I am terrified, ice-cold, and doing my best to breathe deeply and get my heart to slow down. If not, it just might burst. I refuse to open my eyes, sure that I’ll plummet to the ground if I do so. I am shaking, shivering, practically vibrating.
“Chill, Annie, chill.” Courtney whispers into my hair. She is holding me tight like a child woken by a nightmare, cradling my head and stroking my hair, my face buried in that gentle slope of neck and shoulder. I wrap my arms more tightly around her waist as we fly.
We have been soaring above the trees, the highways, the fields and towns for what seems like an hour. Finally, Courtney carries me down back to the Earth. I can sense the descent in the sinking of my gut, but also in the way the smells of a city invade my nostrils. Dirty water dogs, soft pretzels, bus exhaust, sweat, and that hot, base, human smell from the subway. New York. We are in New York.
My eyes pop open and I break from Courtney’s embrace, nearly stumbling backwards on the sidewalk. I am stunned. How?
“I’m fast. I know.” She brushes her shoulders, shakes that glorious burgundy mane, and smiles proudly.
I shake my head, and resist the urge to ask a passerby to pinch me. I must still be dreaming. There is no need, however, because a big muscled Guido barrels past me, spinning me around, and yeah, I felt that. I think I might have a bruise. I look up and see the sign on the building before us. Cielo.
“Um?” I gesture to the sign, and raise my eyebrows at her.
“We’re going dancing!” Seeing a vampire giggle is off-putting to say the least.
“I’m in yoga pants and a hoodie.”
“No you’re not.” She grabs my hand and squeezes. Suddenly my arms feel colder and, hold on, am I taller?
I look down at myself and the sneakers and running clothes are gone. I’m dressed in a dark pair of jeans, flared slightly from the knee, 2 inch heeled black boots, and a sleek silver tank top with a deep scooped cowl neck. Wait. These are my clothes. Well, they were anyway. From the freaking 90s. I don’t even own these anymore, nevertheless FIT in them. What the…?
She takes my other hand as well, leans in close so we’re forehead to forehead and whispers, “Born witch. Made vampire. Got skills. Let’s dance.”
Courtney spins me around and gives me a once over. “I like the way you work it!” She starts humming No Diggity. I have to force myself not to hum along. I am resolute. I stifle my smile. This is not the 90s. This is barely reality.
“Court-” I start. This is great and all, but my mind is seriously fucked up. My heightened senses are exhausting me. I feel like I’m on drugs. And I really feel like sleeping it off.
She winks and I sense some shift in gravity, some movement and suddenly we’re inside, and Courtney is pulling me through the crowd towards the bar. The bartender’s gaze zeroes in on her, like a moth to a flame, and he shouts, “Hey Stranger… Usual?” She nods and holds up two fingers, “Two!” She shouts back. “One with a twist!”
Within a minute, he’s handing her two shot glasses. One, a caramel color, the other the color of wet rust. She hands me the second shot and downs her own.
“It’ll make you feel good….” She teases as I tentatively sniff my drink. It smells of vanilla, orange, and something else… I take a small sip. Yes. Pennies. “Bottoms up, bitch!” she takes the glass from me and goes to pour it in my mouth. I take it from her and slug it down. It’s sweet and rich and fills my mouth and throat with something more than warmth.
That thick velvet feeling spreads from my core to my arms and legs and soon my hands and feet feel luscious. What’s more, I’m energized and calmed all at once. My senses are smooth. I feel fantastic.
“What was that?” I shout at the back of her head. She’s pulling me now to the sunken dance floor of gleaming, shiny hardwood. I am dazzled by the multitudes of disco balls of all sizes above us. We’ve found a spot in the center, and Courtney begins to dance. I can’t help myself. I dance too.
“Petit-maitre” She answers smugly. She thinks I don’t know what that means. It’s French for Little Master. But, I know, it also means blood. I find the idea that I’d quite possibly just ingested blood less disgusting than I’m comfortable admitting. Whose blood? The bartender’s? Courtney’s? Does it matter? I feel better than I have in years. Quite possible better than ever before.
The DJ blends the song into another and I find myself, eyes closed, getting lost in the dance.
I smell his cologne seconds before I feel the warmth of his hand slipping gently onto my hip. He smells of spice, of cloves. I like it. I slide my hand up his arm and rest it on the curve of his neck. I pull him close, the soft hair on the back of his head tickles my fingertips. I like this too.
I open my eyes and see. It can’t be. Crystal blue eyes framed with thick fringes of gold. My eyes search his face. It can’t be, but it is. It’s him. Those full lips part, smiling his habitual half-smile, and he licks one corner of his mouth. I can’t stop myself. I’m drawn to him like a magnet. We kiss. Soft and slow, deep and hot. We are oblivious to the music, although we somehow keep moving along with its rhythm. Rocking together as our mouths melt.
I break the kiss and hold him closer, tighter. I rest my chin on his shoulder and take a deep, long, breath. He breathes out. I take in his scent, his body heat fills me. We just seem to fit, like I always knew we would. I breathe out, he breathes in. I move my left hand from his waist, up his side, curling my arm under his and resting my hand there on his shoulder. My wedding rings sparkle in the twinkling disco ball light.
Thud. My heart drops to my stomach and I push him away. He says not a word, but reluctantly lets me go, keeping a tender hold of my hand as I walk off, touching me until the last graze of fingertips. We smile sadly, but without regret. We know we’ll meet again.
I find Courtney dancing alone near the bar.
“Home. Now.” I plead.
“Not a chance. I’m taking you to the ballet…” She purrs, and in a flash, we are off.