Another dance. Another wall to lean against. Rosie Coors stared at the milling crowd, looking for her best friend’s face, but she was nowhere to be found. Maria had promised to meet her by the buffet table, at exactly seven o’clock, a reasonable time to eat dinner. Rosie has stood there, looking foolish, every now and then grabbing something and stuffing it in her mouth so as to have something to do.
It was now almost nine, the so-called friend had not appeared and tears had formed, fallen and been wiped away countless times.
Rosie though, “I wish I had stayed home. This is so embarrassing!” Another round of tears fell which wiped away using the sleeve of her old-fashioned cardigan sweater. She looked at the sleeve, at the holes that were scattered about, and wondered if Maria had seen her, and stayed away, embarrassed to call Rosie friend.
In the background, or maybe it was in the foreground, the band hired by her school’s Activity Director played rap and hip-hop, types of music she detested both because the loud bass beat gave her a headache and because the lyrics offended her sensibilities.
Rosie spotted an empty chair against the wall and hustled over to claim it.
“That’s my chair.”
“I don’t see your name on it,” Rosie responded. Her eyes traveled upward, past the neatly creased black slacks, starched white shirt, and bright red bowtie. No othere than the school pariah, Dave Nickols, Geeky Dave, stood there glowering at her. “I’m sitting in it, so it’s not yours.”
“If you won’t get up, then will you dance with me?” Dave’s tenor voice came out as a shout as he tried to be heard over the noisy band. “Please?”
“Sure,” Rosie replied. “I came here to dance, so yes.”
As they stepped onto the dance floor, the band switched to a slow song. Dave placed his right hand on Rosie’s waist and pulled her close. Step, step, step, they moved.
She smiled as they glided over the floor. Rosie loved to dance, had learned from her father as a child, but had never danced with a boy who knew what he was doing. Whoever would have thought that Geeky Dave would have known how to twirl her under his arm, and then pull her tightly against his chest?
“You’re a good dancer,” he said.
“Thanks. My father taught me when I was a kid.” She leaned forward, enticed by his cologne, a strange mix of deodorant and something she’d once smelled as she passed through a department smell. Kind of musk-like. Feral. “You’re a good dancer as well.”
“My mom insisted on lessons, which I went to reluctantly because I was the only boy,” he said. They flew around the floor, in rhythm to the music. Dave skillfully guided them through the crowds, finding pathways that opened and then disappeared, consuming them like some symbiotic monster.
Rosie’s long-brown hair swirled around her head, flowing like water. When the music stopped she smiled at Dave, whose grin was as wide as a canyon. “Thank you,” he said. “I really enjoyed that.”
“Thank you. Would you like to get some punch?” Rosie reached for his hand before he could scamper away.
“I’m starving,” he said, “so can we grab some food and find a table?” Dave disentangled his hand from Rosie’s, and then placed it in the center of her back. He gently guided her to the food table. They went down the line, loading up with salads, rolls, and cookies for dessert.
At the end, after stuffing two packages of utensils in his shirt pocket, Dave handed Rosie a cup of punch, got one for himself, then said, “Let’s go outside. It’s hot in here.”
Rosie led the way through the gym doors. The cool night air felt good on her flushed cheeks. “Let’s sit on the benches over by the cafeteria.”
After taking a few bites, Rosie realized she’d have to be the one to initiate conversation. She was shy, but Dave was known to be practically nonverbal. “Aren’t you in my Chemistry class?”
“Yes. We’ve had the same science teacher, the same period, since junior high. Weird, huh? Plus we’re in the same Advanced Algebra class,” Dave said.
“Oh. I don’t pay much attention to the other students. They ignore me, so I ignore them. It’s been that way since I was a kid.”
“Yeah, I know what that’s like.”
“I’m sorry that I’ve never seen you before,” Rosie said as she fnished off her potato salad. “Who do you have for English?”
“I’m in Davidson’s AP class. Same as you.” Dave wiped a splatter of punch off his plaid shirt, “Have you decided on a thesis for your term paper?”
“I’ve been thinking about analyzing Steinbeck’s use of light and dark in his novels,” Rosie said. “Light always indicates that something positive is going to happen to a main character. It seems to be pretty consistent. What about you?”
“I’m torn between comparing themes in Dickens’ novels and writing about Angelou’s use of language to create emotional reactions. Which one do you think I should choose?”
“I don’t know,” Rosie said. She stood, looked around, found a garbage can near a planter, then dumped her remains inside. She dusted off her hands, then, realizing that Dave had followed her, asked, “Do you want to dance? The band’s playing a slow song.”
Dave reached out his hand, palm up. Rosie gently placed her hand in his.
“He sure is a gentleman” she thought. “How come I’ve never noticed before?”
As soon as they entered the gym, Dave pulled her close. Their steps matched as they glided around the room.
For the rest of the evening, they danced, talked, ate, and smiled.
“I’ve had a great time,” Dave said after the band finished playing. He walked Rosie out to the parking lot. “Do you need a ride home?”
“No. My Dad’s coming.”
Dave’s shoulders slumped. He sighed and without raising his head, asked, “Would you be interested in going out some time?”
Rosie nodded. “How about Saturday night?”
“Great. I’d love to talk more, but I’ve got to go. Thanks for dancing with me.”
“Yeah. I had a great time. Let’s talk Monday. Work out the details.” Rosie smiled as she watched him walk away. Her senior year finally looked a whole lot brighter.