Title- Please, Pretty Lights
By- Ina Zajac
It’s September when Via Sorenson stumbles into a Seattle strip club, drunk and alone on her twenty-first birthday. Mattias and Nick—best friends, bandmates, and bouncers—can see she’s not like the other girls and do their best to shield her from their shady, sadistic, cocaine-trafficking boss, Carlos. They don’t realize her daddy issues come with a forty-million-dollar trust fund and a legacy she would do anything to escape.
She is actually the adult version of Violetta Rabbotino, the tragic little girl who had been all over the news ten years earlier when her father, an acclaimed abstract artist, came home in a rage, murdered her mother, then turned the gun on himself. Violetta was spared, hidden behind the family Christmas tree, veiled by the mysticism of its pretty lights whose unadulterated love had captivated and calmed her.
Now, desperate to shed her role as orphaned victim, Via is attempting to recast herself as a party girl by stage diving into a one-hundred-day adventure with Matt and Nick, the bassist and drummer of popular nineties cover band Obliviot. At first the rock-and-roll lifestyle is the perfect distraction. She gets high on true love, but the rush terrifies her. As Christmas looms closer, she can no longer deny her demented past. But how will she ever untangle herself from her twisted string of pretty lights?
Warning: Recommended for mature audiences due to explicit language, sexual content, and drug use.
Via leaned against the side of the 7-Eleven and pounded her third mini bottle of chardonnay. After leaving the Space Needle, she had walked around the same block three times, past that same Pink Elephant Car Wash, three times. She couldn’t find her car to save her life, which was proof she had no business behind the wheel anyway. She had called a cab company, but they could only take her as far as the West Seattle ferry terminal. If she were to walk onto the ferry, she would have to go to the upper deck and just knew she would run into people from church. And she didn’t want to go home anyway. Her chest felt toasty warm.
She scarfed down her last mini powdered donut and threw away the wrapper. It was a sign, an actual, literal sign. In the next parking lot over, the Hotties marquee changed colors for the two-hundredth time—hot pink to purple to white, and then red, red, red, and then hot pink to purple to white. The letters flashed, “Gallery Night. She’s a Masterpiece. Amateur Night. Win $750.”
She had nowhere else to be. Screw it. Why not? Before she’d started dating Dan, she and her college roommates had often gone dancing at the Blue Tonic, a bar just over the Canadian border where the drinking age was just nineteen. Its big dance floor had two dancing platforms, each surrounded by a gilded cage awash in spotlights. Toward the end of the night, the bouncers invited a few girls to go inside and dance a song or two. Ceremoniously opening the side doors, the bouncers escorted the chosen ones inside. There was no lock. The bars were wide enough that the girls could climb out at any time. Via had gone in often and never gotten out early—not once. Drinks could wait, her bladder could wait, flirting could wait. A fire alarm could wait, because her time there had felt precious and fleeting, and her soul had wanted to stay and dance forever. Rarely making eye contact with the men watching her, she’d felt their lustful stares. She had fed on their energy and lit up from the inside out.
This is how it is supposed to be, she had realized, lost in the lights. Her opera-obsessed parents had chosen this life for her the day they had chosen the name Violetta over Brunhilde. The day they had chosen Verde over Wagner. They could have named her after a Norse warrior woman who rode a flying horse and kicked ass, but instead they’d chosen an Italian slut who coughed blood into a hanky. She could have gone by Hilde or Hil. Maybe she could have been brave. A badass.
The Hotties sign drew her in even more. The flashing neon began to morph, then hum and buzz. She blinked. Wait, she realized. Wait, she knew those lights. Their unadulterated love blazed toward her. They danced and shimmered just for her. They vibrated their epiphany. Pretend, pretend, they urged. Don’t you remember? The recollection teased her, but retreated before she could fully recognize it. Instead she softened her focus, and let them blur and buzz and snap her into a new state of being.
She tucked her last mini bottle into her purse for later. While crossing over into the Hotties parking lot she tripped, but caught herself. She just laughed it off, too wasted to care. Should she take her mother’s ring off? She wondered. No, it would be safest right where it was. She skimmed her thumb back and forth over it for luck, for courage. She didn’t let herself pause at the tinted double doors for fear she would change her mind. Just one night dancing. Lost under the lights. She couldn’t stand being alone with herself, so she would just be somebody else. Just for the night.
*** Kj Says ***
Via keeps her secrets, never letting anyone into her personal world. One night with a few drinks under her belt she decides to try dancing in a contest in a local bar/strip club. She wows the crowd, meets a guitar playing, body painting guy who interests her, and it all snowballs from there. She gets into the world of drugs and tries to maintain her good girl status too. What will happen to Via…will she stay with her Christian fiancé or go with Matt who just may truly understand her?
A truly interesting story, gritty and dark, yet strangely uplifting too. It took me awhile to get into the story but when I did I became emotionally invested. Must say I truly rooted for Matt there, he was the better man. I recommend this book as it is a different look into a very seedy side of life and just what can & does happen. I will be watching for more from this author, she has a wonderful ability of making you look at things a little differently. Many thanks to Ina Zajac for allowing me to read and review her book!!
Ina Zajac is an award-winning journalist, avid people watcher, and lover of quirk and contrast. Her writing is heavily influenced by her fascination with music, art, and her hometown of Seattle.