"Look, there they are."
"Huh? I don't see them."
Andrea rolled her eyes. "How can you mistake that hair? Look, over there by the punch bowl."
Sharon frowned, searching through the crowd, and sighed in relief when her eyes lit on a familiar figure in shimmering pink. Irene stood next to her, wearing a floaty, champagne-colored dress that set off her eyes and hair perfectly, and the rest of 'the gang' clustered around them, talking amongst themselves. "Of course they're over by the food," she said at last, laughing. "Come on."
"Sharon!" Raising the hand not currently holding Fritz's, Brenda waved her over. "Good, you made it!"
"Just fine, thank you," said Andrea, her hands smoothing the hunter-green skirt of her own knee-length dress.
"Hey, glad you made it," said Fritz, already turning around. "How was the – holy shit." His jaw dropped as he caught sight of Sharon, and even in the hubbub, Brenda's smug giggle was unmistakable. "Sharon, you look amazing." Hastily, he shot a half-guilty glance at Brenda. "I mean, so do you, babe –"
This time Brenda broke out in full-fledged giggles. "I know I do," she said, still giggling madly. "Really, Fritzy, you're taken, not blind. After all the effort I put in on her, I'd have worried about you if you hadn't noticed. So, you like?"
"I like," said Fritz fervently. "I like very much. Clearly, babe, you are a diabolical mastermind."
"That was the general idea," agreed Brenda, smirking.
Hastily, Sharon pressed her hands to flaming cheeks. "That will be quite enough out of both of you," she said primly. "Shouldn't you be dancing?"
"Oh, sorry, did you think you were going to avoid being checked out by literally every person you know?" asked Brenda innocently. "And did you also think I wasn't going to watch? Think again, Sharie."
"Oh, there you are, Brenda," said Andy Flynn then, coming up to them. "Hey, ev- wait. Sharon?"
"Told you," said Brenda, dancing away from the kick Sharon aimed in her direction.
"Yes, it's me," said Sharon, a bit relieved for the distraction. "Hello, Andy."
He blinked twice, very rapidly. "What happened to you?"
Quietly, Sharon buried her face in her hands. "Brenda happened to me."
Without tearing his eyes away from Sharon, Andy offered Brenda his hand for a high five.
Still smirking like a cat on a dairy farm, Brenda obliged him.
"Oh, God, my feet," Andrea groaned several hours later, kicking off strappy champagne-colored heels and dropping into the chair next to Sharon's. "I refuse to wear anything but sneakers for a week after this."
"Ha!" said Sharon, flexing her toes. "At least nobody's stepped on them so far! I swear, if Sanchez - "
"Sharon!" cried a familiar voice, and she looked up into Andy Flynn's laughing eyes. "Why are you sitting down? Come on, I love this song, let's dance!"
"Lady Gaga? Really?" asked Sharon plaintively, but she was already beginning to smile.
"Yes, now come on!" Andy's hands tugged on hers, and then she was back in the whirlwind.
To Sharon's surprise – though it shouldn't have been, she thinks later – dancing with Andy turned out to be an incredibly pleasurable experience. He laughed and she grinned, reveling in the feeling of letting loose on the dance floor. The pounding rhythm of the music swept all of them up; she could see Annie laughing in Fritz's arms, Brenda cackling as she clutched Gabriel's shoulders, Provenza and Sanchez doing something ridiculous out toward the edge of the crowd. Andrea waved cheerfully from her chair, and just for that moment, nothing else existed. No college applications, no honors classes, no impending band competitions or loads of schoolwork or troubles at home.
Just for that moment, Sharon felt free.
The moment passed, as all moments did, and Sharon returned to her chair, flushed and exhilarated, collapsing in a happy, dazed heap as the music shifted into something slower, almost melancholy.
"Oh," Andrea murmured, nudging Sharon with her elbow and pointing to the center of the crowd still on the dance floor. "Look."
Sharon did, and her breath caught in her throat.
Brenda danced in Fritz's arms, her head nestled on his shoulder, her eyes closed in peace. They swayed slightly to the music, his arms wrapped around her, his lips resting against her blonde curls, holding her as though she were the most precious thing in his universe, and Sharon was startled to feel her eyes misting over. Something about the mournful poignance of the song mingling with the unfettered tenderness of the sight in front of her made her heart ache, and yet for the life of her, she couldn't understand why, because…
"What I wouldn't give," she murmured to Andrea at last, "to have someone hold me that way..."
Silently, Andrea reached out and gripped her hand.
Sharon blinked back tears and returned the squeeze with unconscious desperation.
"Come on, Sharon, come on!" Impatiently, she tugged on the other girl's hand. Sharon looked up at her, green eyes strangely damp, and Brenda blinked. "Sharie, are you okay?"
Sharon shook her head as if to clear it, then looked up with a smile genuine enough that Brenda decided not to press her – at least not right then. "I'm fine, Brenda," she said, and squeezed her friend's hand. "What am I being summoned for?"
"Last song of the night!" Brenda chirped, forgetting – at least for the moment – about Sharon's tears. "Come on, you can't miss this!"
"Oh, I assure you, I can," Sharon said drily, and nimbly darted away from Brenda's answering swat. But she didn't let go of her friend's hand, and right then, with the almost insufferably catchy synth of the dance's final song beginning to sweep all of them up, even Sharon Elisabeth Raydor couldn't help but let herself succumb to the magic.
"I love this song!" Brenda cried, as she recognized the familiar, nostalgic beat of a song she'd loved from the first moment she'd heard it. Something about the lyrics spoke to her on an almost bone-deep level, and she surrendered to the music and the moment.
The boy she loved was at her side, her dearest friends were all around her, and even as she danced, she did her best to imprint everything about this moment – the sounds and the scents, the sights and the feeling – into her memory and into her heart.
This was a night she wanted to remember for the rest of her life.