"You look shattered."
Rachel lifted her eyes, broke away from an intense study of the diffraction lines on the rim of her glass. The man was young, younger than her, maybe twenty, she read him with eyes already experienced in judging character, gleaned from countless meeting with clients, and competitors. Only her skills had been dulled by an evening of excess. Still, with little more than a cursory glance she picked up enough.
Slightly nervous, he probably lived alone and was not usually overly concerned over his appearance. That night he had been so hurried that he hadn't shaved properly, almost as though he had been running late. A poor dress sense was exaggerated by a low clothing budget, no doubt he was a manual worker on a low salary.
Not the mature, gallant, suave figure she would have liked to approach her as she rested. Perhaps she should have waited until the weekend.
Two words were instantly applied.
Slim chance.
The inquisitor showed signs of anxiety, fingers moving across his palms, perhaps trying to dry an excess of moisture, even his stance was restless, and he was swallowing far too frequently.
Maybe he was a little shy, nervous as to how Rachel would respond. Only somehow she knew there was more to it than that. Character assessment - probably thinks of himself as God's gift to women. Will want sex on the first date and will no doubt be so intent on self gratification that he would not allow any partner to reach a sensible state of arousal.
"Rest period."
"Can I join you?"
Rachel shrugged her shoulders, his face was somehow familiar, though the notion didn't seem comforting. Maybe he was studying her closely, he seemed to respond to the way she felt her eyebrows raise.
"Haven't I seen you somewhere before?" he asked casually.
That was either a come on, or a defence.
Unconsciously he moistened his lips, then wiped his mouth. But Rachel had the strangest feeling, that his hand moved to draw attention to his face, while it subsequently dropped below the level of the table. A slight movement of the material across his stomach suggested he was rearranging anatomy, or teasing himself.
"No, don't be so sceptical," Rachel thought.
Damn it woman, hasn't life taught you to run with first impressions? Listen to your inner voice, just because the syllables are slurred doesn't mean it isn't right. Gin may be referred to as ‘mother's ruin', any amount of alcohol has the potential to wreck a woman's life.
"Fancy a drink?"
"No!" But people don't always listen to either their conscience or their inner self.
"Martini, with lemonade, please," Rachel replied, twisting her glass in the flickering light. "In a fresh glass."
"Why not be outrageous, try a fancy cocktail?"
"At bar prices here, I'm not fussed."
"I treat you to a Tequila Sunrise."
"Why not?"
If you were sober you would know why not.
As he stood up Rachel scanned him intently, maybe he had been nervous, he was certainly aroused. Tight black trousers were excessively creased where thoughts had driven blood to nether regions. So he found her exciting, hell that wasn't surprising, the low cut blood red dress was designed to accentuate what she had to offer. Still, so early in the encounter it suggested he wasn't there for a meaningful relationship.
Rachel laughed softly, what did it matter? At the end of the day she wasn't yet ready for commitment, that's why her brief interludes toward romance were so transient. As long as she was careful, if she wanted a one night stand it didn't matter. Perhaps it was novel, as though she were using men, just for a change. So long as she found her suitor attractive, pleasant, what harm was there? Let the evening run it's course, determine whether the eager young stud was not as shallow as he appeared. There was still plenty of time for a second choice, even if her options seemed limited at that moment in time.
The tall figure was returning, it hadn't seemed long enough, maybe he knew the barman. The shirt clung to his body, drenched by sweat, maybe he had been dancing just as much.
True, and never more than three feet away either.
As he drew closer she tried to study facial features, without staring. A narrow face, jaw slightly pointed, nose slightly crooked, as though it had been broken at some time. The eyes made her a little nervous, too close together, though that seemed illogical, and narrowed, as though he had a tendency to peer. Still, what information lay in genetic moulding?
"There." The glass rattled as the delicate base settled onto the table, the liquid swirling almost over the rim.
"Why do cocktails always come with decorations?"
"To make you think you are getting value for money, maybe."
The man watched as Rachel folded the tiny umbrella, and dropped it into the glass she had emptied seconds before.
"My name," he offered.
"Nice to meet you Rachel."
Why did that sound false?
"Yes." Those piercing eyes were trying to roll fabric lower, reveal a little more breast.
"I know," he spurted. "Chinese, you had Chinese earlier."
"Yes," Rachel replied, a little anxiously.
"I picked up a take away, that's where I saw you."
So why did looking at her cleavage seem to promote recall?
Not that recall was the problem, clad in oil stained jeans, unwashed, unshaven, he hadn't even intended to go out that evening. At least until he saw Rachel. Then it had been a race, to get home, eat, clean up and change. All in time to watch the exit, waiting to follow Rachel.
"I'm a Leo."
"Sagittarius." The word fell from her lips instinctively, prompted by distant recall rather than frequent use.
"I think that makes us compatible."
"Come again?"
"I wouldn't know, I gave up even reading horoscopes long ago."
"It's not all garbage, only the mass produced stuff. Individual readings can be very accurate, informative."
"I take it you're into all that then?"
"Sort of." That double swallow again.
Rachel no longer found him interesting, apart from anything else he was too young. All signs suggested he was out for one thing, and wasn't likely to perform well anyway. Still, weak legs held her at the table, and there didn't seem any suitable alternative. It appeared as though it was going to turn out be an uneventful night.
The drink seemed to vanish quickly, maybe because she wasn't into the conversation, though it seemed to refill almost magically. Twice. There wasn't the opportunity for refusal, while Rachel's mind was in the clouds he would slip away so that there was always more liquid to further dull her senses.
"You seem miles away," suggested Clive.
"I'll have to stop mixing my drinks, the room is spinning far too fast."
"Do you want to move on?"
"The only place I'll be going is home."
"Would you like a lift?"
"No thanks, I think you've been drinking far too much to drive anyway."
"No, I've been on soft drinks all evening."
Then why did it seem he had been loosening up as much, more than Rachel? If Rachel hadn't been half cut she would have realised it was to lure her into a false sense of security.
"I'll still call a taxi, thanks all the same."
"Still, you'll let me walk you to the door?"
"I suppose so. I don't think I should have had that last drink. Maybe I can lean against you."
"The least I can do, especially as I bought the stuff anyway."
Stuff, anyone would think he had laced her drinks with something.
"Whoa. My head just left my body."
"You probably stood up too fast."
"Yea, that's it."
Rachel's world was a multi-coloured tumble drier, the floor never in the same place for more than two seconds at a time. Clive's shoulder seemed to be the only object that moved in unison with her body. How was he keeping both feet moving in front of one another? They stopped by the telephone, Clive made the call.
"I owe you ten pence."
"Don't be daft. I'll accept you telephone number."
"I may be sloshed, but I ain't stupid," Rachel slurred. "You give me yours."
A pen appeared, and a hazy string of numbers transferred to Rachel's forearm.
"He said ten minutes, maybe you had better get used to the fresh air."
"Sounds a good idea."
Yes, but for whom? The cool night hit her like a freight train, two steps out onto the pavement, and twenty sideways, along the wall of the building. Though it seemed as though Clive was doing little to steady her, maybe even adding gentle pressure to accentuate her awkward gait.
"Hey. Now I feel I'm on another world." Rachel tried to bring her hands up, to rub planet Earth back into her thoughts, but only one arm moved, Clive was supporting her with the other.
"I'll help you to walk round the car park, get the circulation going."
"I think blood flow is the least of my worries." But her feet were already moving.
"Whoa, not so fast." Hard leather soles clattered across tarmac, slipping around, almost twisting ankles.
"Sorry, try resting against this car, I need my handkerchief."
Hands pressed against cold metal, head tilted back, eyes trying to focus on tiny points of light, things her brain told her were stars, a little calm seemed to return. That and a tendency toward nausea.
"I think I'm going to puke."
They say it's the thought that counts, it certainly counts for a lot when plastering half digested Chinese food across a well polished BMW.
"You ought to sit down, place your head between your knees."
"Like where?"
"Well, this BMW seems already a little dirty, if you have a relapse it won't notice." Clive tried the door. "Just a pity it's locked. How about this one?"
"People aren't that stupid."
But the door opened.
"Seems they are." Clive leant across, unlocked the driver's side, and stepped back, scanning the car park for movement. "There's nobody around, take a rest."
At that moment Rachel was coming in to land, banking left past a familiar statue, lining up with a broad walkway. Without realising what was happening, her bum settled on the edge of the car seat.
"Jesus, this is weird. Drink's never done this to me before."
Feet moved without messages being transmitted to her legs, and a click seem to quieten the sounds of the night.
"I'd better get back to the street, for the taxi."
"Plenty of time."
Clive was on her other side, metallic sounds echoing around her head as she sniffed at strange odours. Oil, stale cigarettes, rubber. Desperately Rachel wanted to lift her head, but it seemed there was hardly enough control to coordinate breathing, let along predictable movement.
Then the vehicle shuddered, the engine coughed to life and with a brief squeal lurched forward. The sudden surge banged Rachel's head against the dash, but still paralysis reigned.
"What the hell?"
"Where do you live, I'm taking you home?"
"This isn't you car?"
Who was she trying to kid?
"I'm a mechanic, I hot wired it. Don't worry. I'll have it back before the owner comes out. I doubt they'll emerge for another hour."
Some things seemed to fit, mechanic, oil smells. Gradually Rachel realised she had been set up, there had never been a taxi.
Rachel's mind suddenly seemed remarkably clear, even though her body was still beyond control.
"I need to shit."
"Damn, where do you live?"
"I can't remember, any toilet will do, how about the one in the centre."
Left, right, left, left, a roundabout. They were heading out of town.
"I'm on it, I live two minutes away. Just hold on a little longer."
Only in two minutes they were likely to be on the dual carriageway. Brakes, traffic lights. Rachel fumbled for the door, still unable to lift her head, but before fingers had searched half the available surface the car was moving again.
"What do you want?"
"Isn't that obvious?"
"You want me? In this state?"
"You'll sober up."
"Not this side of tomorrow. Anyway, whatever happened to ‘may I walk you home?' and a hesitant kiss on the doorstep? Whatever happened to my thoughts on the matter?"
"I fancied you tonight."
"Ever heard of patience, you'll need some before I even look at you in that light?"
"I knew we were going to have sex tonight the moment I saw you in the restaurant."
"What planet do you live on?"
"I had a strong suspicion you'd consider yourself above someone like me. I'm not that stupid."
"There was more than alcohol in the drinks then?"
"Why me?"
"Come on, apart from being drop dead gorgeous, you've been advertising most of the night."
"I've been relaxing, trying to enjoy myself."
"So, a little sex should finish things off nicely."
Rachel was getting angry, mostly with herself. Of course Clive's arrogance didn't help, the state she was in he probably could have seduced her effortlessly. Probably his original intention, only the way he was talking was having an adverse effect.
"Christ, I don't want anything little. If I'd known your nickname was Needle Dick I wouldn't have let you buy me drinks."
"Getting catty will only antagonise me," he said sharply.
Why did Rachel think that was the least of her worries? Perhaps it was his callous attitude. Still what little she knew of date rape drugs meant that she probably wouldn't remember much anyway. Perhaps she should just relax, fall asleep so there was nothing for her to forget.
"It'll be messy."
"Don't you know anything, it's a bad time of the month. There'll be a lot of blood."
"I like blood, it turns me on."
Now why didn't that come as a surprise? Maybe he had a tendency to pick up teenage virgins as a rule, impress them with his driving skills, what little of them she could take in.
"Stop the car!"
"The hell I will."
"Well, don't say I didn't warn you." Rachel retched softly, bringing bile up into the back of her throat.
"Damn you, sit up, lean out of the window."
"A slight problem of paralysis."
"If you throw up in the car, I'll use you dress to clean it up."
"Use your own clothes, they're probably more absorbent. Ten seconds, if you're lucky."
The car seemed to pick up speed. Rachel cursed, the bluff hadn't worked, she'd have to try and regurgitate something, despite a feeling of emptiness. The last effort had been somewhat explosive, there was probably little left.
A small pool of yellow fluid collected between her feet. It brought a dry laugh from the driver.
"I still need to crap."
"Five minutes."
"It was two just now."
"So, I lied. The state you are in I daren't take you to my place, you'd never make it up the stairs, so we going out into the country. I can't think why you're creating so much fuss, you'll probably enjoy it."
"Clive, you're the one who got me into this uncontrollable mess, with your clever little drugs. Get a life, you're hardly out of short pants, I wouldn't even carve a notch on my bedpost if I fucked you out of choice."
"Bitch, I'll make you scream."
"It won't be from pleasure. The last time I had sex it was with a black guy, hung like a bloody donkey. Now that did make me scream."
"It's not true, that all coloured men have bigger pricks, I wasn't at the back of the queue when they handed out private parts."
"Oh, great, I pick a pervert who had to go shopping to find something to brag about. I hope they didn't sew it on inside out."
That shut him up, every time he opened his mouth, Rachel stuck her foot in it. It was just a pity it wasn't his mouth she was worried about.
When the car finally stopped, Rachel had a fair idea where they were, and had been trying to prepare herself for the ultimate defence. Only it was against all logic, years of training.
"Into the back."
"Go by yourself, I haven't the energy."
Suddenly all support vanished from behind her, as she fell back an arm stretched out and Clive leant across her delicate body. If there had been any ability to fight, she would have scratched out his eyes.
"Watch the puke, when you drop your trousers, I wouldn't want you mummy to tell you off when you get home."
Clive vanished, but unfortunately not for long. The door opened with a rush and fingers digging into her arm, the young man pulled her out onto the grass.
"So we'll do it outside."
Rachel was thinking fast, if she concentrated she would probably be able to stand up. Just so long as she didn't try to move too fast. Still, that wouldn't prevent rape, just change the scenery.
"Piss off, I'd rather die than let you get inside me."
"The way you've been running off at the mouth, it looks a bit like that will happen afterwards."
Rachel inhaled deeply, sea air, they were on the coast, and from the distant hiss of waves, at a reasonable altitude. No doubt the aptly named Lovers Leap. Focussing on movement she watched as Clive casually unfastened his trousers and pushed them to the ground, forcing off his shoes as he stepped out from the wrinkled circles.
"Like I said, Needle Dick. I don't know what the drug was supposed to do, but it hasn't made you sexually appealing, or even weakened my resolve."