I am a very white girl. That fact is never more obvious than when I’m dancing. Why I chose to use that against Jessica Cooper, I’ll never know. You’d think I’d challenge her to something like a three-point-shooting contest or a sprint…you know something I could actually win. But no, I have to go and open my big over exaggerating mouth and rope myself into having to dance with her! As she leads me through the door and onto the dance floor, the flicker of humor in her eyes is the second brightest thing in the room…the first being the redness of my face.
“Okay, Miss Mayze, show me what you got,” she pulls me into her arms as the lights dim on a slow song. Our legs intertwine and her arms snake around my waist as I drape mine over her shoulders.
Her hips sway side to side then her hand presses lightly on the small of my back, signaling a change of direction. Our hips are undulating against each other now, grinding our thighs and bellies together. She’s a really, really good dancer and I’m sure the look on my face is telling her so.
She looks down at me with a big grin and I notice that she’s singing. When she realizes I’m watching, she starts lips syncing rather melodramatically, making me laugh. Given the tense atmosphere that passed between us earlier, I was afraid she wouldn’t loosen up and clown around. As the song ends, she twirls me around and dips me. That song melds into another and I don’t even try to leave the floor. Thankfully she doesn’t either.
The song is a slow ballad and she turns me around before pulling me into her. With my back to her, I close my eyes and try to enjoy the feeling of being held. It’s been too long since I’ve felt this ….appreciated. Jesse’s mouth rests against my ear and as we rock from side to side, she hums the tune softly. Every once in a while she steps back and has me turn before pulling me back in with a smile.
“I’m gonna go make a request, will you wait for me?”
I shrug, “Sure, what are you requesting?”
She leans in very close, “You’ll see.” She winks at me and then turns away. I watch her saunter through the crowd towards the DJ booth. Her movements are fluid, her arms and legs moving together like the well-oiled gears of a beautifully crafted machine. She mesmerizes me.
Her request made, she turns on her heel and starts back towards me. As I watch her, the music seems to gradually lower in volume until I don’t even hear it. We stare directly at each other without blinking. The longer I meet her gaze, the larger her crooked grin grows, until it almost outshines the light in her eyes.
Without a word she wraps her arms around my waist, “I don’t know if you know this, but you’re the most beautiful woman in this room.”
“Liar,” I can’t help but blush, even though I dispute the statement, “you know damn well you’re the most beautiful woman in this room.”
She throws her head back and lets out a hardy chuckle, which is probably the most amazing sound on Earth, “You think so?”
I nod emphatically, “Yes, I do!”
“Well, you’re the only one,” she looks around the room. “Because everyone else would much rather watch you than me.”
It’s my turn to chuckle, “They’re only looking at me because they’re jealous I get to dance with you and they don’t!”
The DJ cuts off any rebuttal she could muster, “Ladies and gentlemen, this next song is a personal request. I can’t tell you any more than that, because I don’t know any more than that! This is “Stay” by Me’Shell Ndegéocello. Enjoy.”
“I love this song! I love Me’Shell! How did you know she’s my favorite artist?” She wraps her arms around me and I fit against her as if I were made to be there.
Very softly she whispers, “I just know.”
I sing the song under my breath and let my body go. In fact, I let it go so much that I don’t even know Jesse’s thigh has worked its way between my own. By the time I realize what’s happened, we’re already grinding hard against each other and I’m enjoying this so much I talk myself out of saying something about how close we are.
She whispers, “Come a little closer,” as her arm holds me tighter.
“I can’t get much closer and still have clothes on.” I laugh at my own joke, but stop cold when Jesse responds.
“Then take them off. I want you closer.”
I can’t help the shiver that floods my body, “If we get any closer, everyone’s going to start putting dollar bills in our pants!”
She laughs hard at that, the sound makes my heart vibrate a bit, “Oh, you got jokes, now?”
“Well, I’m just sayin’,” I look down at the lack of space between our bodies, “we’re getting a bit close here.” When I look back up, her face is very close and her eyes are fiery.
She raises an eyebrow, “Are you complaining?”
“No,” I stammer, “I just…I mean…I was just saying that we’re…” I look away from her face and then back again with a faux blank stare, “Wait, what we talking about?”
She nods, “Oh, okay, so now you play innocent.” She laughs, “But I don’t see you leaving me alone out here.”
The song changes and the fast beat is a welcome change. I throw my hands in the air and wave them around, “Damn right! And you better not leave me, either!” I turn around and shake my ass, praying I don’t look totally stupid. When I look over my shoulder, Jesse’s watching my every move with a silly grin. I close my eyes, sing to the music, and allow the beat of the song to take me away for the next three minutes.
“Can I see your face now?” A slow song starts and I turn to answer her.
She takes my breath away, “Where did you get the fedora?”
“I borrowed it,” she pulls me into her body in a more “traditional” dancing pose. Her right arm goes around my waist as her left hand holds mine, “Do you like it?”
“Yes,” I study her face, her eyes shielded from the lights above by the lip of the hat, “I do. It suits you.” I want to say something more, but I don’t know what to say. And even if I did know what to say, the look she’s giving me would swallow the words before I could utter them. I suddenly am very, very thirsty. When the song ends, I ask for a reprieve from the next song, “But I want the one after that. You’re only free for one song, Cooper.”
She tips the hat, “Yes, ma’am.” She watches me walk away with a sultry grin. But when Megan asks her to dance, she accepts.
The song is slow and has a beat meant for grinding. I am instantly mad that I asked to sit this one out. But not because I wanted to dance with her this time…because I didn’t want anyone else dancing with her! I contemplate cutting in, but decide against it.
When the next song comes on, Meg gestures to me, “One more?” I nod, with a smile, but inside I’m jealous as hell. Why do I care? She’s new. She’s younger than me. She’s just a team mate. Right? But two can play this game. If Megan Currie wants to go grinding on the new kids, let her. I don’t need to grind on a new kid to feel important. I look around to see who’s dancing and who’s not.
As if she reads my mind, Ashley walks past me, grabbing my hand on the way to the floor, “Dance with me!” Her eyes twinkle with mischief and she whispers into my ear, “Let’s turn a few heads, shall we? She wants to take your new friend and no longer wants to be my girlfriend. Well, we can play dirty, too!”
I laugh out loud and nod, “You are the best!”
“Let’s do this!” She throws her arms in the air and starts singing at the top of her lungs. The song is loud and fast, the beat makes my chest thud.
“If he makes you feel like a million dollar bill, say oh!” We sing, dance, and throw caution to the wind… in short, we have a blast dancing!
Out of the corner of my eye I watch as Meg turns on her charm. She smiles and giggles and shimmies for Jesse’s attention, successfully earning it by dancing as provocatively as humanly possible. I can’t even blame the freshman for noticing her, Megan’s beautiful.
The song changes to another slow beat and Ashley drapes her arms around my neck, laying her head on my shoulder. I pull her into me, knowing she’s crying. Inside I chastise Meg for breaking Ash’s heart. I think to myself, “You’re too good for her, Ash. She doesn’t deserve you.” I rub her back and try to comfort her.
Jesse leaves the dance floor and I can feel her eyes on us when she passes. I don’t acknowledge her at all. Megan follows her like a shadow. I hear Ashley speak against my collarbone, “I hate her.”
I hug her gently, “No you don’t, but it’s okay if you need to pretend to, Ash.” She sniffles and my heart breaks for her, “I won’t tell anyone. I promise.”
She picks up her head and looks into my eyes just long enough to thank me, “Thank you, Sara. I feel bad for taking you away from her, but I couldn’t handle it anymore. I don’t want to ruin your night.” She puts her head back down, “But I’m so glad you’re my best friend. You’re so selfless. You give everything you have and I am so grateful.”
“I know, Ash.” I can’t stop the sigh. The night will soon be over and I’ll go to bed alone. Ashley will cry herself to sleep for the umpteenth time this month. And Jesse….what will happen to Jesse after this?
She is standing on the sidelines alone; her weight on her left leg, her right provides only balance. The borrowed fedora tilts to the side slightly; a thumb hooked loosely in a belt loop. I can only see the faintest shadow of her face, but I see her jaw plainly. She watches me without shame or shyness. Somehow, even though I can’t see them, I know that her eyes are memorizing me. The power of that look makes me weak and, strangely, gives me strength, too.
In the morning we’ll meet again, but it’ll be different. We’ll be on cold wood, running, sweating, and competing for the same thing. We’ll spend much of our time trying to out-work, out-do, and out-play the other. But right now, in this moment, she watches me from the edge. I hold my best friend while she falls apart. And, together, we have potential. The possibilities are limited by only our willingness to ignore the obvious.