"So close and still so far." (2)
We continue having fun together, and eventually, we reach our friends, and all of us dance around like there’s no tomorrow because, to me, it’s true. Ryan dances across the floor and weaves the crowd to my friends and me. He gives me another cup of Mt. Dew, and we clink our glasses. More and more people crowd around the dance floor, and I lose myself in the whirlwind of dancing with the closest friends I’ve got, drowning in our laughter and loud, upbeat music of You Belong with Me by Taylor Swift. No matter what happens next to me is another adventure I can’t wait to explore. Still, a part of me wishes to bottle these moments so that I could go back and replay these scenes. I hope this feeling never ends, to stay here with the people I care for and love forever.
Us girls, especially Swifties, dominate the hall with our voices. Hopping in this heavy dress, April and I sing back to back and enjoy the song.
The music comes to an end, and the band takes a short break. So now, the hired technical committee switched it to the stereo and plugged the CD player. Mrs Liao walks to the backstage, and perhaps to arrange the playlist, she plays High School Musical’s We’re All in this Together. I heard groans, but some of the students started dancing and singing and, sooner or later, everyone, not even the ones on the dance floor, danced step-by-step to the familiar, mainstream music.
Ryan re-enacts Troy, and I laugh my arse off. He spins me under his arm before we dance the steps. I see Ros trying the dance with Andrew closely and having loads of fun with laughter because she doesn’t know how to dance. Then I shift my eyes and see Nate with Lacey. They look like they’re hitting it off, which of course, definitely will happen. All he needs is a nudge. I didn’t realize I’m grinning when April dances next to me.
“What are you smiling about?” she says and looks in the direction where I’m looking. When she sees Nate dancing, her eyebrows furrow in bewilderment, and then she asks, “Isn’t that Lacey Adams?”
I nod. “Yeah, aren’t they perfect for each other?”
April’s mouth hangs open, and she stares at me, in pure disbelief of what I just said, “What the f —?!”
All I could do is laugh at her expression, and I laugh because I feel free and at ease with my decision. Nate and Lacey deserve to have their time together.
We heard someone change the music because of the sudden scratching of the record. Silence falls, and a few shouts from teachers bellow backstage, but the hall echoes with one piano key (G) and everyone bolts up. Even I hop and scream. It’s nostalgia night, anyways, and this song is perfect.
The crowd, most of them are boys and a handful of girls (and I’m one of them), sings along to My Chemical Romance’s Welcome to the Black Parade. I’m never an emo or punk kid, but this song rocks! Ryan and I jump to the drum beatings and sing out loud as if we’re in their live concert.
When the bridge comes, we are singing our hearts out, and I feel the goose pimples crawling on my skin intensify. April suddenly pulls me away. I shoot her a confused gaze as she drags me. I shout to Ryan and Chandler that we will be back.
“Mari, would you care to explain,” April pleads, “what happened?”
As I follow her to the bar, I tell her everything that happened earlier this evening on the balcony with a sigh. She looks hard at me, baffled and curious about everything.
“What are you gonna do now?” she asks as the bartender prepares our drinks. “So, you have decided who you like to be with?”
I sigh, wistfully, as I nod. But I put a smiling face at her. “I have,” because I figured it all doesn’t matter now, anyway. All I know is everyone seems to be happy with the outcome, and I’m okay with that.
She cranes her head forward, “well, who??”
“Here are your drinks, ladies,” says the bartender and gives us the glasses.
But before I could tell her my decision, one of our teachers walked to the podium and asked for everyone’s attention. She announces tonight’s Duke and Duchess of the ball. It is a poll the teachers make when they make their rounds during the party. I told you, it’s like prom. I don’t really understand this sort of tradition. Also, it’s my cue to get on backstage. I will be the one to serenade the couple before everyone joins them on the dance floor. The title of the Duke is given to the football captain and the Duchess to Leslie.
“Tell me later, Mari!” calls April behind me as I make a beeline to the stage.
I nod to her and check the time, ten forty-nine in the evening. My palms become sweaty, so I remove my gloves and shake my hands. My heartbeat accelerates as my time ticks. The teacher announces my name as I ascend to the stage.
“Good evening, everyone,” I smile when I step in front of the microphone as the titled couple glides to the dance floor. I sling the strap of the guitar on my shoulder and place the capo on the fifth fret. I press my fingers against the strings to a C chord, singing the lyrics first before plucking the strings of this acoustic guitar; pick between my fingers. The chords are simple, C, Am, F and then G, repeatedly in three-quarter timing. The spotlight shines on me as I perform Flightless Bird, American Mouth by Iron & Wine. I watch couples, one by one, go to the stage with the Duke and Duchess. My eyes roam at the people in each other’s arms as I sing the second verse but suddenly stop at Nate and Lacey. I try to make my voice as clear as I can.
My eyes drop to the ground when I’m close to singing the part of the second chorus. But when I look up again, my gaze suddenly falls on Ryan, who is smiling so brightly at me, and it calms my nerves. I smile as I strum more powerful now and belt the chorus in a high note. I move away a bit from the microphone to play the guitar passionately.
When I finish the song, I shake and twist the pain out on my left hand as I return the guitar to one of the band members. In the applause of the crowd, Ryan’s voice initiates, ’Encore! Encore! Encore!’ and everyone follows chanting.
It seems like I’m not the only one who doesn’t want this night to end. So, I ask the band if they know The Jonas Brothers’ Fly with Me. They smile brightly, nodding, and without warning, the electric guitar feedbacks and the piano tune starts playing. The swelling music sends shivers from my head to toe. The drums and strings join in, and it’s pretty dramatic, in my opinion, as the lights grow bright with each beat. My left foot automatically starts fidgeting to the rhythm.
“Here’s to us!” I say brilliantly, as I watch everyone starts jumping to the song, and I sing, smiling, overwhelmingly at Ryan, who probably has his cheeks aching due to grinning all the while now.
The song is the perfect end to this perfect night. I hop along with the band as they sing backup with me in choruses. When I hit the bridge and slow chorus, I see Ryan looking in my direction but not at me.
“If it’s you and me, forever…”
He starts moving towards the stage, and I watch him, a little bit puzzled.
“… You and me right now, I’d be alright.”
He is almost in the front, but with the music getting so zealous, I couldn’t help but belt out Nick Jonas’s lines and sing proudly. The guitar solo gives me another shiver from head to toe that I forgot about Ryan heading to the stage.
“Fly~” I sing, and intentionally haunting, “with me.”
With one last blow, the band gives their all.
“Good night, everybody!” I shout as everyone cheers. But everything happens so fast; it’s like a blur. Ryan shoves me aside, losing my balance, and I fall on my bum. The microphone blasts annoying feedback as he gets dump with red paint! The crowd gasps at the horrendous sight.