Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for language and violence.
(So I've been editing this after carefully considering feedback, and decided to publish it again as I'm happier with this version!)
I could barely squeeze through the masses of sweaty bodies that had been crammed into the room as they knocked against me whilst supposedly dancing, though I wouldn’t have called it that. Dancing is meant to have a purpose, a rhythm. These people were just jumping up and down to some ear rape sound that most definitely wasn’t music. It said nothing, there was no depth to it. Just noise. My head was already throbbing from the couple of cans of beer I’d drunk at home, the sour taste still dancing on my tongue.
As I pushed my way through the crowds towards the bar, I became aware of one of the regular security guards following close behind. His name was Tony, and we’d never got on before. He’d never explicitly stated why, but he’d since he’d never been fond of me and Starry sharing a kiss in the club, I’d assumed he had a problem with our sexuality.
“Have you not got another innocent girl to harass tonight, eh Tony?” I shouted at him over the noise, my voice startlingly more confident than I’d intended it to be.
His eyes were hidden behind dark shades, but I was sure he’d just rolled them at me. “I don’t like troublemakers in my club, and whenever you’re around, there’s trouble.”
“Ah, you’re no fun.” the words slurred together as I tried to turn away from him. He grabbed my arm and twisted me back in his direction.
“You already reek of alcohol,” his nose scrunched as I looked up at him, and I could see all the little hairs peeking out of his nostrils flutter. I inhaled deeply and then breathed right onto his face, stretching upwards in my tiptoes. He recoiled, but kept his hand wrapped firmly around my wrist.
“How’d you expect me to put up with this crap -” I waved my free hand around as if to gesture to the music. “Without drinking a little first?”
Tony’s expressio didn’t change. Even with his sunglasses on I could tell it was one of disdain. “If you cause even the slightest bit of trouble, I’m kicking you out and calling the police, got it?” the seriousness in his voice should have been a warning, but in my tipsy state I couldn’t care less. I laughed in his face before tugging my arm out of his grip and sliding onto my regular seat at the bar.
An over-exaggerated sigh escaped my mouth, and it probably would have echoed had the room not been so loud. William, the bartender, placed my usual drink down in front of me. I picked up the glass and raised it to him, as if to say cheers. He gave me his usual bright smile as he grabbed his teatowel and began to dry some glasses. William had been working at the bar for as long as I’d been going to it; we’d both been underage to start with, but no one cared. That was just always how it was round here.
“I don’t know why you still come here.” he said, having to shout over the new bombardment of synthesised noise that had started to play. It was something I recognized, maybe from an advert or something, and that just made my headache worse.
“I don’t know either,” I replied, swirling my drink around in its glass, watching the alcohol spin into a tiny tornado. I wished it could just suck me in, drown me now rather than when I’m aged sixty on some abandoned leather couch in a junkie’s flat, the place I was surely destined to wind up. “Habit, I suppose. I met Starry here.”
Someone else ordered a drink and William spun round to grab a glass and serve them with that smile of his, the one that never left his face. It made everyone feel special, welcomed. It could stop a war, for sure. Or start one.
“Starry wouldn’t want you to spend your life moping around places that play music like this. She would’ve hated it.”
He was right, and I knew it. If Starry were here, she’d be dragging me out to some obscure little bar that only played live music, performed by bands that were unheard of and full people dancing wildly in clothes that looked like they’d been made from curtains. She’d force me to dance, no matter who was watching, and would sing along with the bands, her voice outshining theirs. That was just how Starry was. Whenever she entered a room, she became the room. She hated the dullness that life could entail and promised herself she’d never fall victim to it. And she never did.
I took a sip of my drink. “Yeah, well, she’s not here.” I felt the alcohol burn away the emotions at the back of my throat. It tasted like pessimism, like misanthropy.
The noise that surrounded me was too much, almost suffocating. Whoever made these songs had no regard for the beauty that music could create, only the money. A waste of music, made purely to be sold - monetised sound. For a moment it seemed as though the room was spinning, but it righted itself when I raised a hand to my forehead and slapped myself, hard.
“Are you okay?” William asked, filling a glass with something and handing it to the person next to me. They shoved some coins across the counter and buggered off. “Castle?”
I looked up at him. He was tall, skinny and had these dark brown curls that could sweep anyone off of their feet. Our eyes met, and looking into them I realised he’d have no trouble finding love in a place like this, or anywhere really. He had girls and boys trailing after him like the plague, he just didn’t know it. I’d never been at risk from catching this plague, but I had been in contact with something much worse. I’d been vaccinated against it now, but not by choice.
“I think you should go, and stop drinking. You shouldn’t come here anymore. It’s not good for you.”
“Then what is good for me, William?” I snapped, my stare having ensnared him. He couldn’t look away. “Everywhere reminds me of her. It’s not like I can’t get away from it.”
He leant forward, resting his arms on the polished wood of the bar. “You can get away from it. Go take the first train you see, get off at the last stop, sleep in a rundown B&B - like we used to when things got too much. Go to a festival, transfer to a university in Wales or Scotland or even further. There’s no shame in running away, Cas.”
I knocked back the rest of my drink and motioned for him to pour me another, pretending I hadn’t acknowledged his words. He obliged, still smiling as he handed it to me.
“Cas, answer me for God’s sake!”
“Where do you propose I get the money for this train ticket then, genius? Or was that you volunteering to pay for me?” I downed the drink in practically one gulp, gasping for air as I slammed the glass back down on the counter and motioned for another. “I don’t know if you knew but I don’t have a job anymore.”
“Amy said something about that - you flipped a few tables over and swore at your regular customers before storming out, or something.”
My eyes widened as he handed me my third drink. “Please don’t tell me Amy is here or I will smash this glass and use the shards to slit my wrists.”
“She was in earlier with Niamh and that lot. And don’t say things like that, it’s not funny.” the corners of his mouth twitched as he broke eye contact and turned to the side. Following his line of sight, I could see that he’d motioned for Tony to come over. “I think I’m gonna get someone to take you home, okay Cas?”
The tone of his voice was genuine - he was concerned for me. But I didn’t need anyone else to be concerned for me. I was sick of people caring about me, thinking they knew what was good and bad for me, what I should and shouldn’t do. Deciding when I needed to go home and when I needed to leave the flat. I was an adult, and I knew my own damn mind. The only person who knew it better than I did was dead. A familiar hand took a firm grip on my shoulder, and when I looked up, Tony was looming over me.
He cleared his throat before speaking. “You need to leave.”
“Why? I’ve barely been five minutes and I haven’t even finished my bloody drink yet!” I snarled, slowly rising from the leather stool and turning towards him. He was easily a foot taller than me, and probably twice my bodyweight in his muscles alone. Not a man to be messed with - I knew that from previous experience. That’s what they’d all be thinking - She wouldn’t fight him, it’d be a death wish. A death sentence. She’s not that stupid. “All I’ve been doing is sitting here and talking to my friend. Is that a crime now?”
“I warned you barely five minutes ago. No trouble, or you’re out. You’re coming with me right now.”
“No I’m not, I haven’t done anything yet!” pulling away from his grip, I grabbed my glass. In a split second decision, I’d thrown the glass over William’s head into the bottles that lined the bar behind him. The sound of the smashing glass was barely even audible above the noise, and it left a wet stain on the wall. William ducked, and when he straightened back up his smile had faded into a look of fright. No one had ever looked so scared of me before.
Tony went to grab me, but I spun round and socked him in the nose as hard as my fists would allow me before he could. He was a little stunned, stumbling backwards as I came into contact with his face. Before I could do anything else I had been wrestled to the ground, my own nose now dripping blood. Tony was holding me down with one hand, and wiping his nose with his other. The back of his hand came away bloody.
“Snap!” I yelled, twisting my neck to show him my nose. A warm droplet rolled off of my cupid’s bow and dripped onto the ground, and I watched as another followed suit.
“William, call the police.” Tony instructed, and although I couldn’t see from down on the floor, I knew William had obliged.