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|The One Million Stories Creative
The neon sign glowed in the window, making an almost tangible haze in the muggy August night. The words
“The Cavern,” in bold, stark script, were a fuzzy, indiscernible mass from a distance that slowly sharpened into reality
as the two women approached.
They paused outside for a moment, the neon giving reddish coronas to the edges of their fluffed-out hair.
“You may have to lend me some money tonight,” said Carly. “I’m just about broke.”
“Don’t worry,” Sara answered, smiling. “We won’t have to buy our own drinks very long.” Then she pushed open the
door and led the way in, a blast of music pulsing into the street.
They flashed their identification to a bored girl with frizzy blond tresses and deep red lips who sat perched on a
stool just inside the entrance, then began to wend their way through the crowd in the front bar. This was the room
where the more sedate patrons gathered – overdressed, “slumming” suburban girls and the older men who preyed on
them. The main attraction, and the room that gave the place its name, was down a back hallway and a flight of steep
stone stairs which they now descended.
Downstairs, they paused on the threshold to adjust their eyes to the gloom. The room, true to its name, resembled a
cavern with its dank cement walls. Cheap wooden tables and chairs tucked into any available corners and along the
sides cleared the space in the center for the uninhibited, elemental dancing that was the main activity of the place.
Flashing colored lights and winking strobes illuminated the jumping, grinding mass that was moving to a B-52 song.
The only other concession to comfort was the small bar in the corner plastered with blown-up Marilyn Monroe
photos, to which they now headed.
They leaned over the counter to shout their orders into the bartender’s ear over the music blaring from the disc jockey’
s cubicle, then settled themselves at a table against the wall and fired up cigarettes with the gold lighter in Carly’s
purse engraved with a Gothic-style “R.”
Carly stopped for a second to stare at the gold lighter in her hand. She felt a queer pang of guilt using it in a place
like this. It reminded her of her other life. There were people in that other life who wouldn’t like it if they knew
where she was tonight, and who she was with. They thought Sara was a “bad influence” on her. But she wasn’t –
Sara just helped Carly express the other side of herself, the part of her that needed to run wild before going home to
her safe, respectable life. Most people would never understand that side of her. But Sara did. So maybe she should
stop feeling so guilty about it all. She shrugged, dropped the lighter back into her purse and sat back, blowing out a
stream of smoke from her cigarette and letting her eyes slowly scan the room
“Why do we like this place so much?” she asked.
“I don’t know. It’s sure not the décor,” Sara laughed.
“Or the cheap liquor. God, almost eight bucks for a lousy Chardonnay.”
“Like I said, if you can keep your first one going for a while, we shouldn’t have to buy anymore.”
“It’s not as crowded as it was the last time we were here. When was that? A month ago?”
“It’s still early. Besides, it just leaves more room for us to dance.”
* * * * * * * *
They were claimed almost immediately, and propelled themselves into the beat, becoming one with it. They
instinctively attuned themselves to the mood of the music, wiggling sinuously to the tempo of “I’m Too Sexy,”
retreating to the bar for the more laid-back strains of “Connected,” and jumping back into the fray with renewed
energy for “Strokin’.”
Dancing -- the heat and the beat and the elation of it -- created a separate world for them in which they could lose
themselves completely. They barely noticed their partner of the moment, who was anyone who happened to ask them
to dance -- good-looking or non-descript, short or tall, black or white. Whenever there was a momentary hiatus in
partners, they danced with each other. But that wasn’t often.
* * * * * * * *
"Why do we do this?" Carly asked. They were taking a break from the action to catch their breath, leaning against the
bar and surveying the room.
"What do you mean -- dancing?" Sara asked back.
"Not dancing -- I know why we do that! I mean, why do we bother with the cheesy men? We could just dance
with each other. It would be a lot less complicated."
"I know. But it wouldn't be as much fun, either."
Carly was silent for several seconds. "I guess you're right," she finally said.
* * * * * * * *
“You’re a very good dancer,” Carly’s partner remarked, leaning close to be heard over the music. He was blond,
wearing an open-necked black shirt, and moved rather stiffly. “I don’t usually dance very much, but you’re inspiring
“You’d never know it,” she lied. “You’re doing fine.”
“Are you a regular here?”
“No, I’m in sales and I travel a lot. I only come here whenever I’m in for the week-end.”
“And how often is that?”
“It depends. If you keep stopping by, you’ll catch me eventually.”
* * * * * * * *
“I’ve been watching you all night,” Sara’s partner said. “This is the first chance I’ve had to ask you to dance.”
“You have to move fast,” she laughed. “I don’t sit still very long.”
“This is a standard line, but do you come here often?”
“Not really. I usually take night classes at the business school on week-ends.”
“No kidding. So do I. I’m surprised I haven’t seen you around.”
“Well, it’s a big campus.”
“Maybe we’ll see each other in some of the same classes.”
* * * * * * * *
They met up later in the small, wooden-stalled bathroom, where they edged into the line of women in front of the
single mirror to renew their make-up. They both preferred pale faces with gobs of mascara, heavy black eyeliner and
slathered-on red lips, calculated to stand out in dim lighting.
“God, I’m beat, and the night isn’t even half over,” Carly complained. She hiked up the top of her black bustier so
that her cleavage swelled even more enticingly over the edge. She had a typical redhead’s white complexion dusted
with golden freckles.
Sara smoothed out a wrinkle in her white Lycra mini-skirt. She always wore white on their nighttime forays, not
only because it set off her dark hair but also because of the purplish glow it took on under the lights of the dance
“It you need a pick-me-up,” she answered, “I met a guy who offered me some coke. I don’t think he’d mind sharing
it with us.”
Carly stopped tugging at her top and met Sara’s eyes in the mirror. “What does he want in return?”
“Just the pleasure of my company. Nothing I can’t handle.” She smiled at Carly, then turned her eyes back to her
reflection in the mirror.
Sometimes when Sara looked at herself in a mirror, she saw her mother looking back. It scared her when that
happened, because she knew the old saying that “the apple never falls far from the tree.” You do what you know,
even when you know it’s bad for you. And Sara didn’t want to become her mother – leaving her family every night
she had the chance to head out to the bars and meet her latest boyfriend. But Sara didn’t intend to turn out like that.
She had her life under control. All she wanted was the fun part – the dancing, the admiration, the restless quest for
some place new and different, before she went home to the familiar. Carly had that wild streak in her, too – but
with just enough caution to make her safe. She knew Carly would keep her from going over the edge.
* * * * * * * *
The high spread from the nasal passages into the blood like a tingling surge of electricity. Like injecting two cups of
caffeine-laden espresso directly into the veins; a jolt of pure energy. . . .
Carly opened her eyes and focused her gaze on Sara, sitting across the table from her encircled in the arm of their
benefactor, a dapper guy in vest, cap and tie.
They had retreated to one of the corner booths upstairs, where the fake vines draped over the lattice arch shielded
them from the rest of the bar.
“That’s what I needed,” she sighed. “I’m ready to go back downstairs and dance ‘til they carry me off the floor.”
“Let’s sit here and relax a few minutes,” he said, tightening his arm around Sara. “So who are you ladies?”
They went into one of the wilder stories they had made up, the one where they were models with the Ford Agency
who roomed together and went out on the town whenever their hectic schedules allowed, until he finally escorted
them downstairs again to where the music throbbed insistently.
* * * * * * * *
Carly stood at the bar with David, the reluctant dancer in the black shirt, who seemed to have developed a sudden
passion for it.
“You promised me your phone number, remember?” he reminded her.
“That’s right, I did,” she said, looking past him to where Sara and the guy in the vest and cap were sitting very close
together at one of the dark corner tables.
“OK, I’m ready for it. What is it?” David asked, fishing out his iPhone from his pocket and stabbing the Contacts icon.
She wasn’t too worried about Sara. They had come in one car, like they always did, so that whenever one left, the
other had to. She knew Sara could hold him off until then.
She gave David the first combination of numbers that came to mind, then flashed him a disarming smile.
“Don’t be surprised if I’m not there,” she told him. “Like I said, I travel a lot.”
* * * * * * * *
The crowd had thinned out to only the most dedicated night-owls. Smoke made a gauzy curtain in the air. The
strobes had been turned off and the dim wall lights switched on. The dee-jay was playing “New York, New York,” to
which a few drunken couples swayed out on the dance floor, holding each other up. The place was clearly winding
down for the night.
Carly had pried Sara away from her admirer by pleading an urgent need for her help in the ladies’ room. The harsh
lighting there revealed tiny lines and sagging skin under their eyes that weren’t entirely the result of hours of
dancing, which they covered up for the last time.
“Ready for a quick get-away?” Carly asked.
“As long as he’s not standing right outside waiting for me.”
“Where to next time?”
“I don’t know yet. I think someplace more up-scale,” Sara said. “I may not be able to go out again for a few weeks,
though. Mark is coming back in a few days and he’s going to be home for a while. So when does Ron get in?”
“His plane comes in Monday night,” Carly said. She turned to look at her friend. “He’s going to ask what I did while
he was gone.”
“So just tell a little white lie.”
With the coast clear in the hallway, they made their way up the cellar stairs, through the front bar and out into the
gray of early morning. None of the bartenders and waitresses wearily clearing up bothered to say good-bye. They
knew they would be back.
Copyright 2016 Karen Meyer
One Million Stories Creative Writing Project: All Rights Reserved