Dolphins cut through the water. Parasailers hovered in the air. The sand sparkled in the sun. Palm trees swayed in the surfeit of ocean breezes. Hot dogs and burgers roasted on the grill. The surfers were out. The sun reflected off the high-rise resorts. The casinos and the ballrooms were full. Ranpan, the teen sensation idol, wowed the crowds from the summer stage. Couples walked up and down the length of the boardwalk. Red convertibles raced down the speedway that cut through the mountains. Sea spray perfumed and permeated the resort town. Every night, there were tiki torches and bonfires on the beach.
Alli sat in her open-air dojo, in a cotton, summer gi, watching the teal waves roll in. Sea gulls coasted the white caps. Already the first fires lit the beach. The wind blew in from the sea, chasing the night, jostling the braided ropes tied to the ceiling rafters. Sitting in a lotus position, Alli wiped a trickle of sweat from her forehead.
A couple dozen miles away, Kaan was rocketing around the mountains in an old, rickety coupe, rounding corners and holding curves. Alli did not look up when the gravel crunched, and Kaan pulled in. Kaan breathlessly ascended the steps to the white floor of the octagon. “You have got to help me!” she gasped.
Alli opened her eyes and stood up, meditation over, “What is it?”
“Dallas is back! And she has Aspen!” Kaan yelled.
The two friends shared a look, “But what do you want me to do about it?” Alli asked, at length.
Kaan was lathered up, “You have to get Aspen back! You must help me! You’re the only one who can take on Dallas!”
Alli exuded calm, trying to reach Kaan, to ensconce her friend in a cocoon of positive energy, “But can’t you see that fighting her won’t solve anything?”
Kaan wouldn’t give up that easily, “Sometimes, there’s nothing left to do but to fight! She left you, which was bad enough, but she didn’t have to take my Aspen too!”
Alli leveled her eyes at Kaan, “You know once we go into this nightclub, there is no going back, right?”
Kaan met Alli’s eyes; there were tears in Kaan’s eyes. Alli nodded.
Alli put on a black buttoned-up shirt and jeans and got in Kaan’s busted coupe. Kaan rounded the hills again, tossing Alli along and hugging the winding road that connected the beachfront to Downtown.
Kaan parked outside of Cad’s. The couples were ambling about: flashy dresses, silk shirts, and white shoes. Kaan and Alli glanced at each other, before walking into the cavernous opening, framed by velvet rope.
Inside metallic light grazed their faces. Female and male servers walked around, proffering neon-colored shots in test tube glasses. The bartenders served up Day-Glo martinis, under the glare of the black light.
The crowd of shadows shifted back and forth under the strobes spinning in the darkness. Kaan and Alli walked through the gloom, the smoke machine going at full blast, speakers under the dance floor reverberating with every beat.
In the lounge, at a table of Dallas’s artist friends, sat Dallas and Aspen, surrounded by clinking glasses and writhing dancers. Kaan and Alli stood at a distance. Party-goers were crushed together, holding shots of tequila aloft, gripping bottles of beer, shouting to hear one another, over the thunderous rhythm.
Dallas caught their glance and put down her mimosa. Aspen, also saw them and froze. Dallas met their gaze and stood up, slinking toward them in a sheer, sequined dress. She arrived in front of them, heels clicking on the dance floor, “Want to take this outside?”
Kaan and Alli nodded. Dallas motioned to her entourage, and Aspen, who stood up, with hesitation. The group moved to the parking lot outside, feet shifting in the loose gravel.
Dallas snapped to a towering body guard, who tossed her two katanas. Dallas flung one at Alli, who deftly caught it.
Both drew their swords and dropped the scabbards. They rushed at each other. Steel met steel. The two disengaged, struck and parried. Dallas moved in one smooth motion, a liquid snake. Alli parried and parried again. Riposte.
Dallas parried the strike and shot back out, as fast as a cobra. She swung past Alli, arm held up like a hook, hand craning down, like a biting adder. The blade slashed through the back of Alli’s left hamstring, bringing her tumbling to the ground.
Kaan bellowed and ran forward, but Dallas quickly dispatched her with a hilt jab to the pressure point on the clavicle. Kaan folded. Dallas walked away, “You’re lucky I didn’t kill you.”
The guard took back the swords and the jeering crowd dispersed from around the two prone figures, and reformed, wandering back into the club.
Midnight Drive (based on “Wish I Didn’t Miss You,” by Angie Stone, and “Back Stabbers” by The O’Jays, 1972)
Deborah Cox – Things Just Ain’t the Same [Hex Hector Radio Edit]
The Weeknd – Party Monster
Christopher Cross, feat. Michael McDonald – “Ride Like the Wind”
GreyscaleSound – Still You and I// (based on “Nothing Can Come Between Us” by Sade)
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