New Year’s Eve brought watery snow plunging from black storm clouds. Three strangers wearing their best gowns and no coats crammed into the tiny back seat, while a Bantu princess dressed for the Arctic grudgingly joined the driver. Quentin forgot every name as soon as it was offered. The journey proved slow and harried. Leaving his passengers at the auditorium, he drove a quarter league to find parking, and he walked to the party with the snow above his waterlogged boots and ethereal blue bolts of lightning slicing across the miserable sky.
The evening’s band proved energetic and untalented. Bows on strings, breath through brass, and an electric jamrod that threatened to kill the room with feedback. The nightmare was coarsened by hundreds of bodies enjoying themselves. Quentin’s dates had provisioned themselves at the bar. There were two dozen women from Warner, each striving to look glamorous in the mayhem. Names and personalities were impossible to discern. The one truly gorgeous girl was Egyptian—slender elegance coupled with fierce eyes and breasts that kept trying to leap out of her gown. She danced with a series of gray-haired men, making each one of them pant. Noticing Quentin’s stares, Vinnie patted him on a knee, yelling, “Some of mine can’t be trusted.”
The next year began with the Queensland anthem. Quentin kissed nameless mouths and three tongues, and then he was allowed to recover his car. Only two ladies were waiting at the curb, which was unexpected. Stranger still, he didn’t recognize either one. An obese, decidedly unpleasant Viking glared at her savior and then crawled into the back seat.
“I don’t like this,” she said. “There’s zero room.”
The other passenger sat silently beside Quentin. But it was a busy silence, as if she were gathering herself, and when the complaining continued from the back seat, she turned to say, “You agreed to this. Don’t you remember?”
That earned those in front some peace.
Quentin gave his new friend a grateful nod, and she threw a tentative smile his way.
“I’ve seen you at the library,” he guessed.
“Perhaps,” the woman said, smiling. “Except I never visit the library.”
Her accent was hard to place.
Guessing the next question was easy enough. “I’m here on a special visa," said the woman beside him. "I am from Persia.”
That was heartening news. The World’s War was thirty years gone, and here sat a symbol of improved relations with the ancient empire. The symbol didn’t offer any name, and unsure of Persian customs, Quentin didn’t pry. But his face warmed whenever she smiled at him. It was a smile with purpose. Black-as-ink hair danced with the bright brown eyes. Her gown looked delicious, ample breasts unwillingly covered by golden silk. He wanted to stare, but that would make the driving even more treacherous. Better to watch the blue lightning leap across the sky, and after the thunder had rocked the car, that exotic woman asked Quentin if this storm was typical.
“Oh, sure, we get these all the time,” he said. “What’s special is the green lightning. Then it rains frogs.”
Both of them laughed.
Which inspired the girl in back to say one word, just one, the message delivered with her endlessly acidic tone.
“Maimun,” said the Viking dismissively.
The mysterious Persian touched Quentin on his left elbow. “I think she’s talking about you. Because I’m a Christian.”
“Infallible?” he asked warily.
“Well,” she said gamely. “We can hope so.”