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It was homecoming, the most anticipated weekend for everyone (except the seniors) at Edgewood High School. And for Jeff Branson; a night he hoped he would never forget.
After a month of endless homework, tests, chores, and just trying to keep up, Jeff was relieved when it came to be the night of the homecoming dance. He felt he needed a break; constantly being hassled by his parents and teachers “to prepare for college” day in and day out. He was only a freshman and still at the bottom of the food chain! His only goal at that particular period in time was surviving his first year as a high school student.
“All right sweetie, are you almost ready to go?” Mrs. Branson poked her head in the doorway.
Jeff nodded. “As ready as I’ll ever be.” He took one last glance in the mirror before grabbing his jacket and walking out the door.
The school gym was unlike anything he had ever seen. Ropes of lights and decorations cascaded across the ceiling, while one corner of the room was filled with tables, snacks, and beverages. It was awfully crowded, especially around the dance floor. Many of his peers and classmates were clustered together, trying to pull off the latest dance moves that most teens are accustomed to. The DJ was playing an incredibly fast techno number, so Jeff decided to wait until it was over to go and join the fun.
Instead, he stuck by the beverage table, absently gazing around the room. His mother had repeatedly asked him why he hadn’t gotten a date or gone with a group of friends. He’d been asked by a few girls to accompany him, but he politely turned them down because he didn’t want to hurt their feelings if he did end up changing his mind. None of his friends had even thought about going. They preferred sitting in someone’s basement for the night playing poker while watching something on comedy central or listening to old records. He wasn’t in the mood for that, at least not tonight anyway.
He had only one thing on his mind. It wasn’t even a thing, but a girl.
Melanie Dalton was one of the most popular ninth graders at EHS. According to Jeff, the most beautiful human being he had ever laid eyes on. She was captain of the cheerleading squad, student council president, and ruled over the “in” crowd. At the same time, she managed to achieve perfect grades and had a decent reputation. She never bragged or boasted about her accomplishments, and was kind-hearted to pretty much everyone she knew. That was the reason Jeff liked her so much.
All he really wanted to do was dance with her. One dance and that would be enough. He just wasn’t sure if he had the courage to ask.
In a split second, he spotted her sitting at a nearby table, smiling and laughing along with her boyfriend, Brody Mason. Despite his best efforts, he really envied the guy. If you had Melanie as your girlfriend, you’d be considered pretty fortunate.
“Brody, do you wanna dance?” Jeff perked at the sound of her sweet voice.
“Nah,” he replied, not even turning his head. “I don’t dance, babe.”
“But I’ve been sitting here for the past twenty minutes while you’ve talked with all your friends. Can’t you at least spend some time with me?”
Jeff watched as Brody limply let go of Melanie’s hand while he went to have a conversation with someone else. Jeff could clearly see the hurt in her eyes, and wanted to make sure that she was going to be all right. But at the same time, he didn’t want to be too quick, so he decided to make a trip to the bathroom to compose himself before doing so.
After what seemed like forever of trying to find the right words to say, Jeff breathed heavily and was ready to take the plunge. Melanie was still sitting in the same spot and wearing the same downcast expression when he had left. She was alone and no one really seemed to be making an effort to comfort her, so he figured now would be a good time to ask.
“Hey Melanie, I’m Jeff Evans. I’m in your English class.”
Surprised, she looked up. “Oh hi. I remember you!”
He paused, trying to ease the ever-growing not in his stomach. “I noticed that you were looking for a dance partner…may I be of service?”
She giggled, “Of course. Lead the way, sir!”
As they made their way to the middle of the dance floor, the lights dimmed as the song “You and Me” by LifeHouse, began to play. Jeff took Melanie into his arms and slowly moved along with the steady rhythm, not caring how dumb he looked. He could see her gorgeous black hair swaying against her dress, and her skin felt almost as soft as cotton.
In a few moments, Jeff felt as if the world were fading away. That the stares of everyone else were being reduced to nothing and they were the only two people in the room. Pretty soon, he felt as if they were the only two people on the face of the earth.
But sadly enough, the song ended and a fast number began to play. Jeff slowly let Melanie out of his embrace and looked into her eyes for a tender moment. He couldn’t really see what she was feeling, nor could he even tell. He kissed her hand softly and was ready to take her back to her table. Brody was nowhere in sight, and he didn’t want to leave her alone for the rest of the night.
“No wait!” she stopped abruptly. “I like this song! Will you dance with me some more?”
He was a bit surprised, yet extremely happy and her request. Instead of answering, he took both of her hands and began to spin and twirl her around to the tempo.
One more song turned into two, and so on and so forth. The ended up spending the remaining time of the dance together, and afterward, sat on a park bench and talked until midnight. Jeff was incredibly thankful that someone like Melanie had taken the time to actually get to know him. He wasn’t sure which direction they would be going, but he knew that it was the beginning of a beautiful and everlasting friendship.