There were only four people in line for the club: a couple and two teenage-looking girls whose whimpering did not make their fake ID’s any more valid. The couple was even louder. “Would you stop being a little bitch?” the man said to his girlfriend, fingering his wallet for cash.
“Everything all right?” Anna asked.
Isabella nodded. She felt bad for the girl whose boyfriend wouldn’t pay for her. Darryl always paid for everything. She wished he were here, but he told her tonight should be a girl’s night.
Once inside, Isabella covered her ears to the music. “Must be bad speakers!”
Anna shrugged. She continued walking, but Isabella was distracted once more. The dance floor was drenched in spilled drinks and fluorescent lights. Every flashing light distracted her whenever Anna waved her over to the bar. Yellow. Yellow. Blue! Green. Red. Blue! Anna grabbed her arm and dragged her to the bar.
“What can I get ya, ladies?” the bartender was two feet away from her, yet Isabella could smell everything on him: the sweet peppermint gum in his mouth, the musty old smell of rolled-up dollar bills stuffed into his belt, the salty tequila scent on his hand.
“Two tequila shots,” Anna said.
He poured the shots. The girls downed them in a second. He held his hand out. While Anna looked for cash, Isabella stared at the bartender’s hand. Why was it just sticking out like that? Isabella leaned closer to his hand. When he didn’t flinch, she licked it. The bartender yanked his hand away, disgusted.
Anna laughed. “Someone’s kinky tonight.”
Following the flashing lights, Isabella pushed her way into the throng of dancing strangers. Three men leered at her as she danced. Within minutes, their hard-ons pressed against her. Isabella shook her ass vigorously. Over the next few hours, whenever anyone asked her to dance, she readily obliged. Darryl would be so proud.
Isabella tried to reach Darryl a few times throughout the night, one invitation to come join, another thanking him for the good idea to go out with Anna, and another asking when he would be home. She didn’t mean to be clingy, but sometimes Darryl could just be so distant. He rarely answered her calls or told her where he’d been, but this only made her want him more.
She struggled through the mass of people to get to Anna, thanking everyone she bumped for letting her through. “Are you ready to head back?”
Anna turned around with low-hanging eyelids, red cheeks, and tequila on her breath. “Mm-hmm,” Anna breathed with a shy smile. In the seat beside her was a man in a black leather jacket, holding on to Anna’s hand.
“Excuse me, sir? I’m going to take my friend home now,” Isabella told the stranger. She grabbed Anna’s other hand, but the man wouldn’t let go.
“She wants to stay,” he said.
“Yeah,” Anna said. “He just told me the funniest story! Listen, some woman posted an ad on some dating website or whatever, saying that she had long blonde hair, blue eyes, was athletic and loved a good playmate.”
Isabella listened while the strange man petted Anna’s hair. She wished Darryl would touch her like that.
“Over a thousand guys responded to this ad.” Anna paused to giggle. “But when they clicked on the profile, it was just a picture of a golden retriever! Can you believe it?”
The man laughed. Isabella laughed along with him.
“So I think we’re just gonna stay here and tell more funny stories,” he said.
It didn’t seem safe to leave her friend with a strange man, but there was something about the way he petted her hair. He seemed to really like her.
When Isabella arrived back at the apartment, Darryl held up his phone. “What the hell is this? I tell you to go out and spend time with your friends and you can’t leave me alone for fifteen minutes?”
“I just wanted you to know I was thinking of you.” She took a step toward him.
“I don’t need your damn reminders!” He chucked his phone across the room.
Isabella retrieved the phone and brought it back to him. “I just know you would have had fun with us.” She squeezed her eyes shut to hold in her tears.
“Not this again,” Darryl said.
“Please. I’m not trying to pick a fight. I just want to talk.”
He started away from her.
“Please, I’m begging you. Why are you being so mean to me?”
“Why are you being such a bitch?”
She could tell he regretted the words as soon as they left his mouth. She said his name.
Darryl met her gaze from across the room.
“You’re my best friend,” she said.
He ran his fingers through his hair, shaking his head. She thought she saw a tear on the bridge of his nose. She wanted to take it, to lick it right off.
He grabbed his sweater and rushed to the door. She fought off the urge to run after him and retreated to her room.
She awoke to the sound of the door being unlocked. Her hair covered her face, but when she tried to shake it off it didn’t move. She attempted to brush it away, but became distracted by how calloused, cold, and small her hands felt. She fought to relieve herself of the covers. She couldn’t see them quite the same. Her red covers, the green tissue box on her night table, the orange alarm clock all looked bluish violet. She pawed at her eyes, trying to see more clearly, but to no avail. She rushed to her mirror and saw herself, the blue eyes, black nose, long ears.
Her ears perked up at the sound of her name. She bounded into the living room. Her paws couldn’t gain traction on the hardwood floor, causing her to slide past him. When she tried to speak, only grunts came out.
“Could you stop talking for one second?” Darryl said.
She reached out to him, but he slapped away her golden paw.
“We can’t do this anymore, Isabella. I just…I can’t care about you the way you do me. I’m only here to grab the rest of my stuff.”
She licked his hand. She licked his face, slobber running down her tongue as she licked him harder and harder.
He pushed her off of him and she hit the ground. She sank her teeth into his skin and he roared in pain. Her teeth clung to him until he kicked her away. He rushed out the door. She howled as loud as she could.
Julia Gerhardt is a fiction writer and poet from Los Angeles, California. She is currently at Goucher College studying English and Religion. Her work has appeared in Sun and Sandstone.