On her fifth night in the city, after an awfully long day spent in and out of meetings with clients that she despised, Tissaia decided to go out. She hadn’t had the time yet, despite the appeal of a drink or a walk in busy streets of a city that seemed to never sleep. As soon as her last client left her office, she shut off her computer and grabbed her coat. Spring was upon them, and the wind had graced them with its presence. With the amount of work she had to do, Tissaia could not afford to fall prey to one of those sneaky interseasonal viruses going around. Collar up, she locked up her office, took the elevator down to the lobby, wished Enrik from security a good night and she stepped outside of the building, through the revolving door.
Fresh air hit her face, accompanied by an array of horn blasts, typical of big cities. It had been tough to acclimatize herself to the noise. When she’d joined this law firm over a month ago, she’d traveled back and forth between her former place and here until the sale of her apartment had gone through and she’d been able to move out. Coming from quite the rural area, Tissaia had spent her first nights tossing and turning in bed, waiting frustratingly until well after midnight to fall asleep, despite her early morning. It was easier now, thanks to her natural ability to adapt quickly to new environments or people. As a lawyer, that had proved immensely useful in the past.
Tissaia walked briskly, eyes on the sidewalk so as to not lose her footing on the uneven concrete. She wanted a drink before going back to her apartment, which was still filled with boxes she hadn’t found the time nor the will to unpack yet. The lambent light of a neon sign across the road caught her attention. It seemed rather unassuming, with tinted windows, and a door that could easily be mistaken for a backdoor in an alley with its metallic look. Tissaia felt that this could be the hole in the wall she was looking for. There was no appeal in going to a posh bar and sit alone with a glass of wine, surrounded with people in suits talking business in their after-hours. No, a dive bar sounded good for tonight. She waited until the light turned green and crossed the road.
From the outside, the place felt like nothing special. She pushed the door and was greeted by a large man with his arms crossed. She looked at him while he took her in, from head to toe, and nodded at her.
“Good evening,” she said, ever polite.
“Evening,” he replied in a rough tone that matched his burly appearance.
The man was clearly security. Tissaia frowned. What kind of bar needed security? He opened a second door behind him and she understood immediately why he was there. This was not a bar. Dimly-lit, faux-leather sofas and round coffee tables everywhere with an impressive counter on the right… Tissaia’s eyes widened as she took a step forward. The sound of the door slamming shut behind her barely registered; her attention too monopolized by her surroundings. Women in thongs and very little else dancing on small stages—podiums, perhaps—to sexy music blasting from every corner of the spacious room… This was a strip-club. She’d walked into a strip-club.
“Fuck,” she let out, unsure of her next step.
The bar did look really enticing though. Bottles and bottles of what she imagined was a wide array of alcoholic beverages, which was what she needed right now. The barman caught sight of her and waved at her. She waved back, awkwardly, and studied him for a few seconds. Long, bleached hair held back in a ponytail, he was tall and muscular and she figured he could serve as backup to the security guy at the entrance should help be needed to remove a… customer. She gulped and decided to go out of her comfort zone and have her drink here. There weren’t many patrons as it was barely eight in the evening—the first time in months she’d finished work before nine—and she didn’t have to look at the women dancing, after all. She hopped onto a stool, heels finding the footrest underneath it. She tried to get the bartender’s attention but he was busy making a cocktail—something fruity, it seemed. To her surprise, he brought it over a few seconds later.
“For you,” he said, pointing at it.
“How do you know I’ll like it?”
“I’m a good judge of character,” he replied with an easy smile. “Welcome to the Pynk.”
Tissaia thought he was a handsome man. Idly, she wondered what drove him to work as a bartender in a place like this. Behind him, the neon sign caught her attention. Pynk. How original. She snorted and grabbed her glass of… well, whatever, and brought it to her lips. The first sip had her eyebrows raising so far up the she worried they’d disappeared into her hairline. This was good. Hell, good wasn’t strong enough to describe it. She drank more and set the glass back on the counter.
“Told you,” the bartender said with a wink.
“What is this?”
“Well now, that’s a secret. It involves juice and liquor, but I am not telling you which one.”
Was he flirting with her? She couldn’t be sure. Men weren’t exactly her type. He seemed nice enough, though. And she would have to tip him well because that cocktail was divine.
“Fine, keep your secrets if you must,” she retorted playfully.
At the other end of the bar, a man called for him—a name she didn’t quite catch—and he offered one last smile before leaving her on her own. That’s when she realized that behind the shelves full of bottles was a mirror covering the full length of the bar. From where she sat, she could see the reflection of the strippers. Not what she had planned. Nonetheless, she kept on looking. There wasn’t much else to look at, anyway.
On the podium in the far left, a blonde woman wearing red lingerie and 6-inches platforms that seemed like a broken ankle waiting to happen was crawling towards a customer sitting nearby. Tissaia really didn’t see the appeal in that, but from the way the guy leaned forward as the stripper approached, he certainly did. She sighed and took another sip, savoring the fruity taste.
Her attention was caught by a sudden move from one of the strippers on the stage nearest to the bar. Now, that was something else. She was upside down on the pole, holding herself with one bent leg. In the neon lights, her outfit seemed to be deep purple but Tissaia couldn’t be sure. She was too focused on the way her body moved, with such grace and ease and…
Their eyes met. Or at least, Tissaia thought so. She wouldn’t bet on it because she was looking at the reflection of the stripper whose head was upside down so she could be wrong, but from where she sat it certainly felt like that. Her doubt evaporated when the woman found herself on her feet again and beckoned to her with her index finger.
“Go on,” the bartender said. “Don’t make her wait.”
She hadn’t even seen him approach.
“Oh, god no. I’m just—I mean I only came here for a drink,” she tried to explain, embarrassed.
He raised an eyebrow, skeptical.
“You came to a strip-club for a drink? Should I be flattered? Did someone send you here?”
“No. No, I… well, I walked in by accident. Not by accident per se, but I thought this was a bar. Nothing more.”
“Hm. Well. Here she comes.”
Tissaia looked to her left and sure enough, the raven-haired woman in her skimpy—yet classy, Tissaia noticed—attire, leaned against the counter, right next to her. The bartender slipped her a drink and winked at her.
“Thanks, Ger,” she said to him.
God, Tissaia thought, even her voice is sexy. The woman turned her attention to her and smiled.
“Not often we see women like you in here.”
“No, I don’t suppose you do,” Tissaia told her, returning her smile with a lot more confidence than she actually felt.
It was true that she looked completely out of place, in her black pantsuit and white blouse. As she drank from her glass, the young woman let her eyes roam freely over her figure and Tissaia had probably rarely ever felt so self-conscious.
“You shouldn’t stay alone at the bar,” the stripper continued. “Why don’t you come closer and watch me dance? I could dance for you…”
Tissaia was glad the lights in the club were predominantly red and pink because she could feel herself blush really hard. Fidgeting with her glass, she shook her head lightly.
“Thanks, but I’m only getting one drink and then I’m heading out.”
“A shame, really.”
Again with the elevator eyes, Tissaia noted. Of course, this was part of the seduction the woman was paid to do, but damn it, she was good.
“Do come back for a dance some other time,” the brunette said, pushing herself off the counter she’d been leaning on.
She walked away without waiting for Tissaia to reply and the lawyer had to admire her confidence. Her eyes found the reflection of the stripper’s retreating form and she gulped. What a body she had. Tissaia knew she wasn’t bad-looking herself, but she’d kill for a body like that. Suddenly, the object of her admiration turned around, and their eyes met in the mirror. Busted. Tissaia immediately averted her gaze but she could tell the other woman had caught her. Why had she stepped in here of all places? Getting out of her comfort zone sounded like the dumbest idea ever at the moment. Tissaia finished her drink and before she could stand up, another was placed in front of her. She looked up at the bartender—Ger, was it?—and frowned.
“I did not order that.”
“Courtesy of Leela. Seems like you made an impression,” he explained.
He nodded towards the stripper who was now back on her podium, dancing sensually to the rhythm of the music. Tissaia refused to turn around to look at her again.
“I… well, I wasn’t going to drink more…”
“You don’t have to, but it’s paid for. And Leela never buys customers a drink.”
“I—I suppose I wouldn’t want to be rude.”
He smiled affably and tapped lightly on the counter twice before walking away, leaving Tissaia with her drink and a head starting to spin. Whether it was from the alcohol or from the whole situation, she couldn’t tell. What a story it would be to recount to her friends later!
She drank a bit faster than she normally would and Leela didn’t come back to the bar. She did have an audience now, and Tissaia figured it was time for her to eclipse herself. She’d grab a bite on her way home and pass out in bed, and in the morning, she’d be back to her usual routine and this strange evening would soon be a distant memory. Her glass empty, Tissaia stood, left a few bills on the counter and slipped on her coat. As she grabbed her bag, the bartender showed up again and held out a small business card.
“Come back, yeah? I’m Geralt, by the way.”
“Tissaia,” she heard herself say while she pocketed the card.
“Nice to meet you Tissaia. I’ll see you soon.”
“Good, uh, good night.”
He waved at her, with that same gesture he’d made earlier, and she nodded awkwardly before turning on her heels and exiting the club, resisting the urge to glance at Leela one last time.