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Chapter 1: The Call To Adventure

"The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" Jeremiah 17:9

By KrystelPublished 2 months ago 9 min read

Derek's gaze swept across the dimly lit room, a glimmer of anticipation in his eyes as he half-hoped, half-feared that his ex-girlfriend might make a surprise entrance into the club—fully aware that this was one of her favored haunts. The pulsating rhythm of the music and the energetic atmosphere added to the tension that lingered in the air.

Having just concluded a performance, Derek and his crew found themselves extended an invitation to a frequented NYC club. Isaac, a boisterous friend wielding a bottle of champagne, chimed in with a playful jab, "Yo, dude, you need to move on from this situation. I see you still looking for her."

"It's strange. I thought it would be easy, but now it feels like it's haunting me. I almost regret not trying harder to make it work," Derek confessed, his voice laced with a mixture of vulnerability and nostalgia.

"I'm no therapist, but that sounds like codependency. Forget it, I'm going to find some girls," Isaac declared.

"No, I can't fill the gaping hole in my heart with a bunch of mindless, money-hungry little girls," Derek mused, his reluctance to succumb to the allure of superficial connections apparent.

"Yeah, better to have one emasculate you and chop your balls off," Isaac retorted humorously. His carefree attitude evident and eager to explore female company, Issac disappeared into the crowd, leaving Derek momentarily amused but still grappling with the emotional void left by his past relationship.

Acknowledging the lingering feelings for his ex-girlfriend, Derek couldn't escape the constant reminders of her presence on billboards and TV commercials. Their journey began when she was a rising artist, untouched by the industry's harsh realities. Yet, as fame encircled them, toxicity crept into their relationship, fueled by incessant comparisons and a sense of competition that strained their connection.

Attempting to move forward, Derek immersed himself in his role as a music producer and manager, focusing on his new artist, Dash. As they engaged in a serious conversation at the club, Derek noticed Dash's attention shifting. Turning, he observed Isaac surrounded by a group of strikingly tall girls, one of whom exuded an exotic beauty that caught Derek's eye.

Drawn to her enigmatic presence, Derek speculated that she might be an up-and-coming model or influencer. With seamless grace, the mysterious girl, introduced as Zyla, glided over and settled beside Derek with a drink in hand. The music drowned Dash's attempt to offer her another drink, leading Derek to engage Zyla in conversation.

Intrigued, Derek asked, "What's your name?"

"Zyla, and you?"


"Where you from, Derek?"

"Jersey City."

"Oh, really. I’m from Newark?"

"Oh, you're in New Jersey too. That’s not far from Jersey City.”

"I think it's fate," Zyla said shyly, casting a spark of connection between them.

"Take a shot with me?" Derek proposed, seeking to deepen the newfound rapport.

"Okay, but my shot face is none too pleasing," Zyla warned, her playful demeanor adding a touch of charm.

Pouring two shots, Derek handed one to Zyla. With closed eyes, she swallowed half, only to find Derek had not swallowed his yet but instead was still holding his in his mouth. "Are you waiting for me to finish it?" she asked, flattered by his ability to hold an unpleasant shot without flinching. He nodded yes and she subsequently took the remainder with a fit of coughing and tears, Derek finally downed his shot, sealing an unexpected connection in the dimly lit embrace of the club.

Zyla, recovering from the tequila shot, couldn't resist probing Derek about his possible ties to the music industry. "So, are you a DJ or rapper or something of the sort?" she inquired, her curiosity shining through.

"No, do you like rappers or DJs?" Derek playfully threw the question back at her, a mischievous glint in his eyes.

“I knew it. She a thot,” Derek thought to himself, a silent observation that lingered in the air.

"That's a very broad question that is open to interpretation. To be more specific, are you asking me if I'm only interested in dating them?" Zyla responded, her tone challenging Derek to delve deeper.

"Yes?" Derek replied, a smirk playing on his lips.

“No, I also date football players, actors, doctors, lawyers, CEOs, bartenders, servers; my last boyfriend was in the military. I don’t really have a type,” Zyla retorted sarcastically, a playful smile dancing on her lips.

"Touche," Derek conceded, appreciating Zyla's quick wit.

The conversation pivoted to Dash; a name dropped earlier in the evening. Derek queried, "You like Dash?"

"The DJ?" Zyla sought clarification.

"Yeah," Derek confirmed.

"I heard his name before, but I have no clue who that is. I’m not really privy to a lot of pop culture," Zyla admitted, the admission accompanied by a genuine smile.

"That is him over there?" Derek pointed in Dash's direction.

Zyla looked over, contemplating Dash's presence. "Oh, that’s him? How do you guys know each other?" she inquired, genuinely curious.

"He is an artist I’m working with," Derek explained,

Zyla was curious to know Derek professional relationship with Dash, but she decided to leave the specifics untouched, for her lack of comprehension and not wanting to embarrass herself.

"Would you date him?” Derek abruptly asked, interrupting Zyla's thoughts.

“That’s a weird and random question to ask. Would you?” Zyla responded with a tone of frustration. “Why are you asking me about your friend? When I’m talking to you. Are you trying to fix me up with him?”

Derek sensed Zyla's growing irritation and attempted to redirect the conversation, but instead felt compelled to ask, "Do you want me to?" Derek added, maintaining his playful demeanor. However, Derek knew it was stupid question but wanted to inquire to confirm his own insecurities that she was only interested in his company.

Zyla, now glaring at Derek with confusion and disgust, found herself caught in a whirlwind of thoughts. "Is he trying to fix me up with his friend? Was he just keeping me entertained while his friend engaged his friends? Was he gauging to see if I would have sex with his friend?" she pondered silently.

Frustration etched across her face, Zyla abruptly stood up and left, heading back to their promoter table. The atmosphere inside the club had lost its allure for her, as she grappled with the familiar feeling of being treated like a groupie rather than a person deserving of genuine connection.

As she reflected on her predicament, Zyla acknowledged the conflicting emotions. She harbored a liking for Derek, appreciating the difference in his demeanor from the superficiality of his entourage. The realization, however, didn't ease the frustration stemming from the unwanted assumptions and fixations on his friend.

Approaching 4 am, the impending closure of the club prompted Zyla's decision to leave. Returning to Dash's table to gather her friends, she found Derek still seated, a bit more intoxicated than when she left him.

“Giselle, are you ready to go?” Zyla called out.

“Yeah, the guys are going to Serafina to get food. You want to go?” Giselle responded.

“Sure, I guess,” Zyla said reluctantly, aware that she had little choice since she would be riding with her.

Giselle couldn't help but express her concern, “Hey, where did you go? We saw you talking to the guy, and the next thing we know, you were gone. We asked him where you went, and he said you just left. He texted you.”

“What, ‘he’ texted me?” Zyla questioned, confused.

“Yeah, he said, 'Give me her number; I will text her and check on her.’”

“What? I didn’t get a text,” Zyla realized, pulling out her phone to discover the messages from the unsaved number.

“Oh, wait. I must have not had any service,” she explained, examining the texts that read:

“Hey, it's Derek.”

“Where did you go?”

“Come back. Let’s finish our conversation.”

Zyla felt a mixture of relief and anxiety at the realization that Derek was still interested in continuing their interaction.

Exiting the club with Giselle, they joined the guys at their car, realizing the impracticality of everyone fitting into the oversized SUV.

"Naw, we are not going to all fit in there. I’ll get an Uber and meet y'all there,” Derek declared.

“I’ll ride with him,” Zyla volunteered, making her choice clear.

Zyla settled back into the plush seat of the Uber, the city lights casting a soft glow on her face as the car maneuvered through the late-night streets. Derek, sitting beside her, broke the silence that lingered since their departure from the club.

"So, you're not mad at me anymore," he ventured, a playful tone in his voice.

"No, I did think it was a bit weird you kept bringing up your friend when I was clearly more interested in you. I will also disregard the fact that you were alluding to me being a groupie," Zyla responded, a mix of amusement and sincerity in her voice.

"Alluding? Okay, counselor," Derek quipped, eliciting a giggle from Zyla. It wasn't just the banter that made her smile; it was the acknowledgment of her intelligence, a refreshing departure from the usual assumptions she encountered.

Zyla, surrounded by friends with burgeoning careers in the arts, felt a constant struggle to find her place in the industry. While her friends achieved success as an artist and stylist, Zyla navigated the corporate world as an insurance claims analyst. The disinterest she faced when revealing her profession only added to her insecurities, leaving her with a lingering sense of shame.

As the Uber ride continued, Derek interrupted her introspection with a question that shifted the atmosphere.

"So when are you going to let me take you on a date?" he asked.

Zyla, caught between excitement and anxiety, felt a flutter in her stomach. She recognized the need for caution but also craved the prospect of something new and exciting. Derek seemed to represent that escape from the mundane life she lived.

Doing her best to appear nonchalant, she replied, "Well, I already have your number, so I'll let you know what my schedule looks like." The playful tone in her voice hinted at her genuine interest.

Upon arriving at the restaurant, the night was far from over. The group settled into their seats, champagne bottles making their rounds as laughter and conversation filled the air. Zyla observed the dynamic, her thoughts lingering on the unexpected turn of events.

Despite her initial frustration, Zyla couldn't deny the intrigue that Derek presented. He stood out from his entourage, and there was something about his demeanor that resonated with her. The prospect of a date, though both exciting and nerve-wracking, injected a sense of vitality into her otherwise routine existence.

As the night unfolded, Zyla couldn't shake the feeling that this encounter might lead her down a path of self-discovery and, perhaps, a departure from the constraints that held her back. Little did she know that the unfolding chapters of her story were about to take unexpected turns, with Derek at the center of this newfound adventure.

Young AdultRomanceFiction

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