The Dozens

The man at the door was new, a beefier version of the last guy, and the guy before him, but in every essential way he was the same: same broad shoulders, same blank look on his face, same everything. Which was both comforting and unsettling at the same time. Claire could imagine him doing unspeakable things in the dark, when he wasn’t at the nightclub door.

“ID?” he asked.

She was wearing her short black skirt, with the wraparound waist that showed pretty much all of her legs, a new, thin red blouse, and matching lipstick. When she looked in the mirror, Claire often saw a mature woman looking back at her, even though she was only sixteen. It wasn’t her first time being asked for ID, but it was the first in a while, and she frowned before fishing in her purse.

“Here,” she said, slipping the man at the door her fake Delaware ID. That was the trick, of course, a close enough state but probably not one he’d seen often, if at all. She smiled up at him expectantly, like she had done this a dozen times before. She had done this a dozen times before.

“Go on through,” he told her, handing back her ID with a smirk on his face that said he knew more than he was letting on.

She didn’t care. She was in. Claire hitched up her skirt, as a sort of thank you, and eased inside like she’d done it a dozen times before. It was easier to blend in, to be one of the sweaty masses, than it was pretending day after day in school, and with her mom, and everywhere in between.

“Want to dance?” a guy asked her seconds after she entered. The smoke was thick, but apparently this rando had spotted her anyway. Must be the red, she thought, smiling up at him. Her mom always told her it took two to tango, but she found out pretty early that, one, no one did the tango anymore, and two, a guy could pretty much grind up on you all by himself, with no help whatsoever in that department.

“Sure,” she said, because she always said sure, like it was her default setting, like the world owed her for all the no’s she told day in and day out to everyone who mattered in her life, and to those who didn’t matter as well. But, in Abe Denham’s, it was easy to acquiesce, to give in to her hedonistic tendencies, because everyone else was too.

They danced like there was no tomorrow, and maybe there wasn’t. Maybe the world would end and this was the last night she would get to enjoy it, to let it run through her veins like heroin. It didn’t matter how young she was, or what she had left to accomplish with her life, she threw her hands in the air and tempted fate.

As if she’d done it a dozen times before.

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