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She spent all day preparing. She and her best friend laughed and joked as they curled their hair, painted their nails a shimmering silver, and tried to decide on the perfect eyeshadow.
She was happy and excited to be going to Homecoming; after all, she had never been to a dance before, and it was a new and thrilling experience.
Yet, calm though she appeared, the nearer it drew to eight o’clock, the more nervous she grew.
Her palms were slick with cold sweat and a knot was forming in her stomach as she made the final adjustments to dress and hair, grabbed her camera, and pretended to be confident.
She wore a sparkly navy blue knee-length dress with a satiny black sash and black wedge heels. Her usually straight hair hung in light brown curls around her face, and clear icicle earrings peeked out from between them.
Her glittery gray eyeshadow made her look sixteen instead of fourteen, and a simple silver chain with a dark blue stone pendant adorned her throat.
She resembled a fairy-tale princess, something out of a movie, and yet fear mounted in her like a tidal wave.
Choosing her shoes, she thought as she walked unsteadily to the car, had been difficult. The inch-and-a-half wedges had been the only shoes that fit her, but she wanted flats, so as not to look taller than she already was…or so she said.
Her real reason was that she didn’t want to be taller than…well, him.
She was deathly nervous. Nervous because he would be there, and she wanted to dance with him, but there was the fact that she had never actually spoken to him before, and besides, she was entirely sure he wouldn’t notice her.
As her mom drove into the school parking lot, her nervousness became fear, and that fear became tangible, pressing down on her, threatening to crush her with its weight.
When she walked in the door and didn’t see him, she relaxed a very tiny bit. When she passed the breathalyzer test and didn’t see him in the crowded cafeteria, set up like a disco, her nerves subsided almost completely, and she became the lively and happy girl of an hour before.
She and her best friend danced a little bit to the bubbly dance pop controlled by the DJ, but they danced halfheartedly.
After a while, they both stopped watching the entrance and began to dance with greater exuberance, singing along to every song that played, waving their arms and clapping in the rhythm of the music.
By 9:00 p.m., he still wasn’t there.
She felt slightly disappointed, but she didn’t allow herself to wallow.
She and her friend found three other girls that they knew, and the five of them were soon dancing wildly, laughing as their hair flew in their eyes and yelling out the song lyrics, not caring who heard.
She let the music take her, kicking off the black heels she had so carefully selected and dancing with all her heart and soul.
The five girls were soon flushed and winded, and after a trip to the drinking fountain, they replaced their high heels and took the dancing down several notches.
They were swaying in time to Jay Sean’s ‘2012’ when she glanced to her left, did a double take, and saw something that stopped her in her tracks.
HE was walking past, not fifteen feet away. He wore beige dress pants, a black shirt, and a dark red necktie. A neon green glow stick encircled his neck, illuminating his handsome face in the dark of the cafeteria.
The flashing disco-style lights showed off the small bit of gold mixed with his messy-but-tidy brown hair as he strode by, apparently oblivious to the fact that he had just rendered her incoherent.
She elbowed her friend.
“What?” her friend asked her.
“He’s here,” she said, with the air of someone who is both happy and terrified at once, and can’t choose one, so they proceed to poorly conceal their raging inner conflict with faked indifference.
“C’mon,” was all her friend said as she grabbed the girl’s arm and towed her towards the center of the dance floor.
She had no idea where her friend was taking her until the lights flashed on a gorgeous boy with freckles and a glowing green necklace.
She tried to pull away, black dots swimming over her vision and nervousness gripping her heart, but then they were next to him, and she could do nothing.
“Hey!” her friend called. He looked up.
“Will you dance with her?” her friend hollered over Ke$ha’s ‘Tik Tok’, at the same time attempting to restrain the girl in the beautiful blue dress, who was now in a state of near cardiac arrest.
Her friend’s hand was slick with sweat, and she managed to pull free and run, run from the shocked and bewildered expression on his face, run from her feelings, run from she didn’t know what.
Seconds later, her friends appeared beside her.
“Why’d you do that?” she asked, exasperated.
“I was scared,” the girl replied, locking her knees to prevent them shaking.
“Don’t lock your knees, you’ll faint. C’mon, let’s go find him again.”
“I can’t. I’m going to be sick.”
“No, you aren’t. Stop hyperventilating and come with me.”
Five minutes later, they had still failed to find him, and the girl’s friend announced that she was going to the bathroom.
Their dancing group had long since dispersed, and the girl was left alone, meandering around the edges of the dance floor.
Before she realized what was happening or why, the crowd parted like the Red Sea at the hand of Moses, and he was standing there, looking her way.
His brown eyes found her blue ones and bored into them, and she couldn’t help but blush.
He continued to watch her, his eyes searching her over; she continued to stand like a tree, flushed and nervous. His mouth formed the smallest possible of smiles, and she found herself smiling in return.
At this moment, he turned away, distracted, and her feelings became too overwhelming for her. She slipped away to a dark corner and tried without success to regulate her rapid breathing.
When he looked back, his stunning eyes searching, she was gone.
She was beginning to relax when she spotted her friend talking to him. He looked as shocked and confused as he had the first time around.
The look made the girl feel sick, a little dizzy, and worthless, but at the same time elated, just because it was him.
Her friend said something and gestured to the corner, and his eyes followed the motion. The girl shrank back a little, trying to be completely invisible.
He said something to her friend, then disappeared into the crowd.
“What did he say?” the girl asked, weak at the knees and rather pale.
“All he said was maybe later,” her friend said.
Hot tears of rejection stabbed at the girl’s eyes, and the both of them made for the girls’ bathroom, hoping to find quiet enough to talk.
The bathroom was almost noisier than the dance floor.
Girls chattered endlessly, hand dryers screamed, and raucous laughter echoed from the walls. And yet, they somehow managed a conversation.
“He totally hates me!” The girl exclaimed, her face ashen.
“No, he doesn’t,” her friend reassured her. “Maybe he was just as nervous about dancing as you were.”
“I can’t go back out here now, I, I…” she stammered hopelessly. Then, her expression changed. Her eyes grew fierce and defiant.
“I can go back out there,” she said. “And I will. I can go act like everything’s fine. I can’t let him ruin my night.” She checked her watch.
“We have twenty minutes,” she said to her friend. “Let’s go party like it’s 2012.”
They walked out the door, to the sound of core-shaking hip-hop music, and the words “Gotta dance, dance, dance, like it’s the last, last night of your life…”
They danced until they could no longer see straight for dizziness and laughter, and she brushed against him once, but barely noticed, and didn’t allow herself to realize it.
The two teenage girls danced until the second they had to leave. They got their coats out of storage and walked into the freezing September night, still laughing and breaking into song and dance at random.
In spite of the happy goofiness, though, the girl felt a minute tightness in her throat.
It didn’t grow any worse until she was alone a home on the internet, and an instant message popped up.
Horsegirl1003: You left early…everything alright chicka?
Dressagewriter22: yeah…I guess.
She explained the entire fiasco to the girl who rode horses with her, and the response she got was not the one she wanted to hear.
Horsegirl1003: you didn’t know he was there with a date?
Dressagewriter22: he what?
Horsegirl1003: He. Was. There. With. A. Date.
Dressagewriter22: figures. Who?
Horsegirl1003: someone from the volleyball team.
The tightness in her throat hardened until it was a lump of stone in her throat, and she felt like she had been punched in the gut, but she allowed only two tears to fall, only enough to alleviate the painful lump in her throat.
She knew weakness and illogical behavior would get her nowhere, so she forced a smile even though all she wanted to do was sink to the floor and cry.
She fell asleep still holding the forced cheerfulness through the lump in her throat.
When she awoke the next day, the forced happiness had become genuine, and she was optimistic about his ‘maybe later’, considering he was with a volleyball player.
She wondered what Monday would bring. She wondered if he knew how she felt.
"No," she thought, "he can’t know. He has no confirmation. He can guess, but he won’t know unless I tell him."
Things could get interesting this next week, she thought as she got ready for work. But strangely enough, she was glad that everything had happened the way it did, and she was looking forward to what was coming next.
The sting of rejection hadn’t fully left her, but as she faced the sunrise with a brave smile, she remembered being told that everything happens for a reason, and she found herself eager to discover what that reason might be and how things would play out with him in the future.
She grinned and remembered his beautiful eyes searching hers, and began a new day.