This is Black Panther’s Day as well as Valentine’s Day. My French readers got free access to my first book “Love Mwen” for the day. For my English-speaking readers, this is a scene from “Viré” my upcoming book. “Viré” means “come back” in creole. I don’t know yet if I’ll keep this scene… Just know it’s a draft and I haven’t gotten around to editing it yet. Forgive my grammar and wrong vocabulary. I just want to give you a glimpse of Laeece and William… I hope you’ll enjoy it.
With no flyer, no radio promo, and despite the school year ending two weeks ago, it’s like the youth of Guadeloupe answers the dancehall siren and starts invading the “Tan Sovaj” parking lot by 10 PM. It’s barely midnight when the nightclub reaches full capacity. Bouncers stand still, arms crossed, ignoring flashing cleavages or/and weed bribes. But, the parking lot stays packed as the live radio feed blasting from the cars’ open doors and trunks keep the dancehall party going outside.
This would be the perfect setting for a music video and for the intro of her next blog post. Laeece writes down the idea before putting away her notebook in the back pocket of her tight black Capri pants. Looking around the parking lot, she ties back up her box braids into a high bun. There must have been at least 300 people. Added to the 1,000 inside, this “private” event could have been a concert. Luck must be on her side tonight. No running into old classmates, so no awkward life update small talk. Old folks might be fooled by her speech about living the Parisian life of her dreams, but people her age would detect the loneliness that makes her wonder on a daily basis if she should drop out. The loan she took keeps her pushing forward with her English studies, though. Putting on this act every summer for the past three years should make her the first Black woman to get a Cesar Award for Best actress.
“Check this out,” Samuel says, handing her his digital camera.
The “Happy birthday Lieutenant X” banner under the nightclub neon sign would make a good Facebook header for the next two weeks.
“Looks nice,” she agrees, pretending that her new white stiletto sandals don’t set her feet on fire. “Let’s go back inside. The showcase is about to start.”
Flashing the Staff card hanging around her neck, Laeece nods back at the bouncer who opens the door. The rush of hot air as soon as she steps inside makes her regret not putting on her contacts. The air conditioning is losing the fight against body heat. Despite her white bustier top, Laeece can already feel drops of sweat rolling down her shoulder blades as her glasses slightly fog up. Following Samuel, she navigates through the groups of people standing on the small stairway leading to the overpacked dance floor. He seems oblivious of the confused sometimes amused looks clubgoers give him as he walks past them. His baggy clothes and cornrows wouldn’t make him stand out if it weren’t for his almond-shaped eyes and tanned skin inherited from his Korean ancestry.
“I’m going backstage to get a few more shots of Nolan. Do you want to come or you’re going back over there?” he asks, pointing at the VIP section on a platform across the room.
For the sake of doing the job Lieutenant X pays her to do, Laeece would have accepted, but she won’t be able to keep up with the sexy walk now that the searing sensation is spreading to her ankles. Thalia’s pre-showcase details will probably be enough to cover this section of her recap of the night so Laeece declines the invitation. Holding her glasses in one hand, she sends a quick prayer to protect her toes on her way to the VIP section.
It takes her three songs to go through the blurry ocean of bodies glistening with sweat and glitter under the blue and green lights. She makes it back to the platform as the DJ starts playing Lieutenant X’s new song. Another wave of dancers rushing to the dancefloor would have knocked her off if not for the strong arm wrapped around her waist before she loses balance. Somehow her usual instinct to push off handsy men doesn’t kick in. The music fades out and she closes her eyes, her mind retreating to her safe space. No word, no one can disturb her peace.
The man still holds her. Close enough for her to feel his mouth brushing her neck, but she can tell he’d let go as soon as she’d moved. The warmth spreading in her veins feels comforting and familiar. Too familiar. Laeece spins around. Despite the semi-darkness and his blurry features, her heart recognizes him.
“William,” she whispers as if to convince herself he’s real.
The music drowns out whatever he says as her brain debates the appropriate reaction to have. Shouldn’t he be in France? Maybe he’s here for the summer, just like she is. Maybe she should hide. Maybe she’s dreaming indeed.
The light squeeze he gives to her wrist reactivates her chain of thoughts. With her glasses back on, her other senses function again. Even with her stilettos, he’s taller than her now. His V-neck T-shirt outlines his broader shoulders and slim waist. His short buzz cut and his goatee give him a sense of authority matching the leader personality of the high school freshman boy she fell in love with.
His soft gaze feels like a caress, but when he smiles, Laeece’s heart skips a beat. The music stops. The lights go out. Enthusiastic screams reverberate through the dark. Laeece reaches for his hand and she’s almost sure he does the same. The brush of his fingers still sets her brain on fire. This can’t be a coincidence. What is she supposed to do? What is she supposed to say?
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