2. Precipice

CW: This content may be upsetting to some readers. Contains reference to non-explicit s—-l assault.

She has forgotten about the glass and the woman’s lips and given herself over to the full champagne flutes, so full she cannot dance without spilling it across her stomach and down her legs.

Friends are near—both American. One is thin and red-haired and has a fire in her eyes set ablaze by the desire to prove everyone wrong in her life who said she couldn’t or wouldn’t. The other is short—shorter than everyone else in the club. Her skin is dark. She is a dancer, both in the club and outside—in the real world that feels artificial under the neon lights in here. Out there, she does ballet. In here, she takes turns on the pole. She has the same fire in her eyes.

The three dance near each other, hips against hips, fingers grazing each other’s arms and legs. The girl’s champagne splashes down her cleavage, and before she thinks she slips a finger down her shirt, collects the sweet drop on the tip, and strokes it with her tongue.

One friend says “Mm” and they laugh together. They know reality awaits them when they leave, but right now this is the world they live in—this world of lust and lights and cigarette smoke.

There is a hand on her arm. His appearance is tasteful, but his actions are rough and forceful. “Are you ok?” the redhead asks.

“I’m fine,” the girl responds as she steps away to dance. The warmth exuding from bodies pulsing all around envelopes her. Nothing will happen. This is fun.

She realizes soon that he is Russian. His knowledge of English is restricted. Her knowledge of Russian is nonexistent. He sports a short yet thick beard and he is not much taller than she is, but much stronger.

Once they are a distanced from her friends, he turns her around and pulls her against him, her back pressed to his chest. She can feel the point of his arousal. His right-hand clenches her left breast too tightly, and with his left hand he probes between her legs. She realizes too slowly that this is not a dance. Damn all the alcohol she has consumed over the past two hours. This is not fun.

She writhes while attempting to make no scene and creates a gap between her shoulders and his. “I think I have to go,” she manages, hating the quickness of her words, her fear of the possible.

“No,” he says. He also speaks quickly, but he is decisive and sure. He traps her wrist and reaches the other hand around her waist, his fingers closing around her hip bone. Then, pulling her against himself, he whispers, “I want to see you naked.”

“I really have to go.” But the bruise on her hip where his fingers are rooted has already begun to spread, and with the right pressure he has control unless she is willing to outright fight him.

“Come on, baby.” His hands manipulate her to the side of the floor, a quieter area near the back exit where the servers and attendants go to smoke and meet with lovers and complain about the club-goers.

There are still people. Nothing will happen, nothing can happen.

But there is no one. Where are they? Her mind sharpens and she breaks his grasp desperately. “I am leaving. My friends are right inside.”

“I will see you naked. Come on, baby.” His voice is pleading but his body is demanding. He pushes her back against a rail and his hands are under her shirt. There is no caress, no gentle touch, just shoving and squeezing and pushing so hard she can feel her capillaries breaking. This is a memory too near and too painful that she was trying to forget tonight, that time when the words spilled out of her mouth uselessly please stop please stop please stop please stop, desperate cries falling on indifferent ears.

What the fuck is wrong with her? Why does she keep doing this? This is not fun.

He’s kissing her, his teeth crashing against hers. She jerks her head away. “Fuck off!” She knows she is screaming, but she is no longer worried about making a scene.

A thin Chinese man steps out. “Is there a problem?” he asks in clean English.

The Russian loosens his grip, and the girl pulls away faster than she needs to. She detests her own weakness. All it took was one man to stop him. She puts both hands on the Russian’s chest and pushes forcefully. “Disgusting,” she murmurs. He takes a step back so she can go around him, and as she passes the Chinese man, she breathes “Xie xie nin.” He nods, and they both go back inside, leaving the other alone, leaning against the rail, still burning.

She finds her friends near the bathroom.

Redhead: “Are you ok? Where have you been? We couldn’t find you!” She takes the girl’s arm and pulls her into the bright light in front of a mirror the length of the hallway. “Oh my god, are you ok?”

The girl’s hand is shaking. “Yea, yea. I’m fine.” Forced laugh. “Maybe we can go somewhere else.” She looks behind herself, self-conscious, and sees the man not far away, glaring at her through a pair of oblivious lovers. A tall man with rusty skin and dark, straight hair kissing a blonde, thinner one—the blonde’s hands draped loosely over the tall one’s shoulders, begging for love with the touch of his lips.

Short girl: “Oh him. Yea, let’s go.”

The redhead leads and the short one follows, her hand on the girl’s lower back. The girl is safe in between them.

They step through a velvet curtain that separates the club from the corridor out front. Purple, luxurious cloth juxtaposed with metal detectors, bag checks, and tall, stern-looking bouncers with shoulders the width of a twin-sized mattress. A man follows them out—smaller than the guards but no less stern.

“I’m sorry, that one—” and he jabs a condescending finger at the short one “—broke a glass and she must pay for it.” Damn that glass. He does not look at the short one, he makes an effort to not see her at all, but rather looks pointedly at the girl as he speaks.

She shouldn’t say anything, but she wants to leave. “Duo shao?” Her friend begins to protest.

“People break glasses every day! I am not fucking paying for that shit!”

The redhead grabs the short one and pulls her aside. Is she restraining her or embracing her?

The girl continues in Mandarin and the man responds.

“Liu shi.”

The girl looks back at her friend, who is crying and embarrassed and defeated. “He says it’s sixty kuai.”

“No, I will not pay that. You will not pay that. Fuck this place.”

“Zhen de ma?” “Does everyone who breaks a glass pay 60 kuai?” The words are sharp, like the shattered glass they are arguing about.

“Of course,” he says. He appears to be nodding, but the girl knows that his head briefly bobs as he rectifies his lie. Of course. Just like the taxi driver who insisted the group of foreigners get out once he saw the short one’s complexion in the rearview mirror. Of course.

She pulls out her wallet, hands shaking. Her friend is now almost hysterical. “Don’t pay! Don’t you dare pay him. Don’t pay him anything.” But the girl counts out sixty kuai and drops it on the ground. She fears the police.

“Sha bi,” she spits, loud enough for him to hear. “Cunt.”

“Do not come back,” he says.

They do not.

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