Andie’s name was on the list just like her invitation said it would be– these LA types had an obsession with their clipboards– so she got in ahead of the line snaking up the block. The interior of the nightclub was wild with people, and the decor was all smooth lines and curved spaces bathed in blue light. The walls were plexiglass and water flowed inside them from the ceiling to the floor, paying homage to the club’s name. The atmosphere was intoxicating and all of the people looked like they’d stepped out of glossy pages to attend the party.
Andie weaved through the crowds, looking for a familiar face. Seeing no one she recognized, she reached out to touch the arm of a girl passing by with a tray of glowing blue shots. “I’m looking for BetterCorp?” Andie said, yelling over the music.
“Splash Room!” the girl shouted.
“Um, where?” Andie asked, looking around. The girl pointed toward the back, around the bar before moving away, back to her rounds.
Andie skirted around the bar past reserved tables, people ordering more cocktails, groups of gorgeous women who looked bored, and couples pressed up against walls. She was making her way past the bathrooms when she heard someone call her name. She turned to see Marcella coming out of the ladies’ room, and felt instant shame. She’d canceled their plans to be there. She opened her mouth to try to explain, but Marcella cut her off.
“It’s cool, girl. Isabel told me they asked you to be a part of the mysterious project. They asked me, too!” Her warmth was infectious and Andie returned the smile, relieved. She’d only been in the city for two days; it was too soon to have any enemies.
“Sorry I lied in my text. Everything is so secretive. I’ve barely even looked at the contract, and they wouldn’t tell me anything,” said Andie.
“Don’t worry about it, I’m just glad you’re in. It can be hard to make friends here, so I was hoping you’d stay in LA. You seem sweet.”
Andie blushed. “Thanks. Not sure how far sweet will get me here,” she said, letting out a small laugh.
“I’ll look after you,” Marcella said amicably. She looped her arm through Andie’s and led her into the next room. It turned out things were even wilder behind the curtain of the front bar. Andie knew instantly why it was called the Splash Room but couldn’t quite believe her own eyes. In the center of the room was a wide open space where a hundred and fifty people dancing while water poured from the ceiling, soaking all of them to the bone. Andie started walking toward the dance floor, drawn to its pulsing lights and steady heartbeat of rainfall, but Marcella caught her wrist.
“Not so fast, lady,” she said. “We have to meet the others first!”
Andie couldn’t take her eyes off of the rhythmic movement of the dance floor as Marcella pulled her away. Staring into the crowd she thought of the first time she’d danced like that, back home at a house party after she’d snuck out. Despite hating beer from the first sip, she’d kept drinking it because her best friend, Chloe, said it made everything funnier.
“Dance with me, Andie,” Chloe said, sloshing beer onto her top as she moved to the music.
Andie rolled her eyes. Nothing had gotten funnier; Andie just felt seasick. She stood up, feeling the room tilt at an odd angle. Chloe danced against her, flicking her auburn hair into Andie’s face. It felt like a sharp wind biting into her cheeks. Andie closed her eyes, swaying with Chloe while two boys they’d met that night sat on the couch and watched them.
C’mon, Andie, dance!” Chloe said, giggling. Andie’s stomach turned. Her beer bottle slipped from her fingers onto the rug. She and Chloe swayed and moved their hips to the beat, their bare feet spreading the alcohol puddle further. Andie stopped, her hand on Chloe’s hip, eyes snapping open and searching for equilibrium.
Then, a steadying hand on her waist and a deep voice in her ear, “Do you want to dance with me instead?”
She snapped back to the nightclub, where Marcella was giving her a quizzical look.
“Sorry,” she said, following closer, heading toward a table where Lawrence sat chatting to a woman half his age. When he saw Marcella and Andie approaching he called out to them.
“Hey! Jäger and Iowa! Come meet everyone!”
“Jäger?” Andie said into Marcella’s ear.
“Don’t ask. He knows I hate that.”
As they reached Lawrence’s table, Lucy materialized on the arm of a tall, handsome guy in an outfit that mirrored Andie’s– even down to the hat. Lucy didn’t seem to notice. She introduced him as Nate something before rushing to greet some others at the table.
“You look like a Nate,” Andie blurted. He laughed and somehow got even more attractive.
“How long have you two been dating?” Marcella asked, sounding too interested. This made Nate laugh again.
“Lucy’s my aunt,” he said. “Nepotism at its finest. BetterCorp is like a second family. I’m interested to see what this new campaign is about.”
“Yeah, they used the word ‘experimental’ in my casting interview–”
Lucy walked up to the three of them cutting Andie off, “This is Elijah Wells and Gwen Xi. This is Marcella Terrell, Andie Rowe, and Nate Olivier. The others are at the table waiting. Come, sit, drink!”
Andie glanced back to catch another view of the Splash Room dance floor, but caught Nate’s eye instead. He gave her a small wink. She smiled at him, ashamed to admit to herself that she liked it. The group sat at Lawrence’s round, reserved table, and expensive champagne was passed around to each of them before he raised his glass for a toast.
“I’m glad you could make it tonight,” his voice boomed over the music. “If all goes according to plan, you’ll be young new stars, catapulted into Hollywood’s elite and offered everything under the sun. Each of you demonstrated something special in your interviews. We see something in you.”
Andie was positive he caught her eye as he said the last part. What did he see?
Lawrence raised his glass higher, finishing with, “Welcome to BetterCorp, you bright and beautiful things!”
Everyone cheered and drank.
Then they drank some more. The rest of the night passed in a chaotic blur. Drinks flowed, and then they flowed over. Andie felt some moments come into sharp focus, like the one where she was dancing in the fake rain with Marcella and Nate who ended up making out, leaving her feeling like an awkward third wheel. In another moment she was drinking one of the blue shots with Gwen and sharing heartfelt life stories, and in yet another she recalled one of the guys from their group– Paul… Or was it Pierre?– asking if she smoked cigarettes. She told him yes even though she never had, and the two of them went to the alley behind the club where she puffed on one without inhaling. Other moments were chunks of time missing from her memory completely, punctuated only by those vivid, disjointed minutes.