Disclaimer: I do not own any of these characters.
A/n: Yes, it has been a while, huh? I've been working on this story on and off over the summer but I've only just gotten to posting it. You can expect an update once a week, but I'll warn you if I can't make the deadline for any reason. If you have any suggestions for lyrics to use for quotes, please send them to me in reviews. And without further adieu, I present "Duskfall"!
Chapter 1: The Dusk
"Let's burn this filthy town straight into the ground with our dirty looks and glances." - The Higher; "Insurance?"
Vegas. When you think of this city, typically, you see this: a wired-up place of lights, passion, and freedom. Everywhere, the signature gold coins of the casinos spill out, bathing one in the lavish life most can only dream of. Pretty women line the roads in outfits that leave little to the imagination. Elvis constantly rocking out in his white jumper, pronouncing a couple man and wife. Alcohol can be consumed at all hours. All of the hottest clubs are open until six in the morning. Utter insanity and adventure awaits all. Las Vegas: it's the city of excitement.
Well, for tourists, anyway.
"Hurry it up, Angel. Those men in 207 ordered this food an hour ago!"
Narrowing my eyes, I snapped back at the bossy woman, "Then five more minutes won't kill them. And, for Christ's Sake, stop calling me Angel! It's not my name!"
The assistant chief, nicknamed not-so affectionately 'Crow', was clearly not in the mood. Her crazy, black hair that seemed to consume the white top on her head appeared to be growing with her anger. She shook her head wildly, the illusion of her mop of hair expanding seeming all the more possible. "Don't they teach you girls manners, nowadays? I'm your superior in here and I do not appreciate-"
"Hold that thought." I pulled out an invisible notebook and began flipping through it frantically. "Let me see, let me see," I mumbled. I did this for a full five seconds, thoroughly confusing Crow. Giving up, I slammed the 'notebook' suddenly. "Nope. I can't find anywhere in my diary that says I work in the kitchens. And, since I don't seem to work in the kitchens… Why, that would mean I don't work for you. Indeed, that would mean you are in fact not my superior." I crossed my arms over my chest, smirking. "Quite a conundrum for you, sweetie, because that would mean I don't have to take your crap. How sad."
Her face turned an unhealthy shade of purple then. "W-why you…!" Sputtering nonsensically, she took a few steps closer to me, closing the distance rapidly. And while I wasn't afraid of the old hag, I backed up, not wanting her to get any ideas. Those hooks she called fingers were already reaching towards my throat. "Listen to me, you insolent brat," the older woman practically growled.
I cut her off quickly, not wanting her to get on a roll with her insufferable nagging. "Oops! Would you look at the time! Those men will be furious if we don't get this meal up to them. Don't want to waste anymore time down here, Ms. Crow – I mean, Coal!" I swiped the silver platter from her hands, placing it on the cart with a grin. "Shame on you, oh Assistant Chief, for keeping me in here for so long! What would the Head Chief say," I taunted, wagging a finger. But before she could say another word, I took off at a rapid speed, zooming out of the kitchens to several dishwashers' applause.
But I heard her shout out at me as I ducked into the service elevator, "Despite your relationship with Head Chief, he'll still put more stake in what I say, doll! You won't be getting special treatment for long!" Her words made me laugh.
You see, I worked in the Duskfall Towers, a fancy little hotel in central Vegas with a five star rating. Yeah, maybe 'little' wasn't the right word for it. The buttons on the side of the elevator went all the way up to 30, with about 70 rooms per floor. In comparison to places like the Hilton, that didn't sound too impressive, but you forget where this place was. Las Vegas could get pretty pricy, especially now around spring time because everybody was getting married. This meant a raise in bachelor/bachelorette parties, run away marriages, and wedding anniversaries. These things were all the elements people needed to pay a visit to our hustle-and-bustle city.
Because it was the busy season, no hotel was going with empty rooms at the moment. And, since Duskfall was ritzy without the massive price tag, many of the younger tourists to the town booked with us. That, and for our reputation.
I sighed, turning around critically, admiring my appearance critically in the stainless steel plating of the elevator. The reputation of Duskfall was that of a party hotel. Does that perhaps clash with the five star rating? Not at all. See, everything inside and out of this place was the height style and elegance. Rich, expensive carpeting, romantic lighting, in suite kitchens, the works. Oh, and the staff. Nobody ever forgot about the staff.
The elevator chimed, letting me know I had reached my destination. With a trained speed and strength, I effortlessly wheeled the cart topped with dishes down the row of rooms. The room was easy to find, marked in bold numbers and a tell-tale blue sign. The sign was meant to show that this room was expecting service, and the color to express that it was a male party; the color was extremely important. Resisting the urge to roll my eyes, a lightly knocked on the door, calling in my most pleasant voice, "Room service."
They had to have been waiting at the door for me, because it opened immediately. Four tall, young men, in their mid-twenties I assumed, stood in the threshold. One of them, a man with dark hair, moved to the front of the pack, appraising me with his eyes like a piece of meat.
It would have been insulting, if that wasn't what I basically was.
He lifted his hand behind his back, getting a high-five from one of his friends. "Score. We've got a sexy little angel." His eyes never left my chest. "You are an angel, right?"
I brought my hands to the silver nametag on my upper chest, tilting it up for him to better see. "That's what the tag says, hun." I made my voice as sickeningly sweet as possible. I thought I sounded rather sarcastic, but from the expressions on their faces, they clearly begged to differ.
I really didn't see what was so 'angelic' about my costume, anyway. It was far raunchier then I would have liked. A baby doll of pure white that ended a few inches below my belly button was just about all it was. Simple, clear heels that laced up my legs with white ribbons were on my feet while a gold tiara, a stand in for a halo, sat amidst my chocolate brown waves. Accenting what was clearly supposed to be a demure, white motif, I wore ivory eye shadow and lipstick. In actuality, I felt like a Victoria's Secret model reject.
The man shifted hastily in his the spot he stood, a signal to me that inappropriate thoughts were running through his head and running down to his other head. Typical. But I knew how to work with it. I ran a hand down my body seductively, tugging on the end of my barley-there costume. "Are you going to take your food in, or just stare at me a bit more," I teased, pouting my lips a bit and licking them.
That move was my 'final attack', as everyone called it.
The dark-haired guy, and his three friends melted right then and then. I could feel their eyes roaming all over my body as I wheeled the cart into their room, leaving it in the center of the dinning room where they had clearly been drinking from the mini bar. Ew. Had they been drinking in hopes of their meeting with their bell girl, thinking it would go farther then just dropping off food? What, did they mistake me for some cheap prostitute? Pigs.
Repressing a surge of anger, I counted calmly in my head for a few seconds while the guys just stood there like the morons I already knew them to be. Once I was better, I prepared myself to face them.
Swishing my hair out with one hand, I spun the spot to face them with my most 'angelic' smile. "Don't worry about paying, boys. It'll be tallied in with your bill when you check out." I strolled casually back to the door where they were all still crowded around, swishing my hips as a friend had taught me. If nothing more, I was a pretty darn good saleswoman, and my body was my selling point at the moment. "It's been so nice meeting you all," I added, coyly peeking up from under my eyelashes at the dark-haired guy whom I had pegged as the ringleader of them.
He tried to stutter some reply, but he seemed a bit preoccupied. "W-wait! You-you wanna hang out with us? It's my bachelor party tonight, ya know."
Pervert. A giggled while shaking my head in a silly manner, mentally giving him the finger. "Oh, you. I'm working right now. It would be so unprofessional if I hung out here with you all, no matter how much I want to." Lie. Big fat lie. I would much rather dig my fingernails through my eyelids.
His face fell. "Oh… yeah. I understand." His friend whispered something in his ear then that made his eyes light up. "But after your shift…?"
"I'll see." Total lie. Must be making it a habit.
Grinning like the Cheshire Cat himself, he dug a roll of bills out of his pocket. "Before I forget, he's your tip. And don't forget to come see us soon, Angel. We'll be waiting."
I nodded, an unconventional answer, taking the money. "Thank you so much." I promptly headed back to the area where the service elevator was. "And don't forget to call down for room service. If I don't get your job, then one of our other lovely ladies will. Tootles, boys," I called over my shoulder, slipping into the steel room and disappearing out of their sight.
Once I hit the button to the first floor, I unrolled the wad. I cheered silently when I counted it out to be about sixty buckets, making it one of better tips of the evening. Every once and a while, some jerk would roll up a bunch of ones, covered with a twenty, his number stashed in the mess; I had learned to be weary of tips since learning of guys like that from my coworkers.
Now, I'm sure you're thinking, what the hell? And you're thinking I work at some underground, seedy place, huh? Wrong. Five star, remember? Nope, this place wasn't like that. The owner called it a cosplay hotel, like the ones he owns in his homeland of Japan. They were all the rage there, so he had hoped to duplicate the success here. And it was working. I know, it's a very perverted thing and you could probably never imagine working in a place where you were half naked all the time. Hell, most people think this type of job is only for the trashy girls, and think I'm trash, too, for that matter.
First off, people on the street don't know me and don't know anything about my situation. What if I was a desperate, single parent with a track record of doing drugs trying to stay clean and make some decent money? I'm not, but it was a what-if scenario. My point being, don't judge what you know nothing about. Maybe if we just gave some people a break… Well, anyway, I don't see anything wrong with working in a place like this at all. No, one hundred percent serious! I mean, I'm not doing anything illegal, I'm not selling my body for sex, and I'm not selling drugs. This job wasn't horrible all in all. Not mention, the money was awesome.
The only thing that rubbed me the wrong way was the men. Most of the outfits were no worse then something you'd see for Halloween on Mean Girls or in a hot dance club. All of the risqué spots were covered and nothing was too low cut. But the way the men here looked at you… well, you'd might as well be naked, like how they were picturing you. I got extreme satisfaction in wooing these perverts out of money only to leave them hanging. They deserved it. And I constantly had to ask myself what was wrong with the women who loved them. Really, what in the hell was up with their fiancées? Those women must have no taste in men whatsoever.
I was lost in thought as I ditched the cart in the kitchen, ducking into the employees' private lobby. This was our secret getaway; the abandoned ballroom, furnished sparingly was couches, tables, and a TV. In between assignments, we came here to relax or bitch respectively. It could get crowded in here at the turning of afternoon shifts to night shifts, where more people had to work. Thankfully, most of us just worked four or five days a week. There was only so much of this place that most of us could take, though a few crazies worked all-day shifts.
Although most of our customers were men, you did get the a few bachelorette parties booking rooms. So the staff mirrored that with about one guy to ever three girls that worked here. And even though it was beyond taboo to date within the workplace – almost as taboo as it was to date the customers - you'd still have to be blind not to ogle coworkers of the opposite gender. Now, because of what our customers expected of the employees, you could be sure that the bell boys and girls were usually good-looking too. It was one of the traits they considered before hiring you, as shallow as that was. And, supposedly, it was very flattering if you managed to get the job.
"Bella! Over here!"
My head jerked up as I heard my name called. The voice sent a smile over my features as I directed myself towards them. On the couch sat one of my best friends, Angela. She handed me my overcoat before I sat down. Pulling it firmly around myself, I plopped beside her. "Angela! Hey! I haven't worked a shift with you in a while. Where've you been hiding missy? School?"
She laughed, yanking her plaid mini skirt lower down her calf. "Hilarious, Bella. But, now I have to ask in retaliation, did you hurt yourself? You know, when you fell out of heaven?" Angela tugged at my halo/tiara.
My face darkened. "Not even funny. I had at least ten guys ask me that today!"
This only served to make Angela laugh harder. "At least they didn't make you were the wings. Count yourself lucky, Bella. Those things were murder," she reminisced. "I almost got caught in the elevator wearing those things." I caught her sympathetic look, almost begging for forgiveness. Angela always hated having people mad at her.
I waved it off. "I'm not mad, chill. I realize how ridiculous this costume is, I just don't like being laughed at when I feel so silly. This outfit is just one of the worst! We should get the higher ups to retire this thing," I added as I untied the death trap shoes. "I mean, without the wings, it doesn't even look like an angel. And with the wings, it's hazardous."
Angela nodded her head. "And it is one of the… um, 'less' outfits."
In this hotel, we had a rating scale for the costumes we wore as uniforms, since we switched between them each shift. The 'less' outfits were the extremely inappropriate ones. This consisted of the Angel, Devil, Mermaid, Bunny, and Cheerleader costumes, to name a few. The 'more' outfits were more reasonable, in our opinions. Which costume you got depended on the rotation schedule, unfortunately. With over thirty girls working here, the cycle went a bit slowly. Sometimes, you could manage to trade with another girl, but it depended on who you asked. As a general rule, the less you wore, the more you made in tips – unless you were good at selling yourself, no matter what you were wearing. So if you got stuck with a particularly bad ensemble that you refused to wear, you might be able to peddle it off on the more desperate women here.
I sighed, looking over Angela's outfit. "The School Girl. You got so lucky, Ang. I'm in the 'less' end of the outfits spectrum until Sunday. Tomorrow I'm stuck as the Mermaid." I blanched, not looking forward to that one.
"Will Lauren be working that shift? She might switch with you. You know she's in the hole since she got evicted from her apartment."
I closed my eyes, massaging my temples. "No, she switched off with Tanya. It's her kid's birthday. I sent them a card and money with our names on it." Lauren wasn't my favorite person, but in this business, we had to remain united. She was still a coworker who had fallen on tough times. "How much did you rake in tonight?"
Angela dug into the pocket of her blazer, pulling out a thick wad. "Let's see… I won't be up again for the rest of the shift, so I might as well count my earnings now…" I gave her a minute to shift through her bills. When she looked up, her expression was disappointed. "All shift, I only made a little over four." Four hundred. That was considered a pretty bad night around here.
I nodded. "Well, you forget to count in your actual hourly wages. Cheer up, Angela!" I pulled her into a tight one-armed hug, trying to cheer her up. "Someone must not be flirting enough, huh? Where is that sassy thing that would pick up six hundred easy ever night?" I dug my elbow into her side.
Her cheeks filled up. "Oh, Bella. I'm not the same person. I just don't feel comfortable doing something like that anymore. Not since I met Ben…"
Ben, Angela's super sweet boyfriend. I hung out with them a lot and I could tell that they were really in love. It almost made me feel jealous. Ben and Angela had been getting serious recently. She met him two months ago when he moved into the apartment complex she lived at. She said they had hit it off right away. I said she had the best luck.
"You know," she dropped her voice to a scandalous whisper. I leaned in closer. "He wants me to quit working here. Says I don't need this place anymore, and that I could do better. Bella, he wants me to finish college, and to move in with him. This whole thing seems to be going way too fast for me."
I smiled as encouragingly as possible. "You should listen to him. He wants what's best for you. Ang, I've been telling you for years that you can do so much better then this place. I know you can, and so does Ben. You should have gone back to college a while ago. And if you move in with him, you won't have to worry about paying your own rent. It's perfect."
Her eyes reflected worry still. "What if I can't make it in college? Or worse, what if Ben and I break up? Then what, Bella?"
But I shook my head. "You're super smart; school will be a synch for you. Have some faith in yourself. Besides, I think you and Ben will be together for a very long time, Ang, so don't freak out over what-if's that will never be." I flicked her nose. "I have a good sense about these things. He really loves you, so I think you should do it. At least move in on a trail basis."
For the longest time, Angela didn't say anything. Her tresses of light brown hair fell over her face, hiding her expression from me. And when she did speak, it was a muffled sound. "But… what about you?"
I was beyond confused. "What about me?"
"I… I can't just let you work her without me. By yourself… what kind of friend would I be if I ditch you-"
"Stop, stop." I turned her towards me, holding her by the shoulders. "Don't tell me you're only working here because of me. Angela! Come on, I'm a big girl! I'll be fine here!" Having Angela worry for my sake warmed my heart, but also made me feel guilty. "I want what's best for you. And if this place isn't it, then you should get out of here. Okay?" Slowly, she bobbed her head. "Good, now that that is settled, let's get out of here to celebrate you moving in with Ben! But first, maybe you should tell Ben."
She lifted her head up, smiling. "I'll call him right now. You should invite Alice, Rose, and Jessica, too."
"Remember, this whole night is about you and Ben. Don't worry about me so much. I'll be fine." I pulled her into another quick hug before dashing into the changing room.