She doesn’t belong.

She doesn’t belong in the overpriced kitsch speakeasy downtown. She doesn’t belong in the circle of east-coast testosterone transplants agressively jumping and screaming and laughing. It’s her city and they make her feel like she doesn’t belong, awkwardly shuffling and sobering up in an out-of-place pastel summer dress. She thought she was just going to a dinner.

The dance floor full of pseudo-flapper pixies in their beaded dresses stare at her with dark-rimmed eyes, a sea of women who threaten to swallow her whole. Her softness is just softness, there is no hidden strength there like she tells herself. She doesn’t belong but she is desperately lying to everyone there.

She is cool, she laughs at jokes about the girls her boyfriend has loved. Lies. She doesn’t flinch at that word, she doesn’t think about not being on that list. Lies. She doesn’t bat an eye at tales of one-night-stands-turned-friends, even though she knows a brief encounter will always be more romantic than the truth of sharing toothbrushes and Diet Coke. Lies. She is confident. Lies.

She is exhausted. Her face is etched with the barely two hours of sleep she’s had. She barely registers the hand on her shoulder.

Someone is shaking her, someone is grabbing her by the shoulders, someone’s hand is waving in her face.

“Hey! Hey! You should really smile!” He’s got a round, ruddy face. Sweat beads trickle down from his temples, rolling and cascading through acne-scar pockmarks. His hair is short and dark, cropped close like a Roman statue. It clashes with his goatee.

She smells his cologne next, harsh and clean, carrying with it the sweat and pheromones he’s desperately tried to camouflage. She cringes, he’s grinning. He’s toothy and smiling and towering over her and she can see the faint wetspots under his pinstripe shirt.

She looks back at her boyfriend. He and his friends have been sucked into a circle of big-hipped blonde thirty-somethings in a display of such desperation that it makes her stomach drop. When the distinctly midwestern-looking one tosses back her Sally Beauty frosting-cap highlights she wonders if she’s just seen her own future.

Either way, her boyfriend isn’t paying attention.

Aerialists are descending from the ceiling on silk ropes.

She turns back to the smiling goon. Her lips crack open, the unobtrusive pink lipstick cracking against her dry mouth. Her teeth emerge next in a horrifying display. Her delicate cupid’s bow stretches across a cavern of monstrous white spikes.

A waitress in light-up fairy wings offers a nearby couple Absinthe. The crowd is cheering as the aerialists spin. 90s R’n’B blares from speakers in every corner, a questionable choice given the atmosphere.

She reaches up, running her nails through his hair. Blood seeps from his scalp. She used Essie’s “Comfy in Cashmere” earlier that day, wanting to make a good impression. He’s not smiling anymore but now she is, grinning from ear to ear, leaning closer to him.

The DJ is playing Michael Jackson, the crowd cheers.

She rips his throat out in one swift lunge, pushing him into a waiting booth. His blood blends into the dark brocade upholstery. No one even notices. She wipes her mouth, returning to the gyrating circle that’s absorbed her boyfriend.

He hasn’t noticed she was gone.

“Some asshole told me to smile.” She shouts over the noise.

“Oh, I’m sorry.”

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