Thursday, June 7, 2012

Still Got It

Thunderous music crashed in his ears as the man tried to make his way through the swarming throng of nightclub patrons. His dark eyes roved around the room, his spectacled vision searching past the colored strobes that exploded around him, until he saw the reason for him being here.

The woman.

He arrived in this place with the woman a few hours before, for a much quieter corporate event hosted by her organization. She had a plus-one, and thus invited him to be her… well, not her date. Oh, no. She had made that quite clear. Their afternoon of kite flying in Crissy Field and Joe’s mocha chip ice cream in Richmond, as well as that lovely Sunday Dim Sum in the Financial District weeks later, were not dates either. Nor did the man and woman consider themselves a “couple.” They were just two friends, “hanging out”, and getting to know each other better.

And that was perfectly fine with the man, even as he saw her on the dance floor, and those sensuous curves that were swinging and undulating to the hard bass beat that threatened to rock the entire building. His gaze wandered to the wisps of her long dark hair that bounced with each movement, then studied her silken face carefully. Her eyes locked with his across the room, catching hold of his gaze almost… seductively.

God, she was lovely.

After her company event, the woman wanted to stay on as the venue prepared to open to the public for the evening, stating that she hadn’t “gone clubbing in years.” The man hadn’t ever “gone clubbing” per se, though he has visited a dance club or three in his lifetime (usually for business reasons). The last time was at the Buddha Bar in Paris, almost a decade before, but he wouldn’t tell the woman that. He knew how much she longed to travel the world, and tried to conceal her envy of him having lived in various “exotic” far-off places whenever their conversation turned to his past.

But now the man was envious of her. She was at least 10 years older than most of the people dancing around her, but she mingled with the crowd as if she were their college mate. The man was about 15 years the woman’s senior, and he couldn’t help but feel so out of place. It didn’t help that his business suit, which was appropriate for the function hours before, made him appear as an undertaker among the youthful crowd.

The man abruptly snapped out of his reverie as he saw another, younger man boldly brush up against the back of the woman. She tried to step away to politely give him room, but then discovered that his contact was no accident as he got uncomfortably closer to her.

The man’s eyes narrowed as he pushed his way toward the dance floor. He didn’t like what the brazen animal’s hands were doing. Neither did the woman; the crack of her sharp slap across the lecher’s face seemed to transcend the booming music.

The woman quickly slipped through the standing crowd, stepped up to the man, and surprisingly threw her arms around his neck. The man swallowed — hard — as his heart leapt to his throat. This was the first sign of physical affection she had ever displayed to him. “Now I remember why I haven’t gone clubbing in so long,” she said tersely, pulling the man by the arm toward the cloak room.  “Let’s get outta here.”

Once outside, the woman immediately unlocked her arm from the man’s elbow as they started the five-block walk to the man’s car. The man realized that her brief display of ardor in the club was solely meant to dissuade the lecher on the dance floor from further pursuit. But the man didn’t begrudge her for what might have been construed as a cruel tease. While he did have secret hopes of a romantic relationship with his strikingly beautiful companion, he was also very patient. This was only their third… not-date, after all. The man didn’t want to rush things, and he was more than happy to be used in this way to help get her out of that harassing situation.

However, a block later, they discovered that her ploy did not work.

“Hey, baby… what’s your hurry?”

The coupl… pair turned toward the hoarse drawl to see the lecher lumbering down the sidewalk toward them. He gave the woman a lascivious leer. His gaze turned sour as it disentangled from the woman’s breasts to her escort’s face. “And you… where do you think yer going with my girl?”

The woman was about to shout a protest — and rightfully so — but the man held up a hand as if to say, “He’s not worth it.”

The woman nodded and understood. They silently agreed to ignore the stranger and continue their way to the parking garage. From there, he would drive her to the Caltrain station, where she…

The lecher’s left hand snaked out and grabbed the shoulder of the man’s coat, as his free hand drew back into a fist aimed at the man’s head. “I said, where do you think yer…?”

Perhaps the lecher’s movement was dulled by the alcohol he consumed earlier that evening. Or possibly the man’s reflexes, honed from several youthful years of martial arts training, remained sharp despite the almost equal number of years of non-practice. Whatever the reason, the man dodged the attack effortlessly while his thin fingers immediately locked around the lecher’s wrist, and twisted.

With a howl of pain the lecher crumpled to the concrete, all the fight he had fled from his body.

“She is not your girl.” The guttural whisper hissed through the man’s clenched teeth as the lecher writhed in pain. The would-be-attacker’s wide, cornflower-blue eyes, ringed with red, could only gawk at the man’s dark steel irises that flickered with calm anger. “She doesn’t belong to anyone. She is her own person. Do you understand?”

The lecher could only grunt and nod hastily in acknowledgment, but the man didn’t release his grip. For a brief moment, the man actually thought about how easy it would be to twist his fingers just a little more and dislocate a few bones.  He almost gave in to that chilling temptation, as he thought with terror what this person would have done to his companion if the careless punch had managed to connect.


“Hey, man… ease up.”

The man turned to see two young men approaching him from the direction of the club. One was a scarecrow compared to the other, who was a living mountain of muscle. The man’s compact body tensed at the prospect of further conflict. “Is this man a friend of yours?”

The hulking newcomer surprisingly held up a reassuring hand as he slowly walked forward. “He’s just had a bit too much to drink… really. He…”

The man felt a sigh searching to escape from within his chest. The adrenalin coursing through his body suppressed it. “Take him home,” the man said, managing to keep his voice even, “and we’ll forget this ever happened.”

The man let go of the wrist, and waited patiently for the other men to haul their rag doll friend on his feet and lead him away without another word.

The woman’s rich brown eyes lit up as the man approached her. “Whoa,” she started, impressed. “You went all Miyagi on that guy! I had no idea you could…”

The man shrugged with indifference. He put his hands in his pockets as they continued the walk toward the carpark. He was disgusted with both the attacker and his reaction — his excitement — to the altercation.

The woman almost seemed to divine his thoughts. “Hey… I know we haven’t known each other for very long,” she began, “but I always saw you as a gentle soul. I’ll bet you’re…” she hesitated a second. “Well, I can see how what you did back there could be a little… unsettling for you. And you did that for me.”

The man thrust his hands deeper into his pockets, but he also felt his heart jump. There were already so many things he had admired about this woman in the few weeks he had known her — and now there was one more. “I would have done it for anyone,” he began ruefully, “if I had to.”

The woman’s eyes widened at the honesty of the man’s voice. “I believe you really would. But tonight, you did it for me. Thank you, Xum.”

Her smile was a flood of sunshine in the dark evening. The man lifted his chin to return it. “You are quite welcome, Namiko.”

He suddenly felt the woman’s slim arm slide under his coat and around the back of his not-so-slim waist. She seemed to snuggle up to him as they walked. “So,” the woman sighed, “can I expect more of our dates to be this exciting?”

“I wouldn’t know,” the man replied drily. “This isn’t a date, remember?”

The man’s right hand snapped up to immediately catch the woman’s fist before it could playfully jab him in the left shoulder. She looked at him with astonishment — not at the action, but at his slight smile of satisfaction. His reaction time hadn’t slowed in the least.

Not one bit.

To be continued.

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