Despite Matt’s attempts to slow us down, we finished the garden pretty quickly, and I went inside to get ready. Maggie sat on the bed and watched me as I rummaged through my closet, offering suggestions and comments on everything. This included an endless stream of questions about Finn. Matt would grunt or scoff every now and then at my answers, so I knew he was listening nearby.
Once I had decided on a simple blue dress that Maggie insisted looked amazing on me, I let her do my hair. My hair refused to cooperate with anything I tried to do to it, and while it wasn’t exactly obedient for Maggie, she outwitted it. She left some of it down, so the curls framed my face, and pulled the rest of it back.
When Matt saw me, he looked really pissed off and a little awed, so I knew that I must look pretty awesome.
Maggie gave me a ride to the dance, because we both weren’t convinced that Matt would let me out of the car. He kept insisting on a nine o’clock curfew, even though the dance went until ten. I thought I’d be back well before that, but Maggie told me to take all the time I wanted.
My only experience with dances was what I had seen on TV, but reality wasn’t that far off. The theme appeared to be “Crepe Paper in the Gymnasium,” and they had mastered it perfectly.
The school colors were white and navy blue, so white and navy blue streamers covered everything, along with matching balloons. For romantic lighting, they had strung everything with white Christmas lights.
Refreshments covered a table on the side, and the band playing on the makeshift stage under the basketball hoop wasn’t that bad. Their set list appeared to include only songs from the films of John Hughes, and I arrived in the middle of a “Weird Science” cover.
The biggest difference between real life and what films had taught me was that nobody actually danced. A group of girls stood directly in front of the stage swooning over the lead singer, but otherwise the floor was mostly empty.
People sat scattered all over the bleachers, and, attempting to fit in, I sat in the first row. I kicked off my shoes immediately, because for the most part I hate shoes. With nothing else to do, I resorted to people-watching. As the night wore on, I found myself feeling increasingly lonely and bored.
Kids actually started dancing as the gymnasium filled up, and the band moved on to some kind of Tears for Fears medley. I decided that I’d been here long enough, and I was planning my escape when Finn pushed through the doors.
Wearing a slim-fitting black dress shirt and dark jeans, he looked good. He had the sleeves rolled up and an extra button undone on his shirt, and I wondered why I never realized how attractive he was before.
His eyes met mine, and he walked over to me, surprising me with his direct approach. As often as he seemed to be watching me, he’d never initiated contact before. Not even today, when he’d walked past my house.
“I didn’t peg you for the dancing kind,” Finn commented when he reached me.
“I was thinking the same thing about you,” I said, and he shrugged.
Finn sat down on the bleachers next to me, and I sat up a bit straighter. He glanced over at me but didn’t say anything. Already he looked annoyed, and he’d just gotten here. An awkward silence settled over us, and I hurried to fill it.
“You arrived awfully late. Couldn’t decide what to wear?” I teased.
“I had stuff with work,” Finn explained vaguely.
“Oh? Do you work somewhere near my house?”
“Something like that.” Finn sighed, clearly eager to change the subject. “Have you been dancing?”
“Nope,” I said. “Dancing is for suckers.”
“Is that why you came to a dance?” Finn looked down at my bare feet. “You didn’t wear the right shoes for dancing. You didn’t even wear the right shoes for walking.”
“I don’t like shoes,” I told him defensively. My hem landed above my knees, but I tried to pull it down, as if I could get it to cover my bare-feet embarrassment.
Finn gave me a look I couldn’t read at all, then went back to staring at the people dancing in front of us. By now the floor was almost entirely covered. Kids still dotted the bleachers, but they were mostly the headgear kids and the ones with dandruff.
“So this is what you’re doing? Watching other people dance?” Finn asked.
“I guess.” I shrugged.
Finn leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees, and I moved so I was sitting up straighter. My dress was strapless, and I rubbed at my bare arms, feeling naked and uncomfortable.
“You cold?” Finn glanced over at me, and I shook my head. “I think it’s cold in here.”
“It’s a little chilly,” I admitted. “But nothing I can’t handle.”
Finn would barely look at me, which was a complete 180 from his constant creepy staring. Somehow, I found this worse. I don’t know why he had even come to the dance if he hated it so much, and I was about to ask him that when he turned to look at me.
“You wanna dance?” he asked flatly.
“Are you asking me to dance with you?”
“Yeah.” Finn shrugged.
“Yeah?” I shrugged sarcastically. “You really know how to sweet-talk a girl.”
His mouth crept up in a hint of a smile, and that officially won me over. I hated myself for it.
“Fair enough.” Finn stood up and extended his hand to me. “Would you, Wendy Everly, care to dance with me?”
“Sure.” I placed my hand in his, trying to ignore how warm his skin felt and the rapid beating of my own heart, and got to my feet.
Naturally, the band had just started playing “If You Leave” by OMD, making me feel like I had walked into a perfect movie moment. Finn led me to the dance floor and placed his hand on the small of my back. I put one hand on his shoulder while he took my other hand in his.
I was so close to him I could feel the delicious heat radiating from his body. His eyes were the darkest eyes I had ever seen, and they were looking at only me. For one unspoiled minute, everything in life felt perfect in a way that it never had before. Like there should be a spotlight on us, the only two people in the world.
Then something changed in Finn’s expression, something I couldn’t read, but it definitely got darker.
“You’re not a very good dancer,” Finn commented in that emotionless way of his.
“Thanks?” I said unsurely. We were mostly just swaying in a small circle, and I wasn’t sure how I could screw that up, plus we seemed to be dancing the exact same way as everyone else. Maybe he was joking, so I tried to sound playful when I said, “You’re not that great yourself.”