Last Chance for One Last Dance
Disclaimer - I do not own Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen. Nor do I own Standing on the Moon by The Grateful Dead.
"Hey, Colie," a voice called out. Colie Sparks turned at the sound of her name to see a boy running towards her. She slowed a bit on her way to the parking lot, allowing him to catch up with her. The school day had just ended and they began making their way to their respective cars.
His name was Josh. She'd met him two summers ago when she had gone to stay in Colby with her aunt. Since her return, the two had become close friends.
"Hey, Josh," she replied. "What's up?"
"Oh, not much," he said and she noticed he seemed nervous. "So, uh, prom this weekend, huh."
"Yeah, I guess," she shrugged.
"Are you gonna go?" he asked.
"I dunno," she answered; Colie had never really been one for dancing, and she hadn't seen or spoken to the only guy who could get her to dance in nearly a month.
"Why not?" Josh questioned. Colie tried to ignore the disappointment she heard in his voice. She had been aware that he'd had a bit of a crush on her after they'd first met, but she had assumed he was over it by now.
"I don't really do dances," she told him, deciding that it wasn't completely a lie.
"It's because of that Norman guy, isn't it?" he asked, clearly seeing right through her.
"What makes you say that?" Colie replied, absently running her tongue over her lip ring.
"I know you haven't talked to him in a while," Josh said. "Are you even still together?"
"Yeah, of course," she answered quickly, but then allowed herself to think about it. "Actually, I'm not too sure anymore. It's been almost a month."
"So, forget him," Josh advised. She shot him a look. "Or, just consider your options," he added quickly.
"My options?" she asked, raising her eyebrows. "Like what?"
"Well," he said, not looking at her now. "Like me."
"Josh," she sighed. They'd reached her car by now, and she stood, keys in hand, waiting for him to make his point. "I thought you were over this."
"I am," he replied quickly. She gave him a skeptical look. "Okay, maybe not completely. But, look, just go to prom with me."
"What?" she asked, not expecting this.
"Just come with me," he repeated. "Look, if this guy doesn't want to give you the time of day then he's not worth it. You can do better."
"Josh, it's not that easy," she replied, playing with her keys.
"Yes, it is," he told her. "Listen, at least come as friends. I mean, you can't miss your own prom."
She looked into his eyes, a different shade of brown than Norman's but still warm. Maybe he was right. If Norman wanted to avoid her, then maybe she would try to forget about him. Or at least, have one good night without him.
"Okay," she answered. "I'll go."
The Last Chance Bar and Grill was utterly deserted. Norman Carswell watched through the small window looking from the kitchen into the dining room as Morgan and Isabel, the two waitresses and his next-door neighbours, played tic-tac-toe.
"I win again," Morgan said, throwing her hands into the air triumphantly after drawing a line through her three x's, all in a row.
"I am getting so sick of this game," Isabel grumbled as she crumpled up the napkin they'd been drawing on and threw it in the garbage.
"You're just a sore loser," Morgan replied, sticking her tongue out at her.
"And you're a cocky winner," Isabel shot back.
Morgan laughed and began straightening the rags for what seemed like the millionth time that day. Isabel leaned her back on the counter and looked at Norman.
"So, what's been up with you lately?" she asked.
He shrugged. "Nothing much, I guess."
"I hear Colie's prom is coming up," she continued. "You going?"
He just shrugged again. "I don't know. Probably not."
Now Morgan turned around to look at him. "Why not?" she asked.
"We just haven't really talked since I came home," he answered, staring at his hands.
The past two years had been amazing for Norman. The day after the eclipse, back during that first summer, he and Colie had discovered that the art school he'd gotten into was in her hometown of Charlotte.
At the end of that summer, he drove her home, settling into campus, just on the other side of town. They'd seen each other almost everyday and he'd driven them both back to Colby at the end of her school year, where she was staying with Mira again.
This year, however, he'd come home at the end of his semester, not waiting the extra month for her to be done. He was running low on cash and needed to get back to work. He didn't think it would have been a big deal, but he hadn't spoken to her since his first night back at Mira's, when he'd called to let her know he'd made it.
"Did you guys break up?" Morgan questioned gently.
Again, Norman simply shrugged. "I don't really know," he answered.
"How can you not know?" Isabel demanded. "You're either together or you're not."
"I don't know," he snapped. He'd gone over it again and again in his head, trying to figure out just what had happened to them, but he'd come up empty every time. "We haven't, you know, talked about it. But we haven't talked about anything in almost a month. We haven't talked at all."
"Well, maybe you guys should talk about it," Morgan suggested.
Norman looked back and forth between his two friends. Isabel looked annoyed. Morgan looked concerned. He didn't much care for either expression.
"Yeah," he replied. "I'll call her tonight."
Colie was sitting on her bed, staring at the little black dress she's managed to find for prom. It wasn't anything special, but it was the best she could find on short notice.
She heard the phone ringing downstairs, but didn't bother to move; her mother would get it. She didn't much feel like talking to anyone at the moment, anyway.
She was feeling guilty. She couldn't figure out why she's agreed to go to prom with Josh. Especially when she wasn't even sure where she stood with Norman these days. Maybe he wasn't avoiding her. Maybe he was just busy. She knew she was busy - it was the last few days of her senior year, after all. Maybe things would be better come the summer when she was back in Colby, staying with Mira and working at the Last Chance.
"Colie!" she heard her mother call up the stairs. "The phone's for you."
Colie sighed. "Tell them I'm not home."
"Honey, it's Norman," Katherine called back.
Colie was on her feet and halfway to her mother before she even had time to think about it.
"Hello?" she said as she held the receiver to her ear.
"Colie?" Norman's voice replied. "Hey."
"Hey," she answered. "What's up?"
"Um, nothing really," he said. He sounded uncomfortable and she couldn't blame him. She felt uncomfortable, too. "Just that, uh, Isabel said that it was your prom this weekend ..." he trailed off.
"Yeah?" Colie prompted.
"Well, I was just wondering if, you know, I was supposed to be there?" he asked.
"If you're supposed to be here?" she repeated, picking out the word.
"Uh, that came out wrong," he said quickly. "I just didn't know if you wanted me there or not."
She heard what he wasn't saying. He felt obligated. He didn't want to be there. He didn't want to see her.
"No, it's fine," she answered. "I'm actually already going with a friend."
"A friend?" he asked. She knew he'd heard the double meaning in the words, that she had a date, but she couldn't quite feel bad about it.
"Yeah," she continued. "A friend."
He sighed. "Okay. I guess I'll see you next week, then, right?"
She thought for a moment. Did she really want to go back to Colby this summer? She wanted to see Mira and Morgan and Isabel, but did she want to have to deal with the awkwardness of living above and working with Norman for two months?
"I don't know, actually," she found herself saying. "I was thinking I might stay home this year."
"Oh," he replied, and she hated to admit that the disappointment she heard in his voice just about broke her heart.
"Goodbye, Norman," she said into the receiver.
"Goodbye, Colie," he whispered back.
After they'd hung up Colie went back to her room. She stared at her dress again, feeling the tears forming in her eyes. How had they fallen apart?
Norman sat on the beach behind Mira's house, a beer bottle dangling from his fingers, staring out at the surf. Saying goodbye to Colie had been the hardest thing he'd ever done. Even harder than leaving home and cutting off contact with his father.
Suddenly he felt two bodies plop down in the sand next to him, one on each side.
"You're too young to be drinking," Morgan said.
He just shrugged. He'd been doing that a lot lately, he noticed.
"Did you talk to Colie?" she asked.
He nodded his head.
"And ... ?" Isabel, always impatient, prompted.
"And it's over," he answered.
"Oh, Norman," Morgan sighed, wrapping an arm around his shoulders.
"She dumped you?" Isabel asked. Norman winced at the words.
"Not exactly," he replied. "We just kind of fell apart."
"I'm sure you guys can work this out," Morgan tried to assure him. "She'll be back here in a few days, and you two can talk it over."
"She said she's probably not coming down this summer," he told them.
Neither of them said anything and he knew they were shooting each other looks, communicating without words, but didn't bother looking away from the water.
"Okay, Norman," Isabel said finally. She sounded annoyed. "Do you still like her?"
"What?" he asked, looking at her.
"Well? Do you or don't you?" she questioned.
"Yeah," he replied without hesitation.
"So why aren't you going to fight for her?" she demanded.
"Because she doesn't want me anymore," he answered. "She's already got another date for prom and everything."
"Maybe she feels the same as you do," Morgan suggested softly.
He turned to her. "What do you mean?"
"I mean," she continued. "Maybe she doesn't know what went wrong. Maybe she doesn't know how to fix this, either."
"You know, that's probably true," Isabel said. "I mean, we've all heard about what her life was like before she came here. And we've seen your dating finesse, Norman. This is the first serious relationship either of you have been in."
He stared back out at the water, not sure what to think.
"Come on, Norman," Morgan said softly. "You take things that are falling apart and turn them into something beautiful all the time."
"I don't know if I can do that this time," he replied.
"Well, we'll help you, then," Isabel said. He had to admit, the determined look in her eyes was contagious.
When Colie pulled her front door open after hearing the bell ring she didn't quite know what she'd been expecting, but it certainly wasn't this.
"What are you guys doing here?" she asked.
"It's your prom," Morgan replied.
"And our prom sucked, so we're here to live vicariously through your's," Isabel finished, holding up the make-up bag she was carrying. "Where's your bedroom?"
"Follow me," Colie answered, still not exactly sure what was happening.
She lead them through the house and up the stairs to her bedroom.
"You have a huge house," Morgan commented.
"Yeah, well, when you're mom's an international weight-loss guru ..." she trailed off.
"This is your room?" Isabel asked when Colie pushed the door open and lead them inside.
"This is my room," she replied. It wasn't much. The walls were painted white, the trim was dark blue. Her bedspread was a tartan pattern in varying shades of blue. The window on the opposite wall looked into the back yard and let in some pretty good morning light. She had a TV and a VCR against the wall across from her bed, and a desk under the window.
"I like it," Isabel decided.
"It's clean," Morgan said.
"It's not distracting," Isabel countered. Morgan rolled her eyes.
"So, why exactly are you guys here?" Colie asked.
"We're here to do your hair and make-up," Morgan replied. "And we hadn't seen you in a while and thought a surprise visit was in order."
Colie couldn't help but smile. She'd missed her friends and hated the idea of not going back to Colby this summer, but she didn't think she'd be able to handle being around Norman so much.
"Is this your dress?" Morgan asked, pulling it out of the closet. Colie was sitting on the floor, Isabel perched on the bed behind her, playing with her hair.
"Yeah," Colie answered. "I know it's not much, but I didn't have much time to look."
Isabel looked up at it. "Not too flashy, pretty simple, yet beautiful. It's perfect for you."
"So, do you have a date?" Morgan asked. Colie had been dreading when the conversation would take this turn. Of course, they would already know that she and Norman weren't together anymore. They had known him for a long time, a lot longer than she had, and she had experienced their protectiveness of him first hand.
"Um, yeah, I do," she replied, not looking at either of them.
"What's his name?" Isabel asked.
"Josh," Colie answered. "I met him that first summer I spent in Colby. On the beach during the fireworks."
"I remember him," Morgan said. "He called the restaurant looking for you, right?"
"Yeah," Colie said, trying not to think about the conversation that had followed that phone call. He's jealous. That's what Isabel had said after Norman stormed out. She pushed the words from her mind along with the feeling that followed of needing to do anything to get him back on her side.
"Alright, your hair's done," Isabel declared and Colie was grateful for the subject change.
"Can I see it?" she asked.
"Not until your make-up's done," Morgan answered, unzipping the bag.
"So?" Norman asked after he picked Isabel and Morgan up from the convenience store by Colie's house and began driving towards the hotel they were staying in. "How'd it go?"
"I think this is going to work," Isabel replied.
"What makes you so sure?" he questioned. If this didn't work out, it really was the end. There would be no hope left for him and Colie.
"Because she looked completely heartbroken," Morgan answered.
Colie stood in her bedroom, facing herself in her mirror. Isabel had curled her hair and pulled it away from her face. Morgan had done her make-up. She had on her black dress and her high heels. She looked like any other girl getting ready to go to her senior prom, except for one thing. She just couldn't bring herself to smile.
She heard the doorbell ring and ran her tongue along her lip ring as she went to answer it. Josh smiled at her as she pulled the door open.
"You look beautiful," he told her.
She managed a small smile for him. "Thanks."
"Here, I got you a corsage," he said, holding out a small plastic case with a white rose inside it.
"It's beautiful," she replied. As he fastened it onto her wrist, though, something didn't feel right. The dress was perfect, the time was right, the corsage was gorgeous, but the boy was all wrong.
"You ready to go?" he asked. She looked into his eyes, the wrong shade of brown, and sighed. She'd chosen this.
Colie entered the gymnasium on Josh's arm and looked around. It was already crowded; couples were on the dance floor, girls were lined up against the walls waiting to be asked to dance, she even saw a couple of boys pouring something from inside their tux jackets into the punch.
"Do you want to dance?" Josh asked, leaning close to her ear to be heard.
No, she didn't.
"Okay," she replied.
He lead her into the middle of the crowd and put his hands on her waist. She lifted her's to his shoulders and they began spinning in a slow circle.
"This is great, huh?" he said in her ear. She just shrugged. "Come on, Colie, you could at least act like you're having fun."
She looked up at him. "I'm sorry, Josh. It's just ... prom isn't really my thing."
"You wanna ditch?" he asked. "We could go find something else to do."
She was about to say yes, when a voice rang through the gym.
"We're going to slow things down for a second with a special request," it was the DJ.
"Special request?" Josh asked as a slower song began. "What is this?"
Colie tried to think. She knew she recognized it. When the words began, though, she froze.
"Standing on the moon," Jerry Garcia's voice rang through the room.
Colie suddenly knew where she'd heard this song before. It was the one Norman had played the night he made a moon themed dinner for her and revealed his portrait. It was the song playing the first time he'd kissed her. This was the closest thing they had to 'their song'.
"It's The Dead," Colie answered Josh's question. She looked back up at him. "I'm sorry, Josh, I have to go."
"What? Colie, wait -" She didn't hear the rest of what he had to say, though, because she'd already started pushing her way through the crowd.
Her breath caught when she saw him. He didn't look like he did the last time. The faded jeans and paint splattered shirt were gone, as were the sunglasses perched on his nose. But he was still Norman.
He saw her too, and they just stood, about ten feet apart, staring at each other. No one else seemed to exist.
"What are you doing here?" she asked.
"I'm here for you, Colie," he answered. "I'm not letting you go that easily."
Before she even realized she was doing it, she had taken five long steps and closed the space between them. Wrapping her arms around his neck, she kissed him. He wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her tight against his chest.
"I love you," he whispered in her ear.
"I love you, too," she replied. It was the first time either of them had said it.
He smiled at her. "So, what do you say? May I have this dance?"
She smiled back. "You may."
Slowly, they began to spin, not taking their eyes off of each other, as the song slowly came to an end.
Standing on the moon,
With nothing left to do,
A lovely view of heaven,
But I'd rather be with you.
So, this ended up being a lot longer than originally anticipated. I apologize for posting this here, but Keeping the Moon is the only Dessen book without its own fandom (something I have requested).
Anyways, I hope you enjoyed it. Tell me what you think!