“If you didn’t want to dance with me, you could have just said so. Next time, don’t embarrass me like that.” I said angrily, each word dripping with venom, and then I walked off before he could react.
“Dakota,” Coach Bailey said in surprise, “that was rude.” I looked at him as he widened his eyes in a way that told me these people were very important, and then I looked to the dancer. He hadn’t moved an inch except for his head, which was now cocked to the side and I could tell he was looking at me. Mrs. Peters looked at me sadly and then at the dancer questioningly again.
“Not as rude as what he did.” My eyes lingered on the dancer a second longer before I headed for the bleachers. I sat on the second step, crossed my arms, and glowered for a few minutes.
The dancer was still looking at me and hadn’t moved yet, though others had started dancing around him. I gave him a good glare with a cocked eyebrow and then trained my eye on Sue and her really cute dancer. She kept messing up because she wouldn’t stop staring at him and stepped on his foot more than once, but after a particularly bad one, she resigned herself to concentrating on their feet.
I couldn’t help but let a laugh out at Dave. He looked victorious that I had walked away from the dancer, but was having trouble getting away from his partner. He kept looking to me for help, but all I could do was laugh. Didn’t he know that guys were the only ones allowed to cut in? Apparently not because he got mad at me for laughing and started acting like he enjoyed dancing with the girl. This got me laughing even harder because his movements were so exaggerated that it was obvious he was acting and once, it looked like he almost pulled her arm out of its socket.
I was over my pout (I wasn’t known for long ones), and since I obviously wasn’t going to dance, I decided to get ready for when the bell rang. I grabbed my big purse and heaved it onto my lap. I pulled out my hand lotion, applied some, gave myself a spritz of lime and coconut body mist, and then applied some see through lip gloss.
After I was done, I returned my gaze to the dancers and the students trying to keep up. Sue looked like she was having fun with her cutie, Dave looked like he was actually having a good time now, and I noticed that the dancer wasn’t among them. I looked around the gym floor, but he wasn’t anywhere in sight.
Good riddance. I thought.
“Ahem.” I heard someone clearing their throat close behind me. Stupidly, I jumped and sent my mirror air-born. An arm flashed through the air next to me and snatched the mirror before it hit the seats and I turned around to see the dancer on the steps diagonally behind me.
He stared at me intently; his hat lifted a little to almost show his eyes. Now that I saw him and how good he looked, the bruise to my feelings throbbed freshly. He was wearing a sharp tuxedo with a red rose in his tux collar hole and one tucked under the band on his hat. His white shirt underneath his jacket was buttoned all the way to the top where a bowtie rested against his covered throat. He extended his arm, the mirror laying there in his open hand.
“Thank you.” I said. I slowly reached over and picked up the mirror, careful not to touch his hand, but as he was bringing his hand back he purposefully brushed mine. The feel of his stone cold skin sent cooling chills up my arm and raised the hairs on the back of my neck.
I looked at him and saw him smile subtly. I smiled shyly back and turned around. What’s wrong with me? I’ve never been shy in my entire life, why was I starting now? I thought. Then I heard him move down beside me.
“I’m sorry.” he said in a deep voice, not sounding very near me. I looked at him and he in fact wasn’t sitting close to me. He was actually far enough away that two people could sit between us. I stared at him a moment, wondering what the reason was for the far distance between us.
I mean, even strangers sat closer than this. Whatever — it was his fault if someone sat between us so we couldn’t talk. Besides, now that I thought about it, I didn’t much care for him after his rude display. But then again he was handsome and he did say sorry, even though the purposeful sitting distance put a grain of doubt in his chances of me believing him. Hmm…
While I was thinking my answer over, he stepped off the bleachers and walked in front of me, holding out his hand. “Will you dance with me?” he asked; his face soft and eyes once again fully hidden by the brim of his hat. I looked up at him and saw the sincerity in his apology. I smiled and he helped me up. His hand was so cold, like he had stuck it in the freezer before coming.
His hand was seriously tense as I used it to stand up. Was he weird or what? He wanted to dance with me, but he didn’t want to touch me? I was just about to say something about it when the bell rang. I jumped again and he dropped my hand.
“Maybe next time.” I said, looking at him. He looked at me and then at his feet. Maybe he was psycho or something, but whatever it was, he was starting to freak me out.
“Next time.” he said and walked off. As he left me, a tantalizing smell floated up to my nose. It was like nothing I’d ever smelled. He smelled like vanilla with the sharp side of peppermint, though there was something else in the smell I couldn’t pinpoint. As I breathed it in, my senses deadened and I became a little lightheaded. I closed my eyes and shook my head a little, trying to get control of myself again.
“Kota. Oh Kota, that was so fun!” Sue said as she pranced over to me.
“Sue, you’re gushing. He must have been pretty charming.” I said, conquering whatever had come over me.
“Very. He’s a gentleman and he’s so sweet.” her eyes seemed to be dazzled and I could almost see the stars in them. I smiled, happy for her as I slung my messenger bag strap over my shoulder and put my purse on my arm.
“What’s his name?” I asked. I linked my arm in hers and we headed off for the doors.
“Ivan.” she gushed and I could tell she was hooked; and once she was hooked, it took a lot to get her free.
We were almost to the corner of the bleachers when a guy walked over and grabbed his jacket. No, not just a guy; the dancer that Sue had paired with.
He caught her eye and bowed to us. Then, as if being called, he looked over his shoulder to see the rude dancer nodding for him to follow. Ivan smiled at us, did another small bow, and then ran off to the dancer.
Sue and I stood there for a minute after they left, and then looked at each other. “That was weird.” said Sue.
“Yeah, that dancer’s been acting weird this whole time.” I said and we continued out a pair of side doors, through a short hall, another pair of doors, and finally out into the parking lot. I had gotten a Nissan Xterra just the week before, having finally gotten the two thousand down so my parents could take over monthly payments. It had taken a long time and a lot of hard work to get that money, having to work part time at a job getting only tips and doing a lot of extra stuff too. And now I was broke again, but at least I didn’t have to drive that embarrassing van anymore.
We climbed into the yellow Xterra, the inside a dark grey and cluttered with our girly junk, and departed for our jobs. Sue and I were next door neighbors and since Sue didn’t have a car yet, I drove her everywhere with me, which probably wouldn’t have changed if she did have a car.
We drove into town to the local restaurant where we both worked and parked in the back. The place was called ‘The Southern Experience’ and it served everything from steaks and hamburgers to burritos and tacos. The food was actually pretty good and the tips weren’t bad either. We went through the back door where we grabbed our aprons and went to work as waitresses.