"So close and still so far." (1)
“What are you doing?! I thought you liked Nate!?”
Was written when I opened my journal to pour my sadness into writing, but now, I feel more stupid because the journal I brought is the one I couldn’t write on. Shakily, I take deep breaths and take a tissue to wipe my eyes carefully, trying not to ruin my mascara. Once my heart beats steadily, I pull my pen out to write: ’The Mariana Nate fancies, is the 23-year-old me from the future, not the real 15-year-old me, who is bitchy and mean and naïve and spoiled, that he will encounter again after all of this. I made my decision, and it’s not going to be Nate. He deserves to be with someone else, not this shitty teenager me.’
Before the ink sinks in, I close my journal.
After I made sure my makeup was okay again from all my tears, I headed back to the great hall. The party goes on without a hitch, and everyone is having so much fun; it’s pretty overwhelming. The band is now playing modern songs, and I see how much I have missed. Then I remember my promise to April that I will be there with her when she asks Gabriel. So, I walk back to our table. I see Ryan, worried and neck stretches, looking everywhere, perhaps for me, and suddenly I feel guilty of ditching him for Nate. It’s clear to me how relieved he feels when he finally sees me walking towards them. He stands up from his chair and hugs me as if I’ve been gone for so long. Not even bothered by another set of eyes staring at us, he cups my face in his hand and looks closely at me.
“Have you been crying, my dear?” he asks, concern visibly shown in his eyes.
I cover his hand with mine on my cheek, and he intertwines my fingers with his. “Just allergies, sorry. I went to the ladies’ room to sort it out,” I lied.
He brushes my outgrown fringe aside and places them behind my ear. His fingers sliding across my cheeks and then tracing my jaw with the back of his hand, “I’m just,” he sighs. “I’m glad you’re alright,” he leads me back to our seats and gives me a drink.
As I swallow the fizzy drink, I gasp, “aw, Mountain Dew!” I smile and pull his neck so I could kiss him on his cheek. “You remembered! Thank you for everything, Ryan.”
He blushes under my touch, “anything for you, my dear.”
My heart honestly flutters at his words. I have no idea why I love it when someone calls me my dear. It sounds endearing; only Jace called me that when we were still dating. Why on earth does Jace keep popping into my mind?
Ryan scoots his chair closer to mine and slides his hand to cuddle me as we watch our friends dance below the mirror ball. I feel vulnerable right now, and I’m glad Ryan is here to comfort me, even if he has no clue why. I watch him laugh at how ridiculous everyone’s moves are at the upbeat music. His eyes twinkle in the now dim-lit hall, and it made me smile.
I notice April is with my classmates on the dance floor, stealing glances at Gabriel. He was leaning on the wall, drinking his mocktail with some of his friends. Pulling away from Ryan, I say, “Would you excuse me for a moment?”
“Yes, of course, Mari,” he says and stands up, helping me to get out of my seat.
Glancing at the dense Gabriel, I walk to April and grab her arm. “You, young lady, are coming with me.”
April feigns her ‘get away from me’ move, but her face betrays her protests because she’s trying not to break into a grin. “I can walk without you, pulling me, you know!”
“Just come on!” I say, laughing, beckoning her to come with me.
As I tread my way to Gabriel, April walks closely behind me, playing with her gloves to ease her built-up tension. She wraps her arm around mine and levels her pace with me. I tell her to relax, and she will be fine, and she looks beautiful.
“But I don’t know if I can!” she whispers fast, fiddling her fingers in the curls of her black hair.
I shake my head and push her forward, “too late!” I say when I’m almost in front of Gabriel. He smiles at us as he puts down his drink from his mouth. “Hi, I’m Mariana, and my best friend here has something to say to you.”
April pinches me as she panics beside me. Gabriel nods at April as I encourage her to get on with it. I put my thumbs up and push her to him. I give her space as I lure his friend away. “Hey, would you like to hit the dance floor?”
His friend beams at me as I look over April. I overheard Gabriel asking April if she is Dean Matsumoto’s younger sister, and I saw her face light up because he is the one who initiated the conversation. The next thing I know, as I dance with this unknown lad, Gabriel has April in his arms. She looks over her shoulder to mouth, “OH, MY GOD!”
I laugh and continue dancing, thinking ’mission accomplished’. Someone taps me on my shoulder.
“Do you mind if I cut in?” says Chandler, who looks so slick and incredibly cool in his dinner tuxedo. He had changed the frames of his eyeglasses to square, and it suits him so well. He is smoking hot too, but a bit early for him to transform as a hunk since he started being more handsome when we became seniors. My jaws drop at the sight of him. He holds out his hand. “Well, shall we?”
My mouth is still agape. “Chandler! Wow, you look great!”
He is still shy whenever I give him compliments. I watch his cheeks flush when I let him hold my hand, and the heat from his palm sends sparks against mine. I feel his hand still lingering when I place my other hand on his shoulder.
“So, are you having fun?”
Smiling, I look up at him and notice that he grew inches taller than before. “Yes, our teachers have outdone themselves.”
He gazes down at me, confused. “Oh, yeah, I guess it’s because it’s my first time, but, yeah,” he looks at the surroundings. “They had done a pretty good job. I will anticipate what kind of dinner party we will have next year.”
I grimace a bit when I remember this is also my first time at the annual high school dinner party. I grin and nod. “I bet it will be grander, or perhaps, more hip?” We both laugh at how oldie I’m talking right now. I clear my throat and ask, as we sway to the change of music (Telephone), “how about you, Chan? Are you having fun?”
He pulls his head back and laughs again, “yeah, now that you’re here dancing with me. Yes, I am.”
I blink fast, “oh,” and nervously giggle.
Then he stops dancing. He takes out a small rectangular box in his pocket and gives it to me. “Once again, belated happy birthday!”
I roll my eyes to hide my appreciation and open it. It contains two BIG Crayola crayons, violet and yellow. “You are weird, but I like it. Thank you!”
His cheeks darken, and he looks away. “If there’s only pink, I would definitely give it to you. So I figured violet because it’s a pretty colour and you are pretty, and yellow because you always brighten up the room.”
I hug him and give him a peck on his cheek. “You’re such a sweetheart; you know that, Chandler?”
“Anyway,” he clears his throat. “Did you hear there’s gonna be an after-party after this? Are you going?” he asks. “I asked April, and she said she’s coming if you or Ros or any of our classmates go.”
I shrug. “I dunno, we’ll see.”
Because I think by the time the ‘after party’ begins, the real 15-year-old me will take over this body. So as another song swells in the great hall, I hold his hands up and entice him to jump with me to the beat. I sing along to the chorus of Nothin’ On You because I can’t rap. Chandler laughs with me.