Two

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Soaking wet, I walk upto the stool by the bar and wait for Jakos. He's dealing with a middle-aged woman who appears too intoxicated to be able to focus on what he's saying to her. I'll bet she's just admiring the view.

The moment I sit on the stool and settle back, another woman appears. On the bar, a strip dancer is stalking up and down. Her eyes track every part of my face, the corner of her mouth still tilted in a smirk. This close, I would have been able to get her scent, but I don't because what I am seeing currently is just a hologram. She is real though, sitting in the special compartment where clients go to meet with them. And she is watching me, right now.

It is illegal now, the live dancing of a female or male. Strip shows. So, holograms. A loophole. I've seen police officers coming in here to drink and often find them escaping to the rooms for clients. They say it is legal. So it is. Business blooms.

There's a spark to her eyes that is so uncommon from all the eyes I see everyday. She is mischief, unwavering in her resolve. Her hologram reaches forward and hovers over my lips, never touching- not that they can be touched. Though they could be, if I were to head to the special compartments.

A voice interrupts us. "Girl, go on and choose some other victim, you know that one is off limits."

The girl pouts in the direction of Jakos who appears to be cleaning glittering clear tumblers.

The girl turns to me, the spark still in her eyes, and something impossible too: longing.

I just shrug at her.

She rolls her eyes, then disappears before I can blink.

"I need to get drunk," I tell Jakos as soon as he's in front of me, behind the bar. "And get me something to eat. My, am I hungry."

Jakos crosses his arms and stares at me with his no-room-for-bullshit face. "You got drunk last night," he reminds me.

"Who says I can't choose to get drunk every day?"

Jakos raises one eyebrow to let me know that I can shut it now.

"At least get me beer," I insist, placing my hands across the bar. "Three. With food."

"You don't have any shit to pay for that," Jakos replies, as he moves to the customer who's ordering margaritas. I shudder in horror.

I really want alcohol in my system.

I wait until he's back and giving me his full attention. He knows I am here to talk. So he'll listen. Always.

Grimacing, I put my forehead on the cold metallic bar. It makes me feel feverishly hot, but it gets rid of the glare of blue neon beam that's scattering across every inch of the bar.

Something hard being slammed onto the bar makes me jolt up. "One beer and one dumpling with rice. Eat. No more than that."

He knows how I love dumplings.

The scents of fresh butter, thyme and pepper brings a strange feeling of nostalgia deep in my chest and a bizarre sense of peace and warmth settles in my heart. A good meal does that to you. My stomach gives a grumble, twisting into knots with hunger. I smile and dig in.

Jakos, whom I had been ignoring, favouring the scents and warmth of the meal before me to his rough bearded face, takes this as his cue and begins. "What the hell is wrong with you?" he says, and I ignore the bite of his tone. I bring the dumpling soaked in the soup to my mouth and breathe out a contented sigh. Jakos ordered my specially altered version of dumplings. I love this guy.

"The Ueva sends a person to deliver to you your gracious job acceptance and you slam the bloody door to his face? I got you on that job and you come here again, for more moping, and I'm supposed to just let you?"

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