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Alyss Lidell is cold. Enchantingly cold. The dark-eyed, curly-haired 21-year-old glazes the ground beneath her with icicles of sweetness, freezing the attention of all suitors with crippling ease.

Her personality is derived from both high intellect and an uncanny endurance for constant disappointment; what was once the flavorful glory of Manhattan was now, to her, awfully stale.

She had stopped smiling long before her father left. He relocated from their illustrious complex in northern New Jersey to a penthouse pad in Indonesia, choosing a string of profitable hotels over his wife and 2 kids.

He had hotels in New York, too,

but argued that the Eastern climate was better for “health reasons.”

Health reasons.

That lie hurt her the least.

The month of September was terrible. Her dad had returned home to finalize the divorce papers the exact same time she was signing the transfer papers out of Columbia University. She convinced her dean that the ‘prestigious Ivy League’ was far too challenging for her. It wasn’t.

*Yesterday around 1:15pm*

Alyss walked into her dad’s personal garage, a luxury showroom slotted underneath the 5-story compound she called home. She looked around. A colorful assortment of gleaming external coats protected six foreign-suede interiors. Each car hand-crafted by some German guy her dad knew. Each car begging to be whipped.

But Alyss already knew what she wanted to take.

It was parked at the very end of the row, and she could still make out what the dried spray-paint phrase had once said:

JUST MARRIED.

It was 21 years old, and only driven once.

The very next morning Alyss drove off.

She left her home with a dream of a more adventurous lifestyle, and a cigarette for her bubbling nerves.

A dream and a cigarette.

Her parents returned from court to find a note pinned to the front door:

‘Health Reasons.’

xx,

Alyss

Randall.

Randall dapped AJ up at the front door, simultaneously sliding a dime bag into his right palm.

Randall: I miss anything yet?

AJ: Dog, you kidding me? You’re the party baby!!

That’s AJ Bancroft. He’s extra.

But every month he threw a major, invite-only house party, filling up his mansion with hundreds of college kids. To Randall, that meant hundreds of potential customers.

Future addicts.

Corruptible freshmen.

Athletes.

Pretty girls that did drugs.

Dudes just content with hanging around those girls.

That was the general demographic at these parties, and it was a playground for a seller like him.

Alyss.

Alyss walked out of one of AJ’s living rooms into the massive, marble-floored kitchen. The ceiling speakers were playing “2 On.” 4 girls and 2 dudes were huddled around two pitchers beside the built-in bar.

She had been at the party for about an hour now, and was finally feeling the kick from the Bacardi shot she downed 15 minutes ago.

Kendra: Alyss!! Come over here babe!

A couple hockey boys were playing beer pong on the dinner table and two gorgeous brunettes in white pants cheered them on. It was one of them who called her over, Kendra. She and her sister Anna were two beautiful girls from LA, and they took a liking to Alyss the day she moved in.

Alyss flirted her way onto the pong table for a celebrity shot.

She missed.

The tall, stocky sophomore let her take another, adding a whisper in the ear for some faux motivation.

Splash.

He grabbed her by the waist and twirled her around. She kept on spinning, let go of his hand, and spun away confidently.

He’ll find me later, she thought.

Randall.

Randall hid his annoyance at AJ with a quick smirk and strolled into the crib. His two boys followed closely behind: Bishop and Julian.

They were hood ass dudes that he had known since childhood. Bishop worked directly for the biggest shark in town. He was the businessman. The pusha. The one who convinced Randall to start moving in the first place.

Julian was just there for protection, but was really a teddy bear. He wasn’t menacing at all, and not even that big, but he could fight.

Often, the crew needed that.

The first thing Randall noticed inside was the four-floor home’s familiar allure: the scent of high-end perfume mixed with a hint of Bacardi, and DJ Mustard booming upstairs.

Bishop: Stop thinking ‘bout these women Rand, we’ve got work to do.

Randall shook his head, visibly discarding the thought.

Randall: Chill. Chill dog. I don’t trust none of these hoes anyway.

He wanted to though.

Julian knew how conflicted he was about selling, but Bishop didn’t. Bishop couldn’t.

He heard laughter above and gazed up. On the top of the wide, curling staircase were two girls pillow fighting from one room to the next. A flurry of feathers swirled above as they laughed their way to the sky room.

Bishop: Those the sisters?

Randall: Yeah, let’s get it.

He had sold to them before.

The three of them zipped up the stairs to join the excitement.

Randall brushed a girl aside as he swayed up the steps, checking for the blow in his left pocket as he went up.

Alyss.

She lost Kendra and Anna.

A couple guys took them away while she was playing pong, and she didn’t know anyone else there well enough to just mingle.

So she leaned on the credenza beside the stairs and re-liked a bunch of photos on IG, placing one black boot on top of the first step.

I didn’t leave New York for this, she suddenly thought.

She looked up at herself in the mirror across the way.

Black eye-liner.

Black leather pants.

Black crop-top, and a solo cup in her hand.

She wasn’t the same girl that arrived here 3 weeks ago.

But she didn’t want to be.

She wanted excitement, flare, energy, something, or someone, dangerous.

A gust of fresh air from the front door pushed her hair back. She looked up to see who just walked in, and noticed a tall, dark frame strolling in her direction.

He and his two friends came straight towards her, but their gaze was fixated on something upstairs.

He looked troublesome, but collected.

Like he had something to hide. Like he dared to do something important.

He brushed past her, not even noticing her standing there, and leaped up the staircase toward the laughter.

Her heart fluttered.

Who was he?

She didn’t care at this point.

The thrill was back, she could feel it.

So she followed him up.

*Two Hours Later*

Randall was sitting down directly beside Alyss now.

He shouted something to Julian across the room before turning his head to her.

They were both nervous.

AJ, Kendra, and Anna were in corner doing lines that Randall layed out. Bishop was collecting funds and partaking himself, while Julian stood by the door.

Randall: You don’t have to do it, you know.

Alyss: Neither do you.

Randall shuddered.

He stared into her brown eyes for 3, 4 seconds.

She stared right back.

Alyss: It’s Alyss, by the way.

Randall: Let’s get out of here.

They scurried up the spiral staircase to the fourth floor.

AJ had a lavish rooftop that he only allowed his closest friends onto.

“Trophy V6” was playing on the jacuzzi speakers.

Nobody was in the water.

But they didn’t go in.

Randall: Step up here.

She barely knew him.

She followed him up anyway.

They sat together, both peering at the spectacular view. Tops of trees and dwindling, iridescent city lights painted a mystic backdrop for them to get entranced by.

He told Alyss everything. The drugs, the guilt, the pain, the danger.

He told her he knew he was ruining kids’ lives.

Something about her was trustworthy, he couldn’t pinpoint just what, but he didn’t want to lie to her.

Her leg started buzzing.

Bishop was calling him.

Alyss took the phone out of his hand.

Alyss: Are they always with you?

Randall: Yeah

Alyss: When can you be alone?

Randall: I always feel alone.

Three text messages pulled up on the screen.

3:45AM WTF ARE YOU

3:45AM FRESHMEN GIRLS WANT TO RAIL, LET’S MAKE THIS MONEY.

3:47 JULIAN IN A FIGHT, COME DOWN NIGGA

Alyss took his phone and pocketed it.

Alyss: Take me home.

(Voicemail)

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