It’s dark underground, but flashes of light betray the monochrome. Faces are smeared with glitter and her eyes glint through the shadows. They’re like buried pirate treasure or the dawn of colour TV. It’s a miserable, gusty night outside and this is no time to be standing still. My shoulders and neck and ribs are slick with salt and sweat and so are hers. There’s more lipstick on her highball than on her mouth and the glistening scarlet stencil sits like a glacial reflection as she brings it closer, never quite taking a sip; it splashes out of step to the music, on her clavicles, on her menacing burgundy furs, on her fingers. I can’t help but reach out to touch her hands but she backs away, further into the flash and technicolour to dance and put everyone around her in clear and present danger.
She’s stolen a feathered headdress off someone. There’s no bird, surely, that can boast all of those painted shades. She presses against the chalky nightclub wall, but she doesn’t blend in. Not for a moment.
A boy with black lips and fingernails brings her fruit punch (spiked with white rum); it tastes like sun and sand and saltwater in a bright red cup. Under the lights it looks fluorescent, like how battery acid might look.
Between each sip she dips her fingers in the sherbet-tinted drink to retrieve another gem of cut fruit. The apples are crisp and sweet. There are oranges and tangerines, bitter and tart. The citrus hurts her teeth so she eats through the boozy rind as well. Chunks of strawberry slip through her fingers but the seeds stick as she fishes out bits of lucent golden pineapple. She gleefully dries her fingers on the nearest boy’s shirt, laughing with her head thrown back, like she’s just realised she could get away with murder.
You belong on the stage, I tell her as a joke, and she smiles but doesn’t say anything. She lights up a cigarette indoors and for a split second all of the other lights stop flashing and she stands at the centre, the only thing I can see.
She turns to me and dips in closer so I can hear her. ‘Do you want to go outside?’
‘Sure,’ I reply, even though the rain is torrential and the concrete grey and cold.
She sees my reticence and whispers again. ‘There’s something happening somewhere.’
She grabs my hand and we bolt up the stairs, into the deluge, our bra straps slipping as we run.