The night had finally arrived, the one any high schooler either dreaded or anticipated. Soft, slow music floated down from the ceiling, and rosy light cast everything in a warm pink glow. Hundreds of people twirled around the room - lords and ladies, knights and nobles. They bobbed and weaved in time with the melody, intertwined with one another, seemingly floating on air. Bright smiles and joyous laughter reflected the idealistic nature behind the whole dance. And yet, some things never truly change, and no event can ever make everyone happy. Thus, the misfits crowded the walls, glaring at the happy couples. Dark lines of jealousy and regret mixed with undertones of emotional pain, creeping in on the bright and happy scene. Feelings clashed, the light and the dark pushing back and forth in the eternal duel of life. The dividing lines were clearly marked, and even the lights of the dance floor ended where the outcasts' territory began, the outskirts of the old gymnasium cast in shadows. The battle between emotions joined with reality as pairs of dancers split apart on the floor, the happiness found in each other's embrace no longer present, their unhappy endings a stark contrast to the wall flowers that found another and blossomed, peeling off of the dark corners together towards the dance floor. But one wall flower in particular stood apart from all others, the darkest bastion of loneliness. He had a strong jaw, with forest green eyes framed by a mop of dark hair. He remained leaning against the wall, his dark shirt and pants allowing him to blend in with the gloom of the fringe. He never moved, instead choosing to remain perfectly still while his eyes tracked the movements of one person. His best friend, a sweet and happy girl named Morgan, danced happily by herself in the middle of the throng, oblivious to her surroundings. Her vibrant pink dress matched her personality, bright and happy, bouncing in tandem with the chocolate-colored curls of her hair. She noticed him, and immediately motioned for him to join her, her movements accentuated by a blinding smile. He gently smirked and simply shook his head, rolling his eyes when she started pretending to pout. To his horror, she began picking her way through the crowd of dancers, obviously moving in his direction. He started looking around for the exits, beginning to feel the onset of panic. Noticing an emergency exit, he crept his way there, thinking that the situation definitely counted as an emergency. However, he froze as a slender hand slipped around his waist. The panicky feeling reached a height he didn't think possible as Morgan stepped in front of him.
"Jake, why don't you want to dance with me?" She asked gently, a slight smile playing across her face.
"I-I, um, you, uh, w-what?" He stumbled, his tongue suddenly feeling very heavy in his mouth. She giggled, and he felt his face turn scarlet.
"It's okay, Jake. I was just joking," she whispered, a mischievous glint in her eyes. He felt himself ease up a little, and she smiled. "But seriously, come on. You're missing out on all of the fun!" He remained rooted in place as she started turning away, and she spun back to face him, concern now written all over her face after realizing he wasn't following.
"Jake, are you alright? I'm being serious this time," she said, and gently slipped her hand into his. He felt his heart rate increase tenfold, and his eyes widened in surprise.
"You aren't exactly helping with a stunt like that," he muttered under his breath, and when she politely asked him what he said, he responded with a quick "nothing." He did his best to keep his stoic facade from crumbling, but every word said between them did nothing but cause him more panic. Why is this happening to me? he thought to himself. I'm able to talk to her normally all the time, so why am I so nervous now? I can't even speak without fumbling over my words. Noticing she was still staring inquisitively at him, he quickly scrambled to respond. "Dances aren't really my thing," he said. "I'm not sure there's anyone I would want to dance with here anyways." What in the world?! What kind of idiotic response was that? His mind raced, and he mentally kicked himself for being so stupid. He turned to face her, looking down to avoid seeing the hurt in those brilliant amber eyes. Her hand slipped from his, and he instantly knew he had messed up.
"What, am I not enough for you?" She started, hints of anger starting to creep into her voice. Gone was the inquisitive look, replaced by a face of pain all too familiar to him. He saw that look in the mirror every morning. "You'd think that after three years of being the closest pair of friends in the school, you'd want to dance with me, but no," she snapped. "No, you'll sit over here on the wall, sulking by yourself in the dark, while your best friend wants nothing more than for you to join her on the dance floor. It's not like I asked you to come with me or anything like that, or that you drove me here in your car," she continued, now obviously enraged. "I spent two and a half hours getting ready for YOU. Countless hours shopping for a dress that I think YOU will like. Working extra shifts at my job to earn enough money to pay for the dress that YOU told me to get out of the ones I showed you." She was breathing heavily, anger radiating from the petite frame in front of him. He had never felt so ashamed or afraid in his life. But she still wasn't done. "I swear, Jake, I don't know why I even try anymore. I don't know why I love you, but I do." Time froze. The world faded to nothingness around him, and all he could see was her in front of him. She had stopped, suddenly aware of her confession. He blinked several times, trying to figure out if this really was real. Morgan had gone red in the face, now unable to meet his eyes. But it all made sense. All of those little incidents, those innocent comments she had made that he'd completely overlooked until that minute, all lined up now. How could I be so dense? He immediately knew how to fix his blunder. Without speaking a word, he grabbed her hand. Beads of sweat raced down the back of his neck, cold like ice against his skin, but he didn't care. He was done being quiet and reserved. Wordlessly, he pulled her to the middle of the dance floor, and spun her into his arms. The surprise behind those beautiful eyes of hers was unforgettable, and he savored the moment. Sounds of piano and violins danced alongside the pair, but he couldn't have cared if it was someone beating on two empty trash cans. All that mattered was that he was here with her. And she loved him.
"Jake, I- what are you-" she started, but he silently shook his head. She got the unspoken message, and slowly leaned in, gently resting her head against his chest. He closed his eyes, giving up on his apathetic facade. They swayed gently to the rhythm of the music, the light of the girl and the dark of the boy complimenting each other perfectly. She tilted her head up ever so slightly, and he saw his chance. For the first time, their lips met, and everything around them became inconsequential. And in that moment, life was perfect. The two broke apart, and she giggled ever so slightly. Both were red in the face, but they didn't care. He leaned in again, grinning like a fool.
"If it wasn't aware, I love you too," he uttered, feeling his heart leap as the pent-up emotion he'd held in careful check for nearly three years flooded out. "Does that fix my mistake?" He allowed himself a laugh, and she smiled, tears in her eyes.
"I'm afraid that doesn't, Mr. Halligan," she murmured. "The nerve you must have to say that after the emotional roller coaster you just put me through is unbelievable."
"Well, I'm sorry if I'm a little slow on the uptake," he shot back. "But to be fair, you're not the most obtuse person when it comes to admitting your feelings. In fact, you can be a little bit subtle with those hints of yours when you want to be."
And the world melted away as she kissed him again.
Sent: Thursday, March 9, 2023 4:03 PM
To: Galloway, John <[email protected]>
Subject: Short Story-Post 2