Dewy flush adorns our cheeks as we shuffle and bump in the tiny powder room, vying for equal mirror time. I don’t stand a chance of course, being at least a foot shorter than her, but that doesn’t stop me from trying.
Dead or Alive shrieks from the boom box sitting on the rug outside the open door and combs, sprays, powders, shadows and glosses riddle the small bathroom countertop, trembling to the beat.
Frankly, I don’t need the mirror. I’ve long since learned to mirrorlessly cake color and coif curls on buses, in backseats and down deserted school hallways. Although it stems from faithlessness in my natural façade, it’s skill I’m quite proud of and one that has come in handy many a time.
Eventually relenting, I sit on the toilet lid, hot vapors from the iron tickling my ear. I pause, cementing the curl with a spritz of Final Net as the spool of chocolate melts with the heat. Shaking the iron gently, it loosens, leaving behind a perfect sausage roll of hair. Prepping the next coil, I tilt my chin and watch Jess, a master at her own ritual.
She uses a fascinating, self-taught technique to apply liner, slicking it on as thick as she can get it, creating inch wide circles around her top and bottom lids. Taking a damp Q-tip, she swipes away the excess, leaving perfectly precise strokes behind to cocoon her diminutive eyes.
“You spin me right round, baby, right round…” Jess’ tall, thin frame bobs to the music; her off-key crooning making me laugh.
“All I know is that to me, you look like you’re lots of fun. Open up your lovin’ arms. Watch out, here I come!” Although I can’t resist joining in, I barely finish the last line, giggles overpowering my desire to sing.
“Quit showing off!” she complains, half serious. “You’re always stealing my songs.”
“They’re hardly your songs,” I chide, “Unless you’re holding out on me. Are you jammin’ with Pete Burns behind my back?”
“Do you think he’ll be there?” she asks, squinting at the mirror, fluffing her naturally curly, blonde hair and basically ignoring everything I was saying.
“Pete Burns? I highly doubt it,” I tease, “Slightly rich taste for a good old North Side dance.”
“You know who I mean!” Her eyes widen, peeps of white speckling the muddy liner. Do you think he’ll show?”
“Dunno…don’t care.” I sigh, hoping I sound undoubtable.
The gymnasium is magically murky apart from the twinkle lights. They nod and dip as we walk under the archway and into the dance. The ceiling is flocked with pearly white balloons, their inflated heads and dangling strings reminding me of spermatozoa, compliments of elementary Sex-Ed.
“Jess!” I turn to smirk about the balloons, but she was gone, running after Sharon who looks ready to burst with the latest breaking news on the dance shenanigans.
I start to follow her, but freeze. I see him, his head swinging back and forth in front of the stage. That is it…I am stuck, breathless.
I watch him through the pack of gyrating teens, spinning girl after girl.
Jess keeps coming back, begging me to dance to all our favorites. My legs twitch, knowing I should be out there having fun, but my eyes are cemented, unable to break away from his chestnut hair and tanned skin.
“Come on,” Jess whines, “The next song is the last and it’ll be a slow one. At least dance this one with me!”
I look at her sparkly, ever-happy face and feel terrible. I’ve been a total let down, the opposite of a best friend.
“Okay, I’m sorry,” I surrender, “I don’t know why I’m wasting our night anyway.” Irritated with myself, I chisel my stare, snapping it free.
Concealing my dismay, I smile and laugh as we bounce to Quiet Riot, my mind fleeting to the sperm-like balloons once again, as Jess hollers; “Cum on feel the noise…”
As the song ends, Bradley Buchner hurries over to scoop her for the last number of the night.
“I’ll wait for you outside, Jess. It’s too hot in here,” I look at her, but her nose is already nuzzled in the crook of Bradley’s neck and Mrs. H is hurrying over to separate them as I slink away.
I punch the metal bar on the orange wooden door and my heart plunges into the pit of my stomach as I see him sitting there on the steps. I want to slither back into the school, but he’s already heard me coming.
“Hey,” he says, “Where did you come from?”
“The gym. It was, uh, too hot in there. I needed some air.”
“You were in the gym?” he looks surprised.
“Um, yeah.” I say, looking down at my satin dress and patent pumps. Where did he think I’d been?
“Oh, yeah, I guess,” he looks away quickly. “It’s just that I was kind of keeping an eye out for you. I didn’t see you once.”
I had been hiding in the shadows, watching him all night, sabotaging my own chances of dancing with the boy I’d had a crush on for two years.
We sit silent on the cool concrete steps listening to Bonnie Tyler’s echoey billows seeping from the gym. Her murmurs wander the empty halls and filter out into the dark night. Stars faintly twinkle behind the drooping, shadowy haze in the sky, the scene a ghost of the party inside.
I’d hidden; afraid he’d hurt me, but in the end, he didn’t have to. I’d taken care of it myself.
© 2012 The Wrought Writer