Nene smiled at the usher who opened the doors for them, letting them in. Both the ushers had suitably satisfying reactions to her lavender dress, but she found herself not really caring. Shocked and disappointed, she only perked up when she saw a familiar brunette.
"Prissy! Leon-poooo!" She called, standing on her tiptoes to be seen above the crowd. Macky snatched a hors d'oeuvre off a passing tray and Nene did the same, ignoring the apologetic smile he gave her as they both popped the snacks into their mouths. She took his hand, pulling him through the crowd, and felt the slight pang of jealousy when a couple of younger ladies turned to give her date an appraising look. Nene mentally stuck her tongue out at them, stopping in front of Priss.
The older woman was dressed in a sleek black evening dress, her date looking surprisingly classy in a tuxedo as well. Leon was nothing compared to Macky, of course, but that didn't stop him from being a looker none-the-less.
"Leon-poo looks so handsome!" Nene grinned, poking at his chest. Leon, in response, glanced nervously around the crowd.
"Nene, if anyone hears you calling me that …" He trailed off with a gesture that was probably meant to be a threat, but Nene just snickered, poking him again.
"The whole force knows that she calls you that, Leon-poo." Priss stressed, her brow cocked coyly and her voice deadpan. She nodded to Macky as she allowed her boyfriend to recover from shame.
"Looking sharp. Now do me a favour and get this young vixen onto the dance floor before she upsets Leon so much that he sulks for the rest of the evening." Her voice was more of a command than a suggestion, and Macky grinned nervously under Priss's even stare. She looped her arm through Leon's and led him off towards the dance floor, leaving Nene and Macky standing in their place.
Nene glanced around the large plaza, marvelling at what they'd done for the gala. The lobby was usually fairly decorative, but the red carpet and gold trim were especially attractive features.
The dance floor was in the centre of the room, beneath a monstrous crystal chandelier, and the dancers seemed to be doing mostly classy, adult moves. Nene was sure she'd trip up if she tried to do it, but there was no harm in trying.
"So, should we head out there, or does that buffet table look yummy to you, too?" Nene asked, turning to look back at Macky. He'd been eating as much as she usually did the past couple of days, and she was more than keen to spend the evening stuffing her face in a lady-like manner.
When she looked at him, her green eyes were inches away from his grey ones, and she slowly took a couple of steps backwards. Macky gave her a half-smirk.
"Uh oh. Careful, you might enjoy yourself, Miss Nene." Macky said, walking towards the dance floor. Nene bit the inside of her cheek, casting a longing glance towards a passing waiter before following Macky towards Priss and Leon.
"We're only here as friends, Macky. I can enjoy that, can't I?" She said, not sounding very convincing. Macky took her hand in his as she placed her other palm on his shoulder. He shrugged, wrapping an arm around her waist.
"I dunno. A couple of years has made me ambitious."
Nene's brow furrowed as she studied his expression. There was no hint of a wry flirt or coy suggestion in his voice. Just his usual, thoughtful tone and friendly features. He politely kept some distance between their forms as they danced, helping Nene to figure out her steps whenever she tripped over his feet. He smiled when Nene gave him a quizzical look.
"I took ballroom dancing lessons. It was, err, Sylia's idea." He admitted, almost bashfully. Nene's nose wrinkled in disgust.
"What good did that do?" She asked. Macky raised his eyebrows, a game playing across his eyes, and he pushed away, still holding on to her hand as the momentum swung her away from him. She cried out as he pulled her back towards him, wrapping her in his arms and lowering her for a dip. She squealed, laughing as the back of her head nearly touched the floor, and when she was upright again she placed a hand on his chest, the other on her forehead.
"Ugh, now I'm dizzy," she admitted, sticking her tongue out. Macky shrugged apologetically, still dancing, and Nene rested against him. It took her a moment to realize that the comfortable space between them had disappeared after the dip.
"When did you do that?" She grumbled, pulling her head back a bit. She tried to pull away completely, but Macky's grip on her waist was firm, and she found herself not really caring that much anyway.
He met her gaze, cocking his head innocently.
"Do what?" He asked, giving her a sweet smile. Nene frowned, her form stiffening in his grip, no longer relaxed.
"Macky," she growled in warning, and he pulled away instantly, dropping her hands from his. She blinked at him, shocked, and he shook his head.
"Let's get something to eat, then."
After giving the buffet table a satisfying attack, Nene took a champagne flute from one of the passing waiters and headed outside. She needed air and a chance to think away from the crowd. Inside, she was interrupted every five minutes by a co-worker or friend, and outside, she could breath.
It was a small patio, and a few couples already stood out in the moonlight, doing what couples do best. Nene barely gave them a second thought, her mouth against her champagne glass and her hand against her forehead.
Macky had barely spoken to her after the incident on the dance floor, and he'd gone to the bathroom when Nene had taken her chance to escape. She knew that she'd hurt his feelings, as it seemed to be what she really was best at, and she sighed.
She saw a figure lean up next to her on the patio, and out of the corner of her eye recognized it as Priss. They both said nothing, just standing in silence, but Nene could feel it coming.
"Why not just do it?" Priss asked, finally. Nene shook her head, sighing.
"You don't understand what it's like." She mumbled, running a hand through her hair. Priss looked down at her nails, casually, and then stared back out at the city.
"I guess not." She shrugged, pushing herself upwards and turning to go back inside. "All I see is a guy and a girl. Usually things just tend to work themselves out after that."
Nene didn't turn to watch her go, biting her lip in irritation. How many times did she have to say it? Of course she liked Macky! It just wasn't as simple as everyone made it out to be.
She could feel eyes on the back of her neck and for a moment she thought it was Priss back for another word, but she jumped when she heard Macky's voice beside her.
"Nene," he started, and after a hesitating pause she felt his hand on her shoulder. She suppressed a shiver, turning to look him casually in the eyes.
"Hey, Macky! Sorry, I just needed some fresh air," she explained, giving him a warm smile. Macky sighed, shaking his head. She cocked her head, unable to read his expression, when he reached out with his other hand, pulling her towards him in a fierce embrace.
Nene gasped, dropping her champagne flute onto the patio. She didn't hear it break and somewhere, in the back of her mind, she noted that it must not be real crystal. But that was only a small thought, lost in the chaos of her emotions, and all she could feel was Macky's breath on her neck and shoulder, his palm on her bare back.
"Please don't do this anymore, okay?" Macky asked, his voice a whisper in her ear. Nene placed her hands on his shoulders.
"Macky?" She asked, her voice concerned. Macky just held her tighter.
"I mean pretending. Nene, you know I all but worship you, and I know that you care for me, too." He pulled away, looking her in the eyes, and Nene felt her blood freeze in her veins. This was it, wasn't it? He was going to give her a choice and she had to make the right one, or forever regret her decision. She bit her lip, feeling her heart pounding in her chest and the feeling of his arms still around her, his face only inches from her own.
Nene turned to look to the side, uncomfortably aware of the patio's other occupants. They all seemed too caught up in their own business, but Nene still couldn't handle much more of it.
"Can we go home?" She asked. Macky sighed, looking at his feet, and nodded.
They walked back in silence, the streets empty in evening. They'd only been gone two hours. Two hours. Nene placed a hand to her stomach. She was the worst date ever.
She didn't dare to look at Macky. Every time she did his expression was so wrought with disappointment that she thought her heart was going to break. What was she going to say? She was so obsessed with her own thoughts that she didn't notice when she got to a certain corner. Turning right would lead to her apartment. Keeping straight would lead to Nigel's shop and eventually the Silky Doll.
Macky had stopped, his hands in his pockets and his gaze still locked on the ground.
She saw the way his eyes focused in on a small spot, lost so deeply in thoughts that she knew – she knew – were all about her.
And then it hit her.
She came up behind him silently, wrapping her arms around his chest and leaning against his back. For a moment he didn't move, then a hand went over hers, squeezing it tightly.
Macky heard her voice muffled against his back and for a moment he thought he didn't hear her correctly. He felt his stomach do a flip as he registered what she'd said.
"I want you to kiss me," she admitted, her voice small. Macky froze, his cheeks burning.
"I want to go on more dates with you. I want to do all the stupid things that couples do. I want you to be able to fall in love with me."
He couldn't take it anymore. He pulled away, turning to look her in the eyes, and she was giving him an apologetic look.
"And I think that was the problem." She shrugged as his brow creased in confusion. "I was afraid that I was going to fall for you, Macky Stingray." She laughed, shaking her head. "And I was afraid of what would happen. A boomer couldn't love me back, right?"
Macky pulled her to him, embracing her again, his face buried against his shoulder.
"Yes, I could." He insisted, feeling his heart beat in his chest. Had that been the problem, this whole time? The only thing keeping them apart? If he had known …
And then she kissed him.