Chapter 3: The Dance
We finally get into town and head to the center square. As we approach it, I am feeling more nervous. Everyone’s going to know; they can’t not notice it. I’m going to get laughed at, ignored, or creeped on by a bunch of people. Well, I guess most of those things are going to happen even if I did have a bra on. I guess it doesn’t make a difference now.
We pull into the parking lot a few minutes after the official start time. There are about fifteen cars in the parking lot and in about an hour, there will be over a hundred. Everyone usually comes to the dances that are late in summer because there will only be a couple more this year.
This is the first time I have gone this year and it will probably be my last one this year too. I’m not one for dancing much. I have been to a total of three of these adult gatherings that are hidden under the false pretense of a social dance. A lot of adults just drink and hit on each other, knowing that the majority of folks who show up are single. I went to two of them last year and I found out quickly that they aren’t really my thing. But I guess it sounded good enough to go to tonight because I suggested it and it gives me a chance to meet people from neighboring towns without traveling too far.
I would like to go live far from home eventually. I just have no idea what I would do for a career. I barely even know what’s out in the world. The only life experiences other than farming I have learned are from the TV. The world is a huge unknown mystery and one that I would like to explore first-hand.
“Come on Ileana, let’s grab a table. Oh by the way, I got us a hotel room down the block.” Jack says as he walks away from me and towards the commotion.
“One sec.” I respond, taking in the scenery around me.
The dance floor is a square platform four inches off of the ground and forty feet long with beautiful stained red oak planks running across it. There is a white lattice fence around most of the edge that is streaming with lights. There is an opening and a ramp on each side.
There’s so much happening. It feels as if it was the calm before the storm. Right now there is a radio station playing over the speakers that are positioned on the edge of the dance floor. There are workers scrambling all over behind them to get everything set up for the band that will start playing in an hour.
About twenty feet away from the dance floor is the pavilion that is filled with tables and chairs. The bar and grill are also located inside on the closest corner to the dance floor. The town drunks are already showing off to the other few people by stumbling across the dance floor and drinking. The sight of Jack relieves a little tension as I see that he has grabbed the farthest table from the bar and I make my way over to him.
“Can I get you anything?” Jack asks as I plop down on the stool beside him.
“Nah...Wait, maybe a cheeseburger if they have some ready.”
“Sounds good, ketchup, onions, and pickles, right?” He asks already knowing he is right.
“You got it.” I say and start to zone while staring at the parking lot.
I wonder if she will be here tonight. You’ve already been through this and the answer you came up with was it’s doubtful. Why would a beautiful, wealthy woman show up here? It’s like a singles mixer for farmers. Why does it matter so much if she’s here? Why do I want her to be here? Why do I keep thinking of her? Well, I’m just going to try to not think and have a good night.
I head over to the bar and order a raspberry margarita and a beer for Jack. we both arrive back to the table at almost the same time.
“I would have gotten you a drink.” He says, half frowning and smiling at the beverages I brought over.
“I know, I didn’t want one when you asked, now I do. I want to quit thinking so much and relax a little.” I explain.
“What’s on your mind that you want to forget?”
“It’s nothing, just this woman I met a few days ago. She forgot some change, and I need to return it. For some reason she keeps occupying my mind.”
“Well, if that’s the case, let’s take a shot together to speed the process up a little.” Jack suggests and runs to the bar before I have a chance to object. I guess drinking faster will help my situation.
I start eating my burger and make it halfway through when he returns. “Here, it’ll be good for you. Don’t smell it, just drink. One, two, three!”
We both down the shot. That was bad. It tasted like straight up Captain Morgan. I exhale the alcohol fumes and feel a warm burn sensation that comes from my throat. “Jeez, was that straight Captain?”
“You bet! Nothing hits the spot better.” He cheers.
“It definitely hits a spot.” I laugh and take another bite of my burger to rid myself of the after taste. I glance around at all of the new people who have arrived recently and then I see her. I almost choke on the piece of burger and down half of my margarita to wash it away.
“What’s wrong? Forget how to eat?” Jack jokes with me.
“No...It’s her! She’s here. I don’t know how or why but she is here.”
Jack motions to the bartender for two more shots. “Where, what does she look like? And isn’t that a good thing? You can give her the change and stop thinking about work.”
“She’s at the corner table by the bar. Sitting alone.” I say quickly, trying not to stare.
“Wow, well she is a looker for sure. Isn’t she a little old to be your crush though?” He teases me, noticing my nervous appearance.
“I didn’t say she was a crush. She just forgot money at the market and I have to return it.” Was she a crush? She can’t be. I don’t like girls like that. I don’t like anyone like that. Why do I get flustered when I think of her?
“Mmhmm, and that’s why she’s stuck on your mind. Cause you owe her money. Makes perfect sense.” Jack said with a mocking tone.
The bartender arrives just then and I took the shot immediately. “Well, I better get this out of the way.” I put my shot glass down and grab Jack’s shot from his hand and take it before he can process what happened. I start walking slowly, heading in the direction of the corner table.
“I was going to drink that!” Jack calls after me. I didn’t pay any attention to him. My focus was on the woman my body is being drawn towards. She’s definitely a woman. There’s no doubt about that now. She has on a slim fitted short black dress and seems to be catching everyone’s gaze. She pays no attention to all of the people staring at her. She is focused on something else. Wait, she is focused on me. Why is she staring at me?
It’s as if she was a lioness out on the hunt and here I am...a helpless lamb as her prey. This was a bad idea. I have to go back. Before I knew it, I was at the edge of her table dumbfounded. I lost every train of thought that even began to form.
“May I help you?” She spoke sternly as though it was a command.
That was a question right? “Ugh...yeah. You forgot a hundred dollar bill the other day. I didn’t bring it today, with me, that is.” She raises an eyebrow up at me and my brain turns to mush. “It’s at home. In my room. Safely kept in my room at home. I must return to you...for it...” What the hell is coming out of my mouth! Why aren’t my words forming? Why is she so stunning? What’s going on!?!
“Would you like to try that again?” She says with a smirk knowing that she caused my brain malfunction.
I take a deep breath and try again, “Yeah...I’m sorry, I don’t know what happened there. The alcohol must have hit me all at once.” I try to explain my lack of proper sentences.
“If that’s the case, come here, sit.” She stands and pulls out the chair that is next to hers.
I obey immediately and sit. She brushes her warm fingers across the back of my bare shoulders as she sits in her seat effectively sending a chill through my body.
“Now, what is the nonsense you were saying earlier?”
“You left a hundred at the market by accident the other day. I will return it to you. But I don’t have it with me.” I explain, still using awkward sentences.
“Let me guess, it’s safe, in your room, at home?” She smiles at me.
I wonder if she knew the power she had over people. Or was it just me. Why does she seem to have power over me? We’re both people, so we should be equal.
“Yes, exactly. I will have to meet up with you sometime in the near future to return it.”
“That sounds like an excellent idea.” She says agreeing to meet again and I smile at the thought. “How about a drink?”
“Yes, I feel the need for one.” I reply, still not knowing why my words are bulky. I couldn’t help but keep an eye on her even though I shouldn’t. I don’t know why I am so drawn and it’s scary. I see her scribble on a napkin and hand it to me.
“Here, now you can contact me to return the money.” A large man walks over and sets two glasses down that seem to be martinis and then stands behind her in the corner. “Don’t worry. He works for me.” She says seeing my cautious reaction.
I take a sip of the drink and look at the paper. Samantha...that’s her name. Samantha. That’s such a good name. I have her number now! Stop it! You came to tell her you would return the money. You accomplished your goal. Go now and return to Jack before you make a bigger fool of yourself. I’m right. I have to leave. I glance at Jack and he is chatting with a couple of girls at the bar.
I drink the rest of the martini. “Thank you. I have to get back. My friend’s probably wondering what’s taking so long.” I say as I stand up. “I’ll text you when we can meet up to return the money.”
She smiles and motions me to come close with her finger. I feel compelled to oblige and she leans in so close that I feel her breath on my neck and get goosebumps once again. I’m close enough to smell her perfume; it is the perfect mixture of roses and the outdoors. I grab the table to help balance myself as I sway from the effects of the alcohol. “You don’t seem to be the type to go braless at a dance, Ileana.” She whispers in my ear.
What!?! How did she notice? Of course she noticed. Wait...how did she know my name? I have to get out of here! “Hope to speak with you soon.” She says as I back away slowly. I turn and see Jack. He was taking a sip of his beer at the bar. I take it from him and down it. “I need a shot.”
“Excuse me, ladies.” He says to the women he was talking to. “What happened, you look terrible, and you’ve already drunk more than you usually do. Aren’t you feeling it yet?”
“Yes, no, I don’t know. Talking with her didn’t help. Well I got her number to return the money but my head has gone bat shit crazy.”
“Okay then. What do you suggest we do?”
“Drink and dance and be normal.”
“Two shots and two beers.” Jack says to the bartender. We take the shots together and each grab a beer escort each other to the dance floor. I am definitely feeling more than tipsy. I keep bumping into Jack as we walk to the dance floor.
“I’ll just chill here and enjoy the music.” I say while leaning against the fence hoping it’s stable enough to support me. “You go have fun!”
Jack didn’t need to be told twice. He was quick to pick out the ladies and dance with them all. I stay on the edge swaying calmly by myself to the music and declining all the dance offers from the gentlemen that are brave enough to ask me. I watch Jack having a blast. He’s such a nice guy and he likes to ask the girls that most men ignore to dance. He is kind and gives them attention and then moves on to the next woman. He is probably the most polite guy here and never touches inappropriately and doesn’t try anything with anyone. He’s just here for a good time.
After dancing for at least half an hour and drinking way too much in such a short period of time, I really need water. I go to the bar and ask for some and as I am sipping it down, Samantha walks over to me.
“I see you are drinking water, I’m glad. I’ve been watching you and I’m sure you’re definitely going to be hungover tomorrow.”
“What do you know?” I respond angrily. “Bartender, a shot of whiskey, and whatever this lady would like.” I hope buying her a drink would keep her from talking like she knew me. “Thanks, dear, I’ll have a martini.”
“Well that’s fancy of you.” I retort.
“Not fancy, I just know what I like.” She responds and winks at me which makes me a little angry this time.
“So...you said you were watching me, why?” I ask when I remember what she said earlier.
“I just wanted to make sure you’re alright and don’t get taken advantage of dear.”
Why did she call me dear? Goosebumps ran down my arm as I thought about her using a pet name for me. What’s wrong with me...ugh.
“It seems like you’re cold.” She says noticing my goosebumps and she touches my arm. Which in return creates more goosebumps.
“Your drinks ladies.” The bartender says while he puts them in front of them.
“Thanks!” I say and slam the shot. “Bye, gonna warm up.” I say behind me as I turn to the dance floor.
I walk to Jack and attempt to dance aimlessly by him. Every couple minutes I couldn’t help but look over to the corner and see her watching me. Why do I care what she does so much? I need another drink. “Heyyy....annotherr drink?” I say as I start to notice that I can’t speak clearly anymore.
“You sound like you’ve had plenty, but yeah, I’ll get you one.” He responds.I lean against the railing and watched him go. At the bar, Samantha approaches him and had a short conversation before he came back with my drink.
“What did she want?” I ask him.
“Nothing much, just wanted to know the plans after and was making sure we weren’t driving. She seems to fancy you if I didn’t know any better. But I do so don’t mind me. Hey, let’s do a shot!” He suggests.
“Sounds goooood to me. Annnnd you don’t know better, she prolly fancies you.” I say and point to him but end up following my finger into his chest while trying to reason with my mind. Why would someone fancy me? Why would a hot woman fancy me? Wait...why did I think hot...yeah she’s attractive...but ugh, I need another drink. I’m thinking too much. I take a swig of my beer. “Le’s get more now.”
Jack walks me to the bar and we both have a Scooby Snack shot. It’s been forever since I’ve drank this much but I need that woman off my mind. Maybe I should go to the hotel and get away from her to finally get her off my mind.
“Imma head to the hotel...maybe have a couple drinks at the bar.” I say to Jack.
“I think you are good on drinks now, Ily. You don’t mind if I stay here a while longer? There are a few damsels I have yet to dance with.”
“That’s fine...jus don’ bring no one to the room.”
“Of course not. I don’t think I could even if I wanted to,” he responds.
I start walking away and hear Jack mumble about me staying safe. As I put a good hundred feet between the dance and myself, I feel more relaxed. It’s nice to be alone again. I felt so suffocated being surrounded by all those people.
“Hey, hold up.” Samantha calls from behind me. Why did I think I could get away from her?
“What dooo youuu want from mmme?” I say hoping I portray the annoyed feelings I have.
“I just want to get to know you...can we talk?” She asks quietly.
“Yeah, I ’spose.”
We walk together and I end up talking for an hour as we go around many of the same blocks to keep walking. I tell her of my simple life on the farm, my family, friends, and my dreams of exploration. We found ourselves walking in silence for a few minutes until we ended at the hotel bar.
“You should do it.” She says.
“Do what?” I question.
“Go to college and become an archaeologist.”
“I don’t think I can. I couldn’t leave my parents like that. They need me.” I say as I look down.
She brushes my bangs from my face, tilts my head with her hand. “What about your needs. You need to live true to yourself.” She says while looking into my eyes. At that moment, I wanted to kiss her. I don’t know why and it scared me. I slam my drink and stand up.
“I’ll think about it, g’night.” I hurry to my room. I have to leave; I can’t believe I wanted to kiss her. What would Jack think? What would mom think?
I lean against the door as it closes behind me. “Whoa, what’s got you in a fright?” Jack asks from one of the full sized beds.
“I don’t know.” I say as I plop on the other.
“Well, tell me about it. Was it that woman? I saw yous’ walking around the block a few times.”
“Yeah...it’s her...it’s me...I don’t know. It’s like for the first time in my life I’ve felt an attraction to someone. But that someone is a woman, so it’s wrong and could never be. I can’t even believe I’m telling you this, but I can ’cause I tell you everything.” I throw my arms up and lay back on the bed.
“Well...that seems like a lot to handle. To tell you the truth, I’ve never felt attraction to a woman before. So I guess we’re kinda in the same boat.” He says quietly.
“No way....you’re gay! Since when? How come I didn’t know! You were just dancing with all of the girls! What!” I say, unable to believe what I just heard.
“Well, I don’t know if I’m gay I suppose. But that’s ’cause I’ve never been romantic with anyone. I was waiting till I went off to college to see who I am. I was just trying to keep up appearances here so no one would think of me differently. Maybe you should come to college with me and we can learn together?” Jack suggests.
“I...maybe...,” I start and think for a second, “but I’m not gay. You can be, that’s fine...but I can’t be. That’s not me.”
“Well, you could be, especially if you are questioning it. Why don’t you go kiss your lady friend downstairs to find out?” Jack says teasingly and chuckles.
“No way!” I say and throw my extra pillow at him. “I’m going to sleep now. Night Jack. Thanks for sharing, I won’t tell anyone.”
“I won’t tell either, thanks Ileana.”