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Stripped Back Vulnerable

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Nikki is wearing fishnets, and the problem is, Ali can’t take her eyes away.

She knows that Nikki hates her; knows that to Nikki, she’s the bitch who stole everything; who changed her world; who supplanted her in Tess’s eyes.

And Ali accepts that. But the thing is, Nikki is hot. She’s hot when she’s drunk, stumbling through the car park even though no one should be letting her drive. She’s hot when she’s hurling insults at people who never did anything to her. And she’s hot as hell when she’s wearing fishnets and a corset, and doing her makeup in such a way that Ali can almost feel the hatred radiation off Nikki’s skin, directed right at her.

Ali has no idea why she does it. Why she walks up to Nikki’s mirror after the show is over: waves the other girls off with a smile and a wink. Why she tells Jack that she’ll see him at home, and Tess and Sean that she’s fine tonight, and will see them tomorrow. She grabs Coco’s stool and sits down behind Nikki, still sitting at her mirror, wiping her make up off with cold cream and cotton.

‘What the hell are you doing in my mirror?’ Nikki asks.

‘I don’t know that you get to dictate any more,’ says Ali.

‘Really? You’re that confident?’

‘Yeah,’ says Ali. She’s not going to back down in front of Nikki, not even when she’s looking at Ali in her mirror, and sitting there in fishnets and an incredibly low-cut corset that is distracting Ali like nothing else has in a long time. ‘Because I’m the one who just saved this place.’

‘I can sing, you know,’ says Nikki.

‘So why did you never show Tess that?’ Ali is genuinely interested. She’s never understood Tess’s whole approach that people didn’t come to see them sing. It’s never made sense.

‘Tess has her own opinions,’ says Nikki. ‘And there’s kind of no point.’

‘There’s always a point,’ says Ali.

‘Did you have a point coming over here?’ asked Nikki.

‘Actually, yes. Nikki, you’re hot. I haven’t been able to keep my eyes off you all night.’

‘That’s the point of burlesque.’

‘I know, ‘ says Ali, knowing that she’s about to reveal far more than she ought to. ‘But I can’t. You’re stunning, Nikki. And… I want you.’

‘You want me?’ says Nikki. ‘You’re straight. You live with Jack. He’s the love of your goddamn life.’

Ali nods. ‘Hey, I don’t pretend to understand it. But you’re standing there in fishnets and a corset and you’re fuckin’ hot. I want to pull those fishnets down off your thighs – so slowly you beg me to go faster: I want to press my tongue against your clit – I want to kneel down in front of you and pull down that excuse for a pair of panties you’re wearing…’ she pauses.

‘You’re blushing,’ says Nikki. ‘Innocent, are you? Can’t cope?’ She’s turned around in her seat, facing Ali, lifting her hands to Ali’s breasts. ‘Pretty,’ she says. ‘So soft.’

Ali pushes herself into Nikki’s hands, barely aware that she’s doing it.

‘You like me barely dressed,’ says Nikki, knowingly. ‘You want to see me partially clothed – corset but bare-pussied; lower body bared for you while the upper body is still hidden.’

‘God, yes,’ Ali breathes, more than says. ‘Want it. Want you.’

‘But you can have me like that,’ says Nikki. ‘Cause I won’t let you,’ she says. ‘You’ve taken everything that’s mine, and what I can still keep from you, I will,’ she says, and tweaks at Ali’s nipples.

‘God – bitch.’

‘Yep,’ says Nikki. ‘You want me, you really want me? You’ve got to work just that much harder.’ She gets up from her seat, leaving Ali stretched out and desperate for her touch. ‘You’ve got to work harder than that, babe,’ Nikki says as she disappears down the staircase.

When Ali gets home she downs a couple of drinks and drives Jack crazy, and she hopes that he never realises quite why she was so wound up that night. And yet she knows that she’ll be back, trying again for Nikki’s approval, for the touch of Nikki’s fingers on her skin. It doesn’t matter how much Jack satisfies her, she’ll be waiting for Nikki – for that look in her eyes that says ‘I want you’ – that will tell her that she – and not Nikki – has won.