Dully concentrated on the strobing colours bouncing off the pungent steam of a coughing smoke machine. It was the first time during his long and torturous evening that he’d felt sated. With the right mix of warm MDMA and mind-bending acid, the seasoned clubber had almost forgotten about the girl with the dark eyes and jet-black hair.
Unfortunately she was still there, scowling at him through the light mist left after a rolling plume of smoke drifted by. A long index finger lightly tapped at an armrest and the point of one leather boot swayed below her crossed legs. Objectively, he knew she was beautiful but Dully couldn’t bear to be near her.
It had all seemed so promising earlier that day as Adrian described the brunette’s curvy figure in an attempt to lure a reluctant Dully into a set-up.
“Imagine a slightly harder looking Adriana Lima,” Adrian explained as his convertible plunged into a tunnel, playing havoc with the phone reception.
“You are prone to exaggeration,” Dully said as he reclined on a deckchair in bright afternoon sunshine.
“Breasts like water balloons.”
“Sounds messy. What’s your point?”
“Kind of a Mediterranean look.”
“Kind of? I don’t do hairy chicks.”
Adrian sounded exasperated. “You don’t think I’d go on one fucking blind date to get you laid with someone you really like?”
“Actually, I doubt you would. And anyway, you know I don’t do blind dates. I’m far too attractive to be relying on chance.”
On cue, Dully stretched his tanned legs and admired them.
“You really don’t think I’d do this for you?” Adrian said, feigning shock. “Well, as it happens, I would. I’m a much more loyal character than you give me credit for.”
“You’d do anything to seal a deal.”
“Yes I would but this is different. This is personal, and that’s the point, Dully. I want you to do this for me.”
“Oh my God! You’re gunna flash the loyalty card?”
“I am. If you’re a true friend, which I’ll remind you means a lot of free drugs and alcohol, you’ll go out on one date with this girl.”
“Bloody hell. Well, have you seen her or is this second-hand information?”
“I met her yesterday. She’s hot but she’s no bimbo.”
“Dully! It’s crunch time. The blonde is on the verge of getting naked for me. You know how long I’ve been waiting for this. It’s been a marathon. If I don’t find a date for her friend tonight—”
“I’m fucking with you. I’ll go on the stupid blind date, okay?”
The girl with the dark eyes was looking straight into Dully’s with disgust. He’d been loathed before but few girls had shown such open contempt. Had it been the spilt vodka down the back of her blouse? The unfortunate comment about the mole she preferred to call a ‘beauty spot’? It was hard to tell, when so many isolated incidents had made the date a failure. The more she judged him, the ruder he’d become. He no longer cared about offending her. The only thing he was willing to offer her was distance.
Dully watched Adrian slither onto the cushion of the booth and light a cigarette.
“In for sure,” he nodded.
“Right,” said Dully. “And she’s a real conquest.”
He waited for a searching glance from Adrian before laughing.
“Well, you’re going well with Jenny’s friend,” Adrian countered.
“The bitch is insane to be messing with her love for me.”
“Ooh, that’s naked ego.”
“She’s not good enough for me,” he said, brushing his eyebrows back and lifting his nose pretentiously. “I mean it.”
“So I’m not going have much luck if I ask you to come over there and chat for a while.”
“No way. I’m right off my tree. I’ll probably spew on her.”
“That’s lovely. Come on Dully,” Adrian pleaded. “I need help. You know how it is. She’s telling me her friend’s unhappy. The blonde has a great body. Can’t you do this for me? Can’t you just think of England?”
“Fuck England, I’m going back to La La Land,” Dully said with a smile. He closed his eyes, sipped his gin and let his head roll back onto the cushion. His mind was spinning. “Christ. I think my eyeballs are gunna fry.”
Adrian looked to the heavens for help but found a disco ball instead. He settled for the glittering pagan symbol and prayed for his own success.
“I must go hence-forth into battle.”
He marched back to the small crowd of dancers and positioned himself in front of a scowling blonde, leaving Dully to dream.
In his dream, Dully pushed aside long reeds to reveal the vision of an old timber house, lost among the tall grass and climbers that wrapped their green talons around every protrusion. The windows were dark and hidden under large purple flowers, spawned by thick weeds that draped the windows from the outside.
Apparently he was late for tea so he had to rush through the tall grass to meet…whom? He suddenly stopped amongst the prickles and thorns, looking up and challenging the sun, but the burning orb was too bright and he rested his eyes by looking down at his chest. That’s when he noticed his cotton shirt was drenched with sweat and his coat was starred with prickles.
He wondered who he was supposed to meet. He couldn’t think of a name or conjure a face, but he knew he was late, curious and thirsty. The house looked strangely familiar, drawing him into its shaded comfort, and he understood that he was destined to enter.
Dully didn’t quite walk up the stairs. It was a sensation more like floating. The curtains, speckled with mould, waved him into the dining room. He immediately noticed the distant tea set with freshly polished silver and china cups, biscuits arranged neatly and napkins resting on the arms of a lounge chair.
Dully wiped his feet before approaching. Only then did he realise they were bleeding. He winced but realised he was completely numb. Lifting his feet and checking the soles, he noticed hundreds of thorns and prickles embedded into the thick skin. He set his features straight and tried to ignore the strange feeling of discomfort between the carpet and his toes as he walked towards the table.
The lounge felt soft and he allowed his tired body to sink into the cushions, but soon his curiosity forced him to lean forward and take a closer look at the neat setting. The cup was black porcelain with a strip of gold around the rim, unlike anything he’d seen before. The tea swirled in circular patterns as though it was recently stirred. He gazed at the strange patterns inside the cup. He could almost make out the shape of a face. It was dark and vague but when he tried leaning forward to look closer, a strange feeling like falling, embraced him and a deep primal instinct pushed him away. By the time he recognised the danger, the lines and shapes were far too clear. The black liquid had settled and he saw the girl with the dark eyes and hair. The instant recognition found him back in the seedy nightclub.
The girl stared at Dully but her expression had changed. Now she was smiling. In his mind he clutched at denial. He was dreaming—that was obvious—but what was making her smile? Adrian slithered over.
“In for sure,” he said.
Dully felt fear rushing through his drunken, hallucinated blur. It was rising quickly. Before he could make a joke about déjà vu, a voice began to reply. It was his voice.
“Right, and she’s a real conquest.”
Dully’s lips were clamped shut but the words spilled free while Adrian laughed and responded as though nothing was amiss. Dully felt like screaming at his friend but all he could do was smile and stare into the deep shadows of the strange girls eyes, trapped in an instant, listening to his own second-hand conversation.