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You were walking through the neighborhood, the warm air billowing past you. It was too cloudy to see the moon, but you knew that it was out there somewhere.
She had blatantly refused to take Shelby. She didn’t want to; she was having too much fun, and if she got in the car, the night would be over too fast. Instead, she grabbed your hand and dragged you off, leaving Shelby parked in the parking lot. Not that you minded too much. Her house was only a couple blocks from your high school, and it wasn’t that humid outside. Plus, you didn’t mind walking through the night with her. She was entertaining.
“You’re so silly,” you chuckled as you watched her shed her gray flats, holding them in her hands. “We’ve been dancing all night!”
She didn’t respond, only gave you a cheeky smile before continuing with what she was doing.
Tonight had been your senior prom. Since you lived in tiny town (seriously, your graduating class had thirty people in it), prom wasn’t that big of a deal. And yet, it seemed like every other girl already had a date. Isabelle had been the only option. You knew fully that she hadn’t exactly planned on going, but you asked her anyway, because you knew that she wanted to. She had only been planning what her dress was going to look like since the two of you were five. She agreed to go with you as friends.
The prom itself wasn’t really all that they say it is. People say that amazing things happen on prom night. You find your true love. Rose petals fall from the sky while you kiss romantically. The girl you’ve been pining for since freshman year finally notices you. For you, that was all false. Nothing happened at the prom. You picked up Isabelle from down the street. You took some pictures and said hi to her mom, who fussed over you for growing up too quickly. You can’t help it; it tends to happen without your consent. You gave Isabelle her corsage, which she shed the second after prom was over. You drove her to the prom in your run-down Honda, Shelby. Everyone thought that your car was the ghetto car in the school parking lot, but you loved her. Shelby had character. Isabelle didn’t mind; she’d been riding to school in Shelby since freshman year. She fiddled with the radio, messed with the air conditioning, and played with the controls on her window until you finally reached over and told her to cut it out. While at prom, you chatted with a couple guys, got some punch before someone spiked it, danced with Isabelle basically all night long. And yet, here she was, dancing again.
Isabelle was a ballerina. Of course, you’d known that since the day you met her. You walked out of your new house, sick of your mother trying to control where they put your stuff. You wanted your basketball hoop over your bed again, just like at your old house, but your mom hadn’t let you put it there. In fact, you just didn’t like your new house at all. It was empty and bare. You slammed the front door behind you, ignoring your father asking where you were going. Frankly, you didn’t want to answer. And even if you had wanted to, you didn’t know the answer. You walked down the front steps, ignoring all the burly men around you, carrying things into your stupid new house. You sat down on the last step, and put your chin in your hands. Suddenly, you heard a sharp laughter, and you looked for its source. A couple houses down from yours, there was a little girl. She was short, but had to be as old as you. She had black ringlets that flew everywhere as she spun around, laughing as she leaped and danced across the entire yard. She was wearing a yellow sundress that was so long on her that it brushed the grass underneath her feet. She had looked so sweet and innocent that day, as you recall. Of course, that didn’t matter to you at the time. She was simply another five year old that you wanted to play with. You ran over to go ask her to play. And that was the day you met Isabelle Vance.
She wasn’t like most girls, as you found out. She had her entire life mapped out on a piece of paper, including when she was going to get married, have kids, and she informed you one night that she was working on predicting the day she was going to die. She played rough and dirty, and often tackled you when she got the chance. She had a better killing streak on Call of Duty than any other guy you know. And yet, she still managed to be graceful and beautiful when she danced. It wasn’t often that you got to see her dance, only when she invited you to her recital. And that was still choreographed, which you could tell she hated just by the bored look on her face. To be honest, you hadn’t seen her dance something that wasn’t choreographed in years. Ever since sophomore year, she barely had the time to dance in your backyard like she used to.
You always knew when things between her parents were going badly. Sometimes, you would look out your window and find her dancing in your backyard. It wasn’t a strange occurrence, since she was especially skilled at scaling your fence. Sometimes, you would wake up in the middle of the night, freezing, only to find her on your floor with your comforter wrapped around her tiny body. For a while, you were slightly fuzzy on how she got into your house on nights like that, but you didn’t really mind. For some reason, hearing Isabelle breath softly helped you sleep better. She was kind of like a mini-ninja. When you woke up in the morning, she was always gone. When you knew you were going to be gone for the night, you would always leave a note for her on the balcony. In your scratchy handwriting, you would write a joke to make her laugh, and a question to keep her thinking. Also, you kept a blanket and pillow in a bench seat, in case she needed to stay the night.
The night her parents announced their divorce is one you’ll never forget. It was the night that you finally found out how she snuck into your house. You were at eight at the time, and had just gone to bed after staying up late to watch a new episode of Scooby Doo. For whatever reason, you were having issues getting to sleep. And just as you were dozing softly off, you awoke to a jiggling sound. You shot up straight in your bed, trying to remember what the people at school said to do when someone was breaking in. That’s when you saw Isabelle at the door that led to your balcony, picking the lock. Within seconds, she was walking into your room and setting a bobby pin on your nightstand. She didn’t comment on the fact that you had just seen how she got in, or that you were awake for once. She just simply sat down next to you on the bed and tucked her feet under the comforter next to yours. You two sat in silence for a while, the silence between you comfortable. After what could’ve been all night, Isabelle turned to you, her green eyes bright. That was when you noticed that her cheeks were streaked with tears.
“My parents are getting divorced,” she told you in a cracked voice, revealing that she had probably been crying all night. She let out a small hiccup, a sign that she was about to cry again. Instead of talking, you just gathered her into your arms and let her cry herself out. You didn’t say anything; you knew that it was enough for her that you were just there. After about an hour or two of crying, Isabelle quieted down and fell asleep in your arms.
That was also the first night that she stayed. In the morning, you were slightly surprised to find that Isabelle’s weight as still on your right arm, your left one thrown across her. You were so used to her disappearing during the middle of the night that this sight was kind of shocking to you, until you realized that she didn’t exactly want to be at home. You realized many years later that your mother had walked in early that morning while the two of you were still asleep and had taken a picture. That picture still resided in your mom’s photo album, and Isabelle still didn’t know that it existed.
Over the years, you and Isabelle remained good friends. Of course, she had other friends, and you had other friends, but you two still found a way to stay the same through all the high school drama. She came to you when she had nothing better to do, if she needed help, and when she wanted to relive old memories. Of course, there were many memories of the two of you in your house. Your mother often fondly said that her kitchen cabinets would never be the same after Isabelle introduced you to the magic of Crayola crayons. Isabelle became more and more beautiful as the years went by. Her black ringlets became manageable, her green eyes brighter. You, on the other hand, just got taller than her after many unfortunate years during elementary school of being shorter than her.
You don’t exactly remember the day that you started seeing Isabelle in that sort of way. One day, she was your friend from a long time ago that came over to play the new version of Call of Duty. The next, she was, “the most beautiful creature to hit the face of the Earth”. God, you were cheesy when you were a freshman and still had a diary. Still, that view of her never changed. You despised the guys she went out with, because you felt that none of them deserved her. Of course, you didn’t exactly voice your opinion, and she didn’t exactly ask for it. She would go out with a guy for a week, maybe a month or two if he was lucky. You always knew the day that they broke up, because that would also be the day that she appeared at your door, asking if you had time to play some Xbox today.
Her last boyfriend broke up with her for a change, surprising her. She hadn’t been expecting it, especially since she had been the heartbreaker with her other boyfriends. It had happened just a mere four days before Valentine’s Day, which, you muse, was probably the reason why she was at your house for Valentine’s Day, since she knew that you had been single since sophomore year. It was rude of him to dump her before Valentine’s Day, and that’s partly the reason you asked her to prom as friends.
You watched her now, her gray flats in her hands as she twirled over the grass in the yards you passed by. You were quiet while you watched her dance, the hem of her jade dress sweeping the grass when she bent her knees. The street lamps were on, even though it wasn’t that late, illuminating her in the night. She looks beautiful tonight, you remarked in your head. Her black ringlets were piled on her head in an elegant bun, with a couple pieces pulled down by her ears. You were glad that Isabelle never got into straightening her hair, because you liked it too much when it was naturally curly. She wasn’t wearing much make-up, since Isabelle had never liked make-up anyway. Her jade green dress was strapless, with a gray band around her waist, and then it flowed out to her knees. She had opted for gray flats instead of heels like her friends because she had decided to be comfortable instead of fashionable. She leaped around, grinning at you each time she was airborne. She looked happier than you had seen her in a long time.
“Hey Isabelle?” you call as she leaps over a sidewalk.
“Yeah Anthony?” she asks in the middle of another leap, breathless from dancing.
“You look happy,” you state simply.
She stops for a second, regarding you with her big green eyes. She shrugs before continuing to leap over a sidewalk. “Yeah. I guess I am.”
All of the sudden, a torrential down pour starts. You weren’t exactly surprised; you’d been eyeing the clouds all night, wondering when it was going to rain.
Isabelle was slightly surprised though. She started to laugh uncontrollably. She closed her eyes and turned her hands up to the sky. She twirled around in the rain; not caring that her prom dress was getting wet, or that mascara was running down her face. You watched her, smiling softly. She suddenly stopped and turned to face you, noticing that you were just standing there.
She ran over to you, her bare feet splashing in the puddles made by the sidewalk. She grabbed your hand, and tried to drag you over to the grass. “Come dance!” Isabelle pleaded, smiling at you.
“Izzy,” you whined, using an old nickname.
“Please?” she pleaded again, giving you a puppy dog face like she always did when she wanted something. She knew that you couldn’t resist that face, and she used that fact to her advantage. You let out a sigh, and she instantly knows that she won. She pulls you over to the grass, making you stumble over your own feet a bit. She wraps her arms around your shoulders, locking her fingers behind you neck. Instinctively, you hold her by her waist.
After a couple moments of swaying side to side, you look down at Isabelle, squinting through the rain. “Izzy, there’s no music going. I feel silly.”
She shakes her head, sending droplets flying off of her hair. “You don’t need music to dance,” she reasons. And as if to make a point, she leans in and lays her head on your wet chest.
Perfect. Perfect is the only way you can explain this moment, looking back on it. At the time, you may have been a gangly teenage boy who barely had any idea of what was going on, and had barely ever kissed a girl. Isabelle may have been a broken-hearted dancer whose life wasn’t going exactly as she had planned it when she was five. And even though you weren’t allowed to call her your own at the time, that’s the only way you can describe it. Perfect.