"Check you out!" I grinned at Beth in her fabulous flapper dress; a black fringed dress with sequins around the top.
"Well thank you. You too!" I glanced down at the dress. Beth had claimed black for the evening, so everyone else was banned. I was in a maroon dress, decorated Gatsby style with beads. It followed the curve of my waist, and landed just above my knee. I loved it. I'd even done my hair up, pinned and curled around the back of my head.
We were having people over, to begin the evening, and then heading out later. Raph and I had headed to the shop after I'd finished at work, and stocked up on drinks and nibbles. Beth had been decorating. All in all, it looked like it was going to be a great evening.
"I AM HERE TO PARTY!" Raph appeared, suited up with a hat on his head. I laughed and pulled him in to a hug.
"You look awesome."
"I swear they turn the volume up way too high here!" I yelled at Beth, trying to be heard over the pounding music.
"I SAID... Oh never mind."
There were about twenty of us, dancing, and I was sweltering.
"I'm going to get some air!" I called and headed towards the doors that led to the outside balcony; a small outside platform with a bar and heaters, to protect against the night air. I shivered when the cold air met my skin, but it was nice, and refreshing.
I was about to sit on one of the wicker sofas when I spotted a familiar figure at the edge of the balcony, looking out at the city. For a moment, I thought about going back inside, but I knew I ought to apologise for the way I'd spoken to her at the shop. So instead, I went over and leant on the balcony too, with a little bit of a distance. She glanced at me, and then did a double take. I gave her a small, hopefully apologetic smile.
"Lena, you look..." She paused and seemed to reign herself in, and her face closed down. "Hello."
"Having a fun night?"
She frowned at me and then straightened up. Figuring she was about to leave, I slid closer and started my apology.
"Look I'm sorry about...well, everything I said. I just don't like it when people get too close to me. I mean Raph and Beth had to basically strong arm me in to friendship and we're close as anything now but... I don't talk about myself or how I feel and I felt like you were expecting me to be weak and I hate being weak-"
"-Woah, Lena, slow down." She placed her hands on my upper arms and rubbed gently, up and down. "I understand. You don't like people getting too close, right? Well you were right. I was getting too close. I had to behave more professionally. Admittedly I might have taken it a little too far but... I didn't want to make you that uncomfortable with me again." She must have realised that her hands were still on my arms, because she moved back a step, suddenly, and dropped her arms. I almost followed.
"For pushing you away. I... kind of miss... whatever was happening."
She opened her mouth slightly, as if to say something, but she stopped, and shook her head. But that smile was back when she looked up at me again, and everything felt back to normal. I offered her a small grin too.
"Me too." She slipped her hands in pockets and leant against the balcony casually. I didn't really know what to do, so I leant too, facing the opposite way and staring out at the city like she had been, before I'd interrupted. "You look good." I heard her say, quietly, almost unwillingly.
"And I'm not wearing black," I replied carefully. "It's a miracle."
"It is a surprising change. But not unwelcome. In fact I think it may suit you more than black."
"Take it back!" I gasped in mock horror. She chuckled and turned to face the same way as me. Our arms brushed, skin against skin, and I glanced down, before getting distracted by her face. She was staring out at the city, that small smile still in place. "So, are you having a good night?"
"Yes." She turned her head to me. "Are you?"
"Yes. It's Beth's birthday party."
"Ah. So are you all channelling the twenties, or is that just you?"
"All of us."
"And there weren't any black dresses?"
"Beth stole that colour. Banned everyone else. But I like this. It goes with my lipstick." Her eyes flicked down to my mouth for a moment, and I felt my lips tweak in to a smile again.
"That's all I get? Mmm?" I joked.
"What would you like me to say?"
"I just thought I'd get a little more enthusiasm, given your reaction the last time I wore this." I allowed myself a little smirk. She grinned, and shook her head.
"Are you like this with everyone?"
"So..." She paused to consider the right word. "So fl-"
"Hey!" A shout came from the door. There were a couple of lads there, that seemed familiar. "Aren't you that bitch that broke Henry's nose?" Oh, that's why. His friends from the club.
"Don't know what you're talking about." I shrugged, hoping that they'd just go. Alex had stiffened next to me, and I could feel the tips of her fingers brushing against my arm.
"You are! Got him sent away just because he tried to have some fun with his girlfriend."
"If she was his girlfriend he would have cared about whether or not she could actually stand, let alone give consent." I shot back. They knew who I was anyway; no point in lying.
"Bitch!" The ring leader spat on the floor and started towards us. The other two followed. Crap. I tried to move Alex behind me but she was firm.
"Not a chance."
"What's going on here?" The bartender shouted from across the floor.
"Nothing." The lads called.
"They're threatening us." Alex told him.
"Want me to get security?"
The lads growled and disappeared back down in to the club.
"Are you okay?" Alex murmured.
"Not sure. You?"
"I'm fine. It's you I'm worried about. They clearly wanted revenge."
"The chances of me running in to them again are tiny. I'll be alright. I just... wish you hadn't been involved in that."
"Well two against three has better odds than one against three."
I shook my head with a small smile, trying to stay serious.
"Still, I can handle myself, when I don't have to worry about someone I... someone else." She bit her lip at that and I got momentarily distracted. I had to internally shake myself. "I think I might go home. I've got work tomorrow anyway."
"Do you want a lift?" She asked. "I'm not getting too close, I swear, and I don't think you're weak. I'd just rather make sure you got home without those idiots following you."
"Okay, okay. Is your car close?" She grinned and motioned me to follow her. I rolled my eyes but did as I was told. I texted Beth, unable to find her in the mob as we made our way out, to tell her I had to go home but to have a wonderful rest of evening. I didn't mention my ride home. Alex grabbed her leather jacket and a large bag from the coat room and I got my cardigan, which she rolled her eyes at but said nothing about.
"You have got to be joking." I said as I stared at our mode of transport. A motorbike. I looked down at my dress and then back at the bike. "I don't feel like this is realistic."
"You'll be fine."
"So, you've been on your bike in a dress?"
"No, I don't wear dresses."
"So how do you know it'll be fine?" She raised an eyebrow. "Oh. Right. Other people that you've taken on your bike. Wait, is this a habit of yours? Because if so I don't think I should be getting on the bike. I mean you could be a serial killer in your free time or something."
She rolled her eyes and swung her leg over the bike, sitting down.
"There's an extra helmet in there." She pointed to the compartment on the back. I took it out and popped it on my head. "Where am I going?"
"Ugh, how do you wear this thing?" I complained.
"With more elegance than you apparently." I rolled my eyes and told her where to go. She slipped the helmet she had retrieved from the bag, and handed the bag over to me. "Will you put this in there please? You can out your bag in there too if you want." I did as I was told and then eyed the bike again.
"Okay don't look." I warned. I could almost feel her rolling her eyes under the helmet, but she faced the front. I climbed on, pulling down the dress carefully so that it was tucked in as much as possible, and I wasn't flashing anyone. My thighs were hovering either side of her, but I realised I was going to have to hold on. I braced myself, and then slid my arms around her waist as she started up the engine, closing my thighs on her legs to hold on. The bike roared to life and we were off. I squealed, probably for the first time since childhood, and held on tighter. The air whizzed past us, freezing my bare knees. It didn't take long until we'd reached the road I lived on, and then she slowed down, and let me tap her when we'd arrived. I took off my helmet and hopped off the bike as elegantly as possible. I reached in to the compartment and retrieved my bag, replacing it with the helmet.
"That was awesome."
She chuckled and pulled off her helmet too, smoothing out her hair.
"I'm glad you enjoyed it." She climbed off the bike, and was trying to keep a straight face, but apparently something was funny.
"Nothing. You look totally normal."
I glared at her and leant down to check in the mirror. My hair was a state and my lipstick was a little smeared.
"So you were just going to let me walk around like this were you?" I said, trying to return my hair to a normal state.
"You're only going up to your flat." She replied, and then reached up to smooth some of my hair down. I let her, and only realised that I had stopped breathing when she sorted out my smeared lipstick. Her thumb trailed under my lip and she paused at the corner. "All done." Her voice a little hoarser than before. Her fingers seemed to uncurl along my jaw, all by themselves, and I felt my throat dry in response. And now they were trailing down my neck, where she paused, took a breathe, and released me. "Sorry. I shouldn't have..."
I don't really know how it happened. Whether it was me that reached across the small gap first, or her. But our lips brushed, and then her fingers were in my hair and mine were gripping at her jacket, pulling her closer. I felt her moan a little, and then she pulled away sharply, a look of shock on her face.
"Erm..." I murmured, not sure what to say. She swung her leg over the bike, jammed on her helmet, threw me one last look that I couldn't see, and then the bike roared to life and she was gone. I was left staring after her, in the street, clutching my bag and with no idea what the hell had just happened.