By Vita Forest
He thinks he has stuffed things up. He thinks he has ruined everything.
Arriving late at the party to find Billie dancing, dancing, hair flying around her, as she leaped and sang. Derek had never seen her like that before. And he had been watching for a long time. He circled the group, just to watch her, just to enjoy the sight of her. Then, when he could bear it no longer, he tapped her on the shoulder, her hair flicking him in the face as she spun around.
“Derek!” she shrieked, “You’re here!”
As if it had made her night. As if they hadn’t seen each other just the day before, and the day before that.
She had flung an arm over his shoulder and pulled him into the circle. He had wrapped his arm around her waist. (Funny how he could remember it all, the choreography, the song, the hand placements, now, when it had all gone wrong.) How long had they stayed like that? Attached? He had spun her out and back, she had circled his neck with her hands and looked into his eyes as she shimmied her hips in time with the music. He had sung drippy lyrics to her, singing along with the song, while clasping her hand, his other on his heart. They were playing, they were acting, they were hamming it up, it wasn’t real, but it was more real than he had ever been. They were playing at being in love so they didn’t have to continue this stalemate they seemed to have reached. Then a slow song came on and he pulled her right into his arms and she had stayed there.
It wasn’t showing off anymore, it wasn’t pretending. Her arms were around his neck and his face was nuzzling into her hair as he held her close to him.
Derek steered them away from the circle, off to the shadows. Then he stopped dancing and leaned down and kissed her. It wasn’t pretend either. His hands on her back, pulling her to him. She was kissing him back. He couldn’t believe it. Then the song was over and she pulled away from him, staring at him, right in the eye. As if she didn’t quite trust him. And in that moment, Susie came over and pulled her into some kind of congo-line arrangement. He had panicked and left.
This morning, he had panicked again. She was waiting at their usual table. Derek could have told her it had been real, that he had been dying to kiss her for so long. But instead –
“What was that last night? I was so wasted, I was out of it.”
How could she possibly answer that? Except with that disdainful stare thing she did? And a sniff. Was that of distaste or of disappointment?
“Yeah me too,” she said coolly.
He had smiled at her stupidly. But she didn’t smile back.
He thinks he has spoiled it. He thinks he has ruined everything. How hard was it to just say the words? To let her know? Why is he so afraid?