The champagne flute nearly slipped from his grip as he saw her quietly enter the ballroom and veer left to avoid the main crowd of guests. She glided into the dim areas of the hall, silently greeting the staff who appeared to be a little happier with her presence. Her navy blue chiffon dress fluttered with every step; tiny sparkles at her feet caught whatever light that managed to touch her rhinestone slippers. Her hair, an eye-catching purple-red wine blend, hung in braids and curls down her back. She was almost unrecognizable. Almost; if it weren’t for those tell-tale tattoos on her arms and back. He distinctly remembered them being much less; but a good amount of time had indeed passed, and no doubt she would have expanded her collection.
A woman waved her hand in front of him, and tittered at his sudden shift of attention. “Saw something you like?” the little crowd around him laughed. The man chuckled in embarrassed diversion, and adjusted his spectacles. He let his focus linger on the group of increasingly drunk business people around him long enough for him to excuse himself politely. As soon as he was out of earshot, his eyes frantically scanned the walls for her. He tried appearing as composed and unaffected as possible, but all four years of her absence made his teeth click and his eyebrows furrow. He nearly spilled his drink turning around so fast and so much looking for her. Had he been mistaken? Had his daydream slipped in unconsciously? He downed the remainder of his champagne quickly and decided to head to the quieter bar for something a little stronger. The sudden image of her here shocked him a little, as he was accustomed to conjuring her only when he was alone, or bored out of his mind. He was rather enjoying himself this time, listening to these old regulars who made it almost an annual event to visit this particular establishment.
He smiled at the bartender and ordered a scotch, neat; and tried to get his mind in order. Perhaps he was unconsciously bored. Perhaps this was one of the times his mind decided to take a unprecedented wander. He had been sort of overworking recently. Even this far-out trip was business-related, despite going at a far more relaxed pace. Why, he even got to take a quiet stroll around the windy harbor below. A pretty square lowball glass was served to him on a lacy coaster and the bartender quickly moved off to serve other patrons. He took a large sip, feeling the spicy smoky alcohol slide down his throat and float to his head. Habitually as a move to relax, he took off his glasses and tucked them neatly away into his jacket’s inner pocket. His vision blurred, but he immediately felt more at ease; not being made to concentrate on his surroundings.
“I thought you said you weren’t coming?” the bartender cheerfully greeted a little ways away to his left. “I changed my mind. Besides, this dress needed somewhere to go,” a soft, chuckling female voice answered. “You look beautiful, by the way,” the bartender moved away, serving other customers. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed the gentle glimmer of a glass being raised in cheer, then being sat back down on another coaster. Unlike the noticeably mostly older guests, this voice was younger, and vaguely familiar. But then again, he wasn’t the best at voices.
Curious, he slyly glanced to the owner of the voice. A blur of dark blue was seated before him, topped with a mess of maroon. The dark skin of an arm was covered in black shapes, and a slender hand swirled a wine glass. There was something about the figure, something about the way she swung her feet child-like suspended from the tall bar stool; the way she slouched despite being elegantly dressed; the way she propped her other hand up to cover her mouth.
Oh my God. It wasn’t a dream.
“Rochelle?” he whispered, loudly enough to capture her attention. The woman jumped and looked right at him. Although his vision was impaired, he could never mistake those bright large brown eyes for anyone else.
“Shit. Gun-Woo?” she flinched. Fearing she would bolt, he shot his arm out and grabbed her firmly by the wrist. “WHA-!” Rochelle instinctively tried to pull away, but he pressed her hand to the bar with a thud.
“Let go,” she growled, leaning closer. “Wha-, what are you doing here?!” he fumbled for his glasses and hastily put them on, nearly poking his eye out. The view of her sharpened and he exhaled in flustered relief. “What are you doing here?” she shot back, but her fist softened as she seemed to reconsider blatantly running away. “I’m working,” he hissed back. “So am I!” came the curt response.
“Is everything alright?” the bartender quietly warned. “It’s okay, Marcel. Just ran into an old friend,” Rochelle shook Gun-Woo’s grip off. An awkward moment of silence lingered between them, before Rochelle asked for a strong drink. The bartender reluctantly re-attended to his job, but kept an eye out for her. The both of them downed their drinks in one shot and in silence.
Gun-Woo glanced out to the bustling ballroom of hotel guests over his shoulder and back at Rochelle. She stared back, frowning, but studying him as well. Questions burned the tip of his tongue more than the liquor did. She gave him a once-over and spoke.
“You got old.”
Gun-Woo flinched. “Excuse me?”
“You look like your dad,” she returned to her glass of wine. Gun-Woo looked down at himself. “No I don’t!”
She looked at him again, still frowning, but betrayed by a tight grin twitching the corners of her lips and eyes. She still had her biting humor intact.
He had so many questions. So many. Where had she been for the past four years? How had she been? Why was she here, of all places? Could she still… see… ghosts? Instead, he found himself asking “Why didn’t you come home?”
Rochelle shot him a look that made him feel even stupider. “You know why.” But instead of a repeat of hostility four years ago, the look she gave him was more desolate; more hurt, but instead of accusatory and defensive, it seemed more forlorn. His gut crushed itself even more.
“I’m trouble,” she simply stated, taking another swig of wine.
Gun-Woo crossed his arms and leaned on the bar. His mind flashed back to four years ago, when he last saw her before she ran out, ran away from her mother’s funeral; from everything. He recalled how she tried to explain before, tried to make them understand. He also remembered the reactions of her own father and his family. “You’re not the problem,” he admitted softly.
“Yes. I’m not the problem. Just what I inherited from my mother, my father’s refusal to deal with it again and the prospect of getting me sedated instead of helped. And your family not wanting their only heir to be married to a nut job,” she shrugged.
“Well, maybe they’ll listen to you this time–believe you?” Gun-Woo pressed.
Rochelle switched from being annoyed to being infuriated. “How can you say that? Do you even believe me? The last time you saw me-,” Rochelle blasted, but not loudly enough to attract attention from beyond the bar.
“I made a mistake! But tell me, in the four years you were gone, have you found an adequate answer to ‘How to react when someone tells you they can see ghosts’?” Gun-Woo cut her off.
Rochelle withdrew. “Well for starters, it’s not ‘What does Casper look like?’ or ‘You should call Beetlejuice’.” Her glare made him feel like he was staring straight at the sun and was about to be struck by lightning.
“I-I KNOW! I know. And I’m sorry! I… I’m trying to make amends here, Rocky. I just… I don’t want things to just leave off where they did,” he exhaled and bit his lips. The memory of her betrayed look staring at him still haunted his conscience.
Her eyes scrunched up slightly at the mention of his nickname for her, but she snuffed out whatever feelings that were trying to rise and stuck her face in her drink. Beside her, Gun-Woo did the same.
“I’m not going home,” Rochelle said firmly.
Gun-Woo chuckled. “I don’t think you can. Your father and my grandmother would get a heart attack seeing all this,” gesturing to her tattoos and coloured hair.
Despite the icy atmosphere, her eyebrows cock up. “Really now? Then I probably should visit soon.”
Writer’s note: WOW this went on 😀 The scene went quite well in my head 🙂 Obviously could use some refinement and shaving down, but it’s been a long while since I managed to put out a nicely constructed scenario and I’m happy ❤