Eyes of the Beholder This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

October 18, 2013
By , Payson, UT
I knew word for word what Leah would say: “Katie, it's too … striking.” Giving a dainty shake of her dainty head, she'd hang it back on the rack, but then somehow end up wearing it herself to a dance. And me – I'd be reduced to being less gorgeous than my sister for yet another dim, chilly night. I wasn't about to let that happen again. Not this time.

I smoothed the skirt and looked at the mirror in the dressing room. The dress wasn't as short as I'd wanted – its flapper-like skirt just covered my knees – but it hugged my figure, accentuating my long, straight waist. The spaghetti straps were thin, almost transparent. The dress itself was silver with three midnight-blue roses sewn on the bodice. There was a shrug the same color as the roses to cover my shoulders, but I wouldn't wear it tonight, no matter how cold it got.

As I examined myself in the mirror, I imagined two chocolate eyes resting on me. A pair of long, strong legs approached. A hand stretched out as the owner mimicked a Regency-era bow, and those eyes gazing at mine ….

My cell phone dinged as Leah's text appeared on screen: “You're taking too long. Mom wanted you back five minutes ago.”

Groaning, I walked to the checkout I texted her back: “I'm coming.”

“What dress did you get?”

I calculated my reply. She wouldn't get home until right before the dance, so she wouldn't have time to convince Mom that the dress was too expensive or do some other drastic thing.

“You'll see,” I typed. “I'm sure it won't be as gorgeous as yours.” Actually, I'd seen Leah's dress two days ago, and it wasn't nearly as stunning as mine.

Mom was on the phone when I drove in, so I crept up to my room. When I came down she was fixing lunch. She scolded me for how long I'd taken, so, to appease her, I showed her the dress (with the shrug, so she wouldn't give me that “don't-even-think-about-it” look). She loved it and only marginally winced when she saw the price tag.

When Leah got home she barely greeted me before dashing to the shower. So, I went to my room to begin the transformation.

While Leah putting on her dress, Mom did my hair and makeup. I sprayed some flowery perfume on. Studying my reflection, I grinned, pleased with how the expertly applied cosmetics helped my face look especially bright.

Mom set her hands on my shoulders. “Have I ever told you what a great face you've got?”

“Yep,” I said, “but feel free to tell me again.”

She chuckled. “You and Leah are both heartbreakers.”

I hoped she was right. I knew my sister was a knockout, but no guy had ever paid much attention to me. This night will be different. My thoughts flitted to those two dark eyes. Jaemon's eyes.

When I stepped into the hallway Leah was just emerging from her room. She gasped and stopped in her tracks, and for a moment just stared at me. A smirk played at my lips as I waited for her expression to turn to dismay, or for her to run back into her room to cry. After all, her dress was ankle-length and violet, and had short sleeves instead of straps. Of course my dress was more beautiful.

But her reaction was the opposite of what I expected. She beamed at me. “Katie, you look great!”

Before I could react, she breezed past me into Mom's room. I listened to their conversation as Mom did Leah's hair. She only mentioned me once to compliment Mom on my hair, but she didn't sound angry or bitter.

I fought past my confusion. Duh, Katie, she's not jealous – she still thinks she's prettier than you! I'll show you. I envisioned those eyes again, those dark, perfect eyes. You won't have him for long.

At the dance I was accosted by my girlfriends as soon as I stepped out of the car. I listened to their compliments as I shed my shrug.

“Holy cow, Katie!”

“Where'd you get that dress?”

“It's gorgeous!”

Then those eyes were there, looking at me. “Hey.” He took my hand. “Want to dance?”

He had actually walked all the way over to the car to ask me! Trying hard not to blush, I squeaked, “Sure.” As Jaemon led me to where the others couples were dancing, I snuck a peep over my shoulder. Leah was standing, her face stricken, still holding the car keys.


As we danced, the feeling of Jaemon's hand on my waist eclipsed whatever guilt I felt about taking my sister's ex-boyfriend. His eyes were even browner this close, and he was holding me close enough that I could smell his leather jacket and the mint on his breath. For several moments we danced like that – slowly, gently, just staring at each other without a word. I resisted the urge to glance at Leah again, though I was pretty sure she was livid.

Suddenly she twirled right by me. She and her partner were laughing. It didn't seem like she even noticed me. Now I realized why she'd chosen that dress: though the skirt hung straight down when she was standing or walking, it spread out beautifully whenever she spun.

The song ended and Jaemon asked if I wanted something to drink. Feeling the need to clear my head, I gave a tight smile and nodded. I practically gulped down the lemonade. The iciness and tang of the drink helped to zap my bad mood and sharpen my thoughts. My sister was actually having more fun than me! I wasn't expecting that. I could still hear her laugh amid the music and the sounds of other couples talking.

Wait a second. I knew my partner had a good sense of humor. Why weren't we talking to each other?

As I drank, I peered at Jaemon out of the corner of my eye. He didn't notice – his eyes were too busy roaming. Down to my high heels and then back up. His gaze settled on my face, and I saw something in those dark eyes that made me go cold.

His eyes barely darted to mine before moving briefly to my neck or my hair. He wasn't looking at me. He wasn't noticing me.

He gave me a half-smile that I assumed was supposed to be charming, but it only reminded me of what thoughts were going through his head. He didn't care about me. Not one iota. I almost choked on my juice.

This dress didn't draw attention to my straight A's, my nearly perfect backflip, or the way little kids love to play with me. The only way Jaemon would have been able to find out those things about me was by talking to me, and he hadn't done that. All he'd done was stare at me. No, all he'd done was stare at my body.

“Excuse me,” I muttered. I half-dropped my cup onto the refreshment table and stumbled away.

“Where are you going?”

Holy cow. He should have asked if I was okay.

Only when I was making a beeline for the car did my breathing normalize. I leaned against the door and rubbed my forehead.

After several moments I worked up the nerve to look back at the dance. The lights and music and dancers seemed like something from an alien planet. As I watched, several couples on the edges of the crowd began to make out. Not only did their mouths move, but so did their hands; they weren't even dancing anymore. I shuddered and turned my head to study the glittery sky.

“Need the keys?”

I whirled. Leah stood there, a soft smile touching her lips.

“I want to go home,” I said. I sounded like I felt – young and vulnerable.

“Are you sure?” I unlocked the door and opened it, but she stopped me from climbing in. She handed my shrug to me. “Just stay away from Jaemon and you'll be fine.”

There was no trace of threat in her voice, only caring. “You're not … but I thought … I thought you were jealous I was dancing with him.”

“Katie, didn't you ever get why Jaemon's not my boyfriend anymore? He wants to be; everyone knows it. Believe me, he's tried to get me back, but he's not my type anymore. And I bet he's no longer yours now, either.”

A tear tried to escape my eye. Leah had been worried about me. There hadn't been envy in her face when she saw me with him. I returned her smile, then slipped the shrug on and followed her back. As soon as I stepped into the crowd I found myself gazing into a pair of turquoise blue eyes. The owner of the eyes approached. “Katie, isn't it?”

He wasn't as good-looking as Jaemon, but his face was pleasant and his smile had a droll twist. Plus his eyes didn't waver from mine. I tossed the keys to Leah – who caught them with one hand – and curtsied. “That's me.”

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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write2express said...
Apr. 25, 2014 at 8:17 pm
I think this is awesome! I have a friend who writes love stories, but this one really struck me. I like how, at the end, you mentioned the turquoise eyes not leaving her eyes.
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