On the day of Lux’s panic attack last week, she prepared a juicy medium-rare steak and sunny-side-up eggs she never got to eat, because working for Jackson Scotch became so unbearable, her body shut down in response. Instead, she lingered in bed, crying. A transfer might solve her work anxiety, but to who? Jackson was the fifth boss she had after various promotions and they were all the same, except Jackson was a little sterner. Why couldn’t she just unlock that odd file like he told her to? He said it was okay, and everyone on the executive floor seemed to do as they pleased without consequence, according to rumor. Why couldn’t she?
Lux couldn’t decide, so she kept calling out of work ever since. But she was running out of excuses and Jackson said she better be back next week.
She sighs, clenching the steering wheel tighter, thinking of leaving her life behind. With her savings alone, she could get by for a while without working or sell the house her parents willed to her and really live it up. Lux didn’t have a mortgage, and it’s a seller’s market. The only debt she had was a small three-hundred-dollar balance on one credit card she’d pay off by the end of the week. All those years of discipline with money. And to think it was to save up for a Black Diamond Elektrik guitar.
She could buy that, too. But right now, none of that mattered. She was going to enjoy herself first.
The drive was a simple four-and-a-half-hour journey from Phoenix to Vegas. Lux was familiar with the path after taking it with her family years ago to the Grand Canyon and city of sin. That trip was mainly for her parents. At eight Lux and had no interest in Circus Circus or gambling. Plus, she left her hot pink Barbie camera at the restaurant they lunched at before the drive home, missing the chance to develop pictures of the crosses along the road, cacti and palm trees she took.
This visit would be better, Lux thinks. With pictures. Digital. Lots of them she’d remember to bring home this time.
A little after 8 p.m., she slides into a prime spot in MGM Grand’s first level parking garage, cutting off a monstrous white truck inching toward the spot too. They slam on the brakes so hard the tires squeal. “Sorry!” Lux waves her hand out the window. Guilt lingers as she keeps the engine on, watching the truck lurk behind in the rearview mirror. “Just keep it moving, dude.” She remembers her blade in the center console. The engine roars and they take off. “Weirdo.”
Lux jumps out, grabs her luggage, and takes a long look around. People are laughing, there’s bright lights everywhere, and fun vibes that make her feel alive. So far, so good, Lux thinks, grinning ear to ear.
Inside the suite, she meets with Vee and friends with loud hellos, and bouncy, tight hugs, all thrilled for the night ahead. Claiming the fancy walk-in black tile shower, Lux washes the road off while others scramble in front of the huge vanity with the perfect selfie lighting. Idle straightening irons burn into the marble counter while the ladies splatter themselves with concealer, foundation, powder, and blush. Mascara makes their eyes pop and lipstick fades along the edges of their red solo cups.
The frosted shower door opens. A cup hovers inside. Lux grabs it with her soapy hand and groans. “Stupid.” She peeks in the cup, sniffs, and looks again. “What is this?” she asks. “Wait… Who gave this to me?”
“Girl! It’s Tehanie!” She comes out of nowhere and looks inside. “Duh!” she said with a lopsided smile.
Tehanie styled her hair in loose, soft black curls that cascade past her shoulders. Her bright aqua bodycon dress seamlessly clings to her body, highlighting every natural curve. Her makeup is modest, pretty, and she’s easily one pair of poofy aqua pants away from looking like Princess Jasmine. Lux remembers her face at Vee’s recent parties. She was the one staring at her all night. Lux didn’t know her name until now. Was she a friend of a friend, or someone’s cousin?
Why is she acting like we’re best friends?
“Are you high?” Tehanie asks, grinning.
Spaced out, Lux snaps out of it. “Oh, hey,” she shields her downstairs with the cup. “Can you give me some privacy?”
Tehanie looks her naked body up and down. “Wow, you’re gorg, obvi. Oh, and that drink — it’s just somethin’ somethin’. So listen, we’re all gonna go downstairs, meet up with Vee’s hubby and his friends, then go to the casino. Wait.” She leans her head out of the shower. “I think we’re gonna eat first before the casino and club or whatever. Right bitches?” The women echo in approval. Tehanie laughs, winks at Lux and closes the shower door.
Lux shudders. She couldn’t stand when women said that. Bitches. You know that’s a female dog, right? She wanted to tell Tehanie as she takes a hearty sip of the fiery cinnamon concoction, then another, and another. She threw the rest down the drain and set the cup beside the body wash, imagining Tehanie in the shower with her, dripping wet. Would she do that? Lux held her face under the water, scorching the thought.
An hour later, the women, about ten of them, meet up with Vee’s husband Jay and friends, then head to a club—Lux didn’t know the name. The rap and rock mix are pounding and hypnotic. The darkness inside and throbbing lights make everyone’s movements slower. Sipping a fresh drink, Lux squeezes past bodies and settles in a dark corner booth close to the dance floor, watching a sea of flesh rub together. Men with high expectations dance to the best of their ability and bleed their pockets dry for thirsty women with raised hands and o-shaped mouths, grinding their asses into everything. Lux smiles and twirls the straw in her drink. The flickering cubes inside give it a cool blue glow, and smoke billows from the top like a spooky witch’s brew.
Dancing with a guy who knows how to, Lux spots Tehanie. Does she know him? He’s handsome. She couldn’t pinpoint an age—and couldn’t take her eyes off their spellbinding dance. They move with a strange spark between them, melding together like ooze. Good for her. Lucky bitch, Lux thought, holding the drink at her lips, eyes closed, moving to the music, grateful to be wrapped in enough darkness so no one could observe her silly ‘I took three sips and I’m tipsy’ dance alone.
She opens her eyes, laughing.
The man Tehanie was dancing with is standing in front of her. The blood drains from Lux’s face. His clear eyes in the darkness rest on hers. She jumps back in her seat, almost spilling her drink.
What the hell—
“C’mon Lux!” Vee pulls her out of the booth and onto the dance floor.
“Did you see that guy?”
“What guy?” Vee laughs and merges into the crowd, dancing.
Lux cranes her neck over the crowd. He’s still at the booth—staring at her. Blue pulsing lights and darkness bounce against his face, bringing him in and out of view.
In slow motion, he fades back into the crowd.
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