The relentless pounding beat of the music reverberated against the rough walls of the dance club, encouraging the patrons of the establishment to writhe rhythmically under the flashing lights overhead.
Kazar and his friends from school were seated in a private area where the noise wasn’t as painful, but still provided an excellent view of the dancers and patrons. “She’s looking your way,” Sebastian Hughes muttered under his breath, referring to the tall, painfully thin blond woman leaning against the railing by the stairs.
Kazar looked over at the woman in question, then at his friend, lifting dark eyebrows in question. “How do you know she’s not looking at you?”
Sebastian laughed softly, his grey eyes steady under the flashing lights of the club. “Because women in establishments such as this seem to have a sixth sense about men and how much money they might have.” Sebastian sipped his drink, narrowing his eyes as he tilted his head slightly towards the blond. “And as the future ruler of Rian, that woman knows that you have too much.”
Kazar grunted, a sound that might indicate agreement or not. “If you continue with your takeover of the world, Sebastian, you will soon have more money than me.”
His friend shrugged dismissively, but they both knew it was true. In the meantime, Kazar surveyed the woman in question. Her breasts were artificially enhanced, as were her lips. And her tan. Probably her cheekbones as well. Had she paid a dentist to pull her molars in order to get those sharp cheekbones? Probably. In fact, there was very little on the woman that wasn’t enhanced in some way, either by cosmetics, chemicals or a surgeon.
“Why do women put themselves through all of that?” he pondered, thinking that a few of the woman’s procedures must have been painful.
“To attract men like us.”
Kazar didn’t get it. Women were beautiful naturally. Why did they have to enhance and alter their bodies in order to sell themselves like this?
Unfortunately for the lady in question, Kazar knew what would be expected of him if he took this woman up on what she was offering. Sex in exchange for trinkets. Expensive trinkets. He wasn’t into that game, preferring women who were a bit more…sincere.
Tilting his head slightly, he watched the woman as he mentally calculated how much she’d spent in order to look like that. Unfortunately, his perusal seemed to encourage the woman and she pushed away from the railing and sauntered over. “Hi big guy,” she smiled, bending over slightly. Kazar wasn’t sure if the pose was meant to highlight her long legs or her breasts, which didn’t actually move. That fact was oddly disturbing.
Josephine stared out at the crowd of competitors, sizing them up and evaluating what she could see of their entries. It was a harsh voice that startled her out of her evaluation of the competition. “What are you doing here?”
Josephine turned, pasting a polite smile on her face. The same, polite smile she’d practiced in the mirror several times over the past few days.
“I’m Josephine,” she greeted the two skinny boys with very bad skin, both of whom were probably three or four years older than she was.
The boys snorted in disdain, both of them elbowing the other as they looked her up and down. “Yeah, but you’re a girl.”
Josephine blinked, not sure why the boys had said that with a sneer. “You’re very correct!” she replied, trying to maintain that smile and not add the sarcasm that the observation deserved. Unfortunately, her polite smile wavered slightly under their obvious scorn.
“This is the national robotics competition,” one of the boys growled. “No girls allowed!”
Ah! So that’s why they looked so angry. “Right. Well,” she moved closer, pulling her shoulders back and pushing her glasses higher up onto her nose, a nervous gesture but these icky boys didn’t know that. “Fortunately, there are no rules that require participants to be male for this competition,” she explained with increasing irritation. “I have every right to be here with my teammates.”
The boys snorted. “Right!” he snorted again. “As if a girl knows how to build a robot!”
“You’re going to embarrass yourself,” the other one announced, shouldering his way ahead of his nasty friend.
“I don’t think so,” she muttered under her breath as she watched them stomp away, but her heart was racing and she tried not to flinch. Some of the people in the crowded room had turned and were watching the embarrassing interaction. Although Josephine loved robotics and competing, she absolutely hated being the center of attention. After the nerdy boys’ booming derision, their brief interaction had definitely become a spectacle. She glared at the boys’ retreating backs, pretending that she wasn’t completely humiliated at their ridicule. “I think my robot has a chance of winning.” But their words hurt.
Two of the guys on her robotics team rushed over, standing shoulder to shoulder with Josephine. “Don’t listen to these baboons, Jo,” Bobby Tinsdale said. “They have no idea what we’ve put together.”
Jo smiled, relaxing now that she wasn’t the center of attention. “Why don’t we just let the judges decide?” she offered up, her confidence increasing as she thought about their entry. She knew that it was pretty spectacular, and, from what she’d see from some of the others’ robots on display, theirs was better and more sophisticated.
Two other boys who had been standing nearby looked over, let their eyes move up and down Josephine’s short, girly stature, then snorted, shaking their heads. “Right. Like the judges are going to give a girl a prize!” But thankfully, they walked away in the same direction as the first two boys.
Two hours later, Jo’s grin was genuine as the judges announced the winners of the national robotics award. With an excited and elated bounce to her step, Josephine walked up onto the stage with her team to accept the trophy. And thankfully, the first two boys who had confronted her earlier today were standing in the front row, scowling with their arms crossed as they watched her accept the huge trophy along with the other members of her team. Sometimes, life was really good!