“Took you long enough!” Having broken away from the large crowd, Katy wasted no time in linking our arms together. She yanked me across the venue until my feet stopped dragging along the carpet and started skidding across oak planks. I dug my heel in to stand firm and stop her from dragging me any further into the mesh of others grinding against one another.
“This is some aggressive dancing,” I mumbled.
She smiled in response. “You haven’t seen anything yet.”
Instead of following up on her vague threat, she held out her hands to me, and I grabbed them. We did a strange sort of waltz–slow enough to be considered one, but our steps were nowhere near measured enough. We just danced to our own rhythm, ignoring the beat of the song entirely despite the obvious insistence from the DJ.
“Let’s get it, ya’ll! Shake what ya mama gave you!”
Our laughter was instantaneous, bubbling forth the moment she tried to hype up the crowd. It was difficult to take such a declaration seriously when it was the most PG thing I’d heard all night. A young teacher standing near us could only nod in approval, probably thrilled to not have to worry about students getting overly rowdy. At least not because of anything the DJ decided to put on.
Stifling her laughter to a mere giggle, Katy spun me around. I could only snort in bemusement as she proceeded to dip me, staring down at me with a toothy grin. It was a good thing she was strong because her strength was the only thing between me and cracking my skull open. A little dramatic? Maybe, but I was still salty about being able to slip into her costume from the play so easily. About the only alteration that was needed was the chest. Not the height, not the sleeves, which meant I could literally fit into the dress she was wearing now.
Katy pulled back to my feet, as I tried to pretend such a creepy thought never crossed my mind. My wounded ego certainly revealed a strange, new side of me; I’d have to work on that.
“You look handsome,” Katy said, unaware of my stupid internal debate.
“Thank you. You look very pretty too.”
And she did too. It wasn’t even as she looked much different or went all out dolling herself up. She simply had a boatload of confidence shining through which made her so stunning, coupled with a white dress stopping slightly above her knees that made it undeniable. I was certain that she would have quite a few people asking for a dance tonight. Hopefully, she managed to snag a dance with that guy she liked as well. That would be nice for her.
We danced until the song came to a close. The final beat reverberated across the hall, and I took the opportunity to spin her around and dip her to the floor. She studied me in disbelief as it was my turn to look down on her with a grin. Her pout prompted me to let her fall further until her hair almost touched the dance floor. The problem was this caused me to lose my footing and almost slip and fall myself. I hauled her to my feet and tried to feign innocence.
“You’re a menace,” Katy complained.
“My bad,” I replied. “You made it look so easy that I got carried away.”
“Well, I’ll let it slide for now. Besides that, though, you’re a pretty good dancer. I’m glad poor Nora doesn't have to worry about her feet getting stepped on all night.” She laughed. “Thanks for the dance. I’ll leave the two of you to it. Fair warning, I might try to steal another dance later though after I’m done bothering my friends.”
I looked over to Nora and managed to make eye contact through the crowd starting to converge around our table. She gave me a questioning look, but I just waved her over and hoped she understood. It must have worked because she began to work her way over toward us.
“You should ask that guy for a dance,” I said, turning my attention back to Katy. “You can dance with me whenever, but this could be a good opportunity for you.”
She smiled whimsically. “Like I said, that's a lost cause. I’m just glad that he’s happy now.”
“Later!” Scurrying away before I could get another word in, I sighed in resignation. That girl really was stubborn when she decided on something. Somebody grabbed my wrist from behind, and I spun around to face them, inhaling sharply.
Nora stood there with an arched eyebrow. “What’s the matter?”
Northing,” I chuckled. “You just startled me.”
She grabbed my hands and placed one on the small of her back and the other on her hip. “Scaredy cat.”
While I had led with Katy, Nora was having none of that. She easily drove the tempo and left me feeling like I was floating on air. While it seemed unfair to compare the two of them, I was more comfortable dancing with Nora. Every step we took was in sync, every angle calculated. She kept her eyes trained on me, yet she never once faltered.
“I didn’t know you were a dancer,” I said, squeezing her hand slightly.
“My dad used to be a professional. He teaches me every once in awhile.”
A volleyball player, an actress, and a dancer? I was impressed by how one person could have so much talent. It had to have been a miracle that someone so incredible ended up falling for me.
As though she read my mind, she chuckled. “I am pretty amazing, aren’t I?”
“You are,” I agreed, without hesitation.
She released my hand for a moment to flick me in the chest. “You’re not supposed to just agree.”
“You know my mom didn’t raise a liar.”
“Hm…” My girlfriend rested her head against my chest. “I guess she didn’t.”
We continued to dance around the perimeter of the dance floor, oblivious to everyone one else around. We were in our own little world, and it was perfect.
A light sheen of sweat covered my forehead, and I ended up having to take a break at our table. Throughout the night, I danced with all my friends, going from one to the next without stopping. Nora was obviously my favorite person to dance with, but Amelia was a close second, if for no other reason than she didn’t try to tear my arms from my body. Not like those other two savages.
Katy may have thought me a menace, but I could promise her that Ethan and Josh were worse. They had no sense of rhythm and spent every dance nearly ripping my damn arms out of their sockets as they practically manhandled me across the dance floor.
I wasn’t sure how either of their dates put up with them, to be honest.
The night was winding down now, and the DJ announced this would be the final song. A chorus of complaints hit a fervent high until some of the more strict teachers threatened to end the night early. That did the trick, and soon everyone was scrambling to find their partner for what was sure to be a slow dance.
I sipped at my glass of punch, enjoying watching on as Sara and those other girls that had liked Ethan stalked random guys from my old high school around the dance floor. This wasn’t the first time I had seen her, but she stayed away from all of us. I could only shrug my shoulders and down the rest of the punch. She may have been a bitch, but at least she kept her promises.
“Is it too late for that dance?”
Rika sat across from me, sweating worse than I was and clearly winded. Her high ponytail had unraveled, leaving frizzy strands of hair to frame her face. She brushed them aside,
“Haven’t seen you all night. Student council still won’t cut you any slack?”
“Well, I did volunteer. Although if I would’ve known it would be this much work, I might have reconsidered.”
“You did a great job, though,” I said, holding out a hand to her, figuring she would get the message.
Grasping my hand, she allowed a weary smile. “Thanks. Do you mind if we dance here? I’m not sure I can deal with any more people tonight.”
“That’s fine with me. I’m also over people.”
She snorted. “Ethan and Josh?”
“Ethan and Josh,” I admitted.
We swayed from side to side, neither of us familiar with how to slow dance. We more or less tried to follow the music and keep our steps in time. Nora probably would have laughed at our pathetic attempt, but I found myself enjoying the moment. There was no weird tension, no awkward atmosphere to speak of. Instead, it was just two friends sharing a silly dance together.
“Hey, can I talk to you about something?”
Her breath hitched in her throat, and she looked like she wanted to cry. I could feel her hands open and close, alternating between tightly squeezing and loosely gripping mine. There was nothing I could do except continue to dance, waiting for her to continue. When Rika did, she pushed up against me on her tiptoes and whispered into my ear. “I’m the reason you transferred schools.”
My mind couldn’t seem to wrap around what she was saying to me, and it dragged me back to the time when she randomly asked me in the stairwell about why I transferred from Asheville. “What? I don’t get what you’re saying.”
“Remember when we first met, and I told you I wasn’t on any social media?”
I nodded, vaguely recalling telling her to look up Ethan’s birthday herself.
“I wasn’t lying. I don’t use any, but I used to. I deleted all my accounts because I’m the one who encouraged all those girls to confront you.”
“Rika, please.” Now I was the one with my voice getting caught up in my throat. “I don’t understand. How would you have anything to do with that?”
She was no longer looking at me, gaze fixated on her heels. “I told you I had a friend that went there. She told me what you did… what Sara and they claimed you did. I thought you were messing with her and trying to hurt everyone, so I encouraged them to ruin your reputation; to spread those rumors, and to tell you to your face how horrible you were.”
The closing song had faded out, and it was only us and some stragglers left. Teachers from both schools leapt into action, herding students away from the dance floor and toward the dining room. The DJ was packing up her equipment, and the overhead lights had begun to flood the room with light. I was vaguely aware of Nora watching us from near the entrance. Yet, I couldn’t think of a single thing to say to the girl in front of me.
“I didn’t know they were lies. I thought I was helping a friend...” She released my jacket, and ran her hands over her bare arms, shuddering like she was chilled. “I just wanted you to know. And that I’m sorry. I’m so s-sorry.”
The next thing I knew she had run off, skirting around Nora and vanishing into the dark parking lot. I numbly made my way over to my girlfriend, slinging my arm around her shoulders and pulling her close. Her arms were slick with sweat and her dress clung to her from having danced all night long, but I held her tight, resting my chin on top of her head. The familiar scent of strawberries tickled my nose. A few couples regarded us with curious looks on their way out before deciding they had better things to do than ‘bother with us.
“She was crying, you know.”
My throat felt scratchy. “...‘don care.”
Nora hummed noncommittally, pulling away from me until we were face to face. She dabbed at the corners of my eyes with her thumb. “I’ll believe that when you stop crying.”
“Did you know?”
She frowned. “Not about this.”
I laughed hoarsely. Not because what she said was particularly funny, but rather, because of how wild of a coincidence this turned out to be. Hugging her tighter gave me some comfort.