The thing is, I’m not sure I wanted it to happen this way.
I stood in line for Jinn Rising’s performance with Jessa, shifting my weight back and forth between my knee-high platform boots. The sidewalk was gritty, and the people in line were gritty, and I thought I fit in pretty well with my carefully selected outfit. Jessa picked out the bright blue mini skirt, and I chose the fishnet black top. Together with the boots and my outrageous makeup, I was perfect.
Perfect for Dylan—Jinn Rising’s lead singer, a senior, and way out of my league. But tonight, I’d find a way to get his attention.
“Liz, move up!” Jessa said, nudging me onward. The line had shifted forward and we were getting closer to the bouncer, a scary-looking bald guy with tattoos. When I thought of the word ‘bouncer’, he was exactly the kind of person my mind conjured up.
“This is a good idea, right?” I said. I knew it was a good idea. It was a brilliant idea. I just needed the reassurance.
Jessa made an aggravated noise. “For the millionth time, this—is—your—chance! Now put your game face on and make Dylan want you, babe.”
I laughed, a nervous, shaky sounding thing. No, I could do this. I’d been dreaming about this since freshman year, when I first saw Dylan perform at the school’s Battle of the Bands, with his spiked blonde hair with the tips dyed blue, and his eyebrow piercing, and the way he ripped his wife beater right down the middle after screaming his lungs out and the whole school went wild, and I’d nearly collapsed from swooning so hard.
I could do this.
Passing the bouncer wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be, and I walked into the club with a slight increase in confidence. I was in a club. I looked awesome. I had a plan.
The club was basically a warehouse. There was black fabric draped everywhere, strobe lights, a bar, and the stage.
The music was so loud that it reverberated inside me, pulsing in time with my heartbeat like I was the music. The stage was the center of it all, and Dylan was the center of attention, and the music was the key to making him mine. He was breathtaking. He wore dark jeans and a black T-shirt that read the band’s name in white lettering. He raised an arm out to the side, exposing a tattoo of a star constellation on his inner bicep. His hair had grown out a little, so the spiked, blue tips were taller than usual and there was more blonde now than blue. He moved like a snake, slithering across the stage, and I couldn’t help but move my body along with his music. I was the prey, helpless against his power. But not for long.
“Damn, he’s sexy,” Jessa shouted over the noise. She bumped her bony hip against mine and flipped her sparkly black hair. Ever since I’d known her, which was only for the past two weeks, her hair was always sparkly. It looked like she’d doused her locks in glitter, except the glitter never washed out. Whenever I asked about it she just laughed. “Are you ready, girly?”
I swallowed. “Maybe we can just dance for a little longer? It…it makes me feel strong.”
“Of course it does, babe!” Jessa laughed and spun in a circle, though I couldn’t tell if it was a dance move or one of her random outbursts. She had them frequently.
Jinn Rising started a new song, a slow, primal beat that I felt in my bones. I wasn’t naturally a dancer, but Jessa brought it out of me, luring it to the surface until I couldn’t contain it anymore. I liked it. I liked the freedom I felt as the music moved through my body, and I liked the way people looked at me.
I liked the way Dylan looked at me.
Oh my gosh. Dylan was looking at me.
Breathe, I told myself. Just dance. Feel the music like Jessa taught you.
As if she could hear my thoughts, Jessa shimmied up to me and said right in my ear, “Feel the music. Feel it.” I could smell the almost sickly sweetness that encompassed her. It made me giddy. At least, I think it was the smell that made me giddy. I paid no attention to Dylan and let the music take me where it willed. “Good girl,” Jessa said. “You’re ready. Are you sure you want to do this?”
My dancing faltered. “I…I think so. You said it would make him love me, right?” I stole a glance toward Dylan, and his eyes were on me. I felt brave and flashed him a smile. Peeling my eyes away from him again, I said, “Yeah. Yeah, I’ll do it.”
Jessa’s onyx eyes twinkled in the strobe light. “You got it, babe. Do what I told you.”
She pushed me forward, closer to the stage, the speakers, the music. I was surrounded by bodies, jumping and swaying and gyrating, but I felt alone. I closed my eyes and danced to Dylan’s song, concentrating on it, but above all on Dylan. Lose yourself to the music, Jessa had said. And that’s what I did.
I didn’t know for long I’d been absorbed in the music, but when I opened my eyes everything was different. I was still in the club, and Jinn Rising was still on stage, and Jessa was still laughing and swishing her sparkly hair, but it was all…wrong. It was all wrong. I felt like I wasn’t tethered to my body anymore, like I was standing in this spot but everywhere all at once, and I was pulsing with the sound that blasted from the speakers.
I was the sound.
I walked through the crowd and bumped into a skinny guy with aviators. “Sorry,” I said.
The guy didn’t look at me. He didn’t acknowledge me at all.
I weaved around him and toward the bar. I needed a glass of water, but when I tried to ask the girl behind the counter for a glass, she acted like I wasn’t even there.
“Hello?” I waved my hand in front of her face.
My heart thrummed in panicked cadences. I spotted Jessa back on the dance floor and stalked over to her, grabbing her arm and spinning her around.
She giggled, delighted. “Hey, girl!”
“Jessa,” I hissed. “What did you do to me? Why is everyone acting like they can’t see me?”
Jessa frowned and twirled me in a circle like I was a little girl. “So ungrateful! But not to worry, babe. Dylan can see you. Look…he can’t keep his eyes off of you.” She nodded to the stage and I saw she was right. Dylan was watching me with hunger in his eyes. He was singing to me. And for me.
“I don’t understand,” I said. I wanted to repeat it over and over. “What’s going on?”
“You’re his muse, babe!” She squealed and jumped up and down in time with the beat. “What does Dylan love more than music? Nothing. So what did I make you? Not some pathetic human girl who fawns over him. Oh no, he would never go for that. You’re his inspiration. You are the essence of his music, now!” She grabbed a random guy from the crowd and threw her arms around his neck as she danced.
“Wait!” I cried. “What does that mean? What am I supposed to do?”
Jessa was suddenly lost in the crowd, and though I pushed through countless people and threw them back to get to her, they didn’t see me, and I didn’t see Jessa. She was gone.
I turned to the stage, slowly, disoriented. Dylan sang out the lyrics to my favorite Jinn Rising song, pointing to me.
You’re mine, my love.
Be mine, my love.
I’ll take you away.