“You’re insane!”  Evan laughed.  “I can’t believe you called her.  I never thought you’d have the guts for something like that.”

I chuckled.  Dan laughed too.

“Of course he has guts!  Ethan’s the man!”

A group of us walked through the snow towards the bus stop the next Friday.  Starlight played on the snow as we marched through the snow on the path leading through the trees.

“Would you both shut up?”  I laughed.  “I feel weird enough about this as it is.”

“So who is this girl?” Evan asked.  “What’s her name?”

“I don’t know.”

“What’s she like?”  Dan pestered.

“Don’t know.”

“Where did you meet?”  Erin wondered.

“Don’t even know that for sure.”  I grinned.

“How can you not know?”  Mandy teased.

“I got her number at pub two weeks ago.  If anyone should know, it’s Dan.  He was there.”

“Yeah, but it’s not like I kept track of your dance card.  I was pretty drunk myself.”

“I think it was mean of you to let Ethan get so drunk.”  Teri teased her boyfriend, poking his tummy.  “He was a first timer.  But I think it’s romantic, meeting his mystery girl like this.  It’s like a movie.”

“Yeah, but it’s also how some horror movies start!”  Dan laughed.

“She could be a stalker, a murderous psycho hose-beast!”  Jon joked.

“Seriously, everyone shut up!” I said, my tone playful.  “We’ll see when we get there.”

We rode the bus, the whole crew bantering in the back.  I alone sat in silence, staring out the window, wondering if I knew what I was doing.  Their conversations seemed distant, like overhearing a dinner party down the block.

We spilled out of the bus and crossed the terminal to take the stairs down to the subway.  Several of us ran down the stairs, full of youthful exuberance, racing to reach the platform first.  Dan gave Jon a playful shove, and he turned to swipe Evan’s hat.  Mandy and Erin laughed as they chased each other.

I was only vaguely aware of these proceedings.  I walked to the edge of the concrete, waiting for the train to arrive.  I closed my eyes, hearing my friends laugh and bicker in the background.  In the distance I could hear the tinny metal screeches of the train on its tracks, braking and turning, coming closer, echoing down the tunnel.

“What is Ethan doing?”  Teri asked someone behind me.

The train rumbled around the corner.  I turned my face towards it, feeling the wind of its speed blow across my face as it pulled to a stop.

“What are you doing?”  Dan asked from beside me.

I opened my eyes.  “Thinking about freedom.”

“You’re a weird guy, E.”  Dan clapped me on the shoulder and we got on the subway.

I got us off the subway car at the right stop and everyone followed me onto the street.  We walked up the block and came to the nightclub we’d been to months before.  It was so popular the line stretched down the building.  There were two doors.  One of them, the one we had never been through, said “VIP” above it and had no line, just a much bigger bouncer.  I walked up to this one.

“I’m Ethan.”

“They with you?”

“Yeah.”

He gestured, and we entered through his door.  It was that easy.

We dropped our winter gear at the cloakroom and headed up some stairs, emerging from the stairwell in a luxurious room of gold and black.  Leather seats in booths surrounded by glass and lights.  The dance floor was glass, letting you see down to the room below with the other clubbers.  Up here there was a milling crowd of beautiful people, but it wasn’t nearly so congested.  This was clearly more elite.

“Drinks?”  A waitress asked, so well dressed you only knew she worked here because of the tray of glasses.

“How much?” Dan asked her.

“Up here it’s free.”  She smiled.

Dan grabbed a glass for Teri and himself, grinning.  “Don’t mind if I do!”

My friends mingled with the crowd, talking amongst themselves about how impressed they were.  I stayed still, watching the room, trying to see if I recognized anyone.  My friends were too busy exploring, no help there.

A pair of hands suddenly covered my eyes from behind.  I shivered, never having liked it when someone invaded my bubble.

“Shhhhh, relax.  Remember me?”  A girlish voice asked.

“I don’t know your name.”  I said, blushing as she whispered in my ear.

“But you remember me, don’t you?”  She almost giggled.  I tried to place her voice.

“I’m not sure…”

“You still have the most beautiful eyes…”

I turned, twisting out of her hands.  “The girl from the subway?”

She laughed, striking a pose to show off a clingy black dress.  It was almost as if she had dressed to match me, as I was wearing black pants with a black sweater over a white t-shirt.

“Care to dance?”  She asked, taking my hands.

“Don’t have a choice, do I?”

“None whatsoever.”  She dragged me.

“Unless you want to meet my friends.”

“Nah.  I only invited them to get you here.”  She grinned mischievously.

She draped her arms around my neck and I put my hands on her trim waist as we moved in spirals around the dance floor.  I couldn’t tell you the music, or the name of her perfume, but all of it seemed to suit the moment.

“This is nice.”  She said, resting her head against my chest.

“I still don’t know your name.”

“Lilith.  You can call me Lil.”  She smiled up at me.

We sat down in a plush booth, where Teri and Dan joined us.  They were profuse with thanks, impressed with Lil’s generosity.  Drinks were ordered, laughter ensued.  I hardly noticed.  Lil was cuddled up against my arm and I was getting pleasantly inebriated.  Who cared?

Towards the end of the night, before we had to catch the last subway train, she kissed my cheek.

“Call me sometime?”

“Sure.”  I shrugged, grinning like an idiot.

She walked away, a portrait of elegant grace, pausing only to look over her shoulder and wiggle her fingers in an insouciant farewell.

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