A Brazen Charm

The wind was, like everything else in the city’s sprawl, artificial. It rushed up from the baked freeways to blister the hillside homes of the rich. There it rippled indigo pools before cutting itself on the jutting angles of glass and concrete.

Stepping from the car onto the drive, she looked up at the pale planes and grudgingly admitted there was a brazen charm to the monstrosity hanging off the brown hills. The car rolled away, leaving her and her men on the drive.

Upon entering the white walls, those men lost themselves in the glittering crowd. They would enjoy themselves among the other guests until needed. She could not disappear so easily.

A sea of bronze legs, vicious clavicles, and ombre hair parted for her. She told herself it was the confident cut of her chin, the jut of her shoulders, the pale planes of her face. That the contoured faces noted a brazen charm that came from being where one shouldn’t.

The angle of their plump lips said otherwise.

The host found by the sparkling pool, having abandoned the conditioned interiors for a view of the illuminated grids below. Like her, he did not seem to belong here. His clothes were his own, rough, practical, and fashionable only two hundred miles to the south. The ugly gun at his hip would quickly offend any West coast sensibility.

But this was his home, carved out in the hills to overlook a kingdom.

She dipped her head in greeting and complimented the appeal of his house. He waived away the compliment, explaining it brought pretty women. It was probably the truth, but also a courtesy to her presence as he delivered the line with a rogue’s smile.

He knows she is a newcomer. An unknown mostly, except that she seeks to carve out her own place. A place on the hills perhaps. He asks how she is finding the city so far.

She admits that she doesn’t and that in kind, the city does not seem to like her either. They look out at the glow of the valley together. She smiles at the darkening hillside and the lights stretching beneath them. She intends to grow on it though, and tells him so.

This week I challenged Raw Rambles to write something to or inspired by Disclosure’s Magnets, which features a personal favorite of mine, Lorde.  The above piece, and last weeks post on Raw Rambles, is the result. 

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Flash Fiction: Gold and Grime

                Ilea let her feet swing over the edge of the roof. No one would notice her unless they wandered out of the bar, into the alley and looked up. That was unlikely considering the bar rarely got more than ten patrons a night.

The city she lived in was beautiful exactly two times each day.  She never missed either. The mornings were hardest to get too, blinking sleep from her eyes and ignoring the roar of the early commuters. But they were clear. The grey smog that always smothered the coastal metropolis like a sticky quilt was pushed aside ever so briefly by ocean winds. In the clean light Old Angeles felt new.

                Now, in the evening, the horizon was not the bright pastels of sunrise, but the dark crimson pinks and violent oranges that turned the entire place gold. The buildings, the twinkling lines of cars stuck on the freeways, even the distant ocean, all were brilliant sparkling gold. The city embraced the pollution painting the sky with it and letting the cloying smell of gasoline and refineries bloom. It was warm but the night air kept away the oppressive heat that characterized the days.

                “I hate this city.” Henry’s voice said behind her. “I hear there are open transfers out East. We could apply.” He said, and wiped the grime and sweat from his face on his t-shirt.

                She didn’t turn around. There was truly only about a half an hour she got to see everything in gold. “I doubt they’d approve it. Only people with something to offer get considered. No unskilled labor.” Henry was a doorman on Market Street and she was a waitress by day and a bartender after the sun set. Ilea didn’t want to leave; this was her home after all.

                He sighed, sitting next to her. “It’s too damn hot all the time. And you can taste the smog when you breathe. Our apartment’s conditioning accounts for half our rent.” Henry scrubbed his hands together.

                Ilea wished he would stop complaining. She had a shift starting below at the bar in fifteen minutes and he had taken the day off. She enjoyed visits but while stuffed inside the cave-like bar negativity had a way of dragging you down. There were worst Corporations to live under and Henry knew it. Aurelio had better living conditions than most and they got to be near an ocean. People stuck in the agricultural Corp out East could live their entire lives without seeing anything bigger than a river.

                The gold haze was cooling into the darker blues and greys of the evening. Ilea pushed herself to her feet and looked down at her boyfriend.  “You coming?”

                He nodded and followed her down the maintenance ladder. When his feet hit the ground he reached up and helped her short jump from the ladder. “I think I am gonna apply for the transfer.” He told her when they emerged from the alley.

                Ilea looked at him. He wanted her to say she’d apply too. “You should.” Ilea answered and walked past him.