“So what now?”
“This is the part where you give me the money.” Gemma smiled reassuringly at him. He was sweating nervously in the pressed tuxedo he had poured himself into. The collar was too tight and the waist of the pants was about to pop at any moment. Gemma stood back out of the line of fire.
Standing in a private sitting room, Gemma couldn’t look more out of place. Everything was coated in a fine layer of gold and glitter and Gemma was covered in a fine layer of dirt. She looked grungy and underslept but here she was, standing in a room of gold and glass.
“Oh right.” He ruffled around in his breast pockets until he found the small wad of money tucked away in there. “Should be all here.” He handed it to Gemma.
She took it quickly. “Relax Frankie. This is not a drug deal, it’s just two people exchanging money.”
“For services that could end my marriage.” He tacked on.
“Right, but you don’t have to worry about that because after tonight, I’m out of your life for good.”
Gemma counted the money quickly, counting two thousand and shoving it into her own breast pocket, “Alright, so we’re done here.” She turned to leave the small sitting room but Frankie held up his hand.
“Oh! I have another job for you.” He ruffled in his pockets again and pulled a business card. He stretched his suit to hand it to Gemma who just stared at it. “It’s a friend of mine…in a similar position. I told him about you.”
“I appreciate that but I don’t make calls. I get them.” Gemma said, “If your friend wants to get in touch with me, you know where to find me.”
She turned from him and the card and made her way towards the exit.
Outside the music from the ballroom below swam up and around her heels. The stairs spiraled down into a sea of people with a man waiting just at the bottom in his own tuxedo. Unlike Frankie’s, he wasn’t bursting at the seams. His suit was well tailored and his shoes were expertly shined.
Gemma made her way down the stairs and slid in next to him.
The man held up his glass of champagne. The curls in his hair shined in the glittering lights of the room and the champagne matched his impossible eye color. He was a vision. But Gemma had no interest. And neither did he.
“How do you feel?” Gemma leaned in to whisper.
“Like bond waiting to pull off a heist.” He smiled, sipping his sparkling amber champagne.
“Did bond pull off heists?” Gemma narrowed her eyes at him.
“He was a secret service man, an unstoppable anonymous force to be reckoned with.” He said.
“You don’t know.”
“No, I don’t but it doesn’t matter when you look this fabulous.”
Gemma laughed out loud and stepped out in front of him, turning to face him. “Come on, let’s blow this joint.”
“What? No way. I wanna soak this in. How often do we get to hang with the elites?” He said. “Let’s just stay a little bit longer.
“Gemma,” He echoed.
Gemma let her eyes roam the room and a butler with champagne on his tray circled back around through the crowd. Gemma reached for one, grabbing it cleanly from the tray and drinking it down in one movement.
“Yeah, you just keep drinking those and let’s have us some fun.” Samir grabs her hand and leads her through the dance floor over to the bar.
Gemma groans. “We don’t belong here, Sammy. And I don’t feel like faking it tonight. Can’t we just go home and watch tv or something. Come on, I’ll let you pop popcorn.” Gemma pulls back on his hold and Samir gaze snaps back on her.
“What?” He asked.
Gemma furrows her brow, “Are you listening to me?”
“Yeah, but check out that hottie over there.” He nods to a guy standing across the room nodding with some other socialites. His dark hair was slicked and his jaw line was impeccable. He looked over at the two briefly and smiles before going back to his conversation. Samir smiled widely. “Oh yeah, he wants it.”
“He’s not even looking at you.”
“He doesn’t have to. I can feel it.” Samir smiled, looking back at Gemma and seeing the non-believing look on her face. “Oh come on, live a little. Everything can’t be work work work.”
“Fine.” Gemma finally conceded, grabbing another drink from a passing by tray. “But not everyone is gay. Don’t get us beat up or worse…kicked out of here.”
“How is that worse than getting beat up?”
“I pick up most of my clients at these things,” It’s be a shame if they saw me getting thrown out into the street. No clients. No money. No money. No place to stay. No place to stay. No place for you to bring your johns back to.”
“Are you saying I’m a whore?” Samir feigned hurt. Gemma laughed, not saying anything. “Okay, we’re gonna talk about this later. I’m gonna go over here and see if I can get my freak on. I suggest you do the same.”
Samir lets go of Gemma hand and heads towards the guy, leaving her to fend for herself. “Don’t leave without me.” He yells back.
Gemma circles the bar for a little while longer, avoiding the eye contact of men she recognized and raising her glass to those she didn’t. She sighed. Maybe a party is what she needed to loosen up. She made her way to the large French doors of the balcony.
The night was breezy and chilled as Gemma stepped out on the balcony. She inhaled the night deeply, finally able to relax.
But that was short lived when a bottle came barreling for her head at record speeds. She was barely able to dodge out the way still getting caught in the ricochet as a piece of shattering glass caught her cheek.
“Oh my god.” The dark haired woman behind the throw grabs her cheeks in horror, seeing the little red line on Gemma cheek. “I am so sorry. I thought you were…” She stops. She stepped into the light coming from the french doors and shined. With dark hair and flawless olive skin. The strapless, purple cocktail dress she wore swept the ground. Gemma struggled to find her words.
“Who the hell was that for?” Gemma dabs at the cut with her fingertips feeling the familiar sting.
“My mother.” The woman confessed running over to Gemma and examining the cut further. “There’s no glass in it. You should be fine.”
“Should be fine? I was almost killed.” Gemma screeched. “Why were you gonna throw a glass bottle at your mother?”
The woman narrowed her eyes and backed up, “I don’t have to explain myself to you.”
“Like hell you don’t.”
“Who even are you?” The woman asked. “I don’t remember inviting you.”
“I uh,” Gemma stumbles over words. “I’m a plus one.”
“Besides, you nearly disfigured me, I think I deserve a bit of your party.” Gemma jabbed at the woman. She watched the woman’s face go from relaxed to angry in two seconds. She reeled from the sudden change.
“Hey! No one told you to come out here.”
“So this is my fault?” Gemma said surprised, “You’re making this my fault?”
The woman sighed, lowering her green eyes to the concrete of the balcony floor. “Just leave me alone.”
“Gladly, I have no interest in sharing a high platform with a psychopath.” Gemma spat.
“Fuck you!” She yelled giving Gemma a stiff push towards the french doors. Gemma stumbled back unsteady, narrowing her eyes at the dark haired woman before turning and walking back into the party. She closed the french doors behind her hearing the thud of a shoe hit the glass behind her.
“What the hell was that?” Samir asked, walking over to Gemma. He noticed the small cut on her cheek and dabbed it with his cocktail napkin. There wasn’t much blood anymore just pink exposed skin that marred Gemma’s brown complexion and added to her overall grungy look.
“I walked out there and the craziest chick threw a bottle at my head.” Gemma complained, hiking her thumb over her shoulder.
“Thank goodness for catlike reflexes.” Samir smiled. Gemma grumbled at him, not sharing his humor. “Oh come on, you know these rich brats. Just tripping because the wine isn’t chilled enough.”
“And what’s worse this is her party.” Gemma said.
“Yeah this whole thing is for her. Like the lights and the champagne and the bar. Everything.” Gemma said.
“Whoa. That’s some swanky girl.” Samir chuckled.
“Yeah with a mean arm.” Gemma groan still dabbing at her cheek.
Samir grabbed Gemma’s hand and led her back to the bar. The bar top was mirrored and Gemma leaned into surveying the cut on her cheek.
“How’d it turn out with your guy?” She asked Samir.
Samir sighed. “It was a bust. He wouldn’t even talk to me.”
“Seriously? I’ve had enough of these rich pricks. Can we go now?” Gemma looked to Samir who was sharing a lustful look with the bartender. “Sammy!”
“What?” He snapped to attention.
The tapping of glass pulled both of their attentions to the front of the room. The same man that Samir was eying earlier stepped onto a raised stage at the front of the ballroom and held his glass up to the crowd.
“I wanna thank you all for coming this evening. It really means a lot to us.” He started. “But it would all mean nothing without my beautiful girlfriend…fiance…Matilda. Come on up here, darling.”
The crowd clapped as the woman in the purple cocktail dress made her way onto the stage with a smile. She cranes up on her tip toes and kisses him quickly on the cheek.
“You have got to be kidding me.” Gemma said underneath her breath.
“Isn’t this romantic?” Samir cooed.
“Oh please, this guy is so full of it. Look at that jitter in his hand. He can’t even keep still. It’s pulling you away from his lying face.” Gemma explained. “Classic distraction mechanism.”
“Would you stop?” Samir hissed. “He’s just nervous. Like a normal person should be.”
Samir sighed longingly. “Happily ever after. Don’t you just love love?” He said. “And I was so sure he was gay.”
“Can we just go now?”
“Yes, we can go now.” Samir finally concedes and leads them out of the dining hall and outside where their taxi is waiting.
They both hopped inside, feeling exhausted from the evening. Gemma leans her head against Samir’s shoulder and closes her eyes.
“Aw, you poor thing.” Samir smooths her hair. “Do you want me to sing you lullaby?”