I woke up to the sun shining through the blinds into my bedroom. That’s odd. I hadn’t dreamed at all. I was somewhat disappointed. It was still early, and I had a lot of time to kill before getting ready for the dance. I decided to do my nightly run during the day instead, since I wouldn’t get home until late. I started getting washed up, and then I changed my mind. I was going to go to the clearing to see if Jay would be waiting there. After all, it was usually on a Saturday or Sunday that I would normally see him.
I don’t know why, but I was happy… almost giddy. Was this what it felt like? To be in love with someone who loved you back? I had no frame of reference, since I had never been in love before.
My parents were already gone for the day. Mom was working, and Dad was running errands. So I left my usual note and proceeded out, started off at a jog. The neighborhood parents were extremely nosey; I acted like I did on any other day.
After making my way into the forest, where I knew I couldn’t be seen, I kicked it up to a sprint. I must have been running full steam, because I made it to the clearing in no time.
“Hello?” I called out.
No answer. My heart sank.
“Hello? Jay? Are you there?” I called again.
Again there was no answer.
Then something occurred to me. I took off out of the woods again and ran back to the house. In one swift motion, I unlocked the door, ran up to my room and grabbed my recorder, heading back in the same way. I didn’t care who was watching me now; I took off like a rocket and was back in the clearing in no time.
I made sure the tape was rewound to the beginning. I really didn’t care what had been recorded on it. I remembered reading in the book that ghosts like to drain batteries; I had forgotten to bring an extra set, but I figured I would press my luck.
I pressed record.
“Hello?” I asked again, holding the recorder away from me.
I waited a few moments.
“Jay? Are you here?” I asked again.
I waited a few more moments.
“I’ve missed you. I miss you right now.”
I waited a few more moments, not knowing what else to say. If anyone could hear me, they must have thought that I was some kind of nut job. I hit the stop button, rewound the tape and pressed play.
“Hello?” I heard myself.
“Jay? Are you here?” I heard myself again.
WAIT! What was that? I thought. I hit stop, rewind, stop and play again.
The sound was faint, but I could hear it. It sounded like his voice, but I couldn’t be sure, because it seemed far away. The tape continued to play.
“I missed you. I miss you right now.”
His voice was low and sad, “I miss you, too, my dear.”
This time a little louder, but still far away. My heart jumped back into place.
I hit record again.
“I’m sorry. Did I do something wrong?” I asked.
I waited while the tape ran in the silence.
“I wish I could see you.”
I waited again as the tape still ran.
Still running the recorder, I stayed still.
“When will I be able to see you again?”
I let the recorder run a little longer before hitting stop. I rewound the recorder to the spot where I had started asking the second group of questions.
“I’m sorry. Did I do something wrong?”
“No,” he said.
“I wish I could see you.”
“Please don’t be mad,” he answered sadly.
My voice again. “When will I be able to see you again?”
I hit stop and hit record again.
“Why would I be mad?”
“I’m not mad. You did warn me.”
“I really miss you. I wish that you could go to the dance with me tonight.”
“I….I….lo…” I couldn’t believe what I was about to say. “Next time I’m in your arms, I want to tell you something.”
I waited, still holding up the recorder in the air. After several more moments, I hit stop and rewound it to the third round of questions.
“Why would I be mad?”
“…___...__n’t see me,” was all I could make out.
“I’m not mad. You did warn me.”
I heard a long, breathy sigh.
“I really miss you. I wish that you could go to the dance with me tonight.”
He sounded even sadder. “I’m sorry. I would be honored to escort you to your dance.”
“I….I….lo…” What was I saying? “Next time I’m in your arms, I want to tell you something.”
Silence. Had I scared him off? Even more silence. I was trying so hard to hear him that when the recorder clicked off, I jumped. I put the recorder in my back pocket and began speaking.
“I hope you can hear me,” I started. “I don’t know what you did to me, but I really like you.” I sat on the stump of a fallen tree. “I wish you could give me a sign,” I paused. “To let me know that you can hear me.”
“I have to start getting ready for the dance tonight,” I know I must have looked incredibly stupid, but I really didn’t care. “I’ll miss you.”
I started walking back to the edge of the clearing, my head down, wishing I could have seen him only for a moment. I felt a cool breeze on my face. I stopped in mid-stride. I stood up straight and closed my eyes, taking long, deep breaths through my nose in the hope of catching his scent.
I breathed out loud, “Yes!”
Barely, just barely, but I could smell him. I remained still while my breathing returned to normal. As soon I felt a cool sensation, followed by warmth on my cheek, I lifted my hand up to touch my face. As I did, I felt nothing. I opened my eyes, and my hand was moving in the emptiness of air. I raced home to start getting ready for the dance.
I didn’t need as much time as other girls to get ready. I used only a powered foundation and lip gloss and did my hair. I got dressed and put on my shoes. My Mom knew I would get pictures at the dance, so she just sat at the table with a new book in hand.
I paced back and forth in the formal living room, waiting for Dave to show up. I saw lights pull up the drive and knew it had to be him.
“See you later, Mom!” I said, quickly opening the door.
“Are you going out afterwards?” she asked.
“The usual place?”
Our routine never changed. I don’t know why she even bothered asking. “Yup!”
“OK, have fun,” she waved from the table.
My parents only asked one thing from me – not to lie to them. I had never had a reason to before. Lying always created more hassle than it was worth. For every lie you told, you would have to create a new one to cover up the first lie. They had never inquired about Jay, so I never had to lie about him.
I stopped right outside Dave’s car door, making sure I hadn’t forgotten anything. “Got everything?” he asked.
“Yup,” I replied, getting in.
“Nope.” We both giggled at my answer.
“You look beautiful,” he said softly.
“Thanks,” I said looking away. I added sarcastically, “Too bad we can’t dress up more often.”
“You’re not like other girls,” he grinned.
“Give me a pair of comfortable jeans and a t-shirt, and that’s my prom dress.”
“I would pay to see you go to prom like that,” he chuckled.
“Yeah, me too. But you know prom is formal and they won’t allow you in if you aren’t formally dressed,” I remarked.
The drive didn’t take as long as it does on a school morning. The dance, just like any other school dance except for prom, was held in the gym. The theme, of course, was our school colors – red, white and yellow. There was a booth set up on one end for couples to get their pictures taken together.
“Come on,” I said, pulling his arm.
He looked shocked. “YOU want pictures?”
“My mom wants pictures.” I glared at him. “If I don’t produce some type of formal picture, she’ll be pissed at me.”
Luckily we were early, and the line wasn’t that long, so we got in and out pretty fast.
“Hey, there’s everyone,” he said, waving across the room.
“Let’s go,” I said. We walked over to where they were already gathered. “What’s up, guys?”
“Val is mad,” Lynn said.
“Mad why?” I looked over at her.
Val hissed angrily, “Because my dress didn’t turn out like I thought it would.”
Dave and I looked at her dress and couldn’t see what she was talking about. What had been a long-sleeved black dress was now off the shoulder, accented by strategically-placed red squiggle stripes. Her shawl matched the design of her dress.
“What look were you going for?” I asked. “It looks great!”
“You’re a bad liar,” she growled.
“Yeah, on any other night, I would be,” I smiled. “But tonight, I am telling you the truth.”
“Yeah, your dress looks great!” Lynn agreed.
“Really?” Val asked, changing her tone.
“Seriously. What look were you going for?” I asked again.
“I was trying to do the overlay thing with the extra material, but it didn’t come out right. I couldn’t just sew it back on, so I created this shawl instead.”
“Well, I don’t care what anyone else says. It looks great,” I said. “Just to prove you wrong, let’s all get a picture together.”
“Yeah, don’t listen to yourself,” Terry said, as he came up and joined the group. Everyone chimed in, agreeing with him. He looked really good all cleaned up.
“All you have to do is throw on a jersey,” Val cackled.
He looked a little pissed. “Hey now, don’t go there!”
“Sorry,” she apologized.
“Since all the players are hanging out with, well, each other, do you mind if I join you all?”
Of course we didn’t mind. The line for pictures was longer now, but still not too bad.
Aaron and Dave were trying to make Tim feel comfortable. Since he was the oddball, he didn’t know what to say or how to act. It was like he was afraid of upsetting us. We really didn’t understand why he was here, but we knew he wouldn’t stay that long. I wished he would relax – we are a relaxed bunch. The worst we ever do is laugh about stuff.
After we had our pictures taken, we went back to the floor and started dancing. Yeah, me dancing. I look like an overgrown baby trying to walk for the first time. Not a pretty sight. A slow song came on.
“Do you mind if I dance once dance with Lynn?” Dave asked.
“Sure,” I smiled.
But before Dave could get closer to her, Tim had already asked her to dance. Mike was not happy over that fact, even though Tim was her date.
“OK, forget that idea, then,” he smiled.
He put his arm around my waist, and we started slow dancing together. Now even I can slow dance. Just sway back and forth.
Yup. I can do this.
We danced around in circles until the music turned back into a fast song. The DJ would play three or four fast songs before playing the next slow one.
I didn’t know how long we had been dancing, but I was getting sweaty and needed a break.
I screamed into Dave’s ear, “I’ll be right back.”
He screamed back, “Where are you going?”
“I have to use the little girls’ room!” He gave the look like oh, oops.
I made my way through the crowd to the restroom. I was just coming out when something caught my eye.
I heard his voice, “Hello, beautiful.”
My heart was in my throat. I looked around, and I saw him down at the end of the corridor. I quickly glanced around. Surprisingly, no one else was there, so I quickly and quietly went to where he was standing.
I whispered, looking around, “What are you doing here?”
He held up a finger and motioned for me to follow him. “Come,” he whispered.
We were behind the gym, but I could still hear the music. No one else could see or hear us. His hair was neatly in place, and he was wearing what could pass as a somewhat modern tux.
“Are you trying to get me admitted?” I played.
“Admitted, where?” he asked.
He didn’t have to keep his voice low, since I was the only one who was able to hear him.
“The funny farm,” I sighed. “If anyone catches me talking to myself, there are going to be rumors.”
“Then don’t speak,” he smiled. “You look very beautiful tonight.”
I mouthed, “Thank you.”
“Do you mind if I have this dance?”
“I can’t dance.” I truthfully admitted.
He laughed. “Not this one, the next one.”
“What if it’s a fast one?”
“It won’t be. Trust me, my dear,” he smiled as he knew for sure.
Sure enough, the next song really was a slow one. He held his arm tight around my waist and held my hand in his free hand, twirling me around. I couldn’t believe it! I was dancing! And not just in circles! He must have read my facial expression.
“I had to save my energy,” his face next to mine. “So I would be able to have one dance with you tonight.”
I lovingly whispered in his ear, “Thank you.”
The song was coming to an end, and we leaned into each other. His soft, warm lips pressed against mine, his arms tight around my waist. My heart felt like it was going to completely stop. We finished kissing as the song ended.
“I must go,” he said.
“I’ll miss you,” I said, giving him a kiss on the cheek.
“I’ll miss you too my, lo…dear.” He kissed me on the cheek and was gone.
I tried to hear whether people were in the corridor, but I couldn’t make anything out. I peeked around the corner and no one was there. I was halfway back to the gym when Dave came up the stairs.
“There you are!” he said. “We thought you fell in!”
“I did, but I rescued myself,” I teased, trying to divert his attention from wondering why I was here.
“Why are you down here?”
Crap. What do I say?
“I…ummm…thought I saw something,” I sort of lied.
“They announced the last couple of songs,” he said, putting his arm around me.
“Then off to watch Aaron eat a cow,” I giggled.
“Then off to watch Aaron eat a cow,” he repeated, amused.
Luckily, it was louder inside the gym, and more people were dancing. I did my pathetic excuse for a dance, while thinking about a few things that were different than the last time I had seen him. This time, I hadn’t had that cool sensation. When he kissed me, I hadn’t seen my breath. More importantly, he was going to tell me that he loved me. This time was different. He hadn’t mentioned it at all since the last time, when I had chewed him out. One thing I really did wonder though. Since he didn’t feel cool to me, would others have been able to see or hear him? The last song ended, and while everyone else stayed to chat and say goodbye, we were among the first ones out the door.
“It’s too cold!” Val cried.
“We’ll be in the car soon enough,” Aaron said.
“Everyone have a ride?” Lynn asked.
“Can I ride with someone?” Tim asked. “I walked.”
“Sure, you can ride with us,” I answered. “That’s OK, right, Dave?”
“If it’s going to be a problem…” Tim started to say.
“I’ll take him,” Terry piped in. We just looked at him.
“Are you sure?” Dave was sincere enough.
“Yeah, I’m sure. If that’s OK if I tag along with you all?” Again, no one disagreed.
We said our see you laters and headed off to our cars. The place wasn’t more than five minutes driving. The car had just started to heat up when we arrived in the parking lot, all of us pulling up together at about the same time.
“Table for seven?” asked the hostess.
“Could we make it a table for eight?” I asked. We looked at one another and shrugged, saying it was no big deal.
“Table for eight,” the hostess confirmed. We looked at the menus, deciding on what to order.
“I don’t know why you even bother looking at the menu, Aaron.” Val joked.
“What do you mean?” He sounded insulted.
“You order the same thing every time we come here!”
“Maybe they have something new? You never know,” he laughed.
“We’ve been coming here for how long, and you order the same thing every time,” she griped.
“Hey, maybe I wanna try something new. Is that OK with you?” Aaron snapped.
“Whoa, you two,” I said. “We are here to have fun, remember?” They both said a pathetic excuse for a sorry and then shot each other a look that would have made a grown man cry.
“What can I get for you?” the waitress offered.
We stared at the menu as if we hadn’t been there dozens of times, giving her our drink order. The restaurant staff knew we were a peaceful group, so they never gave us a hard time. I saw some kids from a more snobby group enter shortly after the waitress brought us our drinks.
“Great,” mumbled the waitress. “Not this group again,” she said, as she walked away.
“Was she talking about you guys?” Tim asked. Dave and Aaron just looked at each other.
“Remember, Tim is new in our group,” corrected Lynn.
“I keep forgetting that,” Aaron smacked his forehead.
Lynn whispered, “Anyway, she wasn’t talking about us. It’s the loud, obnoxious snobs that just walked through the door.”
“Yeah, they complain about everything,” Val rolled her eyes.
“They get pissy when mommy and daddy won’t get them a limo so they can go downtown,” I said holding my nose up in the air.
Dave stated in a snobby voice, “Yeah, they think it’s all about the glamour and how much money they can spend in one night.”
“It’s not about the money or what you do, as long as you are with your friends,” sided Tim.
“Hear! Hear!” We raised our glasses, clinked them and drank. The waitress back came and took our orders with a smile.
“I’m sorry you have to deal with people like that,” Tim said.
“Oh,” the waitress was taken off guard. “Well, let’s just say, I would rather deal with a full house of you guys than an empty house with just them.” She smiled and walked away.
“You made her night,” Lynn said, flirting with Tim. Mike just sneered at him. Uh-oh. I smelled trouble.
“Don’t we have history together?” Aaron asked Tim.
“I’m not sure, I’m the geek who sits in the back and pretends that he’s invisible,” he said, laughing.
“Oh yeah! Now I know you!” Dave chimed in.
“The teachers think you’re hot shit,” Lynn commented.
“I wouldn’t say that,” he blushed.
Val replied sarcastically, “You never get called on. Must be nice.”
“Never mind her,” I giggled. “The teachers like to pick on the ones who don’t think they know anything.” After an outburst of laughter, we went back to talking quietly.
“See,” we heard the hostess speak. “It goes to show you that money can’t buy manners.”
We burst into a giggling frenzy. The waitress came with our orders, filled our drinks and went to go hide again. This was nice. Sitting around with a group of friends and enjoying ourselves.
“Oh! One thing I have to mention to the new person,” Aaron said, through a mouth full of food. “No school talk.”
“But they mentioned school,” I said with a smile.
“That was before they knew the rules.” Aaron was starting to piss me off.
“Yuck!” I gagged. “OK rule two, no talking with your mouth open and full of food.”
“Hear! Hear!” We giggled as we clinked our glasses again.
Before we knew it the checks arrived, and it was time to call an end to the evening. We all hugged each other and said our goodbyes. Terry went to take Tim home, Aaron took Val home, Mike took Lynn home, and Dave and I started on our way. The sky was brightly lit, and the stars were shimmering. The moon shone bright in the dark sky, lighting up the night like a pale sun. Dave and I sat quietly in his car. There really wasn’t much to talk about. We embraced the evening as it came.
“Where are you going?” I asked. He was pulling up to the curb next to the park near our neighborhood.
“It’s too beautiful to call it a night yet,” he said nervously. “Would you like to go for a walk?”
“I’m in a dress and heels,” I motioned with my hands.
“We won’t be out long.”
“Ummmm. OK,” I didn’t like where this was headed.
“When you start to get cold, just let me know and we’ll head back. OK?”
I stepped out of the car. “OK, I’m cold.”
“Ha ha,” he grinned. The park had soccer fields, baseball fields, a pond, and even football fields, although there was a rumor that these were going to be turned into more soccer fields.
“It is peaceful,” I said, breaking the silence.
“Yes, it is,” he sighed.
“Nothing,” he said, not looking at me.
“Liar! I know you enough to tell when you are lying.”
“You look very beautiful tonight.”
“Stop trying to change the subject,” I demanded.
“Well, I’m trying to let you know,” he hesitated. “Lexi, I really like you.”
“I know you do. I really like you, too.”
“That’s not what I meant,” he shook his head.
“Oh,” oh crap.
“I know what you said about the friend thing….”
“Yeah. And you know I value our friendship too much to ruin that. You’re my best friend, Dave.”
“I know,” he remarked.
“You’ll be starting college next year, and who knows, you may realize that I’m not the one for you.”
“You think that,” he said looking at me. Not tonight. Please not tonight. I did think that. We sat again in silence. The cold wasn’t bothering me as much as the uneasiness that surrounded us. He led me up to the middle of the bleachers.
“Are you jealous?” I asked.
“Jealous of what?”
“How can I be jealous of someone I have never met?”
He had me there. “True.”
“Look,” he said leaning his body towards me. “You are very beautiful…on the inside and out.”
“Whether you believe it or not,” he disregarded my dismissal. “Any guy would be lucky to have you. I just wish I was that guy.”
“I know,” I whispered. Was he right, though? Jay could never be around the way other guys could. I still hadn’t figured out what Jay was, exactly. He wasn’t human, nor did he fit any category of ghost. I really didn’t know what was happening. Dave leaned in, and I followed suit. I wanted to pull away so bad. I tried to. But our faces grew closer. He put one hand out to keep balance and another one against my face. Our lips were just about to touch, when all of a sudden, a sharp breeze flew between us.
“NO!” cried the wind.
“What was that?” Dave asked.
“I have no clue,” I lied.
I silently took a deep breath and smelled his sweet scent. I felt so bad about this – but how could I explain to Dave that I had fallen for another…well… just another.
“You’re shivering,” he said. “I’ll take you home.”
I hadn’t felt cold, but I let him think I was. I repositioned my coat, and we started down the bleachers. Walking back to the car, I shot a quick glance over my shoulder. There Jay stood, by an old oak tree that I used to climb when I was younger. And he looked pissed. I had never seen him look like that before.
“I know you must be itching to get out of that dress and into sweats,” he smiled as we walked up the drive.
“You know me oh so well,” I grinned.
“Mother Nature,” I heard him mumble under his breath.
“What?” I asked.
“Oh. Nothing. I’ll give you a call tomorrow?”
“Sounds like a plan,” I smiled.
He made sure I got inside before taking off. My parents were sleeping, and I crept slowly up the stairs to change into something more manageable. I gathered my clothes from my room and crept into the bathroom; after I was done, I slipped back into my room.
Why did Dave have to try to kiss me? Why couldn’t he just leave things alone? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and if it is broke, sometimes it’s better to leave the broken alone.
But it did start to raise questions…
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