"…and that's how you C-walk," I said, as I finished showing Daisy some of my new dance moves.
"Wow! Where'd you learn to dance like that?"
"My cousin in Marashino taught me," I replied. "It's what they're all doing up in the city."
I continued showing her a few of my dance moves until she excused herself to go freshen up. As she walked towards the restrooms, I caught myself smiling.
Ok, I had to admit that I was actually having a bit more fun now. Between being able to show off my new dance moves to just hanging out with Daisy and David, I was kinda beginning to enjoy this dance. Yeah, chasin' after all the hotties was fun every once and a while, but I guess sometimes you get so caught up in it all that you overlook the people who really are important to you. Sometimes friends like Daisy and David were all a guy could ever need. Besides, hanging out with them involved so much less drama and so many fewer bruised egos.
That still didn't keep me from feeling a twinge of jealousy when I spied that annoyingly happy couple from earlier passing by.
I turned around, putting them out of sight. Wanting to get my mind on something else, I searched the room for David and found him ducking behind group football players, trying to look all secretive and failing miserably.
"What the hell are you doing?" I asked.
"Shh! She'll hear you."
"Flower girl," he replied in that hopelessly lovestruck tone he always used when talking about her.
I peered through the crowd and saw David's flower girl chatting with her friend.
"Dude, grow a pair and go ask her to dance."
"One does not simply walk up to flower girl!"
"What are you talking about? You just gotta remember what I've been telllin' you about acting cool and shit. The ladies eat that all up."
A stifled laugh interrupted me. I wheeled around to see Sue standing with her arms folded across her chest wearing a smug grin on her always so self-righteous face.
"What's so funny?" I asked.
"Give me break," she replied. "What do you know about what we want?"
"Hey, I happen to be an expert on picking up chicks."
"Right." Sue rolled her eyes. "That sure explains why you couldn't even get a date for tonight."
Owch, Sue. That one was below the belt. David chuckled at Sue's remark.
"Hey, I don't need a date to get some action tonight," I shot back. "Besides, I don't see any guys lining up to dance with you."
"You say that as if it's a bad thing. I'm perfectly content to avoid any relationship drama and just enjoy this dance with my best friend Amaya," she replied, placing her arm over Amaya's shoulder.
I nudged David with my elbow. "See, I told ya' she was a lesbo."
"Hey, I heard that!"
Sue reached out to smack me, but I was long gone, having scampered out into the crowd, laughing. As I darted between bodies, I heard the hip hop beats begin to slow as the DJ changed tracks. An audible sigh stretched out across the gymnasium as the dreaded slow song came over the speakers. I joined the mass exodus of students from the dance floor, leaving only the couples out to dance. As I walked toward the edges of the gym, I glanced around to see whether David had worked up the guts to ask his Flower Girl to dance yet. That's when I saw her.
Daisy stood with her back slumped against the far wall of the gymnasium. Despite all the nearby groups of girls chatting away, she was there by herself, staring out at the dance floor with that same distant expression from earlier in the night. I squeezed through the crowd to make my way over to her. I just couldn't stand seeing that frown on her face any longer.
"Oh, hi Paulo." Daisy managed a weak smile to greet me. "Why aren't you out there having fun and dancing?"
"I'm taking a little breather. These slow songs are always so sappy and girly anyway."
"I guess they are," was her uncharacteristically subdued response, lacking the cheery optimism that everyone came to expect from Daisy.
"Hey, is something up? I've noticed you've been acting kinda strange tonight."
Daisy let out a sigh. "I've just been worrying about Mikie."
"Oh." Of course it was about him. "He never showed up, did he?"
"What if something happened to him? What if he got hit by a car on the way over here, or what if he got kidnapped, or—"
"Daisy, chill. I'm sure he's fine. He probably just got caught up reading one of his lame books again."
"I know, but…" Daisy hesitated before continuing. "This is going to sound really childish and selfish, but ever since I heard that Lucy wasn't going to be here, I was really looking forward to this dance. I thought that I'd get the chance to have Mikie all to myself, that we could finally spend some time together without Lucy always stealing away his attention. All I could think about for the past couple of weeks was how to convince him to slow dance with me, and how magical it would be if he said yes." Daisy sighed as she stared out at the dance floor. "I know it's just a silly fantasy and it wouldn't have done anything to change anything, but just sharing a moment like that with him would have been enough to make tonight special." Her eyes dropped back down to the ground. "Part of me imagines that he skipped out of tonight to chase after Lucy. Maybe he decided that being here with me just wasn't worth his time. I'm… I just feel so..." Daisy paused.
"Unwanted," I said.
Daisy suddenly wrapped her arms around me and buried her face into my chest, letting out a few muffled sobs. Me and my big mouth. I was about to apologize for my remark, but she interrupted.
"Why does Mikie always ignore me? What's wrong with me, Paulo?"
Taken back by her sudden outpouring of emotion, I was still standing stiffly, my arms at my sides because frankly, I didn't really know what to do. But her anguished cries and those familiar emotions in her voice melted away that stiffness. I brought my arms up and wrapped them around Daisy in a reassuring embrace. I leaned my head forward, nuzzling it against her soft hair, and into her ear I said:
Daisy paused her crying and lifted her head from my chest. I placed my hands on her shoulders, and she released her embrace of me so that she could lean back and look up at me.
"Absolutely nothing is wrong with you Daisy," I repeated. "I don't know what Mike's deal is, but look, you're the nicest, sweetest, smartest girl I know. If Mike can't see that, well, then that's his loss. Because someday you'll meet someone else – someone better than Mike, someone who appreciates who you are – and you'll make him really happy. And Mike'll be missing out because he can't see how frickin' amazing you are."
Daisy stared up at me and although she was no longer sobbing, a rivulet of tears still flowed down her face.
"Look, Mike and Lucy aren't even here and we're letting all their stupid drama ruin this evening," I continued. "Well screw them. Why should we let them keep us from having a good time? C'mon Daisy, for just one night, let's forget about them, pretend they don't exist. Let's kick all that aside and just enjoy tonight for what it is."
I offered my hand to Daisy. "So whaddya say?"
"You're asking me to dance? But what about all the other girls you were dancing with earlier? I don't want to ruin your fun tonight just because I'm—"
"Daisy," I interrupted her, "forget about them. You're the only girl I want to dance with right now."
Daisy's face broke into a smile as she wrapped her arms around me once again. "You're the best, Paulo."
"Hey, c'mon," I said, wriggling free from her grasp. "Let's dance."
I led her out toward the middle of the gymnasium amongst the other dancing couples, and we turned to face each other. Uh, ok, so here we go. To be perfectly honest with you, I'd never really slow danced with anyone before, so I was at a loss for what to do. I started by placing my hands on her waist because that's what the guy's supposed to do, right? I glanced over at the couple next to us just to make sure. Daisy responded by wrapping her arms around my shoulders.
Ok, so far so good. Now we just needed to start moving.
As we began dancing, I focused on trying to keep time with the music, looking down at my feet to make sure they were moving properly and that I wouldn't accidentally trip or step on her toes. Don't screw this up, Paulo. Daisy's counting on you to make this night special.
After I think I started getting the hang of everything, I looked back up at Daisy. Unlike before, she was no longer staring off into the distance with that sad look on her face. No, she looked more like her normal cheery self. She looked happy. We exchanged a smile wordlessly.
Man, this is kinda weird. I mean, dancing with Daisy wasn't bad or anything, but being this close to her, holding like this, I wasn't really used to treating her and thinking about her in that way. Yeah, we were really close friends and she was a girl and I was a guy, but I guess the thought never really crossed my mind. I mean, she wasn't just another pretty face. She was Daisy! She was the first friend I made in Roseville, the first person here that I felt I could open up to. She was like a sister to me. Besides, she had always been crushing on Mike, and I had always had my eye on Lucy. But now—
My mind was so caught up in those thoughts that I tripped over my own feet and stumbled into Daisy. I scrambled trying to regain my balance, but Daisy's reaction to my clumsiness was to just wrap her arms snugly against me.
My wild flailing instantly ceased as I felt her soft body press against mine. Wow. Ok, I guess that works too. I regained my footing and followed suit, wrapping my arms around her lower back. We were so close, I could feel the contours of her body against mine, hear her soft breath as it ruffled through my fur, and smell the faint floral aroma from her perfume. I smiled as her stray whisks of hair tickled me beneath my chin.
"Wow, I never noticed how puffy your fur was," I remarked.
"Hey, don't make fun of me like that."
"No, I mean that in a good way," I quickly replied. "It's really soft and comfortable."
"Aw, thanks Paulo."
As we held onto each other, slowly rocking back and forth to the music, I closed my eyes, just wanting the savor the moment – to commit those sounds, smells and feelings to memory. As I reopened my eyes and looked out into the crowd, I immediately saw David staring out at us, mouth agape.
Oh God, I'm never going to hear the end of this from him. David finally noticed me looking back at him. A wide grin spread across his face as he shot out a thumbs-up.
I just rolled my eyes back in response and turned my attention back to Daisy. The music was beginning to fade, and I began to feel a little disappointed. Inwardly, I chuckled. Wishing the slow song would last longer? Man, maybe all this thinking about Daisy is starting to turn me into a hopeless romantic too.
As the DJ transitioned to a more upbeat song and the crowds of student began to rush back onto the dance floor, Daisy and I slowly released our embrace. As we pulled apart, Daisy grabbed onto my arm and gave it a gentle tug, as if she wanted to tell me something. I bent over so that she could whisper something into my ear, but instead, I felt her lips give me a peck on the cheek.
"Thanks for being such a sweetie tonight."
"I, er, you're, er, I mean…"
"You're blushing!" Daisy giggled.
I quickly regained my composure. "Yeah, well, it's just for tonight. I got a reputation to keep up, ya' know."
Daisy looked confused by my reaction at first, but then she replied with a knowing smile. "Don't worry, you're secret's safe with me – just like you and Alegria."
"Man, you're not going to let me forget that."
"Nope," she replied. "Just like how I'm not going to forget tonight either"
I smiled. "So you're having a good time now?"
Daisy nodded, but suddenly a funny smile crossed her face as she peeked behind me. "Is that Kizuna asking Davie to dance?"
I spun around to see Kizuna dragging David away from the punch bowl and onto the dance floor. "Oh man, I've got to see this!"
I looked down at Daisy and offered my arm to her. She looked back up with me, and with the sweetest smile on her face, wrapped her arm around mine. Arm-in-arm, we walked off together to rejoin our friends.
The rest of the night went rather uneventfully (aside from David getting thrown out of the window, but that's another story). There was no magic, no fairly tale moments. And no, neither David nor I got laid. But, you know, I'm okay with that. Despite all the signs saying otherwise, tonight was not a night when dreams came true. No, tonight was something better – it was real.