Holly and Amber push their way through countless bodies generating an effluvia of perfumes and colognes, sweat, and alcohol. A young lothario leers at Holly.
‘Dance, baby?’ he asks and swivels his hips.
‘Maybe later,’ Holly tells him.
‘How much later?’
Holly grabs Amber’s hand and forages on. The crowd cluster around the balustrade that perimeters the dance floor. There are lots more people than when they first arrived. Holly and Amber detour, and seek respite in a small pocket of emptiness.
‘Can you see her?’ Amber says.
People crowd around them and trap them. Holly’s reminded of the hotel room with the execs from the bar, their bodies sandwiching hers, the cologne the first one wore musky, and intoxicating in her nostrils. But she hadn’t noticed it then. It had been him thrusting inside her. His hands had been clumsy on her breasts, the way Ian Heller’s had been back in high school, when they’d been fifteen, clutching at her like he expected something magic to happen – and it had for Ian. He’d cum in his pants.
‘This is hopeless!’ Amber says.
Holly and Amber don’t realise it, but they are within arm’s reach of Flavia, separated only by a string of couples, laughing and swaying to the music. Two of the couples part briefly, offering an unobstructed view of Flavia, staring at LeBeau, but Amber’s distracted by the colour in Holly’s cheeks and the sweat covering her face.
‘Holly? Holly? Are you all right?’
Holly wipes her brow. It’s too hot in here and she’s struggling to breathe. Amber reaches for her. Holly tries to grab her wrist and start away abruptly, but she misses Amber entirely. Without tether, she stumbles, and falls to her knees. Two guys in front of her turn. Their crotches point at her. It had been like this in the hotel room initially. How easily it had unravelled – she’d unravelled.
The guys help her up, and ask her if she’s okay. Holly smiles her gratitude. This time, she makes sure she has Amber’s arm, and drags her towards the juncture. The crowd grows thinner. The bar lights up in front of them – but it’s the North Bar. Somehow, they’ve ended up on the opposite side of the dance floor.
They slip from the Gallery. Fresh air rides the juncture like a slipstream. It’s sweet relief on Holly’s skin.
‘It’s so hot in there.’
‘It is hot.’ Amber wipes her brow, almost as if in support, but she also feels something else is at work here. ‘You okay?’
Holly leans against the wall. The other man had been a terrier on the bed. His stubble had scratched the inside of her thighs. She’d propelled her hips toward him. He’d hoisted her legs over his shoulder, the tip of his tongue running across her clit while a finger had slipped into her. The first man had kissed her gaping mouth, had suckled the nipples he’d only shortly later clumsily fondle, then had risen before her and stroked his erection across her lips until she’d taken him in.
Holly folds her arms across her chest, hiding her stiffening nipples. She has no idea why these memories have become resurgent. Maybe it is the clash of bodies in the Gallery. But she doesn’t like it. Doesn’t like that they have an edginess that is interlaced with excitement, and that the excitement is disorienting her.
‘I’m okay,’ she tells Amber. ‘I might just find a bathroom and splash some water on my face.’
‘You want me to come?’
‘I’ll meet you back where we were. At the table.’
‘Try texting her.’
‘And if that doesn’t work?’
Holly sighs. ‘I guess she’ll have to find us.’
‘Okay. I might also see what the guys are doing.’
‘What they’re doing or check on them?’
There’s still concern in Amber’s expression. She’s unsure about leaving. She really is too sweet. Holly takes Amber’s hands in her own, gives them a shake.
‘I’ll see you soon,’ Holly says.
They separate, moving down opposite hallways in the juncture.