By Jessica Jay
A story to say goodbye...
She wore a lovely pink dress that flowed along her body with every step she took. I watched, mesmerized, as she danced with him - her legs moving in time with his as if they more understood the rhythm than moved to it. Even in the midst of that crowded party she stood out with brown eyes so deep you could find forever in them and long curly hair that fell in splendid tresses down her back and over her shoulders. When they turned I watched the lace ribbon tied just by her ear. He touched it, pushing it back in place, and she smiled up at him from beneath her lashes. It was so brilliant I had to look away as I blushed.
But he wasn't watching her. He didn't see the pretty smile she made just for him and he didn't notice the brightness gathering in the corners of her eyes. I watched him look away; watched as his eyes wandered and the smile slowly faded - first from her eyes and then disappearing without a trace. It made me curl my fists at my sides yet I stayed where I stood, bound by the moors of an outsider. She would cry! Didn't he see? They spun one last time and I saw her fingers tighten. She knew it too, even before he stepped around her. Not away from her and not back from her, but he walked brusquely around her as if she had never existed.
She stood and I stood, somehow caught in that moment as the music shifted and the party moved in around us. Couples changed, some left the dance floor to sit, to talk... to drink. And she stayed, alone, as the crowd swelled around her, her eyes fixed to the place where he had gone. Who could set her aside? Who could possibly look away from her for even a moment? It was unforgivable! I flexed my fists, stunned by his transgression and angry all over. If it was me...
If it was me... she would always smile...
I jammed my hands in my pockets, feeling the weight of my position rest heavily on my shoulders. It made me feel as if I were lurching forward and I closed my eyes as I mustered all my courage. If I could just see her smile... if only one thing I did could help ease her tears... that would be allowed, wouldn't it? Was it okay for someone like me to approach her? I peeked open one eye as my stomach twisted and looked down at my scuffed shoes. The cuffs of my pants were too long and faded from stepping on them and I worried that my shirt was too wrinkled as well. How could I be good enough? But... I found her again easily and bit the inside of my cheek as I watched her meekly making her way from the starlight dance floor. Somehow even the pink of her dress seemed to have faded with her smile.
If it was like this then I could be allowed a turn too, couldn't I? I had watched her for such a very long time, this girl who brought colours to my world. Just a moment, just a smile, and it would be enough. What a greedy and selfish person I can be. It took seventeen steps to reach her, not that I had intended to count them, but those steps were all I could focus on as my stomach churned, dropping to my feet. I could be me, couldn't it? Wouldn't it be wonderful if she would only look at me? The closer I came the more I wanted it. Her smile, her laugh, the weight of her in my arms, and that would be enough. Taking one last deep breath, I slid through the crowd into place beside her, taking two drinks from the table as I went.
"Are you thirsty?"
She turned immediately and I was speechless as my throat cinched around my next words. The crowd shifted again as the songs changed and we both took a step toward the other. Orange juice spilled over my hand as I was jostled and landed between us with a pronounced splat. She watched it fall, bewildered, and my face shot up in flames. This was stupid... why am I so stupid? I couldn't move and was saved by that when she laughed out her nose and looked up at me with a helpless smile on her face. The relief I felt then could have knocked me to the ground, yet I somehow chuckled along with her and offered her the other cup.
"Actually, this one's mine. Yours is here."
She took it with a smile and I caught my breath. "Thank you."
By some means, divine or perhaps not, I found myself speaking naturally. This was both elating and distressing as I wasn't sure how I had started or how I would continue once the ice was broken and that awkward silence came in to swallow us up. She watched me as I spoke, her round brown eyes fixed to mine and listening the way anyone of her character would. We talked about the music, the crowds, and what possible ingredients of our orange drink could be. She told me about her plans for the rest of the weekend and I spoke about lectures and teachers and homework.
I would cherish you. I wanted to say. I would never hurt you. I would stay by your side. I would always look at you. But that would be like throwing rocks at a cat to gain its trust.
The songs changed again and again, yet we somehow found something to talk about after each topic was exhausted. It had gone beyond my expectations. My head was spinning. And then came the pause - that all important, awkward and terrifying pause that could either end in mortified giggling or honest laughter. We both looked away. We had both become people who would never expect something of another to save us from these moments. My heart skipped a beat as I thought I had already come this far - if it ended in my embarrassment then I could always say that at least I tried, couldn't I?
"Do... um..." She looked back at me, startled, and I was too. "Do you want to dance?" Heat trickled into my cheeks, climbing up my face and to my ears. Did she have to take so long to answer? Would I pass out holding my breath? The music changed again as she nodded. A ballad rose into a lively tempo and I watched the familiar tune light up her face. The time for slow, sentimental lovers on the dance floor had come to an end and energetic couples rushed to take their place. She took my hand before I could wipe off my nervous sweat, eagerly leading me.
Dazzled, I stumbled the first few steps as I realized she was smiling for me. I spun her in my arms and realized that I had won! I was finally holding everything I had ever wanted! We were enthusiastic and giddy, inventing our own dance steps and laughing as we did it. Her charisma naturally took the lead and soon the crowd had moved back to watch us. Our whirling and gleeful dancing had become popular however, to me, it felt as if there were only her and I in the entire world. Another happy melody followed the first, a third and a fourth, until I was swinging her around the dance floor and laughing with all of my heart.
She could be mine and we could be forever dancing. I would cherish her. I would walk by her side and only look at her. I wondered if she could know my thoughts without my having to say them. Did she know that I always saw her smiling? That I wanted to hear her selfishly ask me for something so I could give her everything? I spun her back into my arms, opening my mouth to tell her so as the song ended and melted smoothly into the soft tones of a piano. Our eyes met and a dozen heady emotions rocked through my chest. Did she know what she did to me? Did she feel the same? We both held our breath, caught there on either side of an almost kiss. I revealed in the heat of her skin under my hands, in the smell of her hair as she stood so close to me. Drawing closer still, I watched as she tipped her mouth up and I turned my head to kiss her.
Then he called her name, and the spell was broken. I jolted as if being splashed with cold water and looked at the stage over her shoulder. There he stood, a soft light on his face as he smiled mildly and held his hand out for her. He called her name again, a lover's whisper, and I winced at the stab of fear in my heart. It lurched, then, as she turned to face him. Her hands fell away from me leaving a cold shiver in their place. I reached for her, catching the ribbon as it fell from her hair and curling my fingers through the last traces of her perfectly curly hair. She went straight to him, obedient to something even I couldn't understand and oblivious to the emotions that were tearing me apart. I... I would...
"I would have... I really would have..." I found myself murmuring to her shadow as my throat clenched and it became difficult to swallow. A wave of sorrow bowled me over and I fought it with the frustration and anger of someone who was absolutely powerless. She climbed the steps to him slowly, one at a time, and I felt robbed. Hadn't he thrown her away? Hadn't he made her cry? I wanted to scream. I wanted to get mad and throw something, but... just as my embittered tears were about to spill over, I watched him hook a lock of her hair behind her ear. And she smiled up at him from just under her lashes.
Then I saw what it was she surely treasured - and I left the dance floor, longing, forgotten; swallowing my tears. It was hopeless but... "I would have... I really would have... I really would have cherished you..."