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Magical is the only description I can think of. I was bundled up in warm clothes, in a beautiful old barn that was decorated with strings of lights, surrounded by friends, dancing with my crush. I might finally get his attention. That was the goal. My youth group was hosting the annual Autumn Celebration and it had turned out perfectly. Complete with a pumpkin launching contest, donut eating contest, and a hayride, I really couldn't have pictured a better outcome. The best part came near the middle of evening, during the midst of an old western dance.
It was one of the three types of dance we learned that night, and I much preferred it to the other ones. It was your typical barn dance. Everyone had a partner and followed the instructions of the caller. The couple at the front of the line was called the "head couple." They would sashay down and back, and then dosey doe with everyone in the line across from them. When they reached the end of the line, they would sashay back up and run behind the lines. When they reached the end, they would form a "London Bridge" which the other couples would sashay under. It sounded fairly simple, but turned out to be difficult.
My partner turned out to be the boy I liked. I would say that it was luck, but I wasn't exactly slow to volunteer to fill the space across from him. I was so excited that my stomach was practically floating with all of the butterflies filling it. I was smiling already and the music hadn't even started yet. My heart overloaded with joy as I looked into his big hazel eyes. I let the moment be engraved into my memory. No matter what happened, I would never forget the way I felt.
First, we slowly practiced all of the steps that the caller might call out. My partner and I were pretty well in sync. We were to meet in the middle of the floor and do what we were instructed. With the exception of the dosey doe step, our hands touched every time. I wasn't too disappointed. If this dance lasted all night, I would have been happy the whole time.
Once we all had a basic idea of what we needed to do, the music began. A quick, yet sweet, tune filled the cramped barn. It floated around, encouraging smiles and laughter. At first, it was a little rough for everyone. It was tight quarters, so I managed to trip over both my friend and her partner. I may have been embarrassed if my partner hadn't tripped as well. He and I weren't quite as in sync as we had been during practice. We kept getting confused and spinning the wrong direction. I'm sure we were entertaining the adult chaperones.
Everyone was laughing, especially my partner and I. We knew how badly we were doing. Both of us had been fortunate enough to end up next to our friends, who were partners as well. I got teased by my friend Jenny. "Oh, I see how this works. You get to dance with Blake!" she whispered in my ear.
"Duh! And you get his friend!" I countered, raising my eyebrows.
"Well, I'm already taken, but thanks anyways," she replied. We giggled and continued dancing.
I looked at Blake and his friend Matthew. Like Jenny and I had been, they were leaned over, whispering quickly in each other's ears. It was as if Jenny and I had started a trend. I as watched, I couldn't help wonder what they were talking about. Were they talking about me like I had been talking about Blake? I couldn't help but chuckle as the boys glanced at me as the chatted.
Eventually, Blake and I made our way up to head couple. I took his cold hands in mine and we sashayed down the middle of the rows. Unfortunately, I stopped too early and he tried to keep going. That made for an interesting combination of tripping, dancing, and steadying ourselves on with the other's hands. "What are you doing?" he asked me out of surprise, as if I knew.
"I don't know!" I quietly told him. We were both trying not to burst into laughter. I'm sure we looked ridiculous, but I didn't care. Finally, we made it back to the front of the line. Now came the doesy doe. I just knew I was going to mess that up.
Blake and I separated and linked arms with the first person in each of the two lines. We spun around with our new partner once then let go. Blake and I would meet in the middle again and spin each other around. Then, it was back to the two lines on either side of us. We continued this pattern quickly and reached the end of the line. I was quite dizzy and tried to focus on Blake, who seemed to have a better understanding of what was going on. I managed to find his hands and, once more, we sashayed up the middle.
In a rush we raced behind our respective lines to meet at the end again. Our arms went up and formed the arch for the other couples. They ducked under and moved up the line until Blake and I were the only ones left. We parted ways and brought up the rear in each line.
"Who did I start with in this line?" asked the caller. There were three groups doing this dance and each group had a different number of couples. We all pointed at the girl and boy who had been the first head couple of our group. "Alright. We will go through one more time. Here we go!" He began spouting instructions to the beat of the song. Jenny and Matthew were the head couple this time. Blake and I laughed at our friends. They hardly knew each other and there they were, dancing. The looks on their faces were priceless.
It got even better as the dance went along. Jenny did not do well with the doesy doe. Everyone was going the wrong direction and only a few people realized it. Jenny was not one of those people. By the time she got to the fifth person in line, everyone was chuckling. Her partner for that spin knew what he was doing and corrected her. That caused more laughs. No one was laughing at Jenny, just at the situation itself. Even Jenny couldn't help but giggle.
Too soon, the dance was over. I didn't expect anything more and I was content. When the caller gave his final, unforeseen directions, I exchanged a look of total shock with Jenny. "Now, go give your partner a big hug and say 'Thanks for dancing with me!'" I had not seen this coming. For the last time, Blake and I met in the middle. This time, his arms went loosely around my shoulders as my arms reached around his waist. My cheek briefly brushed his warm sweatshirt, which smelled of smoke from the bon fire.
"Thanks for dancing with me!" I said, giggling. As soon as it began, the hug was over. As far as I was concerned, the night could have ended then. Little did I know, there was more to come. The hayride, for one.
It went by in a swirl of laughs, tractor exhaust, and straw. I had no trouble discussing the night's events with Jenny and Kate, my other friend that had come with me. We talked animatedly about the differences between my dancing experience and Jenny's. "It was so awkward! I don't even know him!" exclaimed Jenny. Kate and I were gasping for breath by the end of her description.
Then, the cars full of waiting parents started lining up. Ironically, Blake's mom was one of the last ones there, as was my mom. Kate was riding home with me and my mom, so she was stuck there with us. Amazingly enough, Kate managed to drag me away from Blake. She wanted to try the old wooden swing that hung from an ancient oak tree. It was large enough for two people, but too low to the ground to sit on.
In obvious teenage logic, we stood on opposite sides, facing each other. Try as I might, I couldn't get the swing to move. "Hang on. I'll get it..." I trailed off as I pushed with one foot. The stubborn swing barely moved.
"Have Blake push us!" Kate whispered.
"Good idea!" I agreed. Apparently, I was too slow to say anything, because Kate took over.
"Blake! Come push us!" Her voice rang out over the field. Blake turned to face us.
"Okay," he shrugged. Blake jogged over and reached for the ropes. He pulled us back so that I was leaning over Kate and felt parallel to the ground. Then, he let go. We swung through the air speedily. Both of us let out little shrieks as we nearly toppled off. The screams turned to laughter as we slowed down.
Blake was ready. This time, he was on Kate's side of the swing. He pulled us backwards again and this time I was on the bottom. I felt my hands slipping as we whipped through the air. As Blake moved out of the swing's path, I felt a bit of fear as I tried desperately to hold on. I barely managed to make it through the ride. The rope slipped out of my palms a bit more with each pass.
Eventually, the swing slowed enough that I could jump, more than fall, off. Luckily, I stumbled backwards, but didn't fall. My leap off the swing caused a sudden weight change. Kate slipped back off the swing and staggered away from the swing. She, too, stayed upright. Blake's head was tipped back as a deep chuckle rose from his throat.
Kate and I agreed that it must have been a pretty funny sight. Just then, my mom appeared. We waved goodbye to Blake. As we headed home that night, I realized something impactful. I had had feelings for Blake for a while now, but after tonight, I was ready to act on that. Over the course of the next week, I wrote a letter that explained everything.
I was pretty nervous about giving it to him. After many weeks of procrastination, I was urged by Kate to make my move. I stopped Blake just as he was leaving our youth group's Christmas party. I handed him the envelope that contained the precious letter. He accepted it without blinking. I had no idea what to expect.
Two days later, I got my answer. He told me that I was great friend, but only a friend. My heart cracked. I had prepared myself for that answer, but preparation doesn't stop this kind of pain. He promised me nothing would change between us. All I could do was take his word for it and try to keep our next conversations from being awkward. I felt defeated, but at the same time I looked forward to this new season of pure friendship.
I decided that the best way I could care for Blake and respect him was to acknowledge his feelings and comply with them, as much as it sadden me. The phrase "God has a plan" took on new meaning. My best option was to believe that and move forward. This wasn't the fairytale ending that I had hoped for, but I wouldn't want to change it. What's done is done and there's a reason for everything. People come into your life for a reason, even if that reason isn't what you make it out to be. Now, the future lie ahead, I chose to embrace it with a smile.