Funny, how it felt as if she were doing a jig whenever a pretty girl was around, just trying to lure a smile, earn the grace of a gaze, hop and wiggle and flash her peacock feathers to dazzle her into a kind of animal magnetism. Anja wasn’t above giving a performance and acting like a complete fool – while always maintaining an arm’s length of space away and holding fast to that casual, evasive easiness of autonomy, of course. Too many a time she found herself in the dark of her apartment, rubbing her eyes and tearing herself apart for her embarrassing behavior, her foolish endeavors, her lack of inhibition...only to continue on, an unfettered repeat offender.
To be sure, AJ’s love-life was quick and passionate and finished before she could get attached or feel trapped, and that was precisely how she needed it to be. It would keep her safe. She’d spent most of her adult life running from bed to bed, changing partners before the end of the song, and blurring platonic boundaries with romantic (though transparently noncommittal) inclinations so she could forget about what might become of her if she stopped moving and started to become normal. She’d convinced herself that’d been the death of her mother, in the end. Normalcy: it left such a funny taste in her mouth. She wasn’t sure she would ever be meant for it.
Anja figured it was all just a part it, really. She had a character to play, same as everyone else – better to own up to it now and make it worth it, and this silver lining was certainly rewarding enough to reconcile herself and elicit another flashing smile or two. Anja crooked her arms at the elbow, then, raising her palms in front of her to insinuate innocence.
“It might surprise you, but I didn’t exactly plan this whole thing through. Completely impromptu. Some days I just can’t hold my tongue and watch my feet. I’m just a bull in a China shop world, I guess,” she said, a premeditated laugh falling from her lips, coffee-warm glance meeting Dawn’s.
Despite its messy inception, she couldn’t help but feel a genuine appreciation for the ways in which the night’s course had changed: looking at her, talking to her, flushing to her flirtatious banter. The promise beneath Dawn’s words and her stance and her entire personality frightened away any lingering hesitation. AJ knew it, and she loved it, and with a muscle working in jaw, she seemed to summon every ounce of willpower to school her face into something more neutral. Her eyes betrayed her, though, when they traveled up and down and up again…and yet never quite away, even as she orchestrated an internal debate on the ridiculousness of being turned on just by looking at someone. She had to trick herself into thinking she was surely too clever to be caught once more in the gaping maw of whatever the fuck this was.
“What a world. Hardly acquainted, and we’ve already found something in common,” Anja eased out between them, one hand toying with the fabric of her Divinitee, tugging with a kind of aimlessness energy. Her mouth was already open to say something that died on her tongue. In lieu of a handshake, there was a touch, featherlight and soft, of lips brushing against her knuckles. She closed her mouth, opened it once more, and then closed it again. Surprised into a temporary, remarkably uncharacteristic silence – go figure. She leaned against the bar, watching Dawn at an angle, skin flushed. Her hands were warm, but they didn’t sweat. Anja wasn’t nervous anymore. Curious, but hardly nervous. Nervousness was reserved for much scarier people than Dawn, even if her confidence had trampled her own in just under a few seconds.
She stifled a laugh, coughing into her wrist to smother what little noise it made, and gathered her voice, her demeanor taking a hair-pinned turn toward something coy. Anja found herself even happier that Dawn had agreed to a drink in the first place. “Something tells me that you don’t like to play fair.” She put delicate stress on the last word, keeping any implications murky as swamp water. “Enchantée, Dawn,” she parroted, weighing it on her tongue, almost as if she were trying it on for size.
“Fortunately for you, old-world chivalry really makes my knees weak.” The fox smiled, canines bared, reaching to each corner of her eyes. There was nothing menacing about it—it was the grin she donned when she wanted attention, that meaningful, conspicuous smirk. Vulpine. Leonine. Lupine. She couldn’t name the mammal’s mimicry much nowadays; it struck her that no beast could really compare to humanistic intent. She supposed there lied the danger.
Anja threaded her fingers together, noting that the bartender had taken stock of her empty glass and shot her a knowing look, acknowledging the new company. She nodded her head, procuring a selfsame wave before following Dawn’s ministrations for a moment, wrapping herself in the woman’s proposition. She was a bit unsure if she was amused, enthusiastic, or stunned. Remarkable, how often those particular traits coincided. “You’re giving me a lot to work with.” She kissed her teeth, her eyes doing all the talking (all that was necessary at least), before she spoke again: “I bet I should run with it.”
And, then, the million dollar question, posed by a barkeep who very quickly seemed to be earning a special place in AJ’s heart: “I take it you need a refill? Another double of Patron? Red Stripe?” He leaned closer, busying himself with clearing the surface in front of them with a flourish. “Actually, it’s about time I made a change. Think you can put together a couple of Captain Levis for me?” Anja hooked a thumb toward Dawn. “She’s inspired me.”
He threw his rag over his shoulder, straightening to his full height. “Can do. Anything else?” Anja paused, attention tilting to the woman next to her for confirmation. “Unless she has any disagreements―” Her lips quirked, “―I think we’re aces,” she tapered off with a lazy salute.
They were left alone (or alone as one might be in a bar full of people) long enough for AJ to pull a stool out and offer it to Dawn, miming a tipping of a hat. “After you,” she segued, taking her own seat only when she’d resolved that she was settled.
When their drinks arrived, she had her elbow propped on the bar, cradling her chin in her hand, body angled toward Dawn. The bartender made himself scarce after a word of thanks. “So, Jameson Black Barrel, Pernod Absinthe, apple juice, and a bit of sugar to curb the bite,” she listed, motioning to their twin glasses. “You might already know as much, but what’s a game without a preface?”
She pushed her sleeves further up the length of her arms, going to mix her drink and take a tempered sip, a process done slowly and steadily. Anja half-hoped that taking her time would allow for more repartee and a little more flirting. The prospect planted a seed of potential in the recesses of her brain, spurring a small smile. She knew having an ulterior motive wasn’t the best reason to take her time, but, goddammit, this girl was fucking gorgeous – she’d allow herself this. If growing up in the lower-class had taught her anything, it was that she should appreciate something of quality when laid out in front of her.
Reminded of something, Anja fished out her phone, stealing a look at the time. Her eyes shot up to land on Dawn, sharing with her a look of open excitement. “Hey, I hope this adventure of yours can last through the year. We’ve got just under six minutes and counting.” A beat later, and her articulation had changed, taking on a flirtatious lilt: “I can’t even remember the last time I had such a good view to go with the new year. I owe you a thank you.”