Alone. Empty. Bare. The sheets don’t provide enough covering. She clutches her knees to her chest. The pillow obediently catches the salty water—promising to absorb only until saturation.
She looks at herself in the mirror. Her raw cheeks are now covered by thick foundation and blush; her puffy eyes glossed with mascara and heavy liner. The black dress clings to each curve of her body.
She finds a crowded street. The darkness is saturated with people and blinking window lights. She keeps her eyes lowered. But she is aware of the elongated gazes. She finally glances up and catches an eye. She holds it long enough to ensure a momentary connection; then breaks it just in time to brush shoulders.
She chooses a window light and pursues the bar table. She sits alone and waits; conscious again of the eyes upon her.
Her skin bristles as he settles beside her. She doesn’t look up. His gaze is powerful enough to strip her. He signals the bartender, brushing her hand as he does so. She flinches imperceptibly. “Two,” he says. “One for the little lady.” She smiles delicately and slowly raises her eyelashes. His eyes are locking onto her. He is not bad looking. He hands her a drink. She takes it, knowing this will help with what is to come.
He drinks faster than she does. For the next round, he brushes her arm; for the third, her leg.
Instead of ordering a fourth, his hand clenches her own. He stands up and pulls her toward the dance floor. She allows herself to be drawn out.
The dance floor is crowded. Sweating bodies threaten to suffocate her. He brings her close to himself; one hand on her stomach, the other on her leg. Her stomach sours and she resists the urge to cringe. She wills her body to swing to the music; melting her into his being—swinging to the beat of his heart.
The hand on her leg tightens, pinching her skin. The hand on her stomach begins to inch upward. His lips brush her ear. “What’s your name?” he asks. She rips herself from his grip, and dashes toward the door. Out into the darkness she runs. Past the blinking window lights. Past all of the eyes that pay her no attention.
She rushes past the mirror, glancing only long enough to see the mascara staining her cheeks.
The pillow resumes its role—warning that salt mixed with ink will saturate deeper. She clutches her knees to her chest, willing herself to disappear beneath the sheets. Bare. Empty. Alone.