The music of the club pulsated through Shiori as her escape from Juri's office pushed her quickly into the throngs of dancers. From there she moved almost on impulse towards the door of the club, to the coat check to gather the rest of her things and out the door...Out of the club, the claustrophobic bite of memory, of that familiarity that wanted so much for her to just give in and really try. To force her to give up her quest to out do and be better than Juri. She wanted that so much but it was in vain. When the day was over she and Juri were the same. It made her sick. And if she were to look a little closer she might have seen how she was worse than the panther...she might have but...
The crisp air and the damp smell of the pavement pulled her into focus. Sobriety clung about her limbs like a weight and a vice. It was a terrible thing to be so dry after such a conversation, even if it had merely been business. But nothing between the artist and the club manager was ever just business. It seemed to her that everything circled back to the past, to their ending a friendship that had once been salvation and turned to bitter jealousy, desperate hate, and constant misunderstanding.
Shiori clung to her reason. She held fast to her conclusion that it was all Juri's fault. In her own mind it could never be anything more and she would never say she tried to make things better...but then...at the time... she really didn't know how. She didn't think she could....and the years built up around her until she knew that she was nothing but what some had called her. She was poison, bitter sweet with years of struggling to prove her worth.
She trod heavily towards her motorcycle and quickly made way out of the sight of the club's oppressive neon lights, speeding to her apartment, and the thought of solitude.
The weather was cool and crisp with sporadic showers. Driving in the rain made her a little nervous but it was just rain...it was water she could handle. As soon as she parked her bike she felt a greater sense of relief, riding up the elevator to her apartment and down the long hallway to her door.
As she entered the space that was her own, sparse as it was, she quickly shut the door tossed her things to the side, striding passed her bed (a wood framed futon) and the empty spaces occupied with an easel and an incomplete painting to stop at the far corner that held her stereo system and vast record collection. She thumbed through the albums, flipped through a few of her forty-fives and then...settled on an old mixed tape from her last months of high school. The ancient stereo hummed to life and the music clicked on and eclectic mix of jazz, eighties pop, heavy metal, and of course Latin jazz
Once there was music to fill the empty spaces of the mid-sized studio apartment Shiori stepped across to her mini-fridge and pulled out a bottle of vodka some ice and reached up to the shelf just above it and pulled down a plastic cup. She filled it and took a long gulp, and then put the bottle and the ice back in the fridge.
She kicked off her black and violet riding boots near her bed and retrieved the check that Juri had written out to her from the pocket of her leather pants. She looked over the elegant script and wanted to scoff, but a grimace graced her lips and she ushered the payment away. Breathing out a touch of relief in knowing that it was all done and taken care of, she would put the check in the bank in the morning...or late afternoon.
The vodka touched her lips again and she swallowed down the empty salvation, putting the glass down to go over to the easel and the incomplete painting. She was just about to pick up a brush and some paint when there was a knock at her door. Violet eyes narrowed at the intrusion. Surely it wasn't a noise complaint, and she wasn't expecting company...
She sniffed and walked over to her door. Meeting light brown eyes as it swung open. An older woman of about forty leaned in the doorway. An unopened bottle of expensive vodka hung from her hand Shiori could tell she had been drinking.
"Well, I see you've started without me. I'll need to catch up..." She paused as the older woman entered and shut the door behind her, leaning into the door. "So is-"
"He went on business. I was bored. You don't mind me coming over do you?" The woman forced a smile, it was aching though, and it was full of things Shiori could recognize, because they were things she was made up of.
"I don't mind, but this-"
"Breaks our little arrangement. I know...it's fine... "The woman gracefully stumbled further into the apartment, practically throwing herself on the futon.
The butterfly took a deep breath. It was definitely turning out to be one of those evenings. She wondered why that was.
The arrangement Shiori had between herself, that woman, and the woman's husband was one of pure convenience. It wasn't as if she were dating the couple, she was just occasionally sleeping with them. Fulfilling a fantasy, for the sake of an affair without having an affair, and Shiori never questioned why the two had approached her. What she got out of the arrangement aside from a few lovely nights of frivolous fun was the affection of the older woman and a showing at a gallery.
Shiori crossed the space to the futon as the music changed from a thundering heavy metal song into a light rumba. She held out her hand and the older woman set the bottle of vodka down and stood up. The butterfly pulled her close and had the woman follow her.
"Just move with me your feet will know what to do,"' Shiori said. "Rumbas are easy if you let them be."
A bitter chuckle left the woman's lips as she allowed herself the dance. It was awkward to be led being much taller than the violet-eyed artist, but she fell into it.
"How do you know how to do this anyway?"
She spun the older woman out and the quickly back into her. "Years of forced dance lessons. My father said a lady should know how to dance with anyone...but I'm not sure he would have approved of this. Not that it matters."
Shiori hardly thought herself a lady.
"You're a good dancer-"
"No, I'm a moderately capable dancer. I'd never make it as a pro."
"Did you compete?"
She sighed as the song drew to a close, "What ever happened to not making anything personal?" She didn't wait for an answer, "Only for a little bit... I still have one of the outfits and pair of what my dance partner always called cha-cha heels. I'm just a painter...nothing more..."
The music died away as the tape ended and in the slow sinking silence Shiori found her self unfortunately sober as she made a decision regarding the older woman. She pulled the woman into a long kiss pulling back to look into brown eyes drunk on despair and jealousy.
"He thinks that just because we have status and class...he thinks he can do anything he wants," the woman said bitterly. "He goes off on his trips for business that aren't really business, thinking he can placate me...but her can't."
Shiori took a deep breath as she was pulled closer into a kiss that was pure venom and spite.
"But if he can have his little girls all to himself... so can I." The woman said pulling out of the kiss and led Shiori back to the futon where the bottle of vodka was opened and consumed amid kisses and gasps until eventually the lights went out in the room and darkness consumed it with the sounds of lust.
Shall I be your revenge?
And your jealousy too....
I can be anything you like
I am just as bitter as you
You can take my lips
You can rip my wings
Chew me up with your mouth
Swallow me wholly into your gullet
Lick your tongue around my wounds
But you don't seem to understand
As you punish me with those finger tips
As you wrap up around me tight
I've been broken before
I've been torn piece by piece
My wings grow back to flutter again against flames
But what I leave behind sits forever in your mouth
It seeps in deep and you can't get it out
I am used to punishment
I can stand the abuse
But can you survive what I return
This poison I induce
The night died away to give way to sunrise. The light rose blindingly into the studio since Shiori never bothered to shut her curtains. She liked to have the light... She lay in the older woman's arms eyes shut and her body twitched as she dreamt. She could not escape her dreams, even when she was in the arms of someone that might be inclined to comfort her. She was haunted by visions that some would consider dark memory but she was not sure...the dreams felt real, but did not feel real...it fueled her fear of still dark waters. She hated lakes and ponds...she couldn't take a bath... The rain and a shower, the constant moving of ocean waves she could stomach but barely...water was her fear...drowning haunted her...being drowned tormented her.
Shiori wished for waking...she wished but did not receive as the dreams tossed her about like a lost ship. It was nearly always the same. One moment she would be on the shore of a dark and still lake with a pitch black sky and no stars. From that distance she could see a small boat and woman who shared her features and suddenly there would be a splash, large hands twisting around her throat as she gasped for breath and felt the dampness as she was held fast under the dark waters. Held tightly and with out relief she could feel herself stop breathing....
And that was when she woke with a gasp, relaxing into the hold of the older woman's arms about her. She panted and there were soothing tones that fell deafly upon her. It was only the soft touch of well manicured nails at her lower back, tracing softly here and there over the tattoo of a black, purple and blue butterfly with the occasional yellow spot that brought her around to clarity. She shut her eyes again tightly for a moment and then relaxed fully.
The brown eyes of the older woman took in the design on Shiori's back... She had seen that tattoo many times...she had never really paid it much attention, but it had been designed by the artist herself. It had been and knowing the artist's style she was not surprised when she found the other picture hidden within that design. It faded in an out of sight, one might question if it was really there, but across wing span of the butterfly was scene of a jungle (or was it merely a forest) and a large elegant cat stalking through it. And then Shiori rolled over and the picture faded.
The artist dealt in optical illusions a painting was never just what one first saw. Everything always shifted and a painting of dancing fairies soon became a scene of souls being tortured in hell... It was all in the detail; it was all in the precession of the brush strokes the exacting lines hard or soft. She worked in stories and there were always two sides to every story...
The morning had come...the night had gone... the older woman would probably call her once she had left. Things would likely end and her arrangement would be over with. That was fine. She still had her spot at the gallery. She just needed that chance. She just needed that.
Until anything was final things would be just what they were. Shiori fell back into the hold of vengeful lust, and lips that seemed a little more kind than they had the night before. She fell into it... she let herself drown there knowing exactly what she'd leave behind.