Elisa edged around the dance floor, sticky cup of Watermelon Bacardi Breezer in hand. She eyed the dancers, their bodies jerking disjointedly in the strobe lighting, shadows flickering in the synthetic party smoke. Lady, by Modjo thumped through the sound system, the bass reverberating through the cheap flooring. It smelt like sweat and beer and ill-judged decisions.
A group of girls stumbled in front of her, hands linked, hair flying, shrieking quick- fire German. She melted further back into the pockets of shadow, evading the long limbs of the dancers and reached into her pocket for a spearmint Mentos.
“Floor it Andrew, floor it!” The streetlights popped through the window as they flew down the Autobahn, bursts of light and shadow turning the car into a disco. Buildings flashed by as the Alfa Romeo ate up the dark tarmac. As the radio switched to Modjo, all four of the boys whooped, heads tipped back, mouths open, the speed of the vehicle mirrored by the blood zipping around their bodies, thundering in their ears to the beat.
“Have a real drink, do you want a vodka orange?” Hot breath shouted into her ear, a sweaty hand on her shoulder. He was handsome, tall, dark-haired and tanned. She looked over his shoulder, scanning the crowd.
“No thanks, just water.” She was distracted, restless. She looked at her wrist and remembered for the fourth time that she’d forgotten to put a watch on. It was suddenly of intense importance that she knew the time. She thought about all the watches in the room being waved around on arms that she couldn’t see, time ticking away to the music. It was almost unbearable, to think of it marching on. She took the drink in the cold glass and gulped it, feeling the vodka burn her throat. She slammed it on the bar and moved away, ignoring his conciliatory pleas behind her.
Ivan stuck an arm from the open window and danced his fingers through the buffeting night air. It was a warm evening, and he held his palm flat to the resistance as though he could slow the car down. He’d been a coiled spring of expectation all day, his brain flitting around restlessly, picking things up and putting them down, walking through doors and not finding what he’d needed. He rooted around the car door compartment and fished out a spearmint Mentos. Popping it into his mouth, he savoured the sugar, his heart settling for the first time all day.
As she weaved through the crowd, the music cut and the backup generated lights flicked on. A cry of dismay went up and people looked shiftily at each other, their blanket of darkness rudely lifted away leaving them exposed. A suspended moment of confusion, and then they were plunged once more into heat and sound and shadows and the trip in the rhythm of the evening smoothed over.
“You told me to floor it!”
“Now what? We can come back to the garage for the car tomorrow, but what do we do until then? I don’t know anything about Frankfurt.”
“There’s our hotel. Let’s dump the bags and go and find a party.”
“There’s a club right by the hotel on this map.” Ivan traced a finger over the building marked on the paper. It looked familiar, it looked right. “This way.”
Elisa had taken up position by the dance floor again, resisting the tugs of her friends’ hands on her arms to throw herself into the fray. She shook her head and motioned for them to go, pacing gently, alert.
And then, where he hadn’t been, all at once there he was. She watched as he made his way through the room, three friends at his side. He double-took when he saw her. The opening beats of Candy Shop by 50 Cent bled through the speakers, and he drifted towards her, smiling slightly.
Andrew’s shoulders swayed in time with the music. He had been down about the car and being stranded in Frankfurt, but the night still felt full of possibility somehow. He felt Ivan detach from the group and looked around to see what had caught his attention. A young woman was stood, smiling shyly by the bar. He saw Ivan introduce himself, inclining his head to hear her name. He noted their body language, a mirror image, two souls recognising each other.
For a moment, he watched them, and saw in his mind’s eye a wedding, the pair of them in a tux and a simple white dress, the sky clear and deep blue, forget-me-nots weaved through flower girls’ hair. A seat of honour, empty but for a photo of his car. The stutter of a clutch and a cutting of an engine the end of their exhilarating race down the highway, and the start of something else entirely. And without knowing how, he knew with absolute certainty that it would come to pass – and he lifted his soda to his lips and smiled, a silent toast to the Alfa Romeo.