Club Toxic. The hottest club in town. A line wraps from the door halfway down the block, to where I’m parking my car.
This is it. Now or never. I’ve always wanted to come here, and have finally worked up the courage—to come by myself, no less. I pull down the rearview mirror and touch up my lipstick one last time. My hand shakes, and I smear MAC Ruby Woo up my cheek. Real smooth. I look like a chick in a slasher film—the sweet virginal one who dies in a horrible way halfway through the movie.
I try to scrub the red mark off my cheek with my fingers. Great. Now I look like the Joker’s younger sister.
Ten minutes and a bag of baby wipes later, I’ve removed the red stain and fixed my face. I wobble when my heels hit the pavement, but it’s okay, because I fall onto my yellow Beetle. My dress catches between the door and the frame as it slams shut. No!
After a second of tugging, I claw the door back open, free my dress, and stagger back on the sidewalk.
Success! Ladies and gentleman, Gwen Hernandez has exited her car.
There is a distinct lack of applause as I strut up to the club. That’s okay. It’s a new night, I’m a new me, and I’m finally going to Club Toxic. Not exactly the dream of a lifetime, but it’s something I’ve wanted to do since they opened, and I’ve gotta start somewhere.
I’ve been in the line a mere fifteen minutes—long enough to regret my shoe choice—when the bouncer beckons me to the front of the line.
“Me?” I confirm, a hand on my heart like I’m a Miss America contestant.
His cheek twitches. I bounce up to him, ignoring the grumbles and dirty looks from everyone else. I hand over my ID. He studies it for an extra-long time, long enough that I get nervous.
“Is something wrong?”
He hands back my ID. “White?” he asks, jerking his chin at my dress.
“What about it?” I tuck a fold of the skirt behind my leg, hoping to hide the grease mark my car door left on the fabric.
He’s right. Everyone else is in black. Men in suits, women in bondage-type dresses.
I shrug. “I stand out.”
“You sure do.” He crooks a finger, and I lean closer. “Ticket?”
“Ticket?” Oh no! I didn’t know I needed a ticket!
The bouncer sees my distress and takes pity on me. “I’m just kidding, sweetheart. You’re in.”
I head inside, pausing to let my eyes adjust to the murky interior. I realize I’m rubbing the spot on my left ring finger where my engagement ring used to sit. I drop my hands and march to the bar.
New me. New start. I’m a bad bitch, on the prowl. Rawr.
I bite my lip, leaning on the bar, and am trying to figure out what I like to drink when I hear it.
“Gwen? Is that you?”
Someone touches my shoulder, and I turn to face the last man I want to see tonight. My ex-fiancé.
“Chad,” I gasp his name like I’m excited to see him. Which I’m not. But after a lifetime of practice, I can’t turn my good girl off.
Believe me, I’ve tried.
He frowns at me. “Gwen. What are you doing here?” Men have no trouble speaking their mind. What is that about? Why is one gender allowed to be real, while I have to act sweet all the time?
“I wanted to go out.” I realized I have my hands folded in front of me like a Von Trapp family singer about to break into Edelweiss, and force my arms to my sides. “It’s a free country.”
“But here?” He eyes my white dress.
“I’ve always wanted to come here. You know that. I tried to get you to come out here all the time.”
Chad runs a hand through his blond hair, which should leave it mussed, but instead it flops perfectly over his brow. He’s as handsome as ever. Our parents were so excited when he proposed. We were high school and college sweethearts. We were always meant to be together.
Until he ended it.
“I didn't know you were going to be here,” he starts.
“It’s no problem,” I interrupt. “The place is big enough for the both of us.” I bite my lip to keep from saying more. I haven’t seen him since he bowed out of our engagement two months ago. I still have questions. Why, Chad, why?
He sighs as if he heard me ask the question out loud. “Look, Gwen, I—”
But he doesn’t finish because a tall young man with midnight skin and model perfect features sidles up behind him.
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