!”
I made my way eagerly back to our table with eyes wide open. The show finished its wrap up and Lady Marmalade was on stage. A woman wearing a sequin, cheetah print, halter neck dress and a blonde Marilyn Monroe styled, puffy blonde wig.
“Well, well, well, give it up for our ladies!!” Everyone gave another round of applause. “Now, this is a special night, ladies. It’s amateur night and you know what that means. One person will be randomly selected to go on stage and dance till their heart’s content for all of 60 seconds. Our lovely DJ in the DJ booth will pull out their name and come on stage. DJ, what’s the name!?”
I wasn’t expecting, out of all the people that have entered, if there was many, if any, that Daniel’s name would be the first one to pop up. And I was right.
“Sarah!” the DJ yelled.
“Sarah!” Lady Marmalade repeated. “Do we have a Sarah in the building?”
Some guy yelled out, “She went to take a piss!”
“Well,” Lady Marmalade sighed, shaking her head. “That just won’t do now will it. We don’t catch and we certainly don’t wait. DJ, what’s the next name!?”
The DJ dipped his hands into the pieces of paper and then pulled out a second name. “Daniel Parker!”
I burst out laughing. My whole reasoning behind combining his first name with my last name is to be sure that no one had the same name. Somehow that made sense in my mind.
I looked over to Daniel to find the spotlight on him and his jaw dropped to the ground. I was snickering next to him and it was only when he turned to look at me that he realised and playfully pushed me at my arm.
“Oh my God!” he said in between laughs. “What did you do!?”
“Daniel…” Lady Marmalade cooed, taking the first step off the lit stage toward him and holding out her hand. “Come on, don’t be shy. Follow Lady Marmalade onto the stage.”
Daniel was still shaking his head at me when people started chanting his name. To my surprise, he got up and took Lady Marmalade’s hand!
“Is this your first time here, Daniel? We don’t see you that often.”
“Uhh, yeah it is,” Daniel laughed into the microphone, running a hand along the back of his neck.
“And is this your girlfriend here tonight?” she pointed at me.
“It is.” He stared at me, still grinning as much as I was laughing my ass off.
“Did she enter you into amateur night, sweetheart?”
“She did,” he nodded.
“Ohh, child! Behind your back?”
Noelle yelled next to me, “She had a few drinks!”
“Oh of course, darling, ain’t nobody here sober tonight, am I right?” the crowd went wild, clapping and yelling and stomping on the floor. Then, Lady Marmalade turned to Daniel one more time. “You know what the best way to get back at her is?”
“I wouldn’t have a clue.”
The bar was quiet, waiting for Lady Marmalade’s response. “Is if you dance till you can dance no more,” she said passionately. The crowd went off. “DJ, spin me a sick beat!”
Daniel was left alone on stage when Lady Marmalade disappeared behind the curtains. At first Daniel was awkwardly swinging his arms front to back. I started to feel so bad for putting him in that position and that he was going to get back at me even worse later on. My feelings, though, were quickly eradicated when Daniel shrugged and decided to take matters into his own hands.
He started undressing!!
He took off his suit jacket first, throwing it at me. Then his belt, sliding it off slowly as he was doing a shoulder dance. After the belt was fully off, he strung it between his legs and then threw it to the side. The crowd stood up and started cheering him on. I could only laugh so much to the point where I was crying. Daniel started working on his shirt then. The first button came undone, then the second, then the third. He was laughing the whole time, a slight stain of pink colouring his dimpled cheeks, and I didn’t know whether that was from the spotlights or the people watching him strip, or both!
Halfway down his shirt he jumped off the stage, got right in front of me and said, “You ready for this!?” He ripped open his shirt and started doing stomach rolls only a few inches away from my face. His abs were going back and forth, back and forth, like a hypnotism. I pulled out a dollar bill and waved it before putting it in his pants. He threw his head back and laughed.
That was when Lady Marmalade came onto the stage saying into the microphone, “Oh, I gotta get me some of that action,” pulling out her own dollar bill, and without hesitation Daniel let her shove it in his pants. Everyone in the club laughed at her humour, including Daniel.
He leaned down and cupped my face to give me a kiss after that. “You’re fucking crazy,” he chuckled.
The night carried on pretty awesomely before we all retreated back to our apartments. I was, of course, going home with the man that took the crown of amateur night. It was the best!
I got a buzz from my cell as I was sleepily getting into bed. I could barely keep my eyes open and I was so looking forward to crashing.
‘I’m bored. Want to do something tonight?’ Paul asked.
‘I already went out and am home now.’
‘Naww girl. Where’d you go?’
‘To a drag club.’
‘Pssht and my scene too, bitch?’
I laughed. ‘We’ll go together another time.’
‘How’d you like it?’
‘It was pretty awesome. I signed up Daniel to go on stage and he did.
‘Yup, and he stripped halfway and did sexy moves. It was brilliant!’
‘Ohh…you got a keeper!’