Prudence: Chapter 3a

Flavia hurries from the upper floor and down to the bar. Edan LeBeau is just leaving. She pursues him, silently rehearsing how she’ll introduce herself. In her mind, she sounds glib and confident. She would be with anybody else. But with Edan LeBeau, Flavia knows rehearsal won’t necessarily reconcile with execution.

LeBeau doesn’t so much weave his way through the crowd, but projects himself, so that people bustle out of his path. Flavia trails him, and at one point almost gets close enough that she starts to reach out to tap him on the shoulder. But he is accosted by a blonde in a tight pink dress that barely contains her huge breasts. Flavia rolls her eyes. Silicone blondes. They are their own species. Marcus calls them Silicunts.

The blonde gushes over recognising LeBeau, and tells him how much she loves him. LeBeau listens stonily, brows arching into sharp angles. Flavia can’t hear precisely what the blonde is saying over the music, but can tell that she is faltering. Her words come less freely, she fidgets, and begins to sway. Then, just as she is in mid-sentence, LeBeau leaves her.

Flavia follows him to a reserved private booth in the corner. He slides into his seat, lifts an arm onto the backrest, and stares out at the dance floor. Flavia stops, letting the crowd lap around her.Their rhythm becomes meditative. She is the single heartbeat in this mass. Everything dims. It’s just her and LeBeau. The music grows muted.

He takes a gold case from his pocket, opens it, and extracts something – from this distance Flavia cannot see what it is. He pops it into his mouth, snaps closed the case, and slides it back into his pocket. Perhaps it is a breath mint. But she suspects it’s something illicit.

Flavia takes a step forward. Now is the time – before he gets stoned or whatever the case might be. But she still has no idea what to say. She cycles through possibilities and tells herself over and over she can’t afford to gush – not like the big breasted-blonde. Nor can she be obsequious. She must be measured.

Hello, Mr LeBeau, I’m Flavia Rojas.

That’s as far as she gets. She doesn’t know what comes next. LeBeau transfixes her: his eyes are cold; his lips full, pursed, as if in disapproval; his bronzed skin, surely the product of hours in a solarium; his shoulders broad, rounded, feeding into the muscles around his neck. He is not human. He is somebody masquerading as a man, some satyr who can only offer an approximation.

Flavia knows right now she should turn, and re-join Holly and Amber. Better yet, she should find Dante.

Almost as if in concord with her thought, a vibration runs up her left arm. It’s her phone, kept in the small purse strapped to her left wrist. She fishes out the phone and finds a message from Dante. Where u? Let’s get drink.

Flavia knows she should retreat now. She and Dante could have a drink in one of the Lounges and share a table, hand in hand. They could laugh about this. They used to laugh at the misfires in her career aspirations, although that was when such dreams seemed improbable.

Better yet, they could just go – should just go – and maybe grab a quiet bite somewhere. She is sure now, as sure as she has ever been about anything in her life, that it’s wrong to be here and no good will come of it.

She turns off the phone. Puts it away, unanswered.

And remains where she is.