I was never a big fan of dances.
To be honest, I just didn’t understand the hype about the whole ordeal. Magazines and movies and even books made it sound like a dance was some magical night with dancing and romance and love in the air.
I know from past experiences that dances were absolutely nothing like that. In fact, they were the opposite.
To me, a dance involved spending a few hours in a crowded room full of people you hate with dodgy music, even dodgier food and wearing heels which, by the end of the night, will have transformed your feet into blistered stumps of puffy red pain.
And for what? A few dances with a nice guy? A chance to dress up pretty?
It wasn’t worth it in my opinion.
Okay, so I suppose I am oversimplifying it a bit but last year was the first formal dance I had ever attended and it was pretty overrated.
The first thing that went wrong was the theme itself; jungle fever.
Puke green cellophane hanging off the walls of the gym was not going to get anyone in the mood to party.
The second thing that went wrong was my dress. You see, when I was fifteen, my metabolism had a weird little slow down and I gained a lot of weight from eating too many cheeseburgers. Thus, when I bought my dress for the dance, it ended up being two sizes too big for me once my metabolism picked up again around my sixteenth birthday.
Long story short, on the night of the dance I was constantly pulling up my dress which was annoying, frustrating and earned me a lot of stares from the school perverts in my grade.
The third thing that went wrong involved some little pimply twerp who stalked me the whole time without saying a word, and then right at the end of the night, finally sucked up the courage to talk to me but instead ended up barfing all over my shoes because he was nervous and someone had spiked the punch.
All in all, I was not a big fan of dances.
However, as I walked with Sabrina towards the entrance to the ballroom, I decided that tonight I was going to be an optimist. So far the day hadn’t been disastrous, apart from Lizzy’s little freak out. I still felt guilty when I thought about my best friend but that was just a minor blemish on an otherwise quite decent afternoon. I’m sure my night would be even better.
“Thanks for doing my hair and makeup.” I said to Sabrina before we entered the room in our long, swishing gowns.
“It was no problem. You’ve got nice hair.” Sabrina said casually.
She looked like an ancient Greek goddess with her hair done up in a fancy braided crown and a long white backless dress that was pretty much the epitome of elegance. Her heels were also scarily high and it made her thin frame tower over me in quite an intimidating manner.
I, on the other hand, was dressed much simpler. My hair was out but Sabrina had done a cute little braid along the top of my head behind my bangs so it looked a bit like a hairband.
My makeup was also done with the help of Sabrina. She used a lot of navy blue eyeshadow to match my dress and a white eye pencil on the corner of my eyes to make them seem nice and bright. She also added a bit of blush to the apples of my cheeks and applied shiny reddish pink lipstick on my lips.
When I looked in the mirror I was absolutely shocked. I don’t think I’ve ever looked this nice in my life.
My dress was strapless and a dark navy blue colour but it was still simple. I liked the way the soft material flowed nicely and the bodice gave me a figure I didn’t know I even had.
To my horror, I had forgotten to bring the matching heels for the dress but Sabrina surprisingly had the same shoe size as me. She must have been feeling generous because she lent me really nice pair of black flats that she usually wears casually but looked nice enough to wear with my dress.
In all seriousness, I was really grateful to her.
I was surprised she wasn’t getting ready with her friends because that’s what I would have done with Lizzy and Gina. However, when I asked her why she wasn’t with her little crew, Sabrina just said she didn’t feel the need to get ready with other people. I guess she was just so independent and confident that she didn’t really need anyone.
“You okay?” Sabrina asked, breaking me out of my trance.
“Yea. Sorry.” I mumbled, feeling a little embarrassed when I realised that we were still standing in front of the doorway to the dance.
Sabrina gave me a small smile and walked ahead into the dim lights of the ballroom.
I reluctantly followed her, not knowing what to expect.
In the end, it was pretty nice.
I think they were trying to go with a Winter Wonderland kind of theme because in the two hours we were given free, the ballroom had been transformed into a sparkling Ice Palace.
There were snowflakes and fake icicles hanging from the roof, the floor was covered in fake snow and light blue curtains hung from the walls. Even the lights had a blue tinge which just added to the surreal environment.
A David Guetta song was blasting from the hidden speakers that had been playing Mozart only a few hours earlier and there was a large dancefloor in the centre of the room, complete with flashing rainbow lights and a DJ.
“They put a lot of effort into this.” Gina said, popping out of nowhere and standing next to me.
She had let her sandy hair out of her trademark ponytail and was wearing a short black dress with silver flats.
“Yea. I’m not really sure if it’s that worth it but I suppose we’ll find out.” I replied.
It was still early in the night so people weren’t moshing yet.
Instead I chatted to Gina by the snack table and eyed everyone’s dresses. Some girls looked amazing but others looked a bit desperate in low cut, busty ensembles.
All the boys looked the same though, in black suits and black ties. Some of them mixed it up a bit and wore grey, white and, to my disgust, brown suits but apart from that, there wasn’t much to see.
“Hey Tegan!” I heard a voice call out and I turned to see Paul waving at me frantically with Josh by his side.
“Looking suave Paul.” I said with a laugh as I took in his combed back hair and crisp, clean black suit.
“I gotta look my best for the ladies.” He said with a wink and reached past me to grab some punch.
“So did you have fun at this teambuilding weekend thing?” I asked as I munched on some chips and Gina turned all quiet and shy. I was surprised I hadn’t seen him at all until now.
Paul shrugged while Josh reached into his jacket and pulled out a flask of something that looked a little alcoholic.
“It was alright. I met a lot of new people which I guess is a good thing. Where’s Lizzy?” Paul glanced around at the crowd and I did the same, trying to spot my blonde friend. Josh, on the other hand, was basically sculling down his mystery drink while Gina stared in awe.
“Lizzy’s probably in that crowd of girls sitting over there.” I said, pointing to a table not too far away.
“How come she’s not with you?” Paul asked curiously, his blue eyes meeting my own.
I just shrugged.
“She likes to socialise.”
There was something off about Paul and Josh and that’s when I realised that I was used to seeing them in a group of three, not just the two.
“Where’s that sleazebag Lucas?” I asked with disdain, pouring myself a cup of punch and sipping the sugary goodness.
Paul and Josh exchanged strange looks.
“Well he didn’t want to come for some reason.” Paul reluctantly explained. “He’s a weird fellow. He only moved to Fishbowl like a month ago so I thought he’d want to socialise with lots of people at a thing like this but he said he was busy and had something on tonight.”
“He only moved here a month ago?” I asked, shocked at this little bit of information.
Paul shrugged under the shimmery blue light.
“I can’t remember where he moved from but yea, he’s a new in town.”
Paul and Josh then proceeded to go and woo two girls who were falling over each other near the dance floor and Gina and I decided to sit down at a table so we had a good spot to eat dinner.
We didn’t really know anyone we were sitting with but that didn’t seem to matter because everyone was just chatting with their own friends. The music was pretty loud anyway and it was a challenge to hear the person talking right next to you.
Then they brought out the food which, to my joy, turned out to be a massive portion of steak with mashed potato.
I consumed my meal without a pause, devouring the whole thing with several mouthfuls of punch.
Then I finished off Gina’s leftovers and was so happy that I felt like dancing.
“Tegan, do we have to?” Gina complained as I tried to drag her to the dancefloor.
“Yes!” I cried. “Everyone’s dancing so no one will see you.”
As we walked through the crowd of people, I ran into Lizzy who was red in the face and still looked drunk.
“Hey.” I said with a wide smile.
Lizzy’s face, on the other hand, turned sour.
“I saw you arrive with Sabrina.” She spat bitterly. “You don’t need to talk to me anymore.”
Whoa that was harsh.
Lizzy turned away and I just shrugged it off.
I’m sure she’ll be okay once she sobers up.
“Come on Gina.” I complained as Gina once again tried to run away.
“Fine.” Gina sighed and a second later we were moshing on the dancefloor, jumping up and down like crazy and dancing with everyone else. It was awkward at first because I was still carrying my clutch but I got used to it and eventually I forgot I was even holding it.
There were also quite a few people who were already drunk but I didn’t mind because they all acted like I was their best friend and I liked having friends. Some random girl who I’d never met before even came up to me and gave me a massive hug before yelling how much she loved me in my ear.
Then Super Bass started playing and everyone screamed in joy. The dancing and jumping and moshing kicked up to a new level and everyone was laughing and singing along.
I hadn’t had so much fun in my life. There were people all around me and I was tiny because they were all wearing 5inch heels but I didn’t care. We were all best friends and all we cared about was the beat and the song and the weightless, infectious feeling that came from everyone having a good time.
That was until some girl jumped on my foot in stilettos and the pain almost made me pass out. I screamed and hopped on one foot, colliding with some guy who was standing right behind me.
“Sorry.” I said, glancing around and not taking much notice of the tall guy with spiked up brown hair.
That was until he tapped me on the shoulder and I turned around, slightly annoyed that he was killing my buzz.
“What?” I yelled above the music.
“I remember you now!” The guy yelled back with a wide smile.
“What?” I cried, but this time in confusion.
He did look familiar but I couldn’t remember where from.
“You are the Kensington girl from the bus!” He shouted.
“No I’m not!” I said, panicking.
“Yes you are! You’re the one with the sweet ass!”
I knew I was dead the moment he said it.
Everyone close to us suddenly stopped dancing and stared at me openly. This caused the people close to those people to stop dancing and so on so forth.
Before I knew it, the whole dancefloor was still and everyone was ogling me. Just like at Jason’s party, the DJ even turned the music down.
“You’re the Kensington butt girl?” Someone yelled.
I was frozen. Oh Lord.
“Yea she is!” I heard someone else shout; someone who sounded like Buff Man.
The effect was instantaneous.
Everyone tried to grab me, people closing in from everywhere I looked. I have no idea why but hands were everywhere, pulling at my arms and tugging in all directions.
“Oh my God!”
“Is it really her?”
“Bring her over here!”
“I thought it was Clarissa!”
“Get off!” I screamed, hugging myself and trying to push my way through the crowd.
“What is going on here?” Ms Etherington yelled and suddenly everyone went silent. A pathway was created through the crowd as people moved out of the way to let the stiff, butch woman stomp her way towards me.
I don’t think anyone even took a breath as the little woman came up to me with blazing eyes.
“And what is your name young lady?” she asked in a fake voice.
I swallowed nervously.
“And why are you causing such a commotion, Tegan?”
I looked away from her big hazel eyes and instead focussed on the clear pathway behind her which led straight to the door and freedom.
All I needed was a distraction and I’d be saved.
Luckily, fate didn’t hate me today and someone stepped on a chip that was lying on the floor.
That loud crunch was the best I could hope for.
While everyone turned to the source of the sudden noise, I darted forward, sidestepped Ms Etherington and ran faster and faster towards the door.
Everyone started yelling at once but I didn’t care. With one hand still tightly clenched around my clutch, I swerved, ducked, spun and pushed my way forward, my eyes glued to those wooden doors and the light streaming in from beyond it.
Someone managed to grab a hold of my arm but I elbowed them in the stomach and kept going, my feet hammering across the floor.
I was so glad I was wearing flats.
Freedom felt amazing as I flew through those double doors and out into the foyer.
I had a feeling someone would run after me so I leaped down the stairs taking two at a time until I reached the lobby. I wasn’t tired just yet. The adrenalin kept me going and I decided that maybe next year I’ll join the track and field team. That is if I made it out of this embarrassment with my dignity which seemed to shrink with each passing second.
The lobby never looked so amazing as I sprinted through the black and gold décor and out of the rotating doors.
Then I ran down the street, letting my pace slow and my strides shorten.
My heart was racing but I was starting to feel the strain on my muscles and the pounding in my head was making me dizzy.
I stopped and put my hands on my knees as I took gasping breaths.
I was sweating like crazy so I sat on the curb and wiped my forehead, letting my pulse become regular.
“Wow.” I said to myself, letting the night breeze cool my skin down.
Then I started laughing. I couldn’t believe I did that. I just ran away.
Maybe running away sorts out all your problems. I should try it more often.
I laughed like a total mad woman, cackling as I sat by the side of the road holding my sides which felt like they were about to split.
Then I ran out of breath and I had to hunch over and focus on letting the air in and out.
Eventually my breathing returned to normal and I was able to sit up properly and wipe all the gross sweat off my face.
Looking at my damp hands, I wondered if my makeup had smudged or if I looked as crazy as I felt. Either way, I didn’t care. That was one of the best experiences of my whole entire life.
Once I felt calmer, I sat back and tried to figure out where I was. It looked like I was sitting in some deserted little side street full of massive mansions.
I must have run into that super rich suburb overlooking the harbour where all the elite people live.
Curious, I stood up and walked down the road, flanked on both sides by large iron fences that lined what looked like miniature sandstone castles.
It would be nice to live in one of these houses but it would probably cost a fortune.
The street was deserted but I felt so alive. The air was fresh against my cheeks and blood was still rushing through my veins from my little escapade.
However, my pace started to slow down when I saw something up ahead underneath the dim light of a streetlamp.
It looked like a sleeping figure slumped against the fence of one of the mansions.
I immediately felt a sense of fear.
Maybe it was just a hobo. Or maybe it was an escaped mental patient waiting for an unsuspecting victim.
A million different scenarios ran through my head, all of them ending with me lying dead by the side of the road while some maniac ran off with all my money.
I wanted to turn and go back to the hotel but something drew me in towards the person. They looked familiar.
Against my better reason, I took slow, quiet steps forward until I was standing over the sleeping figure.
It definitely wasn’t a hobo.
He was lying with legs stretched out and his arms folded loosely across his chest. The hood of his black leather jacket was pulled up to cover his face but even then I could tell who it was.
“Hey!” I yelled.
The figure didn’t stir but instead let out something that sounded like a snore.
That made my blood boil.
Turning sharply, I picked up the biggest stone I could find and hurled it at the guy. It hit him right on the top of his head and I felt satisfied at the loud thump and the strangled yell that issued from his mouth.
“What the fuck?” He cried, sitting up and peering at me with a scowl. Upon seeing my outraged face, his expression softened and he lay back down.
“Oh, it’s just you.” He mumbled, closing his eyes again.
It’s just me?
Seeing Raith acting so calm and in control set me off. I just wanted to throw my bag at him. I still couldn’t believe that he had left without saying a word to me. I didn’t want to tell him that I had actually been worried about him for a few days.
And what the flip was he doing just randomly sleeping on the street?
I walked over to the nearest house and reached through the bars of the wrought iron gate, grabbing a handful of pebbles from the dried up birdbath on the other side.
“Hey, wake up you douche!” I shouted, throwing one of the small rocks at him.
“What?” he snapped, opening his eyes and glaring at me.
I stared at him for a moment, taking in his handsome yet emotionless face.
I couldn’t help it. I wanted to cry. Why was he acting like this? Why was he acting like nothing was wrong?
“I hate you!” I shrieked, throwing pebble after pebble at the stupid boy. He flinched and held up his arms to protect his face while cursing.
“Tegan, calm down!” he yelled, ducking against the onslaught of small rocks.
When I ran out of ammunition, he stood up quickly and approached me with both hands held up like he was surrendering.
“You’re such a jerk!” I cried, finding it hard to get my breathing under control and trying my best not to burst into tears.
“I know.” Raith said quietly. He stopped walking when he was a metre or so away from me and just watched me with those dark eyes.
I held his gaze, unsure about what I should do next. I was still unbelievably angry but I had run out of things to throw at him.
“Why do you look so nice tonight?” Raith asked, suddenly changing the subject.
The tone of his voice was soft and sincere which caught me off-guard and made my anger momentarily subside.
I hadn’t seen him in a while and I suppose I forgot how handsome he was because my heart started racing again and my face started to heat up.
Stupid Raith and his sculpted face and soft dark hair.
“There was a dance at my school teambuilding thing.” I said sulkily, looking away and feeling a little embarrassed.
I sat down on the curb and Raith hesitantly joined me, sitting a little closer than normal.
We were silent for a few minutes as I stared at his black sneakers angrily.
“Do you feel like chocolate icecream?” Raith asked, sounding almost a little uncertain as he conjured the dessert out of thin air.
“You can’t keep buying me food to make me happy. I’m not a farm animal.” I snapped, though I took the icecream he was offering because it’d be a waste if I didn’t.
We both sat in silence again, me moodily licking my sweet dessert while Raith played with a loose thread on his leather jacket.
“So where did you go?” I asked darkly, my eyes glued to the dark road.
“You’re a dick.”
I bit aggressively into the icecream cone and glared at him.
“What?” he asked, brushing a strand of his dark brown hair out of his eyes and raising an eyebrow.
I think I was about to hyperventilate because I was so angry.
“So you get up and leave whenever you want without telling me.” I said as calmly as I could while my temper started to soar.
“Well, yeah.” Raith said simply, his face a mask of innocence.
“That’s it?” I suddenly screamed at him, so loud that my throat felt like it had been burnt raw.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Raith retorted, his voice also getting louder as he frowned at me, genuinely confused.
“Oh, well I thought that after everything we’ve been though, you would have the decency to tell me when you were going!” I shouted, unable to even think properly. There was a rush of blood to my head and it felt like I was going to explode into a million angry pieces. I felt hot and dizzy, like I was about to faint.
Raith looked even more surprised because his eyebrows had risen so high that they had disappeared behind his hair somewhere.
“Were you worried about me?” he asked softly, his eyes wide as he leaned towards me.
At first I thought he was teasing me which made me want to rip his head off and jump on it but after a second I realised that he was being serious.
“Well…I didn’t know what happened.” I defended, unable to look away. This was one of those rare moments when I was close enough to look into his eyes and actually see that they were a really deep green and not the dark black colour they appeared to be from far away.
I saw a strange emotion in his eyes. It was surprise mixed with something like gratitude but not quite. He had long eyelashes. He was so close that I could probably count them.
“Anyway,” I said quickly, going red again and looking away. I felt so vulnerable under his scrutiny. He could probably see all the blemishes on my face.
I cleared my throat awkwardly and continued my sentence.
“It’s good to know that you weren’t attacked by Babu and lying in a ditch somewhere getting eaten by rabid dogs.” I mumbled.
“That is a comforting thought.” Raith said sarcastically. He retreated back to his original position and stretched his arms high above his head. “Was the dance fun?”
I snorted and shook my head, eating more of the delicious icecream. It actually tasted really good. It was possibly the best softserve icecream I’ve ever had.
“It was alright until someone brought up a certain picture of myself and everyone wouldn’t leave me alone so I ran away.” I explained, pulling my knees up to my chest and resting my chin on them.
“A certain picture? Sounds dirty.” Raith winked at me and gave me a sleazy smile which made me laugh and choke at the same time.
“You wish.” I grumbled, though I wasn’t really mad at all.
“I do wish. Believe me.”
I suddenly remembered the last time Raith had seen me…which was in the bathroom without a shirt on.
“Oh man.” I said, feeling my face heat up for the fifth time in the last ten minutes.
“What?” This time Raith sounded sneaky so I just rolled my eyes.
“Just wishing my life wasn’t so embarrassing.”
We were both quiet again but this time it wasn’t tense.
I finished my treat and closed my eyes, enjoying the feel of the evening breeze on my face. It smelt so nice out here in the open; my whole body felt relaxed.
It must have been a funny sight; me, all dressed up in a floor length gown, sitting by the side of the road eating an icecream next to some tall boy dressed in black.
I would never have imagined I’d find myself in a situation like this at the start of the year. It was just so random and yet, I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.
I turned and smiled brightly at Raith, who looked at me with a puzzled expression.
“Hey Raith,” I said, beaming.
“What?” Raith asked nervously, looking uncomfortable at how happy I seemed.
“Thanks for everything.”
I smiled even more and after a brief pause, he gave me an uncertain smile back.
“You’re a weird girl Tegan.” Raith said, shaking his head as if I was hopeless. “But you do look pretty tonight.”
His smile turned sweet and I gulped, thrown off by the compliment which made my stomach drop and do flips like it was a gymnast at the Stomach Olympics.
“Seriously.” Raith added, giving me a crooked grin which made me feel all warm and fuzzy. He leaned in closer and I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I didn’t know what he wanted to do. He couldn’t touch me or anything. But oh Lord was he close. Why couldn’t I breathe properly? Stupid hormones. I was going to suffocate because of my stupid hormones.
“Ah…Uhm…” My mouth couldn’t even function properly. My heart was pounding so fast that I felt light headed. What the flip?
“Tegan…” Raith whispered softly as he leaned in even more. There was something so intimate about the way he said my name that my face began to heat up and suddenly my brain went into overdrive.
No you fool. If he touches you you’re dead!
I don’t care. He’s freaking hot!
So what? There are plenty of other good looking, safe people out there.
Noooo! I want this hot person!
Get a grip.
No, you get a grip! I’m gonna do it.
I forbid you!
You think that’s going to stop me?
I waited with my heart in my throat as Raith closed the distance between us, only to stop when his face was less than an inch away from mine.
Our eyes locked but before I could do anything else, Raith reached across my lap and grabbed my clutch which was sitting on the curb next to me.
“Tegan, your phone is ringing.” He said simply.
Then he moved back and started to rummage through my bag.
Oh God. That whole time he was just trying to get my clutch?
I almost collapsed on the ground as my lungs sucked in as much air as they could possibly hold. I could finally breathe again. I hoped it wasn’t obvious that I had been holding my breath. But seriously, Raith was such a jerk for pulling a stunt like that.
I glared at him as he pulled out my phone which was vibrating like crazy. No wonder I didn’t hear it. I had put it on silent mode but I guess it had been ringing and annoying Raith for some time.
But geez he could have just told me it was ringing instead of reaching over me to get it. There’s a thing called personal space you know.
Raith looked at the screen of the phone for a moment before tossing it over to me with a mischievous look on his face.
I caught it was a sour expression but decided to yell at him after I take the call. I glanced at the caller ID and saw that it was Jess calling from the landline at home.
Confused, I answered it.
“Yea?” I said, wondering what she wanted since she had been ignoring me for almost a week now.
There was silence on the other hand and I frowned.
“Hello?” I repeated tentatively. Raith also watched me with a worried expression.
I gritted my teeth and was about to hang up when I heard a sound that sent chills down my spine.
I’m pretty sure I just heard Jess scream on the other end of the phone.