Part five of the Elizabeth series. This is one of my favorite sections, so hopefully you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it. If you want to go back and read any of the other sections, you can do that by following the links below or by going to the stories tab at the top of the page. Have a great Sunday, everyone!
David scraped the glass door of the shower open, grabbed his towel, and snatched his glass from the counter. The number 12:00 still blazed on the inside of his eyelids when he shut his eyes, but he figured it was closer to five p.m. and he had overslept. If he had woken up on time he might have been able to make Happy Hour, or Forget Why You’re Sad Hour if he had chosen to title it more accurately. He grabbed his jeans from the bathroom floor, sat down on the toilet and pulled the legs up before standing again. Leaving his bedroom, David threw a wrinkled, long-sleeve shirt over his head and dropped his glass in the sink where it clattered noisily to rest.
The empty house felt foreign to him, like he was squatting on his own property. He hurriedly swigged from a diet coke bottle before topping it off with whiskey, jittered his hand to mix the two together, then walked out the door, tucking the bottle into his jacket pocket.
The pink building tarnished the surrounding land, a Pepto-Bismol stain on a once beautiful canvas. The sign flared pink and purple against the sunset. One second it read “PINK,” and the next it changed to “PONY.” The club was no more than three-quarters of a mile from his house and nestled just to the side of the highway. As he walked to the door, David bobbed his head to acknowledge the bouncer’s presence.
“David,” the bouncer returned the greeting. “You can’t bring that in here. You know that. I don’t want to have to keep telling you every day,” he gestured to David’s pocket.
“Can’t you let it slide this once, man? I’m here every day,” he hissed in frustration.
“Not my rule. You’ll have to leave it outside. I can hold it until you leave, but it can’t go in with you.” David begrudgingly relinquished the bottle, took it back for a last sip, and returned it to the bouncer’s waiting hand before entering.
As he walked in, David realized that they were still serving dinner and sat down at the bar, the stage to his left.
“What can I get for you, Dave?” the bartender asked.
“Just the burger.”
"No drink? You going dry on us now?” she chuckled.
“Yeah, I’ll take the drink, too,” he turned in his chair to face the stage. A short, platinum blond girl was dancing, but there were too many lights on, and it was easy to see why they kept them dimmed once they stopped serving dinner. As he scanned the room, he spotted only three other people. Two of the men sat at the bar and the third looked older than the other two combined, and his eyes had not wandered from the girl on stage since she began.
“David,” a hand clasped on his shoulder from behind.
“John,” David greeted the club owner. “I’ve got some money for you right here,” David said, pulling a twenty from his wallet and extending it to him.
“We both know that’s not enough, Dave,” John muttered. “Just give it to me all at once.” He reached out and closed David’s fingers back around the bill.
“You always were nice to me, John. I mean that.”
“Just take care of yourself, you hear?” David nodded in hesitant affirmation as John stood and retreated through a door behind him.
The ceramic plate clinked as the bartender set it down in front of him. Sliding a napkin toward him, she set his drink down next to it. The music changed as he drained the glass and a dark haired girl stepped onstage. David turned away indifferently when he recognized her.
“There’s a new girl working tonight,” the girl behind the bar chirped. “She’ll be on at eight.”
“What’s her name?”
“Sarah. Just starting today. Pretty girl,” the bartender validated her statement with a wink before disappearing behind the counter.
The lights dimmed as the clock turned seven-thirty. David’s head swirled as he stood, and clinging to the back of his chair for support, he regained balance before walking over to the stage and sitting in front of one of the four poles. If it had not been for the practically free visits, he might have switched clubs by now, but a new girl offered a cure from the monotony, and he sank into his chair motionless, but boiling with anticipation.
The music changed again, and Def Leppard’s heavy bass drum jolted the club to life. The soft clicking of high-heels marching up the stairs was barely audible, but reeled David’s attention nonetheless. Ladies and gentlemen, tonight we have a new dancer. Right out of Northern Atlanta, put your hands together for Artemis. The sporadic smacking of hands together filled the room and David realized that he hadn’t noticed how many people had filed through the pink doors. As Artemis took the stage, her hair absorbed the light from the room, and tumbled behind her with startling vivacity. He had seen that color before. David’s eyes squinted in the dim light and followed her unblinkingly across the stage as she toed around. He squeezed the armrests of his chair until his knuckles seared white. She swung around the pole in front of him and flicked her hair out of her face to reveal two captivating blue-gray eyes.
David lurched backward and stumbled out of his chair. Artemis jumped in surprise and the once lively buzz of the room evaporated instantaneously as she stopped dancing.
“John,” David called as he staggered to the bar. “John!”
“Be quiet, Dave. You’re scaring everybody. Calm down.”
“Where was she? How did you find her?
“Elizabeth, John! Where did you find her?”
“Dave, Elizabeth left a month ago. I haven’t seen her.”
“She’s right there! What the hell do you mean you haven’t seen her?”
“That girl’s name is Sarah. She’s from Atlanta, Dave. You don’t know her.”
“No, that’s her,” he shouted. Besides the roving lights, the room had ceased moving, and David’s sudden rush toward the stage sparked the stagnant room to life again. Placing one shaky foot on the stage, David reached up and grabbed the girl by the wrist.
“Elizabeth, I’m sorry,” he spoke too loudly for the short distance between them.
“Who?” she vainly attempted to pry away his constricting fingers.
“I’m taking you home. You don’t belong here. Get down from there.”
“David, let her go. You’re drunk. You need to go home,” John grabbed him by the shoulder with more urgency than his tone conveyed.
“Elizabeth, I’m sorry. Just come home. Stop, John!” he tried to shrug the hand away.
“Nick, help, please,” John beckoned, between intermittent sounds of discomfort emanating from the crowd.
“Your mother misses you,” a large hand grabbed David by the back of the jacket and pulled his shirt taut, muffling the last word. “Stop! John, make him stop! John, please,” he muttered, trying his best to make his eyes focus on the silhouetted figure on the stage.
“Go home, David. Go home and go to sleep. You’ll feel better tomorrow.”
The door slammed shut behind him. Rain had started to drizzle softly since he arrived, but the cold drops met his skin unnoticed. Sitting down on the steps, he rested his arms on his knees. His bottle rested behind the bush next to the door. He picked it up and unscrewed the top. As long as he was getting soaked outside, he might as well soak his insides again, too. Once the bottle was gone, he pushed himself to his feet. He didn’t want to be outside anymore. He slowly made his way back to the house, taking almost as many steps sideways as he did forward. Shutting the bedroom door behind him, he crawled into bed and closed his eyes, but all he could see was blue-gray.