The rhymic beat of a bongo drum accompanied a whaling flute, blaring from the radiogram of our crowded livingroom, where friends had gathered for a celebration. It was not what one could consider a "private" get-together. For I saw faces of which I'd never seen, and heard voices of which I'd never heard, congratulating my sale at the auction. A long table we'd borrowed from Klaus was neatly decorrated in refreshments, appetizers, finger foods, and the simplest orderbs we could prepare in such short notice. The company mostly consisted of the "exis" crowd, who dressed moderately in all-black or strange eyecandy that tickled the mind. They wore such things you would not so often see such as short capes, heavy costume, faces painted, with black nails. But they were all fond of the arts and it was a common alliance among the group. Aside from the exis, were friends from the Kaiserkellar. Sven and Olaf had showed up, looking quite handsome. Jurgen and his mistress, Veronika also attended from their arrival off of a holiday. And naturally, the lads were their with their utmost support.
The other guests were socializing in the livingroom, having a charming time. Sven walked over to the long table and poured himself a cup of punch from the sparkling punch bowl. He sipped the pink, citrusy liquid though his face pinched with displeasure. Turning to Olaf, he said, "My, this drink is poor." Olaf gave a lop-sided grin and replied, "Ah, is it in need of some additional flavor?" He reached inside an inner pocket of his jacket and pulled out a small cylinder tube, holding it between his forefinger and thumb. "Why, where ever did you get a hold of THAT?" he gasped. Olaf gave a sophisticated laugh. "Oh, but I have my sources, you must understand. The Dutchess of Normandy, be it so. For that is the code I am sworn to say, and sworn to say no more than that." Sven looked intrigued, "Lovely indeed, I say. Than I shall question no further to the source of your potion but rather request you pursue! Ah, for the punch could surely use a spectacular taste to liven it up."
"Pursue it, I shall." Olaf snapped off a small cap to the little bottle and poored in the liquid substance. Using the pouring utensil, he stirred the mixture and served some in a cup. "Drink! Tell me if it makes all the difference?"
Sven swallowed a sip of the new punch and smiled, crying out, "Ah! For that is exquisite to the highest potential! I believe the guests will appreciate THIS more than any other citrus punch."
I was pawing through the crowd, in search of Stuart when I bumped into a familiar gentle face. It was Gertrude, the singer from the Kaiserkellar. She looked as innocent and porcelain as a young girl's doll, with her hair in tight, bouncing curls and face glowing with glee. She gave me a weak smile and said in the softest voice, "Congratulations with the painting. I heard you made quite a pretty pence tonight." I smiled, humbly and hugged her. "Thank you. I'm glad you could make it." She nodded, and blinked her lashes like a child. "Its no problem." she replied. Though she sort of held her stomach awkwardly. I bit my lip and arched my brows. "Honey, are you okay?"
Suddenly, she glanced up at me as if I had said something extroadinary.
"Why...yes. I am fine," she said. But her eyes were coated in a sheet of dampness and there was something different about her. I shifted, wondering what I should do. There was something the matter.
"Are you sure?" I tried pressing.
Gertrude paused for a moment, about to deny any problem. But she stopped herself. "I think I may need to use the restroom," she said quietly.
A shower of relief ran over me and I said, "That is certainly understandable. Go ahead, theres a bathroom down the hall." She shook her head. "No, not like that. I think...I think I need to..." Gertrude began to look shakey and distant. She rubbed her forehead and then hugged her stomach again. I swallowed down hard and asked her softly, "What is it? You think you need to...?"
Her eyes met mine. "Purge."
My eyes widened in dismay. "Make yourself throw up? But...why?"
She shrugged a little and said, "Because, Trixi! That's what girls do. Its not like I have much of a choice. Do you think girls like me come to look like girls as you? Naturally thin? Trixi, let's face it. I'm not as beautiful as you. I don't have that graceful poise you have, or that thick, sultry accent. I've never had your big, doe-eyes or your straight hair. I never will. The only thing I have going for me is keeping a flat stomach. And the ONLY way that's possible is by self..."
"Destruction?" I interrupted. "What do you mean 'girls like me'? Do you think I have it dead easy just like that? Do you think I can eat whatever I want and look like a little model? I've got news for you, honey! I'm not any less damaged than you are!"
She fought back tears of anger and cried, "How would you know? How the f*ck would you know what its like? Don't pretend you are so emotionally screwed up and your figure doesn't come naturally to you! You're a bloody goddess. People envy you, people worship you. You have a thin waist and it doesn't come from the labor, hard work, and strain I go through. It doesn't result from the hell I put up with. And for what? So I can MAYBE look as good as you."
I felt my face burning, and my throat roughly dried. "Look, little girl! There is A LOT you don't know about. You have NO IDEA what its like for me, and don't you even pretend for an instant that you do! You are only victimizing yourself but you know what? We're all victims! We are all victims of our own disatisfaction and self-hatred. We are all unhappy with ourselves physically and emotionally. But that's life! That's the way the world goes round. You hate yourself, you beat yourself up, you throw yourself through punishment and anguish, and you bloody live with it! You do anything you can concievably do to look good and you're never satisfied. But don't you distinguish yourself as if you 'were the only one'. You have absolutely no idea."
With that, I stormed out of the livingroom and rushed up the stairwell. Once I was concealed in the safety of the bathroom, I sighed. If only Gertrude knew. I felt angry and bitter, twisted into one. I couldn't help but find myself in front of the mirror in awe. Gertrude made me sound so perfect, and angelic. But as I saw my reflection standing before me, it seemed far from perfection. Far from "natural beauty". There, the toilet bowl sat as if it were calling to me. What a silly thought. But as of then, it looked more tempting than any prime-rib steak or first class meal. I scratched the back of my neck and tried to remember the last thing I ate. It must have been a sheperd pie and chips, as I recalled. "How fattening," I mumbled under my breath. I examined myself once more. "It couldn't HURT to purge one more time. Just once, that I may look good for the night. After all, this is MY evening. I want to look good." I bit my lip in contemplation. Then, I pressed my ear to the door. No one was around, and no one would hear me. Without a second thought, I knelt back down on the floor to that eerily recognizable position, and forced my index finger down my throat.
"What the hell are we listening to?" John groaned. He was stretched out on the ugly sofa, with his head propped on Paul's shoulder. Paul shrugged. "It sounds like the kind of thing they would play in a jazz hell. If there was a jazz hell, that is." John sneared. "We need some real music. F*ck this, where is their record shelf?" He scanned the room, still thick with people and spotted a shelf with records shuffled neatly between two bookends. "Ah-ha!" he exclaimed. John gave a sinister smile, and flipped through the stack of albums. "Bloody hell. I don't recognize any of these pricks."
Paul pulled himself off the couch and hovered his chin over John's shoulder to have a peek. "Nope, neither I. Must be German titles."
John selected his pick, declaring, "Than Edith Piaff it is! Sounds familiar, doesn't she? Let's give 'er a listen."
Meanwhile, George was seated on the soft carpet with a Twister game spinning dial in his hands. He watched a couple of girls trying to keep their balance in many awkard poses. Smiling in pure facination, he span the board and said, "Left-foot, green." All at once, the girls shifted in different positions as they began to intertwine with one another. George smiled devilishly and said, "Very nice." He watched in delight, and then read "Right hand, yellow." The girls moved accordingly without falter. George frowned. He sneakily slipped his foot in between two girls balance and they all toppled over upon eachother. George burst into giggles and watched with as much excitement as any young lad of his age.
As the the soprano voice of Ms. Piaff serenaded the room, John smiled at Paul and said, "Shall we dance?" Paul laughed. "Right, in your dreams, boy." John gave him a teasing flirtatious eyebrow, then clasped Paul's hands and began to waltz with him. They trailed about the room in circles, laughing all the way. Stuart noticed the two and laughed as well. "Those two!" he exclaimed. He was leaning against the wet bar and Astrid stood next to him. "Aren't they something?" she said, cutely. Stuart nodded, "Quite a pair."
"Fancy a drink?" She offered.
"That would be lovely." he answered, politely.
"What'll you have?"
"Scotch and coke, if you've got it." he suggested.
"Gin and Tonic it is!" she exclaimed. He laughed and nodded. "Alright, Gin and Tonic. Wait, I change my mind. Is there any chance you birds have any punch?"
Astrid gave her adorable smile and said, "But of corse! I'll bring you some."
She came back to Stuart with a cup of the pink beverage, and handed it to him. Then, she served herself a Gin and Tonic.
Astrid smiled up at Stuart as he drank from the cup and said, "You have the most beautiful big, brown eyes."
He moved the cup down from his lips and said shyly, "Thank you."
"No, really. You do. I could just stare at them for...hours."
He squirmed a little and said, "Wow, that's quite flattering."
"Would you like to dance?" she asked him, sweetly.
"Yeah, I'd love to!"
She took his hand and led him to where couples were dancing. They danced and laughed, travelling round the floor and moving about quickly. Stuart suddenly felt a rush of excitement. He grabbed his cup and swallowed down another shot of the punch. "The drink is fantastic! I love it, lass. Did you girls make this?"
"Out of our own special ingredients," Astrid said perkily.
"Its really great. Come! Let us dance."
He twirled her around and continued dancing with her. Astrid was beaming with happiness, as she enclosed her arm around Stuart's neck and her hand in his. She gazed up into his eyes as they danced together. Stuart suddenly began laughing uncontrollably. "This is grand!" he cried out. "Life is grand!"
He finished his cup of punch and served himself more. Through Stuart's eyes, his world had just become a little brighter. A feeling of love had overcome him, as he was lost under the influence.
Astrid giggled at him. "You sure are lively tonight!"
He pulled her close to him and said, "Yes, I'm feeling like magic. Everythings just so happening. The lights, and the colors and the...the love! You can really feel the love in this room. Its magical!"
She paused holding a small smile and looked up at him, longingly. The music kept playing with its upbeat and steady rythm. Edith Piaff had been replaced by a modern jazz and the melody was screaming in abstract. Couples around them danced and promenaded as Astrid stared in Stuart's eyes.
He was still laughing without any reason other than the pure contentment one would feel in his state-of-mind.
"Are you happy?" Astrid asked him.
"Happy? I'm excellent! Never been better!" He declared.
She threw her arms around his neck and lunged herself up to him to kiss his lips in a long, forceful, passionate kiss. Without knowing any better, he french kissed her back, rolling his tongue into hers.
Astrid moaned and pulled him over to the ugly sofa. She ran her fingers through his hair and whispered, "You never even noticed?"
"Noticed what?" he asked, smiling ear-to-ear.
"Noticed how much I like you?"
Stuart looked up at her limp-eyed. "What?"
Astrid cuddled up against Stu, with her head resting against his chest and she said so softly, "Come now, Stuart. I'm a bit more predictable that THAT. Have you not noticed my keen interest in you?"
He shook his head and confessed, "No, I had not a clue."
Stuart began looking around for his cup of punch. "Where's me punch?" he interrupted. Astrid groaned and rolled off of him. "What is your facination with that damn punch? I'm trying to talk to you! It's important." Stu grabbed an abandonned cup left next to the sofa, and began chugging the remains of the beverage. Astrid snatched the cup and took a sip.
Her eyes grew as big as saucers.
"This punch has been spiked! You...you...you're intoxicated." She stammered. Stuart scowled, saying, "Oh that's bollocks. I have a keen taste for alcohol. If that drink had any form of alcohol, I would have noticed it!"
She shook her head. "No Stu, it is not alcohol."
He paused for a second until it hit him. "What?! Are you mad? It was not! Was it?" She looked down at her hands and said quietly, "It is."
Stu rubbed his eyes a little befuddled. Suddenly, his pyschedelic world was becoming a little more real. Still in his state, he could not concieve all that had happened but it slowly began to sink in. Astrid noticed the slow process of sobering and grew a fright. "Stuart! I think I was wrong. It tastes just fine to me. Here! Drink!" She refilled another cup and gave it to him eagerly. Stu scratched his head. "Are you sure? You seemed so sincere that it was liquid."
"I've never been more positive. Drink!"
She pushed the cup against his lips and he passively did as instructed. The drug warped his brain once again and he became all smiles.
John stumbled over, he too had been under the influence. "Bloody hell, isn't this party f*ckin' swingin'? George has already got himself a bird and they have hit the sheets upstairs. Paul looks as though he'll be gettin' layed too! And I'm just scouting 'em out. Ya know, being selective." He wandered away off to disturb others. Stu smiled as John tottled away.
Astrid sat back down next to Stu and held his hand. She looked up at him and said wearily, "Do you want to..."
She waited for the right words to follow but couldn't find them. Stu tilted his head and said, "Have a screw?" She relaxed and nodded. "Yes. Would you?"
She layed her head against him and tried seducing him with her big, green eyes. "What about Trixi?" Stuart wondered.
"Stu, Trixi doesn't love you." she spat out.
His smile faded. "What?"
"I'm so sorry. She told me yesterday. She doesn't think you're right for eachother. And there is someone else she likes."
Stuart's eyes watered. "Who?"
"Do you remember her old boyfriend? The one that broke her heart? Surely, she told you about him?"
"Yes. The French guy, right?"
"Right, Gustav. Well Trixi met up with him a couple nights ago and they caught up with one another. It turns out that he still loves her. And she never completely dismissed all her feelings for him either."
Stuart's heart began to ache, and his mind went into havoc.
"But...I thought she loved ME? We've been so happy together, I just don't understand what I did wrong." he whimpered.
"Oh Stu. You did everything right; it's not your fault. But Gustav is what Trixi needs right now. Can you let her go?"
She stroked his hair to calm him down. He was panting in anguish. "I love her." He wiped his tearful eyes and began to break down. Astrid gave a cunning smile as she comforted him. "I know, I know. But I'm always here for you."
He gazed up at her. "Are you still feeling up for that screw?"
"Sweet Sue! That's you! You are full of sass, and you have'a great ass, Sweet Sue! That's you!" John sang to me. I burst out laughing. "That's not how it goes. You're just making up the words as you go along. Cheater!" He made a face and said, "So? I always do that."
"I'm so good looking, I'm irresistable. Sweet John. That's me!" He continued singing. I giggled, putting my around his shoulder. He peered up at me and kissed my cheek. I bent my head back to dodge the kiss. John sneared. "Bitch. You broke my heart!" He teased. I messed up his hair. "Yeah, I do that from time to time."
"For all you know, that was a FRIEND kiss." he tried to rationalize.
I gave him a look. "A FRIEND kiss? Yeah, I bet!"
"Well hey honey baby, if you ever want to have a f*ck, the offer is ON the table." He blurted out.
I laughed and hit his shoulder. "You are so bad." I exclaimed. He shrugged. "Yeah, I'm a sick f*ck."
I started towards the staircase when he called after me. "Where are you going?" I turned my head back. "I haven't seen Stuart all night. I wanna go find him."
"Yeah, you know. Stuart, my boyfriend?"
"Oh right. Stuart. Right then. Come back though!"
I headed up the staircase and looked around for him. "Stu?" I called out. I wandered down the corridor and slipped around the stationary people. "Stuart?" I kept calling. I brushed a strand of hair back, as I roamed the hallway. It stopped at a dead-end, the bedroom. "Are you in there?" I asked.
The room behind the big, wooden door was silent. I put my hand on the cold knob, and gentley pushed the door open. Leaning over, I peered inside.
Stuart and Astrid were sitting on the bedspread. Kissing.
My hand touched my lips in a rush of horror. I stepped back, instantly, allowing the door to shut quietly. I stood. Motionless on the outside while on the inside, my heart was beating so rapidly like a struggling catfish weezing for air in a plastic bag. My mind must have dusted off an old film strip as it replayed the scene of me walking in on Gustav and Delilah. Lips quivering, flesh cold, eyes moist and heart pounding, I came down the stairs silently. No one seemed to notice.
I found John on the ugly sofa, drinking a beer and waiting for me. His face lit up as he saw me back so soon and he greeted, "Hey sweetheart!"
I didn't say a word.
Automatically, John erected from his seat and said, "Trixi! What happened?"
He could read my like a book. He could see the pain in my eyes. I just shook my head and hugged him tightly. "John?"
"Yes? What is it?"
"Let's make love."