Smiling mischievously, Fallon passes his pipe to Hal, who leans back and takes a long hit, the smoke crawling down his throat, slightly warming and burning his trachea, comforting to know that a sweet high is coming.
You’re not allowed to smoke at clubs—in fact, you’re not allowed to be in nightclubs at all if you’re under 21—but there’s a lot of access that Haven money can buy, including a private booth for underage kids at an exclusive nightclub with curtains drawn.
After another hit, Hal refocuses on the girl across the table—her round baby face that almost seems to glow, long blond locks falling past her neck and down her chest. She reminds Hal of a painted art museum Goddess, the kind he grew up looking at it in his Ma’s art books, and like those muses she almost seems to glisten with an angelic glow. Or, as Fallon whispered in his ear when he brought the girl over to their booth, “Jane drips with sex.” Hal wonders how old Jane is—but he doesn’t really want to know. Is not knowing an excusable defense?
“Isn’t Jane a doll, Hal? Don’t you just want to play with her?” Fallon asks.
“I’m Emily. That’s Jane.” She says, pointing to the other girl. The one sitting next to Hal.
The other girl. Hal turns his head to remind himself that if had been on more drugs, he would be questioning his senses, suspecting he was looped to the point of seeing double. But the high hasn’t arrived yet and there she is, sitting right next to him, a little too close even. Somehow the world has given Hal and Fallon not just one of these angels but two. An identical twin. Unreal.
“Of course you are, Jane.” Fallon says to Jane.
Now Hal is really confused. But unconcerned. The high finally arrives and starts to make itself comfortable.
“Whatever. Emily, can I buy you another drink?” Fallon asks.
Not really wanting an answer, Fallon keys in a two cocktail order into the datapad built into the table. Recognizing his fingerprints, the tablet spits back a WARNING that Fallon has a long-overdue, too-high tab bar tab… And that a bouncer is on his way to the booth, to either collect or escort Fallon out of the club.
Unconcerned, Fallon sighs and looks over at Hal. Who merely shrugs.
The warning continues to flash as the bouncer arrives—an intimidating tank of a guy, all shoulders and chest. Easily twice Hal’s size, but on par with Fallon, who’s a bit of a tank himself.
“Fallon Kirk?” the Bouncer asks Fallon.
Fallon rises, mostly to show that they’d be evenly matched in a fight. Tank-to-tank.
“What do you want with Fallon Kirk?” Fallon asks the bouncer.
“You Fallon Kirk?”
“You don’t know who I am?!”
“If you’re not Fallon Kirk, I don’t care who you are.”
“You ought to. I’m Hal Haven,” Fallon lies. “Of Haven Corp. Have you heard of that? I basically own the Grid and my credit here is high enough that I could buy this club—and own you too. So why are you are harassing my friend” and at this point, Fallon nods to Hal and identifies him as, “Fallon Kirk.”
The Bouncer looks at Hal with a raised eyebrow and asks, “You’re Fallon Kirk?”
Hal shrugs. Jane and Emily giggle.
“And you’re the Haven kid?” The bouncer asks Fallon.
“My name is Hal. And yes, my father is the pompous ass who invented GAIT. But he’s old and probably gonna die soon—which means I own it all.”
“He must be very proud of you.”
“My father has his head so far up his ass he doesn’t know where I am or care about what I’m doing.”
“You plan to use his money to cover your friends tab?”
“Please don’t insult my friend in front of these beautiful ladies. Fallon Kirk is a more decent man than I am. What you need to care about is that your boss isn’t going to want to lose Haven business—and I’m just about ready to walk the fuck out of here. So are we done?”
The bouncer locks eyes with Fallon, sizing the situation up for what seems like too long. Finally, he relents with disdain:
“Fine. Have a nice evening, Mr. Haven.”
And with that, he’s gone. As soon as he’s out of earshot, Fallon and the girls break into laughter.
“Very impressive, Hal” Hal says to Fallon, as he touches his fingers to the datapad and picks up Fallon’s tab. “Though you could have been a little nicer about my dad.”
“You don’t think your father is a pompous ass? Who could care less about you?”
“Right then. When he dies and you get it all, just don’t forget who your real family is. And your old friend Fallon.”
“Never!” Hal says with a laugh and taps the datapad for another round of drinks.
Just then, Fallon’s mobile rings on the table. Hal sees the image that pops up with the name “Cari”—she’s cute. No last name.
Not remembering the face or the name, it’s Fallon’s turn to shrug. Nodding from Hal to the phone, he says “Please—be my guest.”
So Hal answers the call with:
“Fallon Kirk, International Playboy for your pleasure.”
“Hey Fallon. It’s Cari.”
She’s blocking vid, which makes the charade easier. And her tone suggests that she suspects that Fallon might not remember her—but that she also doesn’t know that the voice on the other end belongs to Hal. So they may be on equal conversational ground after all. Sweet. Hal takes a drink, Jane and Emma giggle, Fallon smiles, as Cari continues—
“Last time we hung, I wasn’t as… nice as I should have been. And I’ve been thinking about you… So… You want to meet up?”
This is almost as bad as one of Fallon’s come-on lines.
“Sure. My place. Come over to see my collection of vintage robot toys.”
“Well that’s creepy. Never mind. Maybe this was a bad idea after all.”
Without intending to, Hal laughs. He’s surprised that this girl is so confident and bold—not Fallon’s type at all. No wonder they haven’t kept in touch. She probably wouldn’t take his shit. Hal likes that. He wonders why she’s calling now.
“I couldn’t agree more,” he says. “As they say, Fallon Kirk can be a creep. I apologize. And I live for bad ideas. So, Cari. Let’s meet up. On your terms.”
“Wednesday night at the Café Clair.”
“You go to Denton?”
“Just meet me at The Café Claire.”
“On a Wednesday night?”
“They’re big on Wednesday.”
That makes Hal laugh again—he does like this girl.
“I’ll have a friend with me,” she adds. “So maybe you can bring your friend. Hal Haven? She’d love to meet him.”
Hal’s gaze wanders over to Fallon and Jane (or is it Emily), and the girls suddenly don’t seem angelic anymore. His high is already fading and hasn’t proven to be a spectacular conversationalist after all. And he is suddenly filled with the need to get out of this club.
“Of course. Everyone wants to meet Hal Haven. I don’t go anywhere without him. Who’d cover my bills? Or my ass?”
The girl on the other end laughs, and Hal can’t quite read Fallon’s expression, which may or may not be amusement. The only thing Hal realizes for sure, is that nothing is really as it seems tonight.
“I guess it’s just been a night of doubles, ” Hal says to no one in particular.
The girl on the other end has already dropped the call.
As I drop the call and hand her back her phone, I stare slack-jawed at Cari who immediately bursts into laughter, both of us in awe that that just worked.
“I can’t believe that just happened,” I say, barely able to contain my shock that Fallon actually thought I was Cari.
“Told you it would be better for you to do the talking, Ash.”
“No. You thought it’d be funny to watch me squirm trying to ask a boy out.”
“So it is a date!”
“That’s not what I meant! And Fallon will be there, anyway.”
“Oh, come on, Ash! That was good for you. You’re channeling your inner Cari—and you make an excellent me. A better me than me!” She bursts into laughter again.
“Well that’s not true… But Fallon did sound nicer than I expected.”
“Let’s hope Hal is just as charming.”
This thought gives me pause. “I might make you take that one, Cari.”
Then she suddenly grows serious.
“Well. There’s one other thing I think you should do before Wednesday night.
“You should try to see Lianna Haven.”
“That’s the plan. With Hal.”
“Not in the Grid. I mean the other Liana Haven… The real one. In the hospital.”
Because it has indeed been a night of doubles.
You’ve been reading CHAPTER 8 from the new young adult illustrated novel ASHA ASCENDING, written by Vivek J. Tiwary with art by Sara Richard. Please FOLLOW this blog to read previous and future chapters, serialized here for free.
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