We walked out of the house just in time to see Nathan round the corner in his white Toyota Camry.
"Nathan is driving us. I thought you'd prefer that to walking." Lainey said.
"You'd be right." I said, dryly. It's not that I wasn't grateful that he was willing to drive us, I just hated being the third wheel. Nathan pulled up to the curb and reached over to open the passenger seat.
"Your chariot awaits, your Highnesses." Nathan smiled. His white teeth flashed. I giggled as I climbed into the backseat. "Ready to have some fun?"
I didn't have a chance to answer before Lainey pulled him in for a kiss. They were adorable together, but it was very awkward for me. I sat very still with my hands in my lap as they pulled away.
"You look beautiful, my little animal cracker." Nathan said. He calls her his little animal cracker because he shared his animal crackers with her the day they met. Like I said, adorable.
"You look pretty sharp yourself." She replied, as Nathan put the car into drive.
About 20 minutes later, we pulled up to the Society's Banquet Hall. They decorated it lavishly for the occasion. White string lights were placed generously around the seven pillars. The steps glittered with what looked like crystal. People were walking inside dressed extravagantly.
"What exactly is this banquet?" I asked.
"It's like a dance. The Society holds it every year for the seniors." Nathan replies.
"I haven't heard of it before." I said, slightly suspicious.
"It isn't highly advertised." Nathan said.
Nathan parked the car and we all filed out. We were about halfway up the steps when I heard someone call my name.
"Ivy!" I turned around. It was Oliver.
"Hey, Ivy." Oliver looked amazing tonight. Three-piece suit with a yellow and blue striped bow tie. "You look good." I couldn't help but blush. He held out his hand. "Would you?"
"I will." I said, trying to be flirtatious. We walked up the rest of the stairs into the ballroom. It was astonishing. Crystal chandeliers, white tables and chairs, chocolate waterfall, elegant buffet table, and a big, glass dance floor. Oliver lead me to the dance floor.
"May I have this dance?" Oliver asked, confidently.
"You may." I giggled. I couldn't believe I was actually dancing with Oliver Pierce. He slid his arms around my waist, pulling me gently closer. I tentatively put my arms around his neck. He smiled and pulled me closer so we were touching. I leaned my head on his shoulder. We rocked back and forth to the music for what felt like forever. I closed my eyes and breathed him in. He smelled like fabric softener.
"You look beautiful." Oliver said. He pulled away and looked down at me. "I want to show you something."
"Okay." He grabbed my hand and lead me off the dance floor. We walked outside and down the stairs. He looked back at me and shot me a smile. "Just a little farther." He lead me into what looked like a garden from a movie scene.
"Woah, Oliver. This is amazing." I said. I was at a loss for words. Being here in this beautiful place with him. It felt like a dream.
"Like you." I looked up at his brown eyes. And suddenly we were kissing. His lips were soft against mine. My eyes fluttered shut. My hands found their way to his deep black hair. The kiss deepened. I pulled away.
"Oliver-" I said. This was moving too quickly.
"Mhm." He said as he leaned in again. He kissed me again and put his hand on my thigh. I broke the kiss and shoved his hand off my leg.
"Oliver." I said, more firmly. "No. I'm not ready for this." He scoffed.
"Not ready? I thought you liked me." Oliver said. He shifted slightly.
"I do. It's just-" He cut me off again.
"Well then, what's the problem?" Oliver kissed me again and he placed my legs on top of his. He started to lay me down.
"Oliver, stop!" I jumped to my feet.
"What's your problem, Ivy?" Oliver stood up.
"This is going to far. I want you to stop." I pleaded.
"We can't stop now, baby." Oliver put his hand on my cheek.
"I'm not your baby." I said. I shoved his hand off my face and walked away.
"Ivy, Ivy, please." Oliver said.
I walked down the street. My cheeks started to burn and I could feel the tears coming. I stayed outside. I got tired of walking and sat down on a nearby empty bench. As I sat down, the tears came and I could do nothing to stop them, so I let them come. I heard the gentle pattering of rain.
Great, I thought. Rain. I felt a slight weight on my shoulders. I looked up.
"You're gonna catch a cold if you stay out in the rain." He had electrifying green eyes and brown hair that swept in front of his eyes. His white teeth dramatically contrasted with his tanned skin. He sat next to me and I realized he had given me his jacket.
"Thanks." I said. I wiped my eyes.
"Hey, what's a beautiful girl like you crying in the rain for?" He asked, smiling.
"I don't really want to talk about it." I said. I was overwhelmed by my emotions and I started to cry again.
"There, there." He said. He put his arm around my shoulders and I leaned into him. "He isn't worth it you know."
"What?" I choked out. I looked up at him. He was dressed for the occasion. Black suit and a light green tie that brought out his beautiful green eyes.
"Oliver's not worth it. He's a sleazebag." He looked at me. But without pity, which I was expecting. He looked at me with an emotion I've never seen before.
"How did you-"
"I saw it. I followed you to make sure you were okay." He said. "Do you need me to take you home?"
"No, my friends will be looking for me." He handed me a handkerchief. I wiped my eyes. All I wanted to do was go home, but Lainey would be worried about me.
"Your friends are the least of your concerns. You need some rest after what happened." He stood, stretching out his hand to help me up.
"I didn't know guys carried handkerchiefs anymore." I took his hand. He was a couple inches taller than me. He gave me an odd sense of security. I handed him back his jacket and he slipped it on.
"Most don't. I'm old-fashioned, I guess. Let me take you home."
"Okay." I started to walk. I winced. "My feet-"
"I'll fix that." In one motion, he picked me up off my feet. I let out a small shriek of surprise and he laughed. I felt his laughter throughout my whole body. I leaned my head on his muscled arm. I closed my eyes and let the gentle sway of his gait soothe me.
"What's your name?" He inquired. He smelled like soap and sage.
"Ivy." I replied. My name sounded so plain.
"Ivy." He breathed. My name sounded like music on his lips. I put my hand gently on his neck to stabilize myself.
"Ivy." He repeated. I sighed. I looked up at him. The rain created a halo effect over his head. In that moment, he looked so perfect. Gratitude flooded through me, mixed with another emotion I couldn't quite identify. I moved my hand to his jaw. He glanced down at me. He smiled.
"Thank you, Ivy." He whispered. He tightened his grip on me.
"Am I too heavy? I think I can walk from here." I said.
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah." He set me down gently. I slipped off my shoes. "Will you still walk with me?"
"Of course." He shrugged off his jacket and draped it over my shoulders again.
"Why did you follow me tonight?" I inquired.
"You looked pretty upset. I wanted to make sure you were safe." He was walking on the other side of the sidewalk. I looked over at him. I stretched out my hand and grabbed his.
"Thank you. How can I repay your display of chivalrousness?" I asked, playfully. I could see my house from where we were. I didn't want to go home, but for a different reason. I didn't want to leave his side. He turned me so I was facing him. He rested one hand gently on my hip. The other was still clasped around mine.
"May I have this dance?" He asked. His hair was plastered to his forehead due to the rain. His white shirt was sticking to his skin and I could see his chiseled abdomen. I put my free hand on his shoulder.
"It would be my pleasure."