This is chapter 2/4 of this short story. You can check the previous chapter here.
Sanity regained, he stared in the mirror. It had all been a nightmare. Time to get to work.
The car was already waiting for him in the lobby of the hotel. In it, two passengers were already waiting.
“Good morning Mr. Page. Ready for work?” said one of the passengers.
“Good morning to you too. Yes, ready for work,” he replied.
The other passenger just stared and smiled. It was her again. But something had changed. That wasn’t the same person he had met the previous night. Something was amiss.
The car took off swiftly. Traffic was light at this time of the morning. Alicia and her colleague were chatting amicably at the back of the car. It seemed to him that they knew each other from before. He was, of course, not included in their conversation.
He didn’t mind. He had other things to think about, but still, that rapid coolness was disturbing, the previous night just a distant memory.
They reached the embassy without further incident. James didn’t know why, but he felt relieved that they were finally there. They said their goodbyes and his companions took off. Nothing there except duty and business.
The day flew by and he caught random glimpses of Alicia strolling down a hallway, in intent concentration or relaxing by her desk.
It was time to call it a night so James decided to join their other peers at a local restaurant close by. He walked to Alicia’s desk. She was staring at a document in deep concentration.
“Are you ready for dinner? I’m heading there right now. Do you want to join me?”. She blinked and looked up.
“Ah, it’s you. Hmm, I still need to finish some work here. You head out, and we will join you guys later on.”
“Ok, see you later then. Don’t work too hard, though” said James. She smiled, and James walked away.
The cab was already waiting for him at the entrance of the embassy. He hopped in and directed the driver to the restaurant. That was one of the perks of coming to this city. The local gastronomy was just exquisite. It reminded him of his hometown. Wine, fish, salads, you name it.
The car made his way through the local maze. The night was already alive with smells and music. The city that never slept. There was always people on the street. It felt home for James. Even though he travel extensively, few places really felt like home, this city was one of the closest things. Having people around made him feel he wasn’t alone. It reminded him that, no matter what, there was always life around the corner, that you could move on.
The entrance to the restaurant loomed in the distance. The car slowed down and stopped. He thanked the driver and walked in. He had been here before. It was one of the favorite restaurants of his colleagues. The food was incredible, but what he was looking forward to was the wine. He needed to disconnect and enjoy.
Dinner turned into an informal party. Old friends, new friends. Everyone exchanging war experiences. Catching up with old friends was always the best part of such trips. It had been too long. Work and duty had made him distant to many of them, but there he was, finally, sharing wine and good stories with some of the best minds in their business.
He felt her before he saw her. The warmth, the searching, the connection. There it was. Undeniable. She ignored everyone else, walked right across the room and sat close to James.
“Well, hello there, how was work?” he asked.
“Fine, thanks. Feeling tired, but I’ll cheer up. It seems you started the party without me.” James chuckled.
“Not really, we were just waiting for you to arrive and get drunk. Here you go, some red wine?”
“Ah no, please some white wine for me. I don’t drink red wine anymore,” she answered.
James cocked his head but said nothing. There was clearly a story there, but he didn’t want to push his luck. She seemed back to her usual cheerful self, and didn’t want to spoil it. He was having fun.
Wine and food kept on rolling while James kept reconnecting with friends. A hug here, a handshake there. He was already feeling the intoxicating sensation of the excellent wine. The night was young. He sat down next to Alicia again and listened to her current conversation with a couple of senior officials. She quickly lost interest in the conversation and turned to face James. She looked at him and laughed.
“You know James; you’re fun when you’re tipsy!”
“Tipsy? Me? Hmm maybe? I did drink close to a bottle of wine on my own, so, yes, probably. Thank you, I guess?” She kept on laughing.
The party moved on to a club nearby. It was something that had always fascinated James. It was impressive how many parties the locals could go through but still function the next morning.
They followed the crowd to one of the most emblematic clubs of the city. With an open sky roof, the beats pulsated in the night like the beams of a lighthouse. And, so the transformation began.
As soon as the first wave of beats hit Alicia, she became someone else. She let go and started dancing. People disappeared, duty evaporated and was substituted by pure energy instead. She began orbiting the incoming group, dancing and harmonizing with the music all around them. Song after song, lyric after lyric she mutated into a bright star.
Her eyes searching him, mocking him. Sometimes near, sometimes from afar. She enjoyed her game. James wasn’t the only one. She was toying with all men around her; that was clear.
It just dawned on James. She was like a supernova. Her strange gravity well attracted anyone that got in contact with her. Every soul she touched would gravitate closer to her. She would continue her orbit, getting away from the last attracted object and onto a new trajectory. Like a supernova, she was pure fire, but she remained completely oblivious of her own path of destruction. One after another, men would fall at her feet. She would move past them, inexorably following her random path.
When she got near James, he could feel the heat. He could feel the fire raging inside her. She was so full of life but so deadly at the same time. She would grant you her warmth, but that same heat would also burn you to ashes. But still, her gravity would pull you to her wake, to lie in her path and wait for destruction.
Her arms around James, he could only feel helpless. Her touch was electrical. It was like having a hundred volts screaming through every fiber of his body.
Too much, too fast. James felt dizzy; he felt the need to get away from there. Why did he feel like that? He had been with plenty of women. He had been touched before. Never before he had felt such attraction and desire. He felt he was being played. No. He knew he was being played. He was just a pawn in her hands. He didn’t need this. But still, there was a silent wail of helplessness screaming from her.
“Hey, I’m leaving, tomorrow we have to get to work early in the morning. Are you coming or are you staying?” he asked Alicia. She was in ecstasy.
“I think I’ll stay. Have a good night.”
He turned around and walked out.
Alone. Staring again at the ceiling. This was absurd. Why remain close to someone you know it was death to you? He couldn’t figure it out. The only reason why he didn’t walk away on her completely was due to that cry for help. Was he the only one hearing it? Was he the only one that felt her loneliness?
He felt insane.