All about Tonight
Chapter 3: Keep on Dancing
Wakako's eye wandered around the club. Music blared from the speakers, selected by the smoking hot dubstep DJ. The dance floor was full. This ordinary party scene that used to soothe her did nothing to calm her nerves. She was occupying one of the cocktail tables near the center of the room. It was a very conspicuous spot just as Natsume had intended.
Her eyes scanned the second floor. She spotted Mochu and Ruka talking to each other and for a moment she allowed herself to entertain the idea that others thought they were lovers. It would be funny and her two friends would be mortified. Her gaze drifted back to the first floor and she saw Natsume and Mikan whispering. Mikan was trying to look innocent while Nasume was talking through gritted teeth. He was probably reacting to Nonoko's presence, an accomplice they hadn't told him they were bringing along.
"Would you like to dance?"
"No," she said shortly and the poor guy who asked wandered off. She didn't even realize someone had approached. Not yet, she told herself. She couldn't dance just yet.
Wakako shut her eyes for a moment. Through the blackness, she willed herself to envision what she wanted after this was over. This was an exercise, an old habit she'd developed growing up because of her Alice. She used to find the Transport Object Alice very limited. It didn't give her much to go on except to be a natural thief. One day, she was caught in the rain at Central Town and she wished she had the umbrella inside the bookstore across the street. She wanted it badly and in the next instant, it was hers. That moment was inconsequential but it changed her entire world view.
In time Wakako learned that as long as she could see it in her mind's eye, as long as she could visualize what she wanted and have it situated within her reach— she could obtain it. This translated into her life philosophy and soon she found herself imagining and visualizing every goal and every aspiration. It worked for a while, until she met her ex-fiancé and she realized her vision was cloudy and her judgement was impaired.
Speak of the devil.
Wakako opened her eyes and focused on the man that haunted her dreams night after night for months on end. She hardened her heart against him, willing that to be enough. He was thinner, gaunt even and she found minute satisfaction at the knowledge that Natsume had chased him to the end of his rope.
"I didn't think you'd want to meet in such a public place." He glanced around and tugged self-consciously at his tie. "So you're ready to negotiate?"
She would rather be dragged over hot coals than come into another agreement with him. Steady girl, she thought. Do your job.
"Give me the notebook," she said. "That's all I need."
"And you'll free my assets, unblock my passport and call off the hound dogs you have tailing me," he fired back.
"None of that is up to me."
"Bullshit," he hissed. He was far from relaxed now. "I know you, with your fancy Academy and endless connections. Your lot thinks everyone's beneath you. It's up to you to end this."
"You're wrong." Her voice grew cold. "If it were up to me, I'd have a gun to your head."
He smirked. "There's my girl."
Fuck you, she thought. "Do you have the notebook or not?"
"It's here. It's in the glove compartment of my car."
"Still driving your douchebag Lambo?"
He chuckled, "You know it."
And that's when she had him. In a blink, she could see his car and the shotgun seat she'd ridden in so many times. When her eyes flickered open, she felt the notebook holding her secrets, her clients' restricted information and all incriminating evidence materialize in her hands. It was such a small thing that had done her in. In the next instant the notebook flew out of her hands and she saw Mochu catch it on the second floor.
Her heart was racing. She released her breath. "Then it's over."
"Satoshi Ginjiro, you're under arrest for the charges of extortion, blackmail and fraud," Natsume said tonelessly behind him.
"What is this?" he demanded as he spun around. In response, Natsume mercilessly grabbed his wrist and twisted it around to restrain him.
"I swear to use everything you say against you," he hissed.
They struggled. Wakako saw Kitsuneme leap over the balcony and fly down to the first floor to help Natsume. Ruka was there too and joined the scuffle. A table was overturned and Wakako lost her footing. She stumbled backwards right into Mochu who had also rushed to the scene.
"Are you all right?"
She didn't respond. Instead she hurried forward just as the boys had successfully detained her ex–fiancé. Their gazes met and for a moment she wanted to believe the pain she saw in his eyes was for her even though it was foolish.
"We're all Alices in here," she told him. She forced triumph into her tone even though she didn't really feel it. "If there was ever a time for you to feel inferior, ordinary and unworthy, it would be now because you're right. You are beneath my lot."
Satoshi Ginjiro went still and that's when Wakako knew he was no longer the guy, that man or her ex-fiancé to her. He was just another name now and this was where they would part. The lawsuit will take another year but she was sure she could convict him.
Natsume nodded to her then started to lead him away. When Satoshi stepped past her, she was just raw enough to ask, "Did you ever care about me?"
She didn't know what she wanted to hear. She didn't even know why she bothered to ask. Part of her was certain that she would be far more wounded if he said—
So she was all right.
Ruka and Kitsuneme went with Natsume outside. Around her everyone returned to their own business, as though the arrest didn't happen. The other girls were answering any lingering questions in the air. Wakako breathe easy as she was left alone.
"He was lying, you know," Mochu said softly. Her eyes flicked to him. "I saw the way he looked at you."
"Let's not put meaning where there isn't. He never looked at me as anything but his ticket to a free meal."
He shook her head. "I don't know about all those other times. I'm talking about just now. You didn't see it, but the way he looked back when he thought you were hurt… he cared."
"He cares about money more."
"Yes, that's the sad truth. I'm just saying… you're not so contemptible, Usami."
She rolled her eyes. "Don't ever try to flatter girls, Mochu. You're sure to get punched."
"I'm serious." Mochu glanced at the door as though Ginjiro still stood there. "He must have loved you in his own way."
Wakako looked away, unsure whether it was all right to smile at that. She didn't trust herself just yet. She couldn't allow herself to connect any positive thoughts to him. All she knew, all she truly knew was that she was free.
"What am I supposed to do now?" She meant that to be rhetorical so she was startled when Mochu leaned across the table to meet her gaze.
He spoke softly, "You pick up where you left off, earn back what you lost, put yourself back together with what you've got to work with."
Mochu held out a hand to her. "Then… you keep dancing." She hesitated for only a moment because she wanted to dance and she knew the first step would be so much easier if she was moving to the beat of a friend.
"I still hate you," she said before placing her hand in his. Mochu laughed softly then steered her to a wider space on the floor.
"On principle, I understand," he said. "That's okay too."
There were hard-earned lessons in life. Nothing of value ever comes easy. Sometimes, even if she saw it in her mind's eye it wasn't hers to take until she was worthy of it. She didn't know where she would end up after this. Her slate wasn't exactly wiped clean. Still, she was ready to put her past behind her and prepare for the next big thing.
Until then, she was going to keep dancing.