102. The Discothèque

Part 2 of the 'Insomnia' series. (Previously.)

REVELLERS STAGGERED DRUNKENLY AROUND the dark cobbled square in ones, twos and threes, doing their best impersonation of the people they dreamed of being. Young women - teenagers, really - wore their hair long and straight, and very short dresses and precariously high heels, and held long white-tipped cigarettes in their slender fingers. The men were thick-set and wore tight white t-shirts, jeans and long pointy leather shoes. Ludmila felt a great distance between herself and the silhouettes brushing past her. She drifted through the streets and randomly chose a nightclub from which music throbbed loudly. It was so late she wasn't even required to pay. Inside, the discothèque was packed shoulder to shoulder. She went to the bar and ordered a drink. In a corner of the room she recognised two regulars from the restaurant, Miro and Nico. Before she had a chance to slip away unseen, Nico spotted her and they sidled through the crowd towards her. Insomnia, she replied when Nico asked her what had brought her there. Nico nodded gravely, while Miro cast a funereal eye over the room. It was too loud to talk and, for Ludmila, the enchantment was over. She was ready to return to her room, sure she would sleep soundly after her adventure, and if not she would read her Georges Simenon novel undisturbed by the desire to be anywhere other than where she was. She finished her drink quickly and turned to leave, but Nico reached out to stop her from going. Home, she replied when he asked her where she was going. I'll walk you, he said. You don't have to, she replied. He insisted. I can't let you walk home alone, the town is dangerous at night. How dangerous?, she asked. Nico shrugged. Things happen. She considered refusing again but instead she relented. Don't worry, he said, I'm gay. I wasn't worried, she said. She was suddenly tired, too tired to argue, and her only wish was to leave, to sleep. They left Miro at the bar, drinking silently and glowering across the crowded room.