#18

Miss Calloway glanced around the gymnasium with only a casual interest. It was nice to see her students dressed like–well, dressed, period. The girls whose skirts were normally far too short for a night club, let alone a public school, were dressed in white, while their dates–the boys who normally wore their skinny jeans below their waists–were dressed in black suits. She caught site of Olivia Gardner entering the darkened room with Tom Gibson, smiling  and laughing as he grinned at her. The music had swelled into what her students considered an “oldie,” rather something from Miss Calloway’s high school days from not too long ago. Kids rarely danced, she used to think, but now it was about being foolish, not about impressing anyone. Girls and boys alike, although dressed like young ladies and gentlemen, ran to the dance floor to “Bernie” and “Wobble.” She felt old. She wished she had choked on that sandwich earlier that day and died.

She saw Mr. Temple enter through the balloon arch followed by Miss Bristol. As usual, Miss Bristol’s attire was just appropriate enough where so that she wouldn’t have to attend a seminar. She grabbed Mr. Temple’s arm and laughed–at nothing, Miss Calloway presumed. Kelly Calloway’s eyes locked with Mr. Temple’s, and he smiled. He brushed off Bonnie Bristol and walked over.

“Glad to see you’re alive and well, Miss Calloway,” Mr. Temple said, attempting humor.

“I’ve decided to give up eating all together,” Miss Calloway said.

“You could use some meat on your bones,” said Mr. Temple.

Miss Calloway did her best to not look amused. Was that his way of saying she was thin? Or that she looked like a crack addict of ten years? “I’ll be ingesting the whole snack table before the night is through,” she said.

Mr. Temple laughed awkwardly. The music changed to something that was going to pass for a slow dance. “Care to dance? I think I see a couple of kids not leaving any room for  the Holy Spirit,” he said.

Miss Calloway was angry with herself that she had laughed, but she agreed. Mr Temple put his hands on her waist. “Last time I did this, you were hacking up a lung,” Mr. Temple said.

“I can do it again, if you want,” Miss Calloway said, tapping two students who were getting a little too close.

“I’d rather you choke on the dinner I’d like to make you instead of a crappy ham sandwich,” he said.

“Since when are you making me dinner?” she asked.

Mr. Temple tapped another couple to separate. “Tomorrow,” he said.

The teachers continued to sway as the teeny bopper music continued, and Miss Calloway looked into Mr. Temple’s eyes, unsure if she believed him. A stray beam of light from the disco ball the school had rented fell on his face and he was being sincere.

Miss Calloway smiled lightly. “I’ll bring the wine.”

***

Olivia Gardner waited patiently for Tom Gibson to return with cookies and punch. She swayed a little as the music grew louder. Seeing everyone around her smiling and laughing, it couldn’t have been more perfect. She saw Jack Turner attempting to moonwalk, and she saw Kim Fairporte crawling around on the floor looking for her glasses. She loved her friends, and she loved that she was at a school dance with the boy every other girl wanted. Tom returned, punch in tow.

“Punch?” he said, offering Olivia a tiny cup of bright red juice. “I got you some cookies, too. I ate a few of them though. Hope you don’t like chocolate.”

“Thank you,” she said. “I’m not much for chocolate, anyway. I love almond paste, though.” She hated almond paste. All she wanted was an Oreo.

“Having a good time?” he asked, his eyes following Bridget Greenfield’s behind to the dance floor.

She wanted to say yes, and she was going to, even though she wasn’t exactly sure. “Would you like to dance again?”

Tom drank his punch in one gulp and shoved a cookie in his mouth. Through bites, he managed “I got a better idea. You want to go out to my car for a minute? Get some fresh air?”

Her favorite song had just come on. “I guess that’d be okay,” she said. They walked toward the door. She heard the music fade away.

The night air was cold and smelled of rotting leaves. The carnation Tom wore had wilted, and Olivia’s corsage had come undone. She did her best to imagine it was romantic. After all, the moon was out. That was something.

Olivia and Tom sat in the front seat of his pickup truck in silence.

“I’m sorry if it’s not like you thought it would be,” Tom said. “I’m just not much of a dancer or anything. Food is the best part about these things for me.”

He saw Olivia frown.

“Aside from you,” he said, saving himself.

“It’s fine, I’ve been having a good time,” she said.

Tom’s eyes met Olivia’s. They stayed there. She blushed.

“You’re a great girl. I know I’m lucky to be here with you.”

Olivia choked. She couldn’t speak. Tom leaned in and kissed her. She pushed him away, but then pulled him back. This was what she had wanted. She felt herself going farther than she ever thought she would. She caught sight of the moon through the fogged window. Clouds were covering it now and night was falling, and she lost herself.

END

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