Note: Check out the first five parts of Bottled Moonlight here! Don’t want to see any spoilers!
In the week before I’m supposed to leave with Theo, Marcus requests me more than my few years at The Mansion. Every time I’m told to go to his bedroom, I’m nervous he knows about our plans. I don’t tell Theo for fear of what he’ll do if he finds out. Especially after the STD scare from Marcus. But each night I lay still as Marcus runs his hands over me. I imagine Theo’s face instead of Marcus. My hands run through Theo’s blonde hair instead of Marcus’s. His eyes are emerald green like the jungle instead of ocean blue like I’m drowning.
Each morning when Marcus sends me up to the second floor, I pause at the entrance to the Star Room. I imagine I spent my night there, in Theo’s arms, instead of in his father’s. The stories I would have told him, the dreams we would have planned together, all replacing my real memories.
During the week before we leave, Luna doesn’t visit me at night. She wants to keep up appearances, make everything appear normal. My father argues with me each night about working at the bar, but I need the money. He places Luna in the VIP section each night, giving her an extra dosage of emotions. Our eyes connect a million times throughout the night with glances full of an urgency no bottle could ever place inside her. At the end of each month, the girls grow stronger. I can see it now that I’m looking. Their bodies move with much more fluency, their desperation and hunger for emotions driving them. How can they live without emotions? Then I know. They live for these brief moments before the next surgery full of the memories of before and dreams of after.
Before I know it, October 1 arrives. I walk out of the Star Room in the morning and see the boxes overflowing with costumes for the girls to wear. A bartender, Jason, I think, is testing out a new concoction to sell to the customers. Special lights are installed to create the ghostly effect throughout The Mansion. My father’s assistant beckons me over to the main entrance. “Your father wants to see you on the second floor.” He doesn’t glance up from his clipboard besides to point to the door to the staircase as if he lives here instead of me.
I head to the second floor of bedrooms for the girls, a place I’ve only been a handful of times due to my father’s rules. Pausing before opening the door at the top of the stairs, I take a deep breath. The door opens before I twist the handle to reveal Luna in a see-through Arabian Nights costume. Her costume leaves nothing up to the imagination. Nothing registers in her eyes when she nearly runs into me. “Luna,” I whisper, my brows furrowing together. She brushes past me as if passing me on a busy street.
“Don’t worry, lover boy,” a voice says from the first bedroom. I walk past the celtic tree tapestry and peer in to see a girl sitting on the edge of a small bed lacing her shoes up. “I’ll get her the emotions before you leave tonight. Wouldn’t want the first night away to be lonely, would we?” She winks at me and stands up. “I’m Luna’s friend, Callista. And you must be Theo, the boss kid.” Callista doesn’t question my status, but rather states it as an observation. Her curled hair is as vibrant as Luna’s, an ombre purple down her back. The similar costume to Luna’s must mean they’re both in the VIP section tonight. Callista brushes her tanned arm against mine before leaving the room. “You better know what you’re doing tonight, lover boy.” She raises her eyebrows and fully leaves the room, heading down the staircase.
“Theo! There you are,” Father says with his arms wide open and striding down the aisle between the bedrooms. “Been looking for you everywhere!” He slaps my back with a joyous grin as if he just heard he won the lottery. “Son, you are everything to me, you know that right?” Father doesn’t wait for an answer before continuing the conversation while walking down the stairs. “I know we’ve been disagreeing lately on the topic of your future career, but I’ve been thinking about it.” He pauses at the bottom of the staircase before entering the main area of The Mansion and waits for me to catch up. “Eventually, you will see the light to what a career at The Mansion will truly mean. Until then, you can keep bartending each night. Then, the year I retire you can take over. What do you think? Sound like a plan? Great. Now that that’s settled, how about we drink to it?” I don’t bother arguing or pointing out the time. My final day here at The Mansion should appear as any other day. The only thought on my mind is the expressionless face Luna wears across the room with the other girls.
“Girls, girls, girls, you need to pay attention,” my father’s assistant shouts at them. “Now, I know none of you could care less…” He trails off and laughs at his own horrible joke. The assistant continues to shout orders until my father walks over to them, admiring their costumes.
“How about we give them a break, Alfred? It is a big day for them and they went through a major surgery a few hours ago.” My father pats Alfred on the back before returning to the bar. “Pour me a whiskey neat, son.” He taps his knuckles on the countertop twice, his signature for urgency. I rush behind the bar to pour my father his drink, but simply pour me a water. Father raises his eyebrows as he acknowledges my non-alcoholic drink, but says nothing about it. “Now, you know how much I would love to catch up, but tonight is a big night.” He pours the drink down his throat and pauses before turning away. “Oh, and join me in the VIP section tonight. I want to show you off to some people.” Two raps of knuckles, and he strides away to his office.
What are your thoughts? Are you worried Marcus will discover them? What do you think will happen in the next installment? Let me know in the comments below!
Much love, XOXO,
~ A Writer Named Charley~