Chapter 9

Maya wore her blue dress, which clung tightly to her body, stopping mid thigh. Her brown hair was pulled up in an elegant bun, courtesy of one Jen, but Maya had to pull out a few tuffs of hair, letting wispy tendrils trail down her shoulders and back. She had borrowed her aunts black strappy shoes that weren't so tall that Maya was nearly falling over. She looked at herself in the mirror, examining each angle and wondered if this was the best it was ever going to get.

Probably.

Jen was putting the finishing touches on her own hairstyle, where she curled her blonde hair and dyed the ends pink, to match her blush pink a-line dress. Lily was laying on Jen's bed in a black and white getup, looking pleasantly bored and trying to scowl at the ceiling. Her green hair had been lengthened by extentions and where pulled into a ponytail.

"Are we going to go soon?" Lily drawled. Can't Hardly Wait was playing on Jen's small TV resting on her dresser. Her room was small and the walls were lined with photographs, things like the golden gate bridge and Denali coloring her beige walls. Jen's own camera sat next to a rather old looking computer monitor, next to a picture of her with her mom, dad and little sister, a girl Maya had met just that night named Jane.

Maya stared at the picture. She was suddenly very aware that her own parents were very far away.

"Hold on," Jen said. Her bathroom door was open and she was spraying herself with hairspray. Lily sat up, her hair a little mussed. She was barefoot and kicking her feet off of the bed and onto the carpet.

"So we have a game plan?" Lily said to Maya, who pulled her eyes away from Jen's picture collection.

"Uh, we dance? Drink punch? Maybe someone will spike the bowl and things will get really interesting," Maya said.

Lily shook her head and rolled her eyes. "No, I'm talking about Alyson. We better figure out a way to keep you away from her."

Jen appeared in the bedroom doorway, smoothing out her skirts. "And her cronies. Who the hell knows what she has planned."

"Guys, I'll be fine," Maya said. She was thinking about ditching the shoes at some point during the night. They weren't that high, but already she was tired of wearing them.

The girls ignored her as if she hadn't said anything.

"Keep an eye out," Jen said. "If we see them come near, we get away."

"While keeping an eye out for lover boy," Lily said, before making smooching noises at Maya, who blushed and threw a nearby pillow at Lily.

"We don't need to keep an eye out for anyone," Maya insisted.

Lily shrugged. "Maybe your right. I mean, honestly think, whats the worst she could do to you. Really?"

Maya shrugged. The subject was dropped and they left, though not before getting harangued by Jen's mom to take a million pictures. Maya already found she liked the woman, who was an older version of Jen with light brown hair. It made her miss her own mom just that much more.

For the night, Jen was allowed to take her mom's car. She drove it, somewhat jerkily to their school parking lot which was filled with students in their formal wear crossing the streets. Maya felt a giddy excitement creep up on her as she watched the others and appraised the other girls' dresses. It wasn't as big a deal as her previous school, but Maya didn't care.

They parked somewhere in the back and walked up in their heels, giggling about how much they all hated their shoes. The dance was being held in the gymnasium, which was on the side of the school Maya hardly ever went to. It had two sets of double class doors, framed in aluminum, where students all clamored to get inside. Jen produced their tickets to a bored looking ticket girl, and they entered the darkened gymnasium.

Music was the first thing Maya noticed, and she could feel it pumping through her body. It took a second for her eyes to adjust to the darkened room but she saw the spot lights, saw them reflecting off of the sparkly stars decorating the ceiling. The gym hardly looked like a gym. The bleachers had been rolled back and were hidden by partitions, long pieces of black construction paper, and rolls of black fabric. A stage had been set up on the far side of the room, and a handmade sign was up, reading, "Congratulations to the Cascadia Cascades!"

Maya frowned. She couldn't imagine what the mascot for cascades looked like.

The gymnasium was slowly filling up with students. The girls all wore short cocktail dresses with sparkly sequens attached while the guys wore clean jeans or slacks with a button up. Jen led the way for them to navigate the growing crowd and they made their way to a table set up with a bowl of punch. They got their cups and drank them down, watching as the small group dancing in the center of the room grew bigger.

When Jen decided she wanted to dance, she tried to tug Lily, but Lily scowled and shook her head, insisting on drinking more punch. Maya ended up going with Jen and they danced in their heels until their feet throbbed. Eventually they gave up and took of their shoes, abandoning them under the stage before returning to the dance floor. Lily showed up, begrudgingly, but she danced with them. The night dissolved as Jen and Lily did a tango while Maya bent over, unable to control her laughter.

When a slow song played, they would take off of the floor, using the time to recover their breaths. Occasionally a boy would appear and ask Jen to dance. One rather cheerful looking boy came over and asked for Lily, and she looked so bewildered she didn't say no. Only Maya felt like there was a barrier around her, making her un-askable. She watched her friends and drank some punch and just enjoyed having a good time.

Hours passed and whatever Maya was supposed to be afraid of was forgotten. Occasionally she would glance around her, scanning the dance floor for someone. When she didn't find them, she shrugged and continued drinking her punch. Then she froze. She had a feeling someone was watching her.

"I thought I asked you not to come tonight."

Maya only heard Jason's voice over the pounding of the music because he was so close to her ear. She spun to face him and saw he was frowning, briefly. Then he blinked and something unreadable came over his face. Maya smiled at him, unable to help herself. She was in such a good mood he could have dumped the bowl of punch over her head and it would have hardly tarnished it.

"Is now the moment?" Maya asked, glancing around for the sight of Alyson. "Is she going to pour pigs blood over me?"

Jason leaned forward so he was more Maya's height.

"Why don't we get out of here? The noise is too much."

Maya nodded. Jason put his hand on the small of her back as he led her out, pushing passed the hordes of students standing around and dancing. They went out through a back door, going past the smoking students before finding a secluded spot under a streetlamp that was still on campus.

Maya sighed. It was cool outside, and it felt good after the heat of the gym. She touched her cheeks, felt how warmth they were and wondered if she had sweat off her makeup.

Jason stood right under the light, casting odd shadows across his face. He was wearing slacks, a blue shirt and a jacket. Maya stared at the shirt, which was almost the exact same shade as the dress she was wearing.

"So, does Alyson jump out of the bushes and rob me now?" Maya asked with a smile. Jason didn't smile. He was looking at Maya with this weird intensity which was reminding Maya that she was wearing a short strapless dress.

"You look really pretty," He said.

Maya was glad her face was already warm. Her blush would have become more pronounced.

"Aw, thanks. You're pretty too."

Jason snorted. "I'm glad to see you are enjoying tonight's festivities but it would be best if you went home. Now."

Maya's smile twitched but didn't fade. "I'm not going anywhere."

"Maya."

"I'm not running from her. If she has a problem with me, she can just deal. If I run from her my entire life, I'm going to be running for a very long time."

"There are times to retreat," Jason said, taking a step forward. "Like when the enemy has prepared an all out offensive that you might not be able to survive."

Maya crossed her arms. "You're still not going to tell me what's going on."

Jason closed his eyes, looking pained. "I can't."

Maya scoffed. She was ready to storm off again when Jason blocked off her escape.

"Wait, Maya. Please."

"This is getting really old," Maya said, but she stopped. "You know, you can't keep playing both sides like this."

"I'm not trying to."

"Really? Because that's what it feels like. Like you're trying to keep us both happy."

Jason swallowed. "I have to do what she says to the letter. If I'm here, its only because of a technicality."

Maya tapped her toe on the cold floor. She was regretting taking off her shoes. "Technicality?"

"I'm following her word to the letter. She just wasn't careful about what she said."

"I doubt she's going to care much about technicalities if she doesn't get her way tonight."

Jason nodded. "That's a chance I'm willing to take. Please, Maya. Don't go back into the gym. I don't want her hurting you."

Maya deflated a bit, not from Jason's words, but the way he was looking at her. It may have helped that she wanted to believe him. He stared at her for a long moment, while Maya tore her eyes from him to look back at the school. Even from this distance, she could hear the bass of the music from the gym.

"Is it really that bad?" Maya asked.

"I would prefer if you never found out."

Maya sighed forcefully. She would need to apologize profusely to Jen and Lily.

"I will,"

Jason smiled while Maya eyed him wearily.

"On one condition. You have to dance with me."

Jason blinked. Maya gave him a lazy smile. She wasn't certain what he would do, if he would shrug her off nervously or actually dance with her. He held out his hand to her, looking somewhat uncertain when Maya took it. It took some rearranging but they started a slow turn, with Jason leading the way with one hand, the other on the small of Maya's back.

Maya smiled at Jason. His face was twisted in tight concertation. "Its not rocket science."

"Its been a long time since I've danced with someone who asked me," Jason said. "Not because they told me to."

Maya felt her smile fade. She cocked her head as they danced to a silent song. It was cold, really cold now that Maya had time to calm down, but she only barely noticed it. She kept her hand on his shoulder, praying to herself to not trip.

"This is not what I imagined for our first date," Jason said nonchalantly. He only seemed to realize what he was saying after he had said it and a light blush flourished on his face.

Maya smirked. "How did you imagine our first date?"

Jason's blush did not diminish as he nervously huffed out a breath. "Lets see. I would have gotten one of those flower things that go on your wrist. Corsaiges, right? And I probably would have picked up you and your friends in my crappy car which would probably break down before we made the way and you would have had to walk in your heels… which you aren't wearing any more."

Jason frowned down at Maya's feet who decided to step on his feet to keep the stinging cold from biting at her toes. Jason didn't seem bothered by it, only smiling at Maya when she grinned sheepishly at him.

"So what else?" Maya asked.

Jason sighed. "We'd dance. You'd run off with your friends to dance and then drag me along when you thought I was sitting too long at the punch bowl. We would slow dance and I would try and do that dip thing? You know, where I'd make you lean back and try not to drop you, so you'd think I actually knew how to dance. Your hair would come lose from dancing so much but it wouldn't matter, because you'd still be just as pretty as you were with it up. I'd be nervous all night because I would be thinking about when the perfect time it was to kiss –"

Maya knew it was coming, she could feel it in the air, like the stars aligned and the world lit up. She leaned forward on her toes, using his as leverage to give her the extra height. It was a quick soft press of lips. Maya pulled back to smile when she noticed they had stopped moving and Jason was staring at her, eyes wide.

Maya could hear the music coming from the gym. It was the only thing she could hear when Jason took a step back from her, letting go of her hand, his eyes still comically wide. Maya took a larger step back, her stomach starting to sour. She wasn't certain what she had done wrong, but an apology was just on the tip of her lips, ready to tumble out with the slightest bit of courage.

"What the hell do you think you are doing?" Called out a voice. From out of the shadows stepped Alyson, eyes glittering as she narrowed them on Maya. Maya stared back at her because she was suddenly very afraid of looking at Jason.