I’m writing more of this story. I think this is going to be after that chapter I wrote so that you’ll learn of the events leading up to that point. Read it first…or 2nd…
“What the?” She muttered softly from where she was seated in the classroom as she listened to the weather report. The pre-schoolers were all running around, it was their “wild time”, time to shake out the sillies before their parents came. Nadia, the teachers-aid for a preschool class full of 3-4 year olds, had just come to Chicago a few months ago from Michigan so she was semi-used to quirky weather. Chicago was no exception and the weather forecaster was announcing unseasonably cold temperature that had rolled in, along with grey skies and torrential winds the likes of which they had never seen. The weatherman went on to assure the listeners that there was no cause for alarm, that weather was cyclical and what they were seeing was surely part of whichever cycle the season was in the midst of. He promised that he would update as more information came in.
Crap. Crap. Crap.
This morning when Nadia got ready for work, she chose the appropriate ensemble for typical sweltering July weather in Chicago. A pretty little black sundress that she had picked up on the sale rack at Macy’s a couple of weeks ago; one that she wouldn’t have otherwise been able to afford without the 50% off. Even then it was a stretch but she decided to go for it anyways and she bought a pair of strappy sandals to match. Most of her closet was made up of work clothes, appropriate for spending the day in a preschool with drool, paint and poop, nothing that a new to the working world of young professionals would ever wear to any after-work event. People would get the impression that Nadia was all work and no play. Which, was mostly the case. With the purchase of the dress and shoes, she was hoping to change that. Baby steps in high heels.
A great outfit to wear to work (it was washable) and hopefully play, especially when it’s close to 100 degrees in the city. But when the temperature dropped close to 70 degrees in a few hours…in JULY…and she was supposed to walk home in this weather; she was certain that this was not the best clothing choice. She thought longingly of all her sweater sets and jeans hanging in her closet in her tiny studio apartment.
There had been no way to predict this drastic weather change though because, according to the 11pm news the night before, we weren’t expecting anything other than hot and humid for the next few days. Totally typical type weather for this time of year in Chicago.
Nadia stood up and walked toward one of the big windows that took up most of the classroom which happened to face Lake Michigan. Despite being in a classroom with little kids most of the day, Nadia felt lucky that she could stare out past the busy street over to Lake Michigan. She loved to gaze out the window and admire the vastness of Lake Michigan and the park along its shore. She loved when they lined the kids up, buddy system style, and marched them across the street to a darling playground in the grassy area across the bike path from the lake. The teachers and aids had to keep double and triple eyes on the kids so that they didn’t wander off to play in the sand or worse, the water. But it was worth it and the kids were usually very well behaved, despite the temptation of the huge sandbox that was the beach.
At this moment, however, she wasn’t interested in the lake although she couldn’t help but notice how dark and angry it looked, like a rabid dog foaming at the mouth. A few other of her colleagues came and joined her, silently stunned at the ominous color of the sky. Nadia looked at the sidewalk where she watched people running; or were they being pushed by the sheer strength of the winds that were whipping through the area? Clothes and hair twisting and taking on a life of its own as the wind whipped through.
“This is craptastic weather!” Molly, her close friend and head teacher of the classroom she was the aid for, had come over and stood next to her and nodded in agreement.
“I think we shouldn’t go out in this, let’s just change our plans and make it tomorrow night instead?” Molly looked at Nadia expectantly.
“Probably the best idea. Sucks that I wore my outfit today then.” She looked down at her dress and frowned.
Conversation amongst a few of the other co-workers convened at the window was on the weather and how uncharacteristic for July it was. Also, Nadia heard someone throw in words like “Rapture” and “Apocalypse” which was probably Annalise, the schools conspiracy theorist and Principal. You wanted to know what the “true” reason behind anything is, Annalise was your girl. She was also very entertaining, in small doses. Very small doses.
At 5, she gathered up her belongings, said good bye and headed to the front door. She took a deep breath, as though she were about to be deprived of life-giving oxygen and wrapped around her shoulders the only warm thing she had with her, a pashmina shawl. With a silent pep talk, she opened the door and threw herself into the crowded street. She hated cold weather and it never ceased to amaze her that she still lived in the Midwest, where it was cold for most of the year.
Upon impact, it wasn’t really the cold that hit her so much as the wind. The minute she set foot onto the sidewalk her hair was whipped directly into her mouth and eyes and her skirt ballooned upward. She walked as fast as she could toward her apartment, head down like a train barreling down the track while trying to keep her dress down to avoid an undignified Marilyn Monroe-esque look. Trying to steer clear of people who were walking in the same hunched position proved to be a little more difficult in her current position, especially with the wind pushing and pulling people like they were nothing more than fall leaves.
To keep her mind off the cold, because she happened to finally notice that it really WAS cold, Nadia tried to think of all the adjectives she could for this wind. Bitter. Biting. Angry. Vicious. Those weren’t even strong enough, it was definitely the strongest wind she’s ever been in without being in an actual tornado and due to the fact that she was fighting with everything on and around her, she couldn’t put anymore concentration into her little word game. Her only mission was to get home with her hair still on her head and her dress still on her body. And her darn shoes; on a normal day, Nadia found heels difficult but with the strength of the wind, walking without twisting her ankles was proving to be a little bit close to impossible.
The wind shoved her along and because she couldn’t see between whipping hair and the rain that started slicing down like Ginsu knives, she let it propel her. She knew her way home and figured she was headed in the right direction, even without looking up.
The wind pushed her straight. It pushed her to turn. It pushed her to turn again. She felt like a dog being walked and the wind was her owner holding the leash. She was drenched, cold and starting to get frightened when she realized that she was nowhere near her apartment. She was in a sort of seedy area and she wondered how she had really gotten there. She realized that, while she wasn’t paying attention to her direction, she must have let the wind be a bad tour guide and it took her way past her destination. Where she was exactly, she couldn’t pinpoint without stopping. And it was next to impossible to stop.
“So freaking strange.” She squinted her eyes and placed her hand, like a shield, over them to try to keep the slapping wind and biting precipitation at bay so that she could lift her head, ever so slightly, and to try get a baring on where she was. “No clue.” She sighed. She somehow noticed a faded, dimly lit sign signaling warmth and beer across the small alleyway street from where she stood. A bar. She dared herself to be adventurous and go seek shelter and a drink at the bar whose name she couldn’t make out due to crazy weather conditions.
The ancient, worn little sign on the door said “Open” and another sign, in the same condition, was the simple picture of a little bat with the words “The Bat Cave” written in faded black script.
“Great. People dressed as various superheroes probably hang out here. Ugh, who cares. I’m not going to talk to anyone. I’m just getting warm and maybe drunk, until all this crap let’s up.” And then she rolled her eyes because she realized that she was talking to herself. Out loud. Luckily, there were no witnesses that she could see.
She walked in, shook herself off and headed into the darkness toward the bar. Lit only by exceptionally dim lights and tons of candles in gothic looking candelabras, Nadia noticed there were quite a few people who had the same idea she did. She also noticed, in the dimness, that all eyes were on her. If there had been any conversation or movement, it had all but stopped to check out the lone young woman who had entered the establishment. The noticeable hush and attention made her a bit nervous but she proceeded toward the long, busy bar.
Feeling a bit insecure, she found a seat in the middle of the crowded bar and waited until the only bartender in sight noticed her and would come to take her order. Although, considering all eyes had been on her since she walked in, she was amazed that the bartender remained completely and obliviously unaware of her presence. But then again, he was deep in conversation with a pale woman with long, dark hair toward the front of the bar. The rest of the bar was beginning to buzz around her, the way she assumed it was before she entered “The Bat Cave”, but she could still feel that she was being watched.
As inconspicuously as she could, she glanced around the small area. All the tables were taken, there had to be at least 50 people in this tiny bar. Toward the back, a group of about 6 men and women were playing darts while another couple played pool. The music that bellowed out from the speakers was some sort of goth stuff with a hard dance beat, something that she wasn’t very familiar with.
From what she could tell, the patrons matched the music. Oh great, she thought, I found a punk bar. So NOT my thing.
Turning back to face the bar in front of her, she caught her reflection in the mirror that ran alongside the entire length of the wall behind the bar. Shelves holding various liquors and wines decorated the mirror but there was space between shelves for her to notice how disheveled she looked. She tried to smooth her flaming red hair but it was futile, the wind had been a horrible hairdresser and she was in a temporarily permanent state of disarray. “Who cares, who am I here to impress?” She used the mirror to finish her people watching. “Well, it seems that I stand out in more ways than one, the only red-head in the joint. At least I’m wearing a black dress, that’s something.”
Finally, the bartender dragged himself away from the chick he was probably hoping to get some from and made his way over to Nadia. “What can I do you for?” He raised a dark eyebrow in question.
“Um, well. I’ll have a glass of Pinot, please.”
The bartender smirked at her and pulled a bottle of wine out of the little refrigerator. He grabbed a glass, cleaned it with a rag and poured the wine to the rim. “This one’s on the house, little lady. You get stuck in that storm?”
“Ah, yeah. The strongest wind I’ve ever been in. It literally dragged me here, to this place. Would you believe that I have no idea where I am?”
“You, my dear, are at the Bat Cave. Not many people know of it. It’s one of the city’s best kept secrets.” He smiled, tapped the bar signaling their little conversation was done for now and moved on to see who he could refill.
Nadia sipped her wine and tried not to look at anyone. The darkness of the bar mixed with the strangeness of the strangers made her nervous, she didn’t do well outside of her comfort zone and this place was DEFINITELY not in her comfort zone. The sound of the wind screaming and howling didn’t help to make the ambience less sinister.
About halfway through her wine, Nadia was startled by the door blowing sharply open. The bar got even quieter than it had when she walked in. All eyes were on the large, imposing figure that took up the entire doorway. As the form came more into the light, Nadia could see, out of the corner of her eye because that’s all she dared to look with, what looked like a very built man. She could also hear hushed whispers of awe as he made his way toward the bar.
The young guy who had been sitting quietly next to Nadia quickly jumped out of his seat and offered it to the gentleman. Nadia used the mirror again as her spy and she noticed how handsome and well dressed he was, despite the daunting size of him. In fact, she thought, as she couldn’t take her eyes off his reflection, he was the most beautiful man she had ever seen. Dark hair, dark eyes…he was probably Italian, she thought to herself.
She tensed up as he took his recently cleared seat. Taking a large gulp of the Pinot, she still kept her eyes on him in the mirror, she couldn’t help it, she was transfixed, not to mention he was hot.
Suddenly, he met her gaze in the mirror and smiled showing a mouth full of perfectly white teeth. He turned his seat to face hers and gently placed his hand underneath the rotating bar stool to turn her to face him.
“Hello Nadia.” He looked directly into her eyes and she found she couldn’t look away, she was lost in their dark beauty. “We’ve been waiting for you. We’ve been waiting for you for a very long time.”
The only thing that registered besides his words was the sudden cessation of the howling wind.