“Are you sure I look okay?” Alanna asked for the millionth time as she pulled at the edge of Maria’s skirt and fiddled with her hair.
“Yes!! You look gorgeous!” Maria replied and she meant it.
Alanna rarely dressed up. Maria had even managed to convince her to don a pair of stiletto boots and was beginning to regret it as Alanna caught the heel in a crack on the pavement for the tenth time and narrowly avoided taking her roommate with her as she tumbled towards the pavement.
Alanna got up swiftly and smoothed the skirt and checked to make sure that she hadn’t dislodged her breasts from the corset she was wearing. She needn’t have wasted the time worrying as her ‘stylist’ had done the corset up so tightly not even a bead of sweat could have escaped. The corset was red and set off her natural colouring nicely. Her hair was pulled loosely into a bun at the back of her head with two tendrils framing her face. She wasn’t one for jewellery or makeup and Ria had only managed to talk her into a pair of pretty earrings and some lipgloss. But simplicity suited Lana and Maria couldn’t argue with the results. Maria was resplendent herself in a short pleated skirt and halter top paired with biker boots that showed off her tiny waist and shapely legs to grand effect.
Alanna suddenly grabbed her friend’s hand as they made their way up the steps to the front door of the building where the party was being held. Maria immediately steeled herself for Alanna’s plummet to the floor, praying silently that she didn’t drag Maria with her. Alanna wasn’t falling, however. She was standing completely still and staring at the front door with a look of pure trepidation.
“I’m nervous,” said Alanna. This was clearly an understatement as she had begun to tremble like a leaf even though she had a warm jacket on over her corseted top.
“It’ll be fine, Alanna. It’s not a huge party and I’ll be by your side the entire time. It’s time you made more friends on campus.”
Alanna took a deep breath and her trembling ceased. She let go of Maria’s hand and resumed her ascent.
It’ll be okay. It’ll be okay. It will be crowded. Maria will be there. It’ll be okay.
Maria was worried about Alanna but genuinely thought this party was a good idea. She wanted to break this butterfly out of her cocoon and this would be the perfect opportunity to do so. Maria hadn’t mentioned it to Lana, but the party was actually being co-hosted by Damon and Ria was hoping that by spending some time with him, Alanna might see he wasn’t as terrible as she thought. Maria tried not to think about the worst case scenario- the pint-sized Fury kicking Damon in a far worse place than his shins and being labelled ‘crazy’ for the remainder of her time at St. Aloysius’s.
Maria took a deep breath of her own and followed Alanna up the steps.
Maria knocked on Terrence’s door as she and Alanna shrugged out of their jackets. Alanna was a little pale but seemed alright otherwise. She did a double take when she saw who opened the door.
“This is your place?”
“Yup. Nice to see you again. You look great.”
Terrence couldn’t stop staring at Alanna. She looked different, not better but different. It was a good thirty seconds before he realised that she wasn’t alone.
“Oh! Hey, Maria. You look great too. Come in guys; I’ll take your coats.”
Maria was a little jealous. She had had her eye on Terrence for a while now and was hurt that he hadn’t even looked at her for more than five seconds thus far. But she couldn’t blame Alanna, who was clearly doing all she could to not be seen by anyone and was not trying to claim his attentions at all. Maria perked up upon realising that and went to try and make her friend actually socialize with their fellow partygoers. This proved to be a harder task than she had imagined. Alanna stared at the floor and forced Maria to take point in all their conversations. Eventually, even Maria grew frustrated and excused herself for a moment to calm down. Alanna took the opportunity to escape to the nearest room and catch her breath.
It was almost claustrophobic out there and she needed a moment to clear her head. Alanna closed the door behind her and sunk to the floor just behind it, without turning on the lights. She knew Maria was upset with her but she couldn’t help it. She had turned in to a recluse during her isolation the year before and no longer knew how to make friends. Worse still, she no longer knew how to trust them. Well, that was a bit of a lie. She was comfortable around girls. It was guys that made her nervous. And Damon more than any other. Just as her thoughts turned towards him, a bedside lamp flickered on and there he was sitting on the bed in front of her. It was all she could do to not scream.
Alanna stood up hastily. The panic she felt must have been etched on her face as Damon rose rapidly and held his hands in front of him saying, “Please, I didn’t mean to scare you. It just seemed dishonest to let you think that you were in here alone when you were crying like that.”
“I’m not crying!” argued Alanna. But even as she protested she realised that there were indeed tears on her cheek. When had that happened? Crap, why did he have to catch me like this?
“Are you okay?”
“Yes!” She still had her hand on the doorknob and was ready to run if need be.
“I’m a good listener, you know. Or so my friends tell me. And, I promise, I wouldn’t say a word to anyone. So, tell me, which guy outside broke your heart?”
“Why do men always assume that the only thing women cry about is other men?”
Damon chuckled and said, “Okay, you make a good point. So, which woman out there made you cry? Tell me her name and I’ll… get one of my female friends to rough her up.”
Alanna couldn’t help smiling in spite of herself.
“I’m not a lesbian, Damon.”
“Wow! Did you just say my first name? Not “you”? Hell must have frozen over.”
“Oh,ha ha. ‘Hell must have frozen over’? That was the wittiest thing you could come up with? The rumours must be true then- it was your athleticism, not your intellect that got you in here.”
“I suppose I should be offended by that but I’m just thrilled that you know I’m athletic and take the time to listen to gossip about me,” Damon responded with a mischievous grin. She wanted to slap that grin right off his face but she also couldn’t help noticing how gorgeous he looked when he smiled like that. His eyes lit up and the dimple in his left cheek was almost enough to make her melt. Almost.
“Jesus, are you always this obnoxious and vain?”
“I prefer charming and confident. I’m sure, as we get better acquainted, you’ll feel the same.”
“I highly doubt that, since this is the furthest our acquaintance will ever go.”
“If you say so. But, I hope you’re wrong, Alanna.”
Alanna looked up expecting to see that mischievous grin on his face again. Instead, he looked earnest and sincere as though he had really meant what he’d said. She realised that she felt flattered by that and this confused her. She hated him, didn’t she? She shook her head and looked at him again. He looked at her expectantly, as though waiting for her to respond.
“I have to go,” she mumbled before rushing out the bedroom door.
Damon sat on the bed again and replayed the events of the past five minutes in his head. Things hadn’t gone exactly the way he had hoped but she had called him by name and she hadn’t tried to kick him once. He smiled. It was a start.