The second Knife stumbled through the doors, she spotted her prey. Bar None was a dimly lit East Village dive notorious for its raucous college clientele.
Her prey was a college girl.
A pretty college girl.
A pretty college girl with a horse mane of highlighted hair that kissed the top of her ribcage. A halo of frizz circled her head like a crown. Her spray-tanned skin glowed vibrant tangerine. She smiled shyly into space as a troop of glossy-lipped sorority girls armed with Canal Street Guccis chatted away, their speech speedy and strange from a surplus of Ritalin.
Knife chose this particular girl not just because she was by far the prettiest pick of the litter, but because of her vacant eyes. Knife could intrinsically sense the pretty girl was soul-shatteringly bored with her Delta Zeta Whatever life. And nothing aroused Knife quite like a girl gone bored. Resuscitating the flatlined heart of a listless girl wasn’t just her superpower, it was her kink.
Knife licked her pointer finger. She reached into the coke bag tucked into the pocket of her distressed black jeans. She kept her gaze fixed forward as she twisted her spit-laden finger into the sticky white powder. She ran her finger across her Pepto-Bismol gums. A sprinkle of coke fell from the top of her mouth and landed like a snowflake on her tongue. It tasted bitter. Synthetic. She rubbed her finger back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, until her mouth was so numb she forgot she had teeth. Her eyes sparkled. Her heart tap-danced. The chemicals never ceased to let her down. She hoofed her way to her prey.
“Excuse me?” Knife asked the pretty girl, penetrating her with an invasive, blinkless stare. The pretty girl smelled of burnt hair and Pantene “smooth and sleek” conditioner and Dihydroxyacetone.
“Yes?” The pretty girl pulled her fried hair to one side and began smoothing down the fly-aways with trembly fingers.
“I swear I know you from somewhere. What’s your name?” Knife wondered what would happen to the pretty girl if she were to set her curls free. She’d probably ditch the frat party, come to terms with the fact that she detested NYU, dump her finance major boyfriend, drop out of college, relocate from Murray Hill to East Williamsburg and become the kind girl who wears cat eye glasses and high-waisted shorts and attends monthly bondage parties in sex dungeons in Bed Sty. Yes, Knife might’ve been a compulsive liar with a fragile ego and troubled past — but that didn’t mean that she didn’t possess an impressive understanding of the life-changing power of a change in hair.
“Lissie,” the pretty girl’s voice was sweet and bright like a maraschino cherry.
“I’m Knife. You work in fashion, right?” Knife asked despite the fact that Lissie looked nothing like a fashion girl. But Knife knew that everyone in New York secretly wants to be mistaken for a fashion girl. You don’t move to do this mess of a city if you aren’t a little bit starry-eyed for style.
Lissie looked at Knife, her eyes twinkling with innocent joy like she’d just won a Teddy Bear at a small-town fair. “I do!” She beamed. “I work in accessories at Bloomingdales. The 59th street location for now, but I’m about to transfer to SOHO. SOHO is so much cooler than midtown.”
Knife nodded at the gorgeous pools of coral flesh spilling out of the sides of Lissie’s skin-tight jeans. She could hear a soft growl emerge from inside the crotch of her leather pants. Her body was hungry for more bare flesh. “I did an event in your store. I’m a model,” Knife winked.
“Oh my god,” Lissie gasped. “You were the girl in the men’s underwear campaign two years ago? That was you — right?” She studied Knife. “It totally was you. This is amazing. This girl I know who works at the Chanel beauty counter realized she was, like, bi after you made that appearance at Bloomies!” Lissie threw her hand against her heart. “Wow. A real model. A New York City model.”
Knife’s ego took a hit of ecstasy. “I remember you,” Knife lied, glamouring Lissie with her Vampire eyes.
“Really?” Lissie felt like she was under a spell.
“Really.” Knife touched Lissie’s arm. They were hairless and damp with spray tan. “Want to have a cigarette outside with me?” Knife asked, her eyes glittery and heartless like a nightclub.
Lissie stared into her manicure. She suddenly regretted not asking for the pointy stiletto nails she desired but feared she lacked the cool-girl “je nais se quois” to pull off. “I’m here with my friends,” She murmured, gesturing to Troop Designer Dupe. The wolfpack glared at Lissie and folded their arms cultishly. “They’re really sensitive about girls’ nights.” She whispered into Knife’s ear. The heat of her breath curled into the air like smoke.
“Your friends are grown women,” Knife whispered back. “And so are you.” Knife pulled two Parliaments out of her pocket and stuck one in her mouth. It casually hung out of the folds of her puffy lips. Lissie felt nervous. Dizzy. Alive.
“I’ll be right back!” Lissie promised, saluting to the sea of suspicious eyes. “I promise. You know how seriously I take girl code.” She hopped off her barstool. Her thick wedge sandals smacked hard against the bar floor.
“You don’t even smoke,” a cold blonde dripping in fake gold hissed.
“People change, babe,” Knife cooed, twisting her hips and slinking toward the bar door.
Knife chuckled. Lissie wouldn’t be coming back. She’d be coming. But not back.
“So, tell me what the fuck really went down between you and Ray?” Gabriella asked Violet. They were gossiping over champagne and snails at Buvette, a scene-y, pocket-sized, brasserie in the West Village.
Ever since they’d met at the bougie lesbian party at the Standard hotel the weekend prior, Violet and Gabriella had been inseparable. They had just the right amount in common: Gabriella was the Senior writer for a lesbian sex magazine; Violet was the Senior writer for a mainstream digital media outlet. Gabriella took Prozac; Violet took Lexapro. Gabriella suffered from unpredictable bouts of violent diarrhea that caused her to abruptly leave fabulous parties early. Violet’s bowels were drier than the Sahara Desert, acute constipation causing her to also leave fabulous parties early because no one likes being at a fabulous party constipated. Gabriella had battled a crippling anxiety disorder since the seventh grade; Violet had spent a decade paralyzed by depression. Gabriella dropped out of Parsons; Violet dropped out of Pratt. Gabriella self-medicated with shopping sprees; Violet self-medicated with martini benders. They both preferred their red lipstick to have a blue undertone, worshiped at the altar of Sylvia Plath, thought vintage jewelry was chic but found vintage clothing to be “creepy,” devoured the Andy Warhol diaries when feeling blasé about life. Adored Paris Hilton. Edie Sedgwick. Jackie Collins. Daddy dykes. Glamour. Les Misérables.
Neither made a lot of money nor had rich parents, but damn, did they act like they had both.
“Answer me, slut,” Gabriella pried. They’d taken to calling each other affectionate nicknames like “slut” “whore” and “bitch.”
“You’re the sluttiest little bitch in town, which is the only reason I’m willing to discuss this depressing subject matter with you” Violet tapped her lavender-painted nails against her champagne glass. She’d been experimenting with switching from a martini diet to a champagne diet. It seemed like a step in the right direction.
Gabriella stuck a snail into her mouth and looked at Violet, expectantly.
“So, I guess I should start by saying I have daddy issues.”
“All hot girls have daddy issues.”
“I don’t mean like hot daddy dyke issues,” Violet stabbed the last snail with her fork and coyly popped it between her lips. “I mean who are we kidding, I have those too,” she purred. “But, like, I mean I also hate my actual dad.”
“All hot girls hate their dads.” Gabriella peered into Violet’s sad eyes. “I get it,” she added softly.
“Okay, let me preface: I’m obsessed with both of my parents. But — “ Gabriella took a loaded pause. “My mom’s abusive dad walked out on the whole family when she was eleven and before she dealt with all that in therapy she had this – ”
“Perpetual fear of rejection?”
“Yes. And she recently told me that before she met my dad –”
“She sought out father figures in the form of toxic codependent emotionally abusive partners?”
“Yes! Totally. She dated some real assfucks back in her day! She didn’t know how to —”
“Receive love?” Violet sighed. She looked at her empty champagne glass. Fuck it. She flagged down the waiter. “Can we have two martinis please?”
“You know I only drink champagne,” Gabriella crossed her legs. She was wearing black vinyl leggings with strategic slashes across the thighs.
Violet crossed her legs. Her legs were bare except for the frilly white socks peeping out of her patent Mary Janes. “Champagne is for whores.”
“Perfect. I’m a whore. But I’m a whore that’s also an amazing friend so yes, sir,” Gabriella batted her long, fake eyelashes at the mortified-looking waiter. “We’ll take two martinis. Make ‘em extra dirty. Like my friend here who is a NASTY SLUT.”
“Um, sure!” The waiter managed to croak before scampering away like a street cat.
“So describe Ray. What makes her so toxic?” Gabriella pressed.
“One minute she’s obsessed with me. Tells me she wants to be with me forever. The next minute she hates me. Accuses me of cheating. Says my career is a joke. Tells me I’m ugly.”
“Violet, you’re beautiful. You are like lowkey the hottest girl I have ever seen.”
“I’m not. But that’s okay.” Violet rolled her eyes. “Look, I don’t want to do the whole ‘you’re pretty’ song and dance. I don’t feel pretty in the slightest, I feel like a space alien. And I know my career is completely ridiculous and probably won’t go anywhere and that I’ll be broke for the rest of my life. I also know that I’m fucking up my life by avoiding my past and silencing the demons with booze and drugs. And I know this is all going to come crashing down. Soon.”
Two martinis appeared before their eyes. “You know what I think?” Gabriella asked, her sultry eyes suddenly cozy and pillowy.
Violet took a gulp of her martini. “What?”
“I think that you’ve chosen someone whose shitty opinion of you matches your shitty opinion of yourself. Your shitty opinion about yourself that your deadbeat fuckin’ dad pounded into you. And I think that you think if you can convince Ray you’re actually amazing and worthy of love, you’ll convince yourself that you’re amazing and worthy of love.”
A lonely tear slithered its way down Violet’s face.
“I’m sorry. That was a lot,” Gabriella grabbed Violet’s hand.
“No. Thank you.” Violet squeezed Gabriella’s hand back.
Violet found herself strangely grateful that Gabriella had ripped her protective band-aide off. She nervously watched as Gabriella stared into her open wound. She anticipated the bitter sting of peroxide, but instead, felt a rush of fresh air.
“Tell me one last thing,” Gabriella’s voice dropped three octaves. “Does she hurt you?”
“We hurt each other,” the electricity suddenly zapped out of Violet’s vibrant, gold eyes. Gabriella observed her new best friend. She looked far away, like a blurry photograph of a different time captured on a disposable camera. Gabriella’s lingering suspicion that the situation with Ray was far worse than Violet had led on, suddenly confirmed itself. She shivered. Was Violet in danger?
Ray was sound asleep, her back flat against the Tempurpedic mattress that lay atop Nia Green’s king bed in her Fire Island summer home. Ray hadn’t visited Nia in weeks. She’d claimed she’d taken on a new slew of clients who wanted her out in the Hamptons. Logically, it made sense. Ray was becoming one of the most coveted celebrity trainers on the Eastern Seaboard, and of course, all the Wall Street wives would pay whatever it took to acquire Hollywood-grade abs. But Nia had a sneaking suspicion there was more to the story. They’d been in their usual Fire Island routine of rigorous morning beach runs followed by a marathon of orgasms, but something was off.
Mainly it was the sex. The sex was different. Ray normally stared into Nia’s eyes when she came. This time she’d kept her eyes squeezed shut as if she was actively working to visualize something (or someone) else. On top of that, Ray usually seemed to take great delight in bringing Nia right to the brink before pulling her mouth away from between her legs and lightly running her tongue across her thighs. Tonight Ray hadn’t teased her at all. And while Nia wasn’t exactly well versed in the art of lesbian sex, she was pretty sure teasing meant caring. Especially for lovers like Ray.
But Nia had also been harboring a dirty little secret of her own. Ever since she’d been shell-shocked by a random flashback of almost kissing her teenage crush Imani, she’d couldn’t stop thinking about her. With a little sleuthing, she’d found her on Facebook. She’d lost an entire eight-hour day to stalking her on social media. She wasn’t surprised to discover she’d been a star basketball player for the UConn Huskies, but had been devastated to learn that a knee injury had prevented her from going pro.
But what really cracked her heart open wide, were the pictures of Imani’s face.
Her smile was equal parts fierce and equal parts gentle. Her wide-set eyes were both strong and kind. Looking at Imani through the cold static screen of her laptop made her feel safe. And excited. She’d never experienced the two sensations at once.
Nia stared at Ray’s sleeping naked body and quietly tiptoed toward the living room, nervously clutching her phone. What was it about Ray that made her feel afraid? She was Nia Fucking Green. She’d fearlessly stared the wrath of Hollywood in the eye and had thrown punches into the boxing ring of fame. She felt a match strike inside of her eyes. Within seconds, she was full of fire. She curled her long legs beneath her and opened up the Facebook app on her phone, as flames danced around her.
Knife pressed Lissie up against the bar bathroom wall.
“I’ve never even kissed a girl before,” Lissie whispered breathlessly, basking in the new sensation of a girl chest leaning against her girl chest. “I want you. But I don’t know what the hell I’m doing.”
“I’ll show you what to do,” Knife traced her bony fingers along the outline of Lissie’s collarbones. Goosebumps popped up, one by one, across Lissie’s entire body. Knife leaned down and began kissing her neck. Lissie moaned. Knife laughed. She wasn’t going to give it to her that easily. She lightly pinched Lissie’s nipple and let her lips linger over hers before softly biting her lower lip.
POUND. POUND. POUND.
Someone was aggressively knocking on the door. “Don’t worry ‘bout it,” Knife assured, unzipping Lissie’s jeans.
Lissie didn’t seem to notice the knocking. She breathed loudly. “Please,” she begged.
“Open the fucking door,” boomed a loud male voice.
“Oh. My. God.” Lissie suddenly froze. “That’s my boyfriend.”
“You have a boyfriend?”
“Yes. And I love him. What the fuck am I doing? I’m not even gay!” She yanked up her jeans and opened the bathroom door. “It’s not what it looks like,” she cried. “I promise.”
The boyfriend stood at least seven inches taller than six foot Knife. His arms angrily bulged out of his black Hanes t-shirt. His beady eyes teemed with primal rage. He stalked over to Knife and grabbed the collar of her white shirt with meaty hands. Her shirt was covered in Lissie’s orange foundation and sparkly pink lipgloss. He pushed Knife up against the brick wall of the bar. Knife floated to the ceiling and watched the scene, safe up high from the rafters.
“What are you doing here?” she faintly heard him growl into her ear. “Get the fuck out of here before I beat the shit out of you. Fuckin’ dyke. You don’t belong here.”
She suddenly fell from the ceiling and slammed back into her body. He’s right. I don’t belong here. What am I doing? She ripped herself out of his grasp and shot out of the door like a cannon.
I don’t belong here. I don’t belong here. I don’t belong here. I don’t belong here.
Where do I belong? She wondered, staring into the starless sky.
Suddenly the memory of Catalina’s bright green eyes cast a tiny glimmer of light on her. She knew exactly where to go.
Maybe it was the intensity of their conversation at brunch.
Maybe it was the three glasses of champagne and two martinis.
Maybe they were high off the thrill of new friendship.
But for whatever reason, the moment Gabriella and Violet stumbled into Dolly’s, they felt possessed by a fabulous demon.
“Slap me!” Violet slurred to Gabriella. “I can’t feel anything!”
“Only if you slap me first,” Gabriella giggled as Jack gawked at them from the corner of the bar.
Violet gently rested her hand against Gabriella’s face. Her cat eyes danced wickedly. Violet’s hand slapped hard against Gabriella’s jaw. Gabriella’s fire engine mouth broke into a shit-eating grin.
“Harder!” Gabriella shouted so loudly she silenced the bar. Violet raised her freshly manicured hand in the bar air. Her oversized turquoise ring glinted beneath the naked bulbs that hung over their heads.
God damn it. Jack thought to herself, stomping over to Violet and Gabriella. She knew where this was going and it wasn’t going to end well.
“Alright, alright, I’m putting a stop to this shit, right now.” Jack lectured, wedging her sweatshirt adorned torso between the two bewitched girls.
“But I need to FEEL something,” Violet bellowed theatrically.
A group of notoriously gossipy dykes lapped up the scene, their tongues wagging out of their parched mouths. Jack grimaced at them. “Mind your own fuckin’ business, ya hear?” The thirsty girls scattered. Jack was an elder. And if an elder yells at you at the gay bar, you’d be a fool not to listen.
Jack wrapped her arms authoritatively around Violet and Gabriella. “Listen kiddos — why don’t we get some fresh air?”
“I quit smoking,” Violet smirked. “And martinis. And pretty soon I’m going to stop abusing pharmaceuticals and start loving myself.”
“Um, I love that for you, but like, I just lowkey saw you smoke a cigarette and you forced martinis down both of our throats less than an hour ago,” Gabriella smirked back.
“The past is in the past, darling,” Violet said primly.
“You girls are fuckin’ nutty tonight. What is it, a full moon?” Jack asked. Or a lifetime of unresolved trauma manifesting itself in strange ways? she added, silently.
Gabriella planted a wet kiss against Jack’s cheek. “It’s always a full moon, Jack,” she crooned. Jack blushed so hard it was impossible to tell what was more red: Her face or the bright red Chanel lipstick imprinted into her skin.
“Look —” Violet dizzily pointed toward a woman with short black hair, buttery olive skin, and shiny chocolate eyes, sitting alone at a cocktail table to the left of the bar. Even though it was summer, she had a black leather jacket draped over her broad shoulders. Her tattooed hands clutched a beer. Her raised eyebrow and relaxed jaw emitted a casual confidence exclusive to celebrities who’d never sought fame, fame had sought them.
“Is that —?” Gabriella looked curiously into Violet’s big doll eyes.
“It’s Natalia Gonzalez. The famous international DJ. Jose Antonio does her hair. She is so sexy.” Violet suddenly looked demonic. Jack wouldn’t have been shocked if horns surfaced out of the sides of her head. She looked at Gabriella. Her stretched-out smile was...satanic.
“We should totally have a threesome with Natalia,” Gabriella hooted. “Before we fall in love with some asshole and can’t do this kind of fun shit anymore.”
“If we don’t have a threesome tonight, we’ve FAILED at life,” Violet sing-songed, twirling. Her navy fit and flare dress billowed around her.
Jack rolled her eyes. She suddenly no longer desired Gabriella or Violet. Her lust turned metamorphosed into something entirely different. Protection. For better or worse, these whack-job girls were family. And she couldn’t have them loudly blathering on about their drug problems and threesomes in public. “Come on girls,” she declared, glaring at the snickering gossip lesbians, who were savagely stuffing handfuls of rhetorical popcorn into their mouths as they watched Violet drunkenly spin in circles. “You both need to cool off.”
“Yes, daddy,” Violet lilted.
“Whatever Daddy says, we do,” Gabriella meowed like a kitten.
“How’d I get stuck with this shit?” Jack spat, leading them out the door, her face arranged in an irritated expression, even though a field of wildflowers were blooming inside of her heart.
The three dykes stood beneath the awning of Dolly’s passing a cigarette back and forth.
“Have you asked Catalina out yet?” Gabriella blew out a ring of smoke and passed a lipstick-adorned cigarette to Violet.
“She is so clearly in love with you,” Violet chirped.
“You’re all out of your fuckin’ minds,” Jack croaked, though she was loving every second of this.
“I’m sorry I never texted you back,” Violet stared sadly into the pavement. “I’m a wreck. It’s best to not come near me. But Catalina —” Violet smiled at Jack. “Now, she’s cool.” She passed the cigarette back to Gabriella.
“Hey! Isn’t that Imani?” Gabriella asked, waving the cigarette toward a tall figure loping toward Dolly’s. They’d briefly met at Dolly’s two weeks prior.
“Imani!” Violet squealed, wrapping her arms around her. “What’s up?”
“Just looking for something to do on a dismal Friday?” She flashed them a brilliant smile. “I’ve had a boring day. Week. Year.”
“You’re gonna crave some healthy boredom if you hang out with these two tonight. They’re bonkers,” Jack warned, lighting a new cigarette of her own. It was bad enough she sucked back nicotine and tobacco. She didn’t need to be inhaling the chemicals of lipstick, too.
Imani’s phone loudly beeped. “I’m so over my phone. The only messages I’ve been getting all week have been from this desperate recruiter trying to hire me as a basketball coach for some homophobic catholic school. I’m not going back in the closet for anything, let alone a shitty salary,” she ranted, reaching into her pocket and pulling out her phone. She looked at it with dread and reluctantly punched in her passcode.
Violet grabbed the lipstick cigarette out of Gabriella’s hands and stamped it into the ground. Gabriella pulled out a pack of unopened Juicy Fruit. Jack shook her head at the full, pregnant moon towering above their heads.
“Are you fucking kidding me?” Imani exclaimed, her voice incredulous.
“What?” Gabriella, Jack, and Violet asked in unison.
“This girl. This girl. This girl,” Imani’s voice shook like a leaf.
“What girl?” Violet asked.
“I loved her in high school. She broke my heart. I haven’t spoken to her since. She just Facebook messaged me. It’s been ten years,” Imani’s eyes were full of disbelief like she’d just seen a ghost (which she had).
“Wow,” Gabriella spritzed a travel-sized bottle of Miss Dior across her decolletage and passed it to Violet who did the same.
“Well, what’s her name?” Jack coughed into the air. What was with these girls and their incessant spraying of perfume? Didn’t they understand they were interfering with their pheromones?
“Nia. Nia Green.”
Violet’s stomach did a backflip. “Wait — the one I saw with Ray at the drag show? What the fuck? Why didn’t you tell me you knew her?”
“I wasn’t sure it was the same Nia Green. I was freaked out and just convinced myself they had the same name. But now I am positive. It’s her.”
Violet grabbed Imani by the shoulders. “You love her. I can tell. So we need to get her the fuck away from Ray.”
“What? Wait, Violet, what do you mean?” Imani asked.
“Hiiiii, family!” A drunken voice screamed behind them. No one had to turn their heads to know Knife had arrived.
TO BE CONTINUED…