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Christmas was somewhere between long over and distantly approaching, which made the glowing strands tracing the hallway both fitting and out of place. Much like the rest of her apartment, it carried that same misfit/thrift store chic feel — the lights being no exception. In the end, I guess it ultimately fit her style. Plus the lights were the big, old fashioned kind. My youth flickered briefly in the back of my head, pulling my state of feeling into an even greater stretch back in time. They say you don’t really forget, and I guess I just failed to remember until now.

Hell, I am getting way ahead of myself here.

First things first, I have to address her. Zil. They called her Zil. “No doubt a nickname,” I said, derived from Liz, stemming from her given name Elizabeth. In highschool, I knew more than one girl with the same alternative misnomer.

“Close, but you’re actually real fuckin’ wrong,” she said, eyes flashing. With a surgeon’s control, she withheld most of her smile.

“Wouldn’t be the first time,” I said, actually a bit bent I made such a simple error. You must understand, she was something far past beautiful and I was quickly losing the meager footing I had.

Polishing a second glass as deftly as the first, she allowed her attention to stay between us but said nothing further to correct me. Thankfully, Gage was in earshot of this and strode by, cutting all the barriers between us. “It’s Zilinacia,” he said, cradling a stack of glasses. She rolled her eyes lofting him a dirty look, then returned them to me, cheek half bitten. Her lips were faintly red, punctuated at one side with a lip ring. If ever a sneer could flirt…

“Ah, I see. Well…” was all I could muster. No chance in hell I could say it right or bother pinpointing where it’s origin was from.

As if my creaking mental cogs were painfully visible, she threw me my first bone of the night. “It’s Ukrainian.”

“Should I even try to guess your last name? Or have I made a bad enough showing?”

Finally, she laughed. “Ha, oh buddy… not in a million years would you figure my last name out. I’d be amazed — no, better yet, I’d take you HOME with me if you managed that one.” Her eyes narrowed but that wry smile remained. I had no clue whether or not I was being made fun of, conned, or somehow slowly gaining access to this girls world. Any option was frankly worth the chance. She might have suggested we cut our hands for the thrill of it, and admittedly a large part of me may not have thought twice in finding a knife.

That said, I did have a minor advantage. At least in this particular moment.

Managing my best “Got You, Fucker” look, I let my own smile widen. “Well, I know it can’t be Ukrainian. Too easy. Sooooo, what? It must be something… French?”  Once more she bit her lip and I couldn’t watch it again. I had to avert my gaze. She looked short-stopped; I had got her. She knew I knew. Looking up again, with my turn to be sinister, I said “Volette.” Letting her hands drop in mock disgust, she hissed audibly through her teeth.

Another bar patron beckoned her over, an empty glass gestured in the air. They conversed briefly. The fool in me shared a moment of panic with my sane side, worried I had just ended this little game. The volley is what kept us talking and I may have just prematurely spiked myself out. I did my best not to seem curious if she was coming back down my way.

I stared up at a marker board of tap specials. A banana with sunglasses was tied to the side of it. It made no sense being up there, this didn’t seem like that kind of bar. For whatever reason, it crossed my mind that maybe Zil had a hand in being up there in the first place. Christ, I was already referring to her by name in my thoughts.
This was not —

“Think you’re so damn smart huh? Probably just creeped me on Facebook while my back was turned, Hunh, disqualified!” she said, all smiles; awful, wicked and gorgeous. She caught me mid thought, and I really hoped I didn’t appear startled. She was half right. I had seen her on Gage’s Facebook page — this much was true. Naturally, I knew her name from that, or rather the name she used on there.

“Zil Volette” was the name in blue type next to a bunch of pixels that made up the first face I would see of her. That was enough. Enough to get me out on a Wednesday; enough to drink that “house” shot. Enough to know that when we shook hands, it might as well have been a coffin nail on my fucking heart.

[cont. soon]

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