Artwork by Marcella Cappelletti

DRINKS ON ME

Inspired by the Philippine Folktale, The Sun and the Moon 

 

ACT I - The Veil

            Los Angeles’s streets flourished on a Thursday night. Cars lined up for two blocks; meters buzzed for local officers to handle their lawful duties. Two well-dressed individuals walked up a sidewalk, nearing a popular establishment. Jesse grabbed his friend and client, Rachel, by the hand as they both crossed the street, making a beeline for the scintillant club. They approached two burly bouncers who were checking IDs, and frisking everyone that wanted to go further inside.

            Jesse and Rachel walked up and presented their identification. Upon carefully scrutinizing their cards, the security guards quickly ushered them past the rope without checking for illegal paraphernalia.

           “Enjoy Vault’s Nightlife Paradise, Mr. Anderson, Ms. Flowers,” one of the guards said. Rachel gave a simple wave and a smile so grand it could light up the Vegas Strip as they ventured deeper inside the club.

           A blonde server approached the two before they continued on.

 “How may—” the server looked at Rachel, squinting her eyes. “I know you, your flawless brunette bangs! You’re Rachel Delilah Flowers!” The waitress placed her hands against her cheeks as she tried to calm herself before exploding from sheer excitement. “Oh, my gosh! You are, like, my idol! I’ve seen all of your photos and watch your beauty tutorials!” She looked at Rachel’s wardrobe full of envy and gushed, “I love your dress; red always looks great on you.”

            “Aww, why thank you, sweetie. You are so wonderful,” Rachel replied as she opened her small purse. She pulled out a pen and asked, “Is there anything you want me to sign for you?” The server nearly hyperventilated as she snatched a used napkin off the closest table.

            Jesse blew underneath his breath as Rachel gave her autograph to yet another new fan. He looked around the club; the exotic display and lighting entranced him. The vibration of the bass caused drinks to ripple inside overcharged glasses.

He eyed an exclusive section of the club that some of the guests conversed around. “I’m gonna get our table, meet me there whenever you finish,” he said to Rachel, ignoring the blonde server falling over Rachel’s feet. His oxfords clacked on the marble floor as he walked over to his reserved spot. He walked up four steps and removed the black rope blocking him from his long-awaited goal. He stood before a stylish circular table, cozy couches, and chairs placed around smaller tables. His mouth curved upright from the marvelous sight.

Rachel walked to the VIP area with the waitress, both laughing and chatting animatedly. Ascending the small steps, she watched Jesse straighten the pillows on the couches to make sure the section looked immaculate.

“I can’t believe that you’re this excited over overpriced seats and tables.” Rachel walked over to one of the sofas and got comfortable. Jesse paid no attention to her as he took off his wool suit jacket, placing it on the back of a chair.

He looked at her and snapped, “Well, wouldn’t you? I’ve—” He stopped abruptly at the look on Rachel’s face. Jesse rebounded quickly as he finished, “We’ve deserved these seats for months. No one in this city busts their butts like we do, Rach.” He hoped that she did not take his previous statement to heart. Even if he knew that she knew that it was somewhat true.  

More people came through the open doors by the minute. L.A. residents wanted a night full of dance and a promise that they would find love, a friend, or just a good time. Some of the guests coming in stopped to get a look at Rachel. Heads swiveled and fingers pointed at her and Jesse as people continued to flood the lower floor. Jesse looked out to them and cleared his throat, his hand wringing his tie.

He then said to the waitress, who continued to eye Rachel with astonishment. “Can we get two drinks, please? Thank you.”

The waitress rushed over to him, mortified that she forgot to take their order. “Oh, I’m sorry! What would you like, sir?”

“You can give Rachel a Manhattan, and I’ll take a Martinez. Keep my tab open for the both of us.” The waitress took off to return with their drinks.

Rachel’s eyes widened. “Well, look at you. Mr. Big Spenda”

“Look, I know I haven’t been easy to be around lately. With pushing your brand and scheduling shoots it’s been hard to be my usual perfect self.” Jesse grabbed a chair as he gave Rachel a smile. “I want this to be a great night. Think of it as a celebration for everything you’ve done. The agency could not have survived the ‘Overcast’ if it wasn’t for you.”

“Or you, Jess.” Rachel sprung her signature cute smile, her eyes seemingly disappearing.

Jesse gave a chuckle. He took his eyes away from her and placed them on the dance floor. He spotted two foreign women. As they danced to the music, moving their bodies like cream, a soothing chill overcame him. He turned back to Rachel, who was watching him watch them.

“Whatever you’re thinking, don’t do it,” she said, her arms folded, and one finger tapping her arm.

Jesse shrugged, “I’m just gonna go down and see if they’re looking for some work. You never know, they could be potential clients. We can’t work together forever, you know.”

Rachel gasped, but the noise of the crowd kept Jesse from hearing it. “Well, leave those girls to their dreams. We don’t mix business with pleasure.” Rachel inspected the pair, they grinded on each other, arousing not only Jesse, but all the men in the club. “Be satisfied with what you have, Jesse.”

Jesse raised an eyebrow. “What are we talking about, again?”

“Nothing,” Rachel fished her phone out from her purse and her fingers frantically moved across the screen.

“Wait,” Jesse tried his best to quell a laugh. “Are you jealous?”

Rachel immediately stopped texting. “What? You’re kidding right? Don’t joke, Jess. Trust me, you aren’t that funny.”

The waitress approached with their drinks on a tray.

“Will that be all for now?” she asked.

Jesse tested his drink and replied curtly, “Yes, we’re good. You can go.”

The waitress’ aggravation with Jesse was palpable.

“I’m so sorry,” Rachel said soothingly. “Can you please give us a moment? You see, he hasn’t gotten any decent sleep lately, and you know how cranky toddlers can be with no rest.”

“No problem. Let me know if you need anything at all.”

Jesse started to standup, but Rachel stood up even faster, clenching his hand before he could do anything rash. After the waitress walked away, Jesse rolled his eyes.

“Who does this chick think she is? ‘Let me know if you need anything.’ She’s lucky I don’t complain to her boss. Then she wouldn’t have to worry about serving me or anyone else anything anymore.” Jesse eased himself back into the chair, as Rachel took the seat directly across from him. His cufflinks scratched the table’s surface. He fidgeted with his hair and then quaffed it to the left side.

“Are you going to be okay tonight?” Rachel adjusted her midi dress as it continued to rise up her thighs.

Jesse took a couple of hard swills of his drink. “Yeah, I’ll be fine.” He looked down at his watch, “What’s taking them so long?”

Rachel took a deep breath. “How many of them did you invite?”

His eyes glossed over the crowd, he replied, “The eight of us. Same as it’s always been.”

“Oh …” Rachel leaned on her hand, staring at Jesse’s disturbed guise. His skin contained a bronze hue, his navy tie laid a little to the right due to all of his constant movement. His eyes searched throughout the club for the rest of his party. “Not always. It used to be just the two of us,” she mumbled, but her voice was lost through the music and laughter.

“I told them no later than 8:30,” Jesse said angrily, then looked up at Rachel. “You, okay?”

Rachel smiled faintly and nodded. The nearby chatter served as a nice distraction. She overheard a tableful of girls talk about their jobs and recent discoveries of self-improvement. Although their conversations held no purpose in her life, at that moment, she desperately wanted to join in. Sitting at a table watching everyone else have fun didn’t strike her as having a great night. The music blasted and the lower floor livened up, everyone enjoying each other’s company. It irritated Rachel that Jesse couldn’t appreciate hers.

“I think I’m going to dance,” Rachel said as she removed herself from the table.

“Suit yourself, I’ll be here.” Jesse continued to stare off into the mob.

Rachel made a tsk-tsk sound and pursed her red lips as she strutted away.

Jesse turned, watching as her wide hips sashayed down the steps. “Why is she acting like a snob all of a sudden?” he wondered.

 

Rachel staggered back to an empty VIP section. Jesse sat in the same seat she left him in. Sweat gleamed from the back of her neck, as she plopped in the chair next to his and attempted to fan herself.

“My gosh, Jesse. You really need to come down and dance. I requested your song, ‘All I Need is Papercutz.’”

“Not interested,” he replied. It didn’t take much for her to notice his temper. His eyebrows sunk and his right leg rocked. He looked down as his watch, which read: 9:15.

“Do you think they’re caught in traffic?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t received any calls yet.”

An opportunity presented itself. Out of a reaction, she replied, “That sucks, but hey, at least you have me, right?” Rachel tilted her head and smiled, her sweaty hair tumbling over her face.

Jesse’s jaw unclenched and his muscles relaxed as he viewed Rachel’s warmhearted demeanor. Her smile could always soothe his frustration whenever he became heated.

“Yeah, you’re right,” he nodded his head in agreement, “Rach, you are right!” He removed himself from the table, picked up his glass and threw back his drink, and then slammed the empty glass on the table. “I am going to enjoy myself.” He placed his hand on top of Rachel’s. His hands were delicate but forceful, and hundreds of butterflies awoke in her stomach. Jesse, stood up suddenly and said, “You stay here and watch our section, okay?”

The music emitting from the huge audio speakers altered to a sluggish modulation. Rachel tuned everything and everyone out, Jesse held her unwavering attention. He stood above her, his tall frame leaning in for him to give his occasional platonic kiss. Her eyes welled with tears, but she closed them immediately to prevent him from noticing. As Jesse’s lips grazed her forehead, Rachel bit back the overwhelming confusion his touch gave her. A tear fell down the slope of her cheek. Her hair concealed it as it left a polluted trail down her face.  

Jesse headed toward the steps. “Don’t let anyone in our section. This is ours,” he said as his voice trailed off and the diversified sounds returned to normal in Rachel’s ears. And the kaleidoscopic lights glazed across her sunken face. She stuck her hand in her purse and clenched her Smartphone. The DJ put Jesse’s song on rotation. The crowd began to chant, the lyrics explicit and full of ignorance. Rachel’s lips mimicked the rapper’s introductory verse, word for word. “Hoe niggas miss out on a bad chick, my bad chick is like black magic, boom pow, dicing with this flow, you screw over a real chick, prepare to get throwed.”

 

“Go, Wall Street! Go, Wall Street!” The gathered circle around Jesse prompted him to go all out. Four women, including the two foreigners, sat near the floor, exhausted from attempting to break him on the dance floor. He held up a black bottle swaddled in a yellow label. Pricey champagne he bought himself for a job well done. He continued to show his years of dance training until a gentle hand grabbed him by his shirt, a mocha-skinned woman pulled him to the corner of the dance floor. Jesse smiled at her and sat the bottle down on someone’s table.

As she leaned on a wall in lightlessness, he said, “You gonna tell me your name?”

She licked her lips, and grinned. “Does it matter?” Her voice could only be described as lava, serene but with intense heat.

Jesse then leaned in for a heavy kiss, his tie and her somber catsuit intermingling as everyone resumed taking up the floor for the next song. Jesse grabbed her thigh and pressed her up against the texture wall.

“Slow down, you don’t want to make your little girlfriend mad. After all, she’s a celebrity,” the woman whispered tantalizingly.

Jesse's mouth crept down her neck. “She’s not my girlfriend.”

“Oh? Then who is she? Your boss?”

Jesse slammed his hand on the wall. He looked her straight in the eyes, or what he could make out. “We’re partners, okay? The only one who calls the shots is usually me, anyway.”

“Oh, well, in that case …” Jesse’s tie swathed around her hand as she reeled him in, relaxing her ample lips on his, Jesse smothered himself in the scent of coconut and jasmine.

 

Rachel sank back in the cushions. Her legs crossed, showing a sliver of olive. Some of the men passing by tripped over themselves whenever they passed the VIP section as they stared in her direction.

Vzzzzzz!

Her phone reverberated on the table. She looked down as the green icon cast waves to the screen’s edges. She answered.

“Where are you guys?” Rachel’s eyes widened. “There’s a line? Wow, okay. I’ll be right out. Let me grab Jesse.” Rachel slid the thin strap of her purse across her right shoulder and walked down to the floor, leaving their VIP barren.

Dancers amassed the lively club’s inexpensive level. Rachel carefully weaved in and out of flailing arms and flexible legs. Her eyes wavered, seeking out her consort in the thick plume of people. Men tried to gain her attention as she trekked through. Repugnant smiles, excessive winks, and puffed chests only advocated her disgust.

“Jesse?” she called out, trying to break through the deafening trap music. The crowd shifted and shoved her as the bass’s deep call enthralled them. She walked a little ways to the edge of the crowd, where barely anyone stood. She scanned the area one more time in search of Jesse before deciding to greet their friends alone.  In a corner behind her, a silky moan forewarned that someone lurked in the shade. Two faint bodies braced themselves on one another. Rachel began to walk away until she heard a recognizable voice come from the concealed couple. A mild voice; its stark sonancy ringed in her ears. She also heard sensual giggles from a woman, her voice sounding like dialogue out of an erotica novel. A flash of jade from a laser projector shined on the two. She stood only paces away from Jesse, his eyes closed as he took delight in the vixen’s body. Rachel's hands fell on her chest, concealing herself from enduring the sickness grappling her affection for him. Suddenly, she had no words for him, not even the news that the friends he long awaited to arrive were outside expecting him. A sick feeling tormented her as she witnessed the ongoing act. Her heart couldn’t take it any longer. By the time the next green beam passed over the veiled area, she had vanished.
 

ACT II - Masquerade  


            Rachel stood outside in the nightly chill. The line stretched all the way down two buildings. Those waiting in the back of the line looked like ants hurrying to get inside the millennial mound. It would be at least thirty minutes before they entered the club. She received a text from one of her friend’s telling her that they would meet her inside, so she wouldn’t have to wait in the cold. But for the moment, she preferred to be outside, inhaling fresh air, trying to block out what she’d just seen. Rachel’s reaction from seeing Jesse wrapped with some girl confused her. It wasn’t the first time Jesse played the field, and it had never offended her before, but something changed over that year. Whether it was him or her, she’d found herself developing an unnatural attraction to Jesse, prompting her to work even harder to gain his undivided attention. These feelings for him seemed to come out of some unexplored part of her; from where, she did not fully understand.

            The flow of downtown traffic could only be described as a conveyor belt stuck in a continuous loop. Lights from buildings substituted for stars. Rachel looked up at the sky. The silver orb curved like a lush fruit in the night. As a draft came, she sighed knowing that the brisk weather would force her back inside. Thinking about it made her angry. She rubbed goosebumps off her shoulders as she faced the door, the music gradually getting louder with each step of her heels.  

           

            “You aren’t that bad of a kisser,” the woman wrapped in ebony wiped bruised plum lipstick off Jesse’s lower lip. She placed her lithe arms around his shoulders. Her riveting eyes, a forest green hue, bewildered Jesse.

            “I never knew—” Jesse cleared his throat, and the woman raised her eyebrow inquisitively. “I never knew that black women could have green eyes.”

            She laughed; whether it was a laugh of his ignorance or general amusement, he didn’t know. She leaned in close, putting her lips close to his ear, nibbling on its lobe. “I’m not like most of ‘em …” She then slipped away, her hands like massage therapy as they fell off his tense muscles.

            His blue eyes traced every detail of her risqué outfit, and her even more seductive physique. After she disappeared he looked around the dance floor. Surprisingly, he spotted Rachel looking around like a lost puppy.

            “What now?” Jesse said to himself. A thought then took the forefront of his mind, pushing the mystery woman aside for the moment. If Rachel stood on the floor surrounded by talentless dancers, who was protecting his precious VIP?

            Rachel attempted to clear her head amid all the noises bombarding her. She took her phone out and used its reverse camera to make sure she hadn’t ruined her makeup. A tight but forceful tug on her arm caused her to drop her phone. A deep rooted line immersed itself, sprawling over the phone’s screen like a spider web.

            “What the—” Rachel paused as she faced the person whose grip caused her phone to shatter. “Jesse?” She looked down at her broken phone and back to him. “What do you think you’re doing?” She snatched her arm free from his grip.

            “I thought I told you to watch our section!” The crowd shifted their attention on him, the guy who put his hands on a woman. Jesse’s infuriation prevented him from seeing the incoming security.

            The guards approached the two, looking at Rachel, who wore a stare of disbelief.

            “Is everything okay here?” The bigger guard asked as he closed the gap between him and Jesse.

            With one finger flicked in front of the guard’s face, Jesse replied, “Hold on a sec, guy. The grownups are talking.”

            The security guard prepared to take hold of Jesse by the throat until the other guard grabbed him by the shoulder and whispered something in his ears. Suddenly the two guards started to trade harsh words.

            Finally, the guard reluctantly took a few steps back from Jesse. The other guard then approached him and Rachel.

            “I’m sorry, Mr. Anderson, but you can’t do that here. What you do at home is your business, but when you’re in this club, I have to ask that you refrain from putting your hands on the lady.”

            Jesse looked around at all the faces staring at him. Even Rachel startled him as his fury simmered down.

            “I—I’m going outside.” Without saying anything else, Jesse dashed through the crowd, embarrassed at how he handled himself in public. The eyes of the crowd followed him until he hit the exit.

            Their attention then switched to Rachel. She stood in the open area staring at the spot Jesse where forcefully assaulted her, the spot where he finally showed how much he changed. The people around her started to chatter amongst themselves. A white flash awoke her from her trance. Another flash came, then another. Rachel maintained her composure. She could care less about being published on social media. She expected it from the world. What she couldn’t take was losing her only true friend. Rachel then admitted it to herself, words that an acquaintance, once rival, said to her when she started to gain fame: “It’s true. I am a team of me.”

            The nightly chill almost sent Jesse back inside to grab his wool jacket. He stood on the edge of the sidewalk, looking at a bank across the street. A man and two women were exchanging information next to an ATM. The man waved a green flimsy bill in the face of one of the girls. Jesse knew it either had to be good Ol’ Benjamin Franklin or Ulysses S. Grant. Whatever the case, the girls must’ve had a change of heart to whatever their engagement consisted of, as the buyer took it personally, tossing the bill in the girl’s face. He then stormed off down the street while they cursed at him like a couple of sailors.  

            “Oi, can I get a smoke?” a young lady with a crisp British accent in torn denim jeans with a white t-shirt asked Jesse.

            “Sorry, I don’t have any left,” he responded. He tried to get a better look at her but her aviator sunglasses hindered further inspection.

            She moved closer to him as if inspecting him herself. She slid her glasses down to her nose and peered closely. Her surprise could not be any more noticeable. “You’re the bloke who put his hands on that Italian model!” People standing in line started to look their way.

            Jesse quieted her down before anyone else heard.

            “I didn’t put my hands on her,” he replied.

            “Yeah right, so what did you do? Gently massage her arm?”

            “I—I slipped, okay. We all mess up sometimes.” He brushed back his hair, wondering how something that happened three minutes ago trickled its way to LA’s community in record time.

            “Haha! Slipped? That’s funny! You Americans are always good for a laugh. You are like Kevin Hart, seriously funny.”

            “Can you just go now?” Jesse’s height seemed to elevate along with his plea.

            “Fine, fine. I wouldn’t want you to put your hands on me as well!” As she laughed her way down the sidewalk, Jesse exhaled in relief.

 
            Rachel walked up the steps back to their VIP section and saw it was occupied by random strangers from the dance floor, swinging beer bottles and sipping mixed drinks excitedly. She almost decided to run them out until it crossed her mind that Jesse cared more about his precious VIP room than he cared about her. What should it matter to her what happens to it? The riffraff enjoyed themselves and she felt a pang of jealousy. Enjoying herself was something she’d wanted to do all night. She let out a smile.

            “Aw, man. We’re running out of liquor, and I’m running out of cash,” someone whined, holding the last bottle up like an infant.

            A fresh thought popped in Rachel’s head. Her night wouldn’t end wallowing in grief, oh no. This night only needed a little sprucing up. She then walked up to the boy that looked to be in his early twenties, snatched the bottle out of his hands, and held everyone’s gaze. The crashers were frightened, their merriment suddenly halted, knowing that they intruded on a private section. A brief silence swept the VIP lounge until Rachel confidently slammed the bottle on the spacious table. She then said to all the invaders ogling at the downed bottle, “Don’t worry about it. Mama’s got ya covered.”

 

               “Finally, the line’s moving!” a lean Korean male blurted from the middle of the line. Jesse squatted on the edge of the sidewalk to rest his legs as he took a deep breath. He looked down the extended file of people. The continuous chatter from the impatient man sounded eerily familiar. Jesse got up and walked to the middle of the line. Girls eyed him as he walked past with lion-like confidence.

            “Yo, Jesse!” the Asian man called out, popping his head in and out of the crowded area.

            Jesse’s face lit up as he saw his friend wave his hands as if he were directing air traffic.

            “Rodney, my man!” Both greeted each other in a brotherly handshake followed by a hug.

            “Bro, you didn’t get my calls?” Rodney asked, pulling out his phone from his jacket pocket.

            Jesse went to pull his phone from his pocket. “No, I—” His hands returned empty. He searched both front pockets, then his back pockets, but no dice. All he had on him were his driver’s license and his credit cards.

 “My phone is gone,” he admitted.

            “Did you leave it inside?” Rodney replied.

            Jesse frisked himself, “No, it was on me when…” He froze as the image of soft lips gave him a clue.

            “That chick took it!”

            “Huh? What chick?”

            “Some black chick I made out with. Stay right here, I’ll be right back.” Jesse took off back inside to find his thief. His friend froze in position, trying to figure out what went on inside Vault.

            Rodney turned to the bouncer who kept his eyes on the line. “I got to get in ASAP! They got sistas in there!”

Boisterous cheers reverberated through the club. The partygoers coming outside stumbled and fell on the pavement. Something about this unsettled him. He decided to put it on the backburner; for now, his priority was getting his phone back.

            He reentered the club, the scent of green apples and grapes mixed with cologne and the smell of booze. Nearly everyone had a drink in hand, black bottles swaddled in yellow labels.

            “Veuve Clicquot? When did they start handing those out?” he said to himself. The bartender smiled at Jesse. The crawling sensation that someone watched him caused Jesse to turn towards the mixologist. The bartender’s smile beamed from across the room, his mouth showing both rows of teeth. Jesse then realized something. Bartenders only smiled like that for one reason and one reason only—they knew that they were going to rack up tips by the end of the night. Jesse watched as the bartender flipped an open bottle in the air, catching it with one hand, while his other hand held a glass. The fresh drink fell inside the glass, filling it halfway. He then raised the concoction towards Jesse.

            “What is going on around here?” The expensive bottles swarmed the floor. They delivered a bad omen as they traded hands and poured in shot glasses.

 

Act III- The Phantasm of the Inglewood Siren

 

            All the waitresses on duty flocked every square inch of Vault. They passed bottles and served glasses to those willing to indulge in free drinks. Jesse walked through the mob of alcoholics. A waitress passing by with a tray in hand shot him an appreciative wink.

            “Thanks, you’re the best …” she said as her voice faded from all the noise.

            Another waitress came up to him. The blonde he traded words with before during his arrival. Her attitude from before seemed to disappear.

            “I just have to say that I’m sorry,” she said with a smile almost as lovely as any professional model.

            “What? What are you—” she waved her hands for him to stop talking.

            “I had you totally wrong. You aren’t, excuse my language, a douche.”

            “Huh? What is going on—” he replayed the last words she said. “You thought I was a douche?”

            “Please don’t tell my boss,” she pleaded.

            Jesse shook his head, “I won’t, I won’t. Can just you tell me what’s going on, and why that bartender keeps looking at me funny?” She looked at the bartender who could not wash the accomplished look off his face.

            The waitress laughed. “You are funny. I think you need a drink yourself.”

            “I don’t need a drink, I need answers.”

            “Okay, I’ll be right back with the only answer you need, handsome.” The waitress walked off with haste to bring Jesse something to lift his spirits.

            Jesse watched her walk away, more confused than a moment ago. He stuck his hand in his pocket to see if Rachel knew what the celebration was about.

            “Dang it.” He remembered that his phone was missing or perhaps stolen. Jesse used the advantage of his height to look over the heads of the growing crowd. He could barely move without bumping or being shoved into someone. He jumped on a liquid table, misshaped blue and pink colors meshed inside to create a lively piece of furniture. He now had a clearer view to see if the inviting female lingered around. Jesse surveyed the floor observantly. He discovered no inkling of the starless suit or her cocoa skin. Either she blended within the crowd or she made off with his phone. He asked himself why she would steal his phone in the first place. He never met her before tonight, not until he had her on one leg and pressed against a cold wall. An uproar coming from a higher level caught his attention. A fumbling crashing noise followed after. Girls screamed in surprise as guy folk fell over one another from laughing too much. Jesse finally found where the disturbance originated. His entire VIP swarmed with ‘basics’, sitting in his seats and placing their glasses on his tables. A thick vein protruded on his forehead.

Jesse bolted to his section, bulldozing his way through the crowd like a first-string linebacker. Swear words broke after him as he furiously stampeded through until he reached the VIP section.   His hands clenched on the railings, as he did his best to contain himself as he treaded up the steps.

           
“I think I’ve seen you on that swiping app before. Isn’t your name @ImOnThatDiddy?” Rachel sat on the lap of some fairly handsome individual on one of the counches.

 The man replied, “No, that’s my brother. I’m—”

“What the hell is going on here?” Jesse bellowed from the deepest part of his lungs. Everyone stopped enjoying free drinks to watch this madman cause a scene. He walked from the last step to the center of his section.  

Rachel removed herself from her acquaintance. She then said to her new friends as she strutted towards him, “Don’t be alarmed. It’s only the man of the hour. Isn’t that right, Mister. Big. Spenda?” She gave a vengeful chortle that left a nasty taste in Jesse’s mouth.

Rachel’s elevated brow threw him off. She didn’t seem like herself, Jesse thought.

“Are you okay?” he asked.

“Why wouldn’t I be? I’m surprised you care.”

“What? Come on now, Rach. Not here.” Jesse spun his head around to view the watchful bystanders.

“No, Jesse. I think here is the best place. I mean, this is your treasured VIP, your castle.”

“Rach, calm down. Please. I have something to ask you—”

“Screw you, Jesse!” Rachel’s legs wobbled, her speech slurred.

Her bloodshot eyes gave it all away. “You’re drunk. I need to take you home,” Jesse reached for her hand but she pulled away.

“No, Jesse. I’m not going anywhere with you anymore. As the matter of fact, I don’t want anything to do with you!” Her voice seemed to strengthen along with her anger.

Jesse watched her totter back and forth as he tried to grasp the concept of what she said. “Are you saying that you’re firing me?”

Her eyes wavered, five black bottles settled on one of the tables. She stared at them as she replied, “Yes.” Rachel’s lips trembled as she thinly continued, “I mean it. I want you to stay far, far away from me from now on. I don’t need or want you in my life anymore.”  

“I don’t think you know what you are saying right now,” Jesse reached over to her. “Let me take you home and you can rethink all this in the morning after you’ve slept it off.”

“I’m not thinking over anything, Jesse!” Rachel snapped, her footing unsteady and unprofessional. Jesse backpedaled to a safe distance. “You don’t understand.”

“Understand what?” A drop of sweat slid down Jesse’s face. The attention from having an audience started to get to him.

Waves of tears bore from her eyes. “You aren’t—”

A waitress held up a receipt behind Jesse. “Alexander?” she called with a loud voice.

Jesse turned around to see the blonde waitress with a receipt in one hand, a Blue Blazer Cocktail, and a shot of vodka on a tray in the other.

“Our manager suggested that we close you out. I also brought your drink along with another. That one’s on me.”

“Okay, thank you. You can place them on a table,” Jesse replied as he went to grab his receipt.

Rachel tensed as the waitress handed him the receipt. It wasn’t out of fear but out of something else, adrenaline. She decided that she would get back what she invested in tonight, and Jesse would be the one that would pay the price.

He nearly suffered a stroke once he looked at the fine print on the receipt.

“Four thousand dollars? What? This has to be—”

The cheerful faces intoxicated with extravagant liquor. The black bottles being passed around like daily newspapers. Jesse had been set up.

He balled the receipt. “Who did this?”

Whispers in the VIP lead to one person’s reply. “You did, bro. You offered to buy everyone’s drinks after you caused that scene from before.” He then added, “We appreciate it too. You da’ real MVP.”

“I did what?” Jesse faced the person with clenched fists.

“I did it. It was me, Jess.”

The receipt fell on the floor. He did not expect to hear Rachel’s voice, her confession.  

“You?” He cocked his head to the side as he shifted his finger at her. “After everything I’ve done for you!”

Rachel’s skin cooked to a pinkish red flush, “What you do is nothing compared to what I do. Don’t forget that you work,” she paused, “no, worked for me!”

Whoops, and hollers from the assemblage only angered Jesse. Even those on the lower floor stopped dancing to view the escalating confrontation. Rachel hit him where it hurt the most, his pride.

He clenched his hands together to calm himself, which did not work. Rachel needed to be put in her place. He made her what she was, after all. The sponsorships, trips, and money were all because of his laboring. Without a second thought, he reached for the shot of vodka, it had an unusual weight to it as he didn’t bother to look at what he actually held in its place. A fiery tonic, the Blue Blazer Cocktail, harnessed a flame above the glass. The crowd scattered in a frenzy as he launched a blue and red trail directly at his ex-client.

The glass shattered on marble, the alcohol doused half of Rachel’s rose dress, causing a reaction with the once small flame. It engulfed her in a hefty blaze. She sprawled across the VIP in hysteria. “Oh my, God! Someone get it out! Help me, please!”

“What did I do—” Jesse never left his spot as he froze in place, realizing what he had done. His immature actions had never lead to someone being in serious danger. Rachel’s continuous screaming finally got his attention. He instantaneously snatched his jacket off the chair he used earlier and attacked the flame that tried to consume his best friend. Along with his swinging, tears fell onto the rising flame. Rachel fell down, Jesse screamed for her to roll as he never stopped beating the fire back. After he snuffed it to a manageable level, security came with a fire extinguisher and did not think twice to use it. Both Jesse and Rachel were covered in a white foamy substance, choking the fire in the process. Jesse hastily wiped the suppressant off Rachel’s face. Her eyes were closed and her mouth hanged slightly open.

“Rachel?” Jesse shook her, “Hey, Rach?” The entire club watched silently as he attempted to wake the breathless woman.  

Hanging in the back of the crowd, a satin figure walked to one of the exits. The primary lights in the club came on to reveal the woman Jesse searched for, the seductive thief. She held in her right hand his phone. It then rang as she viewed people gathering around to help the two friends, or what she picked up, soulmates.

“Yeah?” she answered to the caller. The person on the other line, one of Jesse’s personal contacts, exchanged words with her. She replied, “It’s done. It was too simple.” A smile so cruel that it would even make a witch think twice surfaced across her face. The call ended and she took the phone and placed it in an undisclosed place for safe keeping. She looked at Jesse who grieved as people tried to break him away from the unconscious female. “Hopefully, I won’t see you around,” she replied as she made her way out of the club, leaving her first impression one he had no choice but to remember.
 


End of Pt.1