THE music pounded within the constraints of the dimmed room, pulsating through the bodies of every dancing person. It was a large, extravagant room, packed far beyond capacity and marred by the quality of entertainment. The crowd created a thick, stuffy heat in the space, along with a stench that was a culmination of cologne, perfume, and sweat. But to the guests attending, it was a paradise. It was a place of refuge for some, and a place to hide for others. And you had to be someone special to be invited.
Tanner threw her head back and laughed, spilling her cocktail and squealing. She was sitting on her friend Emma’s lap, experiencing the perfect level of euphoria, and she didn’t want the feeling to end. As she looked around the room, she was suddenly aware of the fact that her life would probably never get any better than this. The thought seemed ridiculous, since she was only fourteen. But the idea that she could feel even happier than she felt at that exact moment, seemed even more inconceivable. She let out a content breath and scrambled awkwardly to her feet.
“I want to dance!” She yelled her announcement over the music and turned to Emma. She reached out to her friend, who let out a short scream.
“Watch your smoke!” Tanner had forgotten that she was smoking.
“Oh, my bad,” she said and giggled. She dropped the cigarette butt into an unfinished beer bottle and attempted to pull her reluctant friend off the couch. A hand grabbed her arm and spun her around, and almost off balance. She was suddenly face to face with Jason Allen. His brown eyes sparkled.
“Tanner Rose, I’ve been looking for you.”
“I’ve been here,” she said, laughing and gesturing to her surroundings. He spun her again and the move caused her vision to swirl. She let out a screech and grabbed him for support. “Cut that out!”
“You look amazing,” he said, taking advantage of her backless dress and caressing her bare skin. “I was looking for a dance, but now I’m thinking we should take a little time alone.”
“Are you undressing me with your eyes, Mr. Allen?”
“Kind of,” he said and laughed, “but you haven’t made it too hard, if you know what I mean.”
“Whatever!” She laughed too.
“So, what about it?” he asked with a wink. “Wanna make out?”
“I want to dance!” she said sternly and grabbed his hand. She dragged him through the mob of people.
Tanner pushed her way in among the mass of bodies on the dance floor and closed her eyes. And then she lost herself. She lost herself in the music, the movement of the crowd, and the warm and fuzzy sensation that was consuming her. That was the last thing she remembered.