I never knew her name. Nobody did.
She wasn’t like the other girls, though everyone was united beneath the black leather and metal studs we kept hidden from society. Where the others sang, she screamed. Where they swayed, she thrashed. Where they slowly ground their hips and maintained eye contact, she was lost beneath a curtain a wild, untamed hair; her rage and passion overtaking everything until there was only the music in her soul to guide her. Where others batted their eyelids and giggled, she was matching the men on the boxing machine – even beating some. They spat out their drinks in surprise, caught somewhere between admiration and disbelief.
She was incredibly beautiful, but she never realised it. I had thought she might’ve secretly, until I saw her turn a fierce red in the face of admiration. Above the flashing lights and screaming, she gracefully turned scores of men away and instead lost herself in the music; revealing every fear and rage in the way she danced. Her muscles rippled, tensed with a passion and fury that the others suppressed; ashamed of their primal urges. But not her. Weekend benders passed one after the other seemingly forgotten. We thrashed side by side each time, parting once the club was forced to close for the night until the next week crept by. She never even realised I was watching her. To my disdain, it seemed others had noticed her too.
She hid it well between songs; that hatred for all things societal. Each weekend, I watched her face crumple as the club closed and her keeper led her away by the hand to await Monday morning, hiding her true self once again beneath obligations to pay the rent. She lied to us all often, hiding herself beneath laughter and smiles. Each time she wrenched herself back from the pit and was bombarded by admirers both male and female, she would give a different name to them all. Jen, Terra, Rachel, Pan, Millie - never would she expose her true self. Eventually, I came to think of her simply as 'Thirteen', for that was the number of names she varied between.
To others, it seemed as if she were happy. But however much she hid, I saw through it. Not once had I even spoken to her and yet, I longed to go to her. To touch her, to hold her, to kiss her. She was exquisite in her pain.
He watched from the side lines – her keeper. Never would he dance with her, but always did he observe her. Watching, waiting for her to slip. She never did, but I felt the weight upon her shoulders as if I bore it myself. Never did she show him that agony I so often saw on the dance floor; that torturous, consuming unhappiness too much for one so young. When I was too breathless to continue our dance and had to leave the pit, never did her keeper show me unkindness. In fact, quite the opposite.
…I hated him for it.
Often her gaze fell upon me from beneath the flashing lights, darting quickly away beneath that curtain of ebony hair when finally we locked eyes. Even when her keeper was away, forced habit overcame true feeling. Those milliseconds were both joyous and painful.
I’ve never danced. But for her, I braved it.
She grabbed my hand to drag me onto the sweat-stained expanse, full of sweltering bodies. I didn’t fight it. She made sure to set us apart, the space between us barred by others in case her keeper was watching. But as the rage overtook her, I saw her façade slipping particle by particle. I didn’t care for the cheesier music and nor did she, but still we stayed. It was the only time she came alive.
She danced like a fairy on fire; graceful and overwhelmingly hateful all at once. I was entranced. I felt I knew her in the pit, though her keeper was always watching. With every enraged thrash and lunge, her walls were disintegrated, the woman beneath unable to remain silent any longer. We danced always, united in our separation. Each weekend I would see her, growing closer without ever doing so. I knew I could not have her - an that killed me. Then one day, she came alone into the shadows of our hidden paradise; her keeper no longer by her side.
She was by the bar when I saw her. She found me though the throng of people, her eyes darting to the floor as always when I looked back. She had been crying. Others beside me murmured their desires, but I moved first; acting on the slim chance that those glimpses meant something more. The music was deafening as always; I had to scream into her ear. She smelled of lavender and cigarettes.
“Come with me!”
Blinking with large green eyes, her gaze feel guiltily to the floor. I knew she knew me. For a moment, I thought she would say no. That thought destroyed me beyond words.
“What do you want?”
Never before had she spoken to me. I barely heard her over the shrieking pulsations, but hearing her voice, it was as if I had felt the rain for the first time. Truthfully, I hadn't imagined I would ever get this far. Without thinking, I grabbed her hand, as she had done to me so often when she was away from her keeper’s eyes.
“To see you!” I called back. “The real you!”
She looked at me only for a moment. I felt her fingers twitch the tiniest fraction in mine – that was all I needed.
The pit was overwhelmed. Sweaty, writhing bodies covered every surface, but they all looked up as she stepped forward. They always did. Not once did I let go of her hand, guiding her into the throng of noise and chaos we knew so well. But this time, she didn't back away or leave others between us. The screaming of the speakers rose above even the pounding of my heart, consuming everything in the tumult of clamour and release that drew us all in and instantly, it enveloped her. The music worked its way into her soul and slowly, she set herself apart. The women around her swayed and pursed their lips, but not her. The animal inside came to the surface; an animal I had come to both fear and love.
One by one, lustful, husky gazes fell upon her, the others forgotten. But never did she look up at them, so consumed in her bloodlust and pain. I moved with her, the infectious rhythm of her anarchy overcoming even my fear. She moved faster and faster, spinning, lunging, punching and screaming, never resting, never stopping! Clutching at her hair with balled fists, she roared with the twister of blaring music and lurching figures in black. She was lost to us – lost even to herself as the same old agony came pouring out in her movements. But this time, there was something else there. Something more.
Transfixed, I watched as her insanity overcame her, erasing everything else in its path until she became the music itself, each note and pitch an extension of her hips, her arms, her hair, her screams. She became a blur, overcome with something I had never seen before. And then she was falling.
Leaping forward, I grabbed her, forgetting our unspoken deal. I touched her skin, feverish and pale and delicate, smelling of lavender and cigarettes. The noise continued all around us; none looking up from beneath their own private worlds of escapism. The limbs and bodies surrounding us blended together as we broke rank, circling around us until we were no longer part of the body, but the centre – the soul. She was oblivious to it all. Looking up from the cold floor slick with sweat, there were tears in her black-rimmed eyes. I felt like I was looking upon Pandora.
“Don’t! Don’t look at me!”
And there it was – that same, vulnerable pain I had come to know only in movement, finally risen to the surface. It was agonising to watch. Never had I been this close to her. Never before had I noticed the butterfly tattoo on her wrist, the flecks of gold in her eyes, the saddened slump in her shoulders. The perfect image I had seen so far was shattered; completely and utterly destroyed. But I didn't care.
My senses intoxicated by her presence, I was pulled in by her pain. It was a pain I would never know or understand, but I wanted to try. I wanted to soothe it. I wanted to eradicate it. I wanted to know her name!
In the midst of stomping black boots and billowing coats of leather, I knelt beside her, lost in green eyes afraid of my own. I opened my mouth to scream back a reply, but the words left me. Every whispered caress I had concocted in my mind vanished in the tide of blaring music, every thought and fantasy abolished in the wake of this new, sincere void. So I didn’t fight it any longer. I sought those green eyes in the darkness and finally, I spoke to them.
“I don’t know who you are,” I called. “but I won’t ever look away from you!”
She didn’t pull away as I cupped her tear-stained face, the eyeliner smudged across her cheeks. She seemed so small to me then; so delicate and destroyed if not for the fiery twister in her soul. As finally, I found her in the crowd of thousands, I let go of everything I was afraid of. Finally, I stopped watching and instead, stepped forward. Giving in to the same passion that drove her to dance beneath the spotlights, I let my heart guide me. I leant in and kissed her.
Her eyes went wide, ever fearful of the gaze of her keeper, a lifetime of habit still embedded into her. Only, he was gone and as I pulled her closer, enveloping her trembling shoulders beneath my touch, the stiffness in her bones lessened. I felt a tear run across my lips before finally her eyes closed and her mouth softened against mine. Finally, she let me in. The screaming echoed all around us as I kissed her, the world outside and inside forgotten as finally, I found her. I found the fairy on fire. Sat in the centre of the pit of thrashing limbs, we became one.
And that night, she told me her name.