"I need to have you for myself."
That's all she said when she walked by me. I was standing to the left of the stage watching the DJ spin and the people dance. The dancing blew my mind and I was riveted to the wall watching people jump around like fools and go wherever the music took them.
I would be lying if I said I hadn't noticed her before. I don't really consider myself to be gay; I'm much too ambiguous. I'm drawn to certain people; it doesn't matter if they're men or women and when I feel that connection I usually freak out and back off.
It was at the bar that we met.
I squeezed my way to the copper top and ordered a bottle of water. She had her back to me, but when she heard me speak to the bar tender she slowly turned around to face me, holding a cocktail in her right hand with her left arm crossed over her chest as she leaned against the bar.
She said, "Who comes to a bar and orders water?"
The barista handed me my bottle and I paid before I really looked at her. She had dark hair that fell just past her shoulders in a loose wave. Her eyes were a bright blue, rimmed by dark liner and chocolate colored shadow; she wore a black, fitted top with blue metallic writing printed on the front and around her side. I took her in; smiled and answered, "Someone who's not quite ready to dance on the tables."
"Awe," she said, "but those are the best types. Can't I buy you a beer?" She smiled.
"Nah, I don't often drink, but thanks for the offer," I said, and capped the water.
She cocked her head slightly as I spoke, "You're not from here are you?"
I laughed, "What, did the accent give it away?"
"American or Canadian?" she asked.
"From what part?"
"Right," she purred and looked me up and down. She nodded her head and pursed her lips before she continued, "that would explain the way you look."
I held open my arms and looked down at myself. I was wearing dark, fitted jeans, black heels, and a white, low neck shirt that wrapped around from one shoulder and tied in front after looping around my back. Over it all, I wore a long black coat that was fitted and elegant, hanging just past my knees.
"What's wrong with the way I look? It's the jacket, right?" I drawled and looked at her.
"No, the jacket's great; you look great in it, you just look more..." she drug out her last word. "More," she repeated and waved her hand in the air slightly as if to conjure up the image. "...straight than anyone else."
I'd obviously missed that lesson in lesbian spotting 101. I sat my water on the bar and arched my eyebrow at her, awaiting an explanation.
"Look around you," she said and leaned in close to me, "Most people here are obviously gay. Look over there." She motioned towards a group of people who looked like a gathering of old frat boys.
"Those are your typical lesbian fare."
"They look like guys," I told her, leaning back so I could see her face.
"Yeah, and you're a conundrum for them. You intimidate them," she straightened up, taking a sip of her drink and looking around the room casually. Her eyes found mine again as I was thinking about what she said.
"So what am I supposed to do?" I asked, "Cut my hair, burn my bra, toss out my makeup and jewelry?"
She let out an involuntary burst of laughter before she put her hand on my arm and said, "No, nothing so drastic." She removed her manicured hand and cupped her glass. "What are you doing here anyway?"
"Well," I sighed, "I'm in London for the night and I just wanted a place to be with people instead of in my hotel room."
"There're tons of places like that. Why are you HERE? This is a lesbian bar, you know," she smiled at me like I'd unknowingly walked into a tiger's den.
"No!" I gasped and tried my best to look shocked as I glanced around. "Shit, what AM I doing here? I mean, I noticed that the guy/girl ratio was a little off but..." I trailed off and laughed. "I know this is a lesbian hangout, but I've tried other bars in other places and eventually I get sick of blowing off the guys who think that every girl who goes to a bar alone is looking to get laid."
She looked at me thoughtfully for a second before her eyes lit up and her mouth curved into a mocking smile, "You aren't here to get laid?" She pressed a hand to her chest to emphasize the silliness of the question.
"No, can't say that I am."
"Then, if you don't mind me asking," she paused, "Why are you here alone?"
"I do a lot alone," I told her. "I haven't been here long, so I don't really know anyone."
"Anyone in London?"
"More like, England." She looked a little surprised so I continued, "I'm in London for the night. I'm flying back to the States tomorrow to spend the holidays with my family."
"So you're here, in England," she said in a punctuated staccato, "On your own?"
I nodded, "What on earth would make you come to England on your own? Are you working?"
"No," I said, "I'm studying here."
"I'm getting my MA in Literary Theory."
"That makes you what, 24? 25?"
"22," I said.
"My, that makes me feel old," she said and finished her drink. She turned back to the bar and ordered a double, dirty martini. I also turned back to the bar and looked at her over my shoulder.
Her skin was smooth and her hands were elegant. Her eyes weren't dulled by age. She couldn't have been much older than myself. "How old are you?"
Twisting her head and pursing her lips again she said, "Guess."
"That's not old," I informed her.
"It's all in how you feel, and I feel every bit of 26," she said.
"If we're going to prescribe to the 'only as old as we feel' theory, then I'm much, much older than you; I promise." I smiled lazily and drank some water.
She turned her body toward me and stuck out her hand. "I'm Natalie," she said.
"Adrianne," I responded and reached out to take her hand. Her grip was firm, and my stomach tensed as I let go. I stared at her a bit too long before I realized what I was doing. I bit my lip slightly and looked down; I could feel my face turning red.
"Do proper introductions always make you blush?" she asked in a playful tone.
"Uh, no," I stammered, "it's usually quite the opposite."
I was still looking anywhere but at her when she leaned in close and asked, "Why don't I believe you?"
I flashed my eyes up, pretended to be in control of myself, and retorted jokingly, "You think you're old and wise; why don't you tell me?"
She regarded me for a moment and took one step towards me, leaving only inches between us, and said, "I said I was old, never wise. But since you asked I'll tell you what I see: you came here tonight not only because you are tired of the same old guys, but because you're curious, and, scared shitless. You aren't quite sure who you want to attract. So you came here dressed in a way that would have the bois lined up and the butches backed off. Then you order water and wonder how long it'll take for someone to approach you, because you'll never have the nerve to speak first. So, here I am."
I opened my mouth but closed it again. I was shocked and embarrassed that I was so easily readable. My ears started to burn.
Natalie took advantage of my dumfounded state and leaned in so close that I could smell her subtle perfume and feel her lips brush my ear; she put her hand on my neck and whispered, "Spot on, aren't I?"
Then she walked away.
It took a few minutes for me to regain control of my senses. I stayed at the bar and looked down at the well-worn counter while trying to figure out why I was shaking. I held out my hand slightly and watched it tremor. I felt someone watching me and looked up at the barista.
"You okay?" she asked.
"Yup, fine," I responded and quickly put my hand back on my bottle of water.
"Want a drink?" She asked.
"No, I'm good," I said and raised my bottle.
What the hell just happened to me? My stomach doesn't do flips. I don't get physically shaky and become a nervous wreck around people. The thumping base from the DJ in the next room seemed like a good way to drown out my thoughts so I maneuvered my way through the crowd toward the pulsating lights and mass of dancing bodies. I tried to listen to the music but found myself still bewildered. No really, I tried to reason with myself as I located an empty chair next to a high top table near the edge of the room. What the hell? I'm the calm, collected one that makes other people wonder what just happened. I'm not supposed to feel like this.
I was staring at my hands, willing them to stop shaking, when I saw a pair of legs come into my line of vision. I followed the legs up, from black combat boots to baggy pants with a heavy chain hanging from her massive, spiked belt. She had on a Black Sabbath T-shirt that was ripped across the stomach covered by a man's striped button up worn as a coat. Her hair was in full-on mullet style, with an orange strip down the middle.
I was studying her hair when she finally spoke, "Hey."
Her eyes were dark and the smudged liner around them made them seem impenetrable. "Hi," I said, offering a smile.
"Can I get you a drink?" She asked me.
"No thanks," I said and motioned to my still half full water.
"Oh. You wanna dance?"
"Um, I don't really dance," I replied.
She looked confused and turned to look over her shoulder at a group of 'Frat boy butches,' who were laughing at her predicament.
"Come on, I know you wanna dance," she pressed and made a grab at my hand.
The frat boys laughed loudly and the one who looked like she could be a sumo wrestler yelled to the girl, "Come back here, you're not as smooth as you think."
Another followed up with, "Yeah don't brag about bagging straight girls if you can't back it up." Ruckus laughter followed.
The girl grabbed my arm and pulled me off the stool when a hand landed on the girl's arm.
"There you are," said Natalie, smiling at me and shooting the girl a harsh look. "I've been looking for you everywhere! The whole group is waiting on you upstairs. Are you trying to get rid of me so you can dance down here with the bois?"
"No I, uh," I stuttered.
Natalie cut me off, "No excuses. We've got to go. Come along." With that she replaced the girl's hand with her own and I let her lead me through the doorway back to the main bar.
When we entered the main bar she turned toward me and smirked. "Damsel in distress, eh?"
"I was not distressed," I feigned affront. Her hand squeezed mine slightly; I looked up and said, "Thank you."
"No worries," she said. "You should be more careful. I told you they're confused by you."
"And you already have me pegged, right?"
"Right," she said and winked at me before releasing my hand, turning on her heels and walking away.
"I thought there was a group upstairs that was anxiously waiting on me to arrive," I called after her.
Natalie turned around but kept moving away from me and said, "No, just me." With that, she gracefully blended into the crowd.
I looked down at my hand. Damn it; I was shaking again. I'd also left my water on the table in the other room. I decided not to go back for it and instead walked through the bar, vaguely following the path Natalie had taken.
That's how I ended up on the wall, a while later, watching the dance floor through a packed crowd when suddenly Natalie was walking toward me from the side. She maneuvered her body to face mine as she squeezed through the nonexistent space between me and the mass of girls in front of me.
She put her hands on my hips and pressed me back against the wall to balance herself as she stepped past. When our eyes met she smiled. In one fluid motion she pushed herself off of me and put her lips to my ear and said, "I need to have you for myself."
Once again, I was weak in the knees and she was gone.
I stood there looking at nothing and wondering what was going on with me. As I did, a girl in a blue halter top and short spiky hair came up to me and asked if I wanted a drink. I declined in a distant manner and turned to find the toilet before she could insist.
The toilet I found was small and empty. I was thankful for the moment's reprise. I stood with my hands on the sink and regarded myself in the mirror. Blonde hair, with red and brown mixed in, falling across blue eyes. Lips glossed, teeth white. Not stunning, not plain. I don't know how long I stood there before the door opened. I half expected it to be Natalie, but when I turned it was the girl who had just offered to buy me a drink. I looked at her and she said, "You look like you've seen a ghost. You alright love?"
I blinked and managed, "Yeah, I'm fine; good."
She smiled and said, "You looked a little lost when I offered to buy you a drink; I followed you to make sure you're alright."
I smiled at her, appreciative of her kindness and tried to normalize my emotions. "Thanks, but really, I'm fine. Someone just took me off guard, that's all."
"Yeah, I understand," she said, coming to stand beside me and looking in the mirror; she ran her hands through her hair. "Happens to me all the time. Someone blows you away for some reason or another, and there you are, left asking what the hell just happened?"
I considered her words and bit my lower lip. I looked into the mirror and noticed how pale I was. I started to fuss with my hair and dig around in my purse for some lip gloss as a distraction.
"Hey can I ask you something?"
I stopped fiddling with my lips and raised my eyebrow.
"Are you gay?"
My shoulders fell noticeably and she quickly spoke, "I'm sorry if I offended you, but you just don't look it, but, you do and you're here and you're not;" she waved her hand slightly, "So..."
She let the "so" hang in the air and I turned around and leaned against the sink, I crossed my arms, looked down and the floor and then up at her. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to react that way. It's just that, that very question has been the focal point of this entire evening and I just wanted a place to come and chill out without being harassed by drunk guys."
She turned her head a little and said, "So, you're not gay?"
"I don't know what I am. I'm usually straight, but..." I trailed off with both my words and eyes.
"But someone here blew you away right before I walked up to you?" she began to smile and nod her head. "Yes," she continued, "Makes sense. You looked like you'd seen a ghost."
"I don't react to people like that," I tried to explain, "I'm so calm and collected, but look at me, I'm still shaking," I held out my hands.
"You know," she said as she turned and started for the door. "The only cure for those shaky hands is the person who caused them. Or three pints of Old Rosie." She opened the door and motioned with her head for me to follow. She held the door for me and said, "I saw her when I was walking up to you; she went that way," and pointed to the stairs across the room.
I smiled weakly. She said, "Go on; you'll be fine."
I left the bathroom and walked in the general direction of the stairs, moving through the crowd with a well placed hand on the back or shoulder and the occasional "excuse me" as I pushed through. When I finally reached the stairs I stopped and looked up them. Someone behind me said, "Excuse me" and I looked back, stepping aside so that the two girls could ascend.
I took a deep breath and started up the steps. Half way up I lost my nerve and turned to come back down again. I ran into a one of the large frat butches from the table earlier and apologized for knocking into her.
"You need to figure out where you're going," she growled at me as she stepped past.
I shook my head and realized that I needed a drink. Not water; vodka, or something that burned. I walked purposefully toward the bar and stopped when I was a few feet away. I don't need a drink for courage, I thought. No, I need to grow some balls and walk up there and demand that Natalie explain herself.
I turned again and marched up the stairs with gusto. They led to a smaller room that was half the size of the bar below. The atmosphere was focused around intimate conversations rather than drinks and dancing. I quickly did a survey of the room, noting that none of the large, brown leather chairs or sofas held Natalie. She wasn't among those talking by the large windows, or at the bar either.
I scrunched my eyebrows together in consternation and turned again to head back down.
I was feeling more than a little foolish for going, then not going, and then charging up the stairs only to look around and leave again. I watched my feet as I descended trying to figure out what had come over me.
I was paying no attention to things outside of my jumbled thoughts when I stepped onto the floor and almost collided with someone. I put my hands up and caught her by the waist to keep from stumbling.
I knew that shirt. I let my hands slip from the metallic writing as I looked up at Natalie.
I took a deep breath, mustered some courage, and playfully asked, "I thought you were waiting for me upstairs?"
"I was, but when you didn't show I figured I needed to find a more direct approach," she said.
I thought about her saying, "she needed to have me for her own," and asked her, "How much more direct can you get?"
Not missing a beat, she asked, "Do you want to get out of here?"
I balked. I knew I wanted Natalie, but random hookups were never on my agenda. She sensed this and laughed, "Do you think that all lesbians are sex fiends?"
"Not all the time," I responded, smiling.
"I don't want to rape you...just yet." She paused, "I just want to buy you coffee."
"Ok," I agreed and she smiled, grabbed my hand and led the way to the exit.
"I assume you don't have a car," she stated as we walked out onto the street.
"You assume correctly," I replied.
"Good," she said, "We'll walk. There's this great little place a couple of streets over that serves the best coffees. I again assume that you're a coffee drinker?"
"That I am, although, in all fairness I have only had true English tea once. I liked it," I said.
"Blasphemy," she joked. "A blue blooded, Southern American girl drinking tea! I thought you only drank whisky and went to church wearing white caps and gowns."
"Ouch... So that's the reputation that's preceded me?" I asked. We crossed the street and walked down a narrow alley way that opened up in front of a smallish, dingy café.
"This is it. You up for it?"
"Yeah," I replied, looking at the bags of coffee beans lining the counter. "Never judge a book and all that, right?" I mumbled.
"Right." She pulled me into the café by the hand she still held.
At the counter a young girl, with dark hair pulled up in a messy bun, with square glasses, wiped her hands on her black apron and asked, "What can I get ya?"
I quickly perused the list of various coffees and said, "Small Dark, Columbian."
"Room for milk?"
"No thank you."
The cashier turned her attention to Natalie. Natalie said, "I'll have the same, with milk."
"That's 3 pounds then."
Natalie released my hand as we both dug into our bags for money. Natalie got the 3 pounds out first and laid it on the counter. I looked at her, fully intending to buy her drink as well as my own.
She said, "Oh no, I promised myself that I'd buy you a drink tonight."
I waited a few moments before I said, "Fine, but the next one's on me."
"Is that a promise?" She pushed the coins towards the girl.
"If you want it to be."
"I do," Natalie said quietly. She picked up the coffees and headed to one of the four tables in the back of the shop.
The lighting back here was soft, almost like candlelight. Natalie set the coffees on the table next to each other. I sat down with my back against the wall. Natalie sat next to me and wrapped her hands around her coffee.