Daniel looked at the blonde approaching with curiosity. Had it been any other night, he would be pulling one of his famous, effective innuendos from his hooking-up arsenal. They worked like a well-oiled machine on dumb blondes, as he called them. He knew very well blondes are not dumb but he went along with the label anyway because it used him to create a power imbalance. But this time, his usual ‘dumb wit’ betrayed him. He didn’t feel like chatting up the blonde that was approaching, although he was curious – he liked her and she looked unfamiliar. Was she a new face in the club?
“Hi, Daniel!”
He felt a sudden stop in his tracks.
“Hh..i. Do I know you?”
“Well, except for the project we work on together, I can’t say that you know me. I think you don’t know anyone at work, really”, Charlene felt unusually good about herself in his presence. She would never dare to speak to him like this at work.
“Perhaps that’s why he creates all sorts of troubles for me”, she thought.
Tonight could have turned awful but thanks to a bit of good luck and the expert vet that was on duty that weekend, things went well for her and for that white fluff of cotton. Helping Pixie reminded her about what’s the best about her. She was brimming with confidence, completely unaware that Pixie inhabitated her. The dog’s magic was working.

Her newfound courage opened her eyes. Suddenly, Daniel didn’t seem so frightening. He was hot and smart, he still was, for sure, but he didn’t seem so cocky anymore.
Staring at her with vague signs of recognizing her, he looked like a mischievous Jack Russel angry at his owner for not taking him to the beach.
“Yup, that sounds right, that’s exactly how spoiled he looks!” laughed Charlene.
Comparing him to a dog brought a huge grin to her face and she started giggling. The fact that he didn’t recognize her amused her and lifted her good spirits back to a maximum.
“Charlene? I didn’t recognize you. You…you look different”, the perplexed character who was usually arrogant even seemed cute when his defences were down.
Daniel was not himself, being more ensured that the basset had to do something with it.
He was staring at his colleague in silence, having lost words. Being speechless wasn’t a state he was familiar with: he was typically strong on words, a good orator. It helped him get ahead at work and with girls.
Charlene noticed that something unusual was happening with him and she was also lost for words, if not for a few seconds, but she pulled herself together before him.
“Relaxing after a tough week at work?” she nodded her head in the direction of the bar where he held his double whiskey.
“Yeah. No. I mean, it wasn’t so bad this week, was it?”
“Depends who is talking. For you, probably not.”
Charlene stopped for e second, wondering if Daniel had any idea about the impact of his brutal collaboration style on his colleagues. Somehow, she always thought he had and that he was doing it deliberately.”
“He couldn’t be that oblivious, could he?”, she wondered. The loud music didn’t let her go too deep into thinking about what was happening in his head.

“Well, I don’t know, maybe. Probably not. We’ve had a few tough weeks. I reckon it would have taken the toll on others, in a way.”
“Taken the toll? You can be a monstrous shark at work, you bozo!”, she pondered in silence but kept the thought for herself.
“You look different tonight. More…focused. You are like a lost frightened bunny at work.”
“Aaand, there we go”, thought Charlene, rolling her eyes on both her naivety and Daniel’s prickly remarks.
“I can see you are back to your good old self! I kind of felt you were all weird tonight, but nope! Who was I fooling? Well, it was nice chatting to you!”, ironically added Charlene as she headed back to Jo who was busy dancing alone in the crowd on the other side of the club.
Daniel sat quietly, thinking about what just happened. It was a strange evening. An odd evening indeed. “First the dog, and then this – what’s going on?”, he thought.
Then the gloomy thought about what awaited in the morning cut through his slumber. Suddenly, his consciousness cleared, despite the copious amounts of whiskey he poured into himself that Friday. Nothing brought him to a state of amber alert as the thought of visiting his dad the next morning. A sharp pain pierced through his chest and got stuck at the neck, a pain consisting of uncried tears and unspoken words he kept inside for years. Daniel didn’t know what exactly was happening, but he felt his throat swelling and his eye corners drenching in a salty, thick liquid. Full of shame this is taking place in the club, he masked his sadness with anger and swallowed the lump in his throat.
The club was boiling but so was the outside. A bunch of stray dogs started their Friday night tour. The “Demure” was getting its typical Friday fervor: pressure was boiling under the surface.

Featured image: Mehran Hadad on Unsplash

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