"Madam." Randy extended his hand. Teresa accepted with a timid grin. Her dress matched the sky, pink and warm, and her fingers were as cold as the ocean air. Randy resolved to fix that, and he pulled both of her hands close. "May I?"
Teresa giggled quietly. "You may."
He took her in. He'd spotted her a long way off by the way her brown hair curled around her face, but how much better it was to have her close by and look her all the way up and down. The lacey dress hid her girlish body like a secret. His eyes made their way down to her pale legs and the shoes that capped them off. "Those don't look comfortable," he said, nodding with his head because his hands were quite busy.
She blushed as red as the umbrellas on the picnic tables. "They're my mother's. She says they go well with the dress."
"Take them off," he said. "You won't need them. Golly, we're at the beach."
Teresa looked downright horrified. "I can't! There are diseases on the ground."
"Shall I carry you, then?"
Again, she blushed. "Not a chance. I'll leave my shoes on, thank you."
"Suit yourself." Randy glanced around the boardwalk a minute. There were people everywhere, dressed in bathing suits and funny-looking shorts and wide-brimmed hats that shielded their faces. The vendors shouted at passers by to try their fried chicken and those thickly buttered corn cobs that usually ended up plastered across the shirts and faces of little kids. He'd been here too often now, and Teresa probably had, too. "I have an idea."
"Does it have to do with shoes?" Teresa asked.
"Actually," he said, "you'll probably be wanting shoes for this." He didn't let go of her hand as they wove through the crowds. A lady in a bright green dressed brushed past him with white gloved fingers. Randy took off after her. He knew where she was going, and he wanted to be there, too.
"Slow down!" Teresa complained. "These shoes aren't comfortable. They pinch."
"Ah ha!" Randy said, but he didn't slow down a bit, and he didn't tell Teresa where they were headed.
He could barely read the fancy script font on the blue and white sign, but he knew it was the place. The woman in the green dress spoke to a man in a suit for a few minutes before disappearing inside. Preusser Yacht Club. Randy spun Teresa to face him and took both her hands. He grinned.
Teresa looked horrified. "You can't just waltz into a yacht club!"
"True, but you can waltz once you're inside the yacht club."
She smiled. He knew she would; he knew how to make her laugh. "They don't just let seventeen year olds into fancy yacht clubs."
Randy waved a finger close to her pointy nose. "Watch me." He scanned the crowd for other rich-looking people and set his sights on a great big fat man with a gray pinstripe suit and a top hat that looked like he fell out of the 20s. The fat man stopped and started talking with the doorman. They exchanged hats, then exchanged again. Randy nodded at Teresa, and they sauntered in right around the fat man as coolly as the ocean waves crashing on the shore.
Randy put his arm around her shoulders.
"This is swell," she breathed. He didn't know which part she was referring to.
One half of the room was filled with round tables that were covered in fancy white table cloths and flowers and two forks to each place setting, and the other half was a wooden-floored empty space all for dancing. A few negro men in plaid suits and matching hats stood by in the corner cleaning and polishing their instruments, tuning the guitar. And then there were the people. Women in elaborate, colorful dresses, men in suits and hats, everyone's dress shoes tapping against the floor, gold and gems glittering in the fancy lights that hung from the ceiling. Randy couldn't quit staring. There was nothing like this is his part of town. "Pretty incredible," he agreed.
"People are going to notice us," Teresa said, ruining the moment. "We're going to get in trouble."
Randy put on a scolding face. "Nonsense. I feel as if I were born here, don't you, Lady Teresa?"
'Lady' Teresa giggled. "Fine then, Lord Randall."
He swept her hands toward him, and the musicians picked up their sheet music and began to play. The rumbling crowd paired into couples for the bouncy waltz. Teresa was an excellent dancer. Her dress twirled in rhythm with the music. Most of the couples shuffled towards the walls – "My feet hurt," "Shall we get some wine?" "We are too old for this" – and Randy soon found himself alone with Teresa in the center of the ring of admires. They were watching Teresa. Randy watched Teresa, too, and he stepped off to the side to watch her more intently, intensely. She moved like an apparition. Her lacy pink skirt twirled around her pale legs as she spun and slid and smiled at him. She only looked at him. A drum beat echoed through the room, now thoroughly silent but for the rhythmic clapping of all the spectators. She was beautiful, Teresa was beautiful. Randy got lost in the curves of her body, the shape of her legs – she kicked off her shoes and threw them at him. And then she kept dancing.
Randy swore that he'd never forget.
The band switched songs, and Teresa ran to him as a few people cheered for her. He threw his arms around her. Wordlessly, they began to dance along with the tempo. The space between them narrowed.
"Where are my shoes?" she whispered, breathless.
"Who cares?" Randy held tighter to her waist. "I want to marry you."
"Not now. Someday. Once you're eighteen."
"Don't tell me I'm crazy. Tell me I'm crazy for bringing you here, but don't tell me I'm crazy for wanting to marry you. I want to watch you teach our kids how to dance."
Teresa was silent for a long time. The music slowed. Randy bit the inside of his cheek and yelled at himself for being so idiotic to say it. She was two years younger than him, barely into her second year of high school; she wasn't thinking about marrying anyone. And now he'd scare her and she'd never speak to him again. He held her closer, as if that would keep her from escaping.
"Barefoot," she said. "Our kids will be barefoot."
(Author's note: pretty obviously, this is based on Taylor Swift's "Starlight," and also on Santana's "Into the Night." Odd combination, I know. And it's fluffy, I know - I'm not usually so fluffy. Hope you enjoyed it! ~Petra)