"Look how far we've come." (2)
“Are you okay, Mari?” asks Kayla from the further left side of me. The boys are having a laugh with Ryan, enjoying the odd attention from a higher year schoolmate.
Brushing off my crestfallen feelings of having Nate supposed to be so close to me, I focus back on my friends sitting at the table with me. I nod and smile reassuringly at Kayla. With Ryan sitting on my left, he envelops his warm hand on top of mine under the table. He then leans in and gives me a kiss on my cheek. I notice Ros hits April, and she hits her back out of the giddiness they feel for me. Then, everyone continues chatting.
I observe every face on the table with me. I’m sitting between Ryan, who is on my left and April on my right. Ros is, of course, sitting next to April, and to her right sits Andrew. Jared and Jason are in between Andrew and Paul while Kayla sits next to him. Their seats are pulled closer together, and they are talking intimately. Next to Kayla sits Nicole, who is looking at the band on stage.
Everything quiets down when our Headmaster, Mr Morales, walks on the podium, addressing another successful Founders’ day. Applause roars in the hall, and then he gives regards to every student’s hard work for the past week and to the advisers with such patience to their students. Everyone laughs at his remark. Mr Morales also acknowledges the homeroom winners of the main event, my classmates, alongside the other winners, who cheer loudly. I laugh at Ros being so happy; she forgets she’s wearing a gown for a second. As our Headmaster continues making his speech, servers have been placing food in front of us.
“Let the feast begin!” he kind of shouts, and everyone cheers.
Ryan scoots his seat closer to mine as the delicious waft of different varieties of food lay on the table for us to get. We dig in, and I take just enough for me to fill my stomach since I have been feeling restless. The hall is filled with chatters and laughter as the band plays melodic symphonies, entertaining us with non-lyrical music. Just as I start eating my dessert, Mrs Burton walks to me and asks me about my performance later this evening. I tell her that I am ready and prepared, and the band knows what I’m going to sing. I also tell her the technical crew knows what they are going to do when I perform. She gives me thumbs up and walks away. I forgot to mention. It is also a tradition that whoever wins the talent showcase will be giving a performance at the coronation of the Duke and Duchess before everyone heads home. I should be excited about performing tonight but, it also means…
“Mari, can I have the first dance?” asks Ryan.
April nudges my side and points at Ryan using her head. I haven’t noticed I have finished eating my meal already, and Ryan has stood up. His hand is holding out for me to reach. I peel my eyes away from him for a second to see my friends had hit the dance floor. A romantic jazz song in the ’40s is playing, and I suddenly feel conscious because It’s Been a Long, Long Time is the song. It’s one of my favourites.
“Of course,” I say, and he helps me out of the chair.
He holds out his elbow, and I link my arm to him, and he leads me to the dance floor. I notice most of our schoolmates dancing are juniors; looking at them (dressed up in their 40’s and 50’s outfits) makes me remember that it was a hit at the end of World War II. The thought of it gives me chills from the crown of my head to the back of my heels.
Ryan sees my nervousness. He lowers his arm to hold my hand and soothes me by caressing his thumb in a circular motion. Ryan looks at me with his angelic smile. But he makes me nervous cause he is a dancer; I’m scared I might step on his feet. As if he knows what I’m thinking of, I feel him chuckling beside me.
When we’re below the mirror ball, Ryan beams warmly at me, “Don’t worry, I always got you, Mari.”
With his words, I start to relax and think about what he meant. But all was erased when the female singer started to sing. Ryan places his hand behind my back and holds up my right hand as I rest my left hand on his arm. I don’t know much about waltz and formal dancing, so I try to follow his lead. Looking down at our feet, he steps forward with his left foot, and I step back with my right foot; he steps left, I will step right. I pick it up fast and grin at him. In order to feel or sense his next move, I close the gap between us, pulling him closer to me. He tilts his head, and his lips stretch to a mesmerizing smile as we stare into each other’s eyes.
“See?” he says under his breath. “It’s not that hard.”
I shake my head at him, laughing. I say and not mean to sound squeaky, “I’m just following your lead, Ryan.”
His hand behind my back holds me tighter, and I let him lead me. I rest my head on his chest, listening to the calm beating of his heart. How can he make my heart beat fast while I make him relaxed? Is he really comfortable around me, or is he just a good playboy? I have no idea.
We didn’t notice as the song shifted to the slower version of Cheek to Cheek. He and I still dance in each other’s arms. He rests his cheek on the top of my head, and I close my eyes, wishing it to be Nate dancing here with me, but I immediately brush the thought away. It isn’t fair to Ryan. He is just making me feel secure every time he holds me close. I start humming. Seriously, did the band look through the playlist of my iPod?
When the song finishes and everyone around us claps, I think most of our schoolmates have scattered around the hall and outside. Still in his arms, we are swaying slowly without the music when suddenly the sound of guitar flares plays in the not-so-silent room. I couldn’t contain the excitement that I jumped up, hitting and startling Ryan as the beat swells. He massages his jaw and laughs at me.
I look apologetically at him and point at the band. Some students have started dancing to the beat.
“They’re playing Johnny B. Goode!!!” I exclaim, jumping up and down in this heavy gown. “I’m sorry, I love this song!”
“I assume you know the Back to the Future trilogy?” says Ryan, amused.
As a reply, I twirl happily and sway my hands, side to side, “Who bloody doesn’t like those films?!” Thankfully I didn’t hit anyone.
He laughs as he watches me looking sideways if I have hurt someone. He snaps his fingers along with the beat and bobs his head, moving rhythmically with me. For three minutes and five seconds, I genuinely enjoyed Ryan’s company. We dance as if we really are in the ’50s, and it feels incredible. My smile is so bright when I sing along with the performer; I bet my face is turning red.
Ryan looks at me, content, and I feel my heart pump like clappers! I laugh, holding his shoulder for support, and I catch my breath. This gown is heavy! We all clap when the song finishes with a loud beat.
“Let me get us drinks!” says Ryan, loudly for me to hear as the band starts playing another upbeat song from the olden days. “I’ll meet you back at the table.”
Nodding, we walk separately, and I watch him head to the bar at the far corner of the hall. Then I see his friends talk to him. The edge of his eyes crinkles as he laughs at something his friends say, and then he looks back at me, happily. I nod at him and wave a little and head to the table.