Tara looked at Mira with raised eyebrows. "He did what?!"
"HE KISSED ME IN PUBLIC!!!" Mira almost shouted at her friend, repeating the exact words she just whispered in embarrassment. Tara stared at her for a second, then burst out laughing at the expression of horror on her Mira's face. "That is soooo HOT!"
She fell silent as soon as she realized where she was, noticing that people looked up and at them. Her eyes fell on a table against the wall where a man was seated, looking up slowly from his phone and straight in to her eyes. Her heart skipped a beat at those smiling brown eyes and she felt her face turn warm. She quickly looked away and at Mira, who of course noticed the sudden blush on her friend's face. She smiled widely and raised her eyebrows in curiosity as she looked in the same direction where Tara had, just a few seconds before.
"Don't you dare!" Tara hissed as she saw Mira opening her mouth. Before she realized that Mira wasn't even trying to speak but merely looked amazed, she heard a voice beside her.
"Are you ok? Was your coffee too hot?" She looked up, straight in to those eyes hers had just met. She creamed on the inside as she felt her face heated up completely, and put her hands against her cheeks trying to cover her embarrassment. "N..No, sorry…" she stuttered, as she heard laughter across the table. She looked at her friend in anger, but as usual Mira didn't mind the utter embarrassment her friend was in and laughed out loud. "No, she said YOU're hot!!"
Tara tried to kick her friend under the table but missed. Mira just smiled back at her, all teeth.
The man smiled widely and looked at Tara: "You did?"
She looked at him from under her eyebrows and wanted to shake her head in denial, but again Mira spoke for her.
"Yes she does! She just won't admit it because she loves the demure-act!"
The provocative look on Mira's face annoyed Tara. She lowered her hands and faced the man.
"Yes, you're hot and I didn't know how to approach you. But here you are!"
She shot him a satisfied smirk and turned her head towards Mira, triumphantly.
Mira's eyes were big in surprise as she stared at her friend and then at the man. "What?!"
"Yep. You said it and I confirmed it." Tara grinned, satisfied with herself.
The man chuckled at her sudden change in behavior, drawing her attention back to him.
"Now why would your friend say something like that?"
"Oh, don't mind her, she is just crazy," Tara replied and glanced at Mira, who was stunned at her friend's defiant behavior.
"I think I should let you two have some quality time…" Mira mumbled, as she stood up and took her coat from her seat. The expression on Tara's face suddenly turned from triumph to terror as she watched her friend walk away. "We came together you can't.."
"Don't worry, I will be back!" Mira blew her a kiss, smiled at the man and left.
The man, still standing, took the now empty seat across her and looked Tara straight in the eyes, which made her heart race and her cheeks once again go all warm.
She looked down at her coffee, aware that he was looking at her, not really knowing what to say or do. This was a turn of events she hadn't expected. She heard him chuckle and looked up, ready to tell him off for making fun of her.
The smile in his eyes and on his lips surprised her. "What?"
"You're adorable. Such a big mouth but the smallest heart. I bet any man could win you over with just a smile."
Unknowingly she took on a defiant pose, sticking her chin up and folding her arms across her chest. "Oh?" He raised an eyebrow, clearly questioning her reply.
"What are you implying, that I'm that easy?" Her eyes blazed fire as she felt anger boiling up. His arrogance was annoying.
"Ooooh look at those eyes!" His hearty laughter, throwing his head back, irritated her and she slammed her mug down. "I need to go."
She picked up her coat and bag and started passing by him.
Within the blink of an eye he had grabbed her by the wrist and pulled her on his lap which, made her heart stop but her pulse rise. She looked at him, now dangerously close, and his beautiful eyes had more effect on her than she had expected… She resisted the urge to lean into his embrace and melt away against his chest. Flustered by this sudden explosion of feelings she looked away, trying to stand up. "Don't do that, people will stare!" he whispered into her ear, holding her down with his arm around her waist. Feeling his breath on her skin made her feel weak and unintentionally she let out a small sob.
His grip seemed to tighten and he whispered "Want me to let you go?"
Her heart whispered no, wanted him to hold her, to not let her go, to stay as they were.
Her head nodded, her eyes fixed on the floor, not wanting to look at him.
She was startled when he suddenly released his hold on her.
There were questions in her eyes when she faced him.
"I wouldn't mind you staying seated but…" he smiled and looked around.
Some people were visibly amused at their sight, which made her stand up quickly, straightening her clothes even though her dress didn't need it. "I will leave now."
She looked at him and felt the butterflies in her stomach flutter.
"Will you stay and have coffee with me?" Her eyes widened at the sudden, seriously asked question, not sure what to say or how to react to this sudden change.
"I..I..I don't…" She hated herself for stuttering, for not being able to be composed and confident.
"Good!" He stood up, making her realize how tall he was, how tiny she was next to him, how strong his build was, and he looked down, into her eyes, flashing her a wide smile. "I'll be right back."
Slightly confused and not sure about what just happened she took her seat again, looking around. Her eyes met those of the girls seated at a table across the room, and to her amazement they all gave her an honest and heartfelt dirty look. Surprised at that look she stared back for a second, wanting to call out but then, in an impulse, she stood up up and walked up to them.
"Hi! Do we know each other? I saw you looking…Maybe I forgot to say hi?" She beamed her brightest smile at them and scanned across the table.
After a short silence one of the girls leaned backward and folded her arms.
"No, we don't know you. But we were just wondering."
Tara raised her eyebrows. "Oh you were? About?"
The girls giggled among themselves and the girl who spoke to her smiled. "How much does it cost?" "What do you mean?"
"To hire a hotbod like that and show him off? Do you pay him by the hour?"
She felt anger rise inside and clenched her fist, taking a step towards the table. "Excuse you?"
"You heard me. How much did you pay him?"
"Why don't you just SHUT your FACE before I do it for you?" Tara was furious.
"What is your problem? Truth hurt too much?" The girls laughed mockingly.
"Want me to make you feel the hurt? One word. Just one more word out of that ugly mouth of yours and you will." Tara's facial expression was that of rage, forgetting her surroundings and the fact that people were listening in, watching them openly.
"Tara, let's go before I smack these witches back into their black hole. DON'T YOU DARE OPEN YOUR MOUTH!" Mira warned the girl closest to her when she seemed to want to say something.
She had had just come back and spotted her friend at the table, noticing her anger as she rushed up to her and pulled Tara's arm, her eyes fixed on the girls at the table.
Seconds passed in which Tara stared at the girl who had spoken to her, almost asking her, begging her to open her mouth and say something. The sudden flash of pain in her fist from the tight clench she'd had it in made her come back to her senses. She turned around, walked to her table, took her coat and bag and left, not looking up at the man who had offered her the coffee as she passed him, not waiting for her friend to follow her or come out. While halting a taxi she pulled out her phone and sent a message to Mira. "Going home. Need to be alone."
"Yes?" Tara couldn't help sounding tired when she answered the phone, as she was rudely awakened by it when it rang. "Get ready, we're going out!" Mira almost shouted into the phone, sounding extremely enthusiastic.
"Noooo I don't wanna! I just woke up I'm tired…" Tara moaned, not wanting to get up from her comfortable couch on which she had fallen asleep.
"Well you have to because I have already arranged everything and I'm picking you up in an hour. You're not old enough to be sleeping at 22.00 on a Friday night!"
"But.." Tara stared at the phone in her hand, listening to the silence after her friend had hung up on her.
"AAAAAAAGH I DON'T EVEN WANNA!!!" She screamed into her dark living room, annoyed, wondering if she could just lay down again and ignore Mira and forget the world… She remembered the spare key she had given her friend in case of emergencies and knowing that Mira would never let her sleep in peace she sighed and got up. As she dragged herself towards the shower, she went through her closet in her mind, no idea what to wear.
"TARA! Where are you?!" She smiled when she heard Mira yelling to make herself heard above the loud music.
Dressed in her little black dress and black heels she walked in to the living room, a bright smile on her face. Mira was beaming and smiled widely at her, all approval.
"YOU LOOK AMAAAYZINGGG!!!"
Tara laughed at the exaggerated compliment, walking back in to her room to get her bag and put on her lipstick. "So can you now at least tell me where we're going?"
"Remember the guy from the coffee shop we met the other day? We talked after you left and he is SOOOO cute and he really likes you and he has a club and we're on the list and we're SO going there!"
"Mira! Breathe!" Tara stopped and stared at her friend with a slight frown. "Are you sure? We've never been there...I don't even know…"
"I looked it up, the club is really exclusive, it's legit, the reviews are all raving and he likes you and we're on the list. YES we're going there!"
A few seconds passed in which Mira recognized the worry on her friends face. She broke the silence by putting her arms around her and holding her tightly.
"Listen, we will go, we will have fun. As soon as you feel weird or anything we'll leave. Promise. Let's enjoy the night we have. We'll worry about the next day when it comes. Make at least one beautiful memory a day, remember?"
Tara nodded when her friend reminded her of her own words. "True. Let's go."
The taxi ride to the club took about half an hour, leading them towards the busiest part in town, where most of the clubs were located. Just like every Friday- and Saturday-night, the streets were full of people and there were lights everywhere. They stood in front of the club where the driver had dropped them off, looking up at the bright sign which, in purple letters, said "Last Dance".
"That's a weird name…" Tara whispered to her friend, who only looked at the people waiting in line at the entrance.
"They will hate us…This is SO cool! Let's go!" Mira took Tara by the hand and lead her towards the doorman, telling him they were on the list.
Tara could hear people yell at them, annoyed, upset, even angry, for getting in front of the line, and felt guilty. Mira turned around and waved at the people in line, yelling "We'll see you darlings inside!" She showed her teeth at Tara in the widest smile she had ever had and pulled her friend along, into the hall, in to the club.
The music was loud, the beat was good, the crowd was big but not too overwhelming, the bar was spacious and the lights were bright but not blinding…Tara smiled as she looked around and felt happiness.
On an impulse she tightly hugged her friend. "Thank you."
Mira pressed a kiss on her cheek and sat down at the bar, gesturing for her to take the seat next to her.
"Can we have two tequila's please?" she waved to get the bartender's attention, as she ordered the drinks. Three shots and a martini later Tara walked on to the dance floor, forgetting the world and all its worries for the next few hours.
"It's so good here! I love it!" She smiled at Mira when they sat down at the bar again, wanting to rest their feet a little.
"Mind if I accept that compliment?" She turned her head at the familiar voice so close to her ear. All the butterflies inside her went... He stood behind her, looking stunning in his black pants and black shirt, top two buttons opened, bright smile and those pretty smiley eyes on her.
"Oh…Yes of course! Mira told me this is…" She fell silent when he moved closer towards her and bent his head to whisper in her ear. "You look AMAZING."
His breath on her skin, his lips so close to her ear, his soft but very audible words…Her cheeks felt hot, and she looked at Mira for help.
Her friend shook her head as she got up up from her seat, handing her drink to Tara: "I will be on the dance floor….Enjoy EACH OTHER!"
She stuck her tongue out and left her friend, who felt as if her entire head had turned red from embarrassment at such a simple thing as him being close.
He sat down on the bar stool that Mira had just left from and grinned, almost triumphantly.
"I like that."
It was as if the music and the buzz from the people drowned out, she could suddenly hear him that clearly.
"Like what?" She looked at him with a frown.
"Your ways. That smile, that frown, that worry in your eyes right now…I like that. I like you." Not sure how to react she took a big sip from Mira's drink, something blue-purple-ish with a very strong and sweet aftertaste which was too much for her liking.
He noticed how she crinkled up her nose at the taste and nodded.
"You have to get used to this cocktail…This is Last Dance. We only serve these in the last hours. The soul collecting hours."
She looked up from her glass at his last words. "The what??"
"The hours between 3 and 5 am. Those are called the soul collecting hours….Don't worry, nothing will happen!" He laughed at the obvious worry on her face.
"Right…" She took another sip, almost gulping down the remaining fluid in the glass, not knowing what to say or do.
"Whoa not too fast! It's still alcohol!" He took the glass from her and put it on the bar, gesturing the bartender to take it away.
She wanted to protest when he suddenly leaned over and lightly kissed her lips.
She moved her head back, startled, staring at him with shock on her face.
"I'm not sorry. I really wanted to do that." He shrugged.
"That…So rude!" She stuttered, not knowing what to say or do. She stood up and wanted to walk away, but the sudden weight on her aching feet made her stumble.
He saved her from falling by him holding her by the waist.
"I AM NOT DRUNK!" She said firmly before he could speak, before he would accuse her of anything.
"I know. You're just tired." There was a strange sadness on his face when he said that, locking his eyes with hers.
"Yes…" She agreed, acknowledging the light feeling in her head and the nagging ache in her body. "I think it's time for me to go home."
"Not just yet! First dance with me?" He held out his hand, hope on his face.
She hesitated, then took his hand. The music had gone from up-tempo to a mellow dance beat, she could do this. His face lit up when she took his hand and he led her towards the dance floor, passing Mira who gave Tara an exaggerated wink.
He stopped somewhere in the middle of the dance floor and placed his hands on her hips, pulling her closer to him, leaving the tiniest bit of space between them, and made her move with him, slowly. She felt light in the head, her body tingly from him being so close to her.
"What was in that drink? What did you put in it? I don't feel.."
"Nothing else but a combination of liquors. There was nothing weird in it."
"I don't feel…I feel so light in the head. Dizzy. I should sit down." He wrapped his arms around her, placing her arms around his neck, pulling her up slightly so she could relax more as it took the weight off her feet.
"Please stay…Enjoy this Last Dance. With me."
Again, his lips so close to her ear, his breath on her skin…He made her feel jittery. She giggled and looked into his eyes. "You're being way too kind...We don't know each other and you're carrying me? Something is definitely not right. I'm having all these feelings and I don't even know your name!"
"No. This is actually right. This is what is supposed to happen. There is no need to hide anything any more. I am here to make sure you find your way. I am here to guide you."
She stopped moving when he spoke those words. "What?! What do you mean?"
"I mean that I know. You have tried everything. You endure, but your body is giving up on you. I am here to help you carry the last load. To take those last steps."
She frowned, then giggled, as her eyes burned from the bitter tears which she held back.
"This is insane. Be honest…You spiked my drink, I feel drunk."
He shook his head and leaned in to kiss her, this time feeling her give in, leaning in to him, holding him tighter, slowly as they slowly swayed on the rhythm of the music.
"You're awful!" She laughed when he looked up and let her head fall back, enjoying the light and free feeling she had, making him laugh as well.
She looked at him, those beautiful deep eyes…
"You have the most beautiful eyes I have ever seen," she sighed and held him even closer.
"You like looking into them?" Even though he was whispering, she still could hear him clearly.
The music was a soft, melodic hum in the background.
"Hmm." She nodded ever so slightly, enjoying the feeling of his arms around her, the warmth of his body against hers, his strength.
For once she felt light, almost as if there was no constant ache inside her at all.
"You're amazing. I wish I had met you sooner."
Again, his lips so close, his breath on her skin.
"And you Sir, are an amazing flirt!" She laughed and looked at him.
He had a serious look on his face and stood still.
Nobody around them seemed to notice that they were not moving.
She still had her arms around his neck, held on to him, as she stared in to his eyes. Those eyes, now so dark, almost black, with a small light in them.
"Must be the lighting in here…" She whispered, still staring.
"It may be different from what you think. Have a closer look."
His words somehow didn't sound strange to her, as weightlessness spread through her body and mind. She looked in to those dark eyes, focused on that light, purple with specks of white but also gold, with hints of pink….She felt herself being pulled towards it, she wanted to let go and escape, see what was there.
She looked away and hid her face against his chest, feeling worried, fearing the sudden mess that her emotions were.
His lips, his whisper, so close to her ear, his breath, his strength, his comfort, his words.
"Go. See. I will hold you."
Upon hearing his reassuring words and feeling his firm embrace a smile formed around her lips, as she stepped towards the purple and the pink, free and without any further thought, finally letting go.
"'When you awaken in the morning's hush,
I am that swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft star that shines at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not here, I did not die.'
Tara is at peace. She lost the battle against her disease. She left us with a smile around her lips and song in her ears. As per her wish there will be no ceremony. Please remember her with every shining star you see. She was loved."
He closed the newspaper with a faint smile around his lips and a hint of sadness in his eyes. She was indeed loved, now even more than before.