- 23 Jan - 29 Jan, 2021
THE CHRISTMAS DANCE
- 19 Dec - 25 Dec, 2020
I can’t believe I’m here, I tell myself as I enter the natural history museum’s doors.
A rambunctious crowd of well–dressed people flows through the entry with me. Some of the guys are wearing Santa hats that clash with their fancy suits. “It’s beginning to look a Lot like Christmas” belts from the huge speakers at the center of the makeshift dance floor under the full–sized whale skeleton suspended from the high ceiling. With deer–like grace,
a few couples are already practicing their dance moves. The smell of cookies and hot cocoa is in the air.
I should be with family, not at some…gala, ball, whatever, on Christmas Eve!
Seeing the practicing couples reminds me why I hesitated to come. I’ve only been dancing for a few months and only knew a few styles, some of which I got mixed up, much to my embarrassment. Worst of all, I didn’t have a steady partner.
My stomach ties itself in a knot as I hit an invisible wall.
I start to turn back – when I see my reason for coming.
She stands at the edge of the dance floor about twenty feet away. Her long strawberry blonde hair hangs over her shoulder in an intricate braid. Her holly–green dress hugs all the right curves of her petite figure while its knee–length skirt’s all but demands to twirl. White open–toe shoes make her look an inch or two taller and as poised as ever.
She turns and sees me.
My face burns.
She waves at me.
My feet are too heavy to run.
Suddenly, someone brushes me aside as he walks past, jolting me from the trance.
“Nice suit, Ethan!” scoffs a familiar voice. “Where’d you get it? Goodwill?”
I glance back and see Jimmy snickering at me. He’s wearing a black suit and tie that probably cost more than my car. I can’t believe I used to be friends with that jerk. As usual, seeing him leaves me torn between running away and punching him. He smirks at this and starts mingling with the girls.
He always has to rub in what a charmer he is.
The emcee welcomes everyone and plays “Jingle Bell Rock.” I look for Kara, but she’s already on the floor with another guy. It never fails. She’s popular at ballroom dance parties.
I sigh as I lean back against the wall. Jimmy runs by me, leading some poor girl – the first of his many conquests,
I assume – by the hand onto the floor. He smirks at me again as they partner–up. I feel like I’ve been stabbed.
The night wears on. I dance with a few girls, but they never seem excited to be with me. Is it because I’m a novice or ugly? Or an ugly novice? I look for Kara after each song, but no sooner does she step off the floor does another guy ask her to dance. Even the Flash wouldn’t be fast enough to catch her! All the while, Jimmy goes from one girl to next, charming them onto the floor. He dances as smoothly as he talks. The entire night I’m never sure if I’m red with anger or green with envy.
I look at my watch. Only ten minutes left. Another song starts playing. Where’s Kara?
I glance over my shoulder and see her standing by herself at the food table, sipping cocoa.
I take a deep breath to steel my nerves. It’s now or never.
I cut through the crowd. She sees me coming and grins. I swallow hard and keep walking. She puts her cup on the table and folds her hands as I approach.
I suddenly find myself within arm’s reach of her. I can smell her lavender perfume.
Her emerald eyes meet mine.
Jimmy swoops in, grabs Kara’s hand, and leads her away, saying, “Let’s dance!”
Just like that, she’s gone.
I look back at the dance floor. Kara is looking over Jimmy’s shoulder as they foxtrot to “Baby, its Cold Outside.” (Am I the only one who thinks that the song is kind of creepy?). Kara smiles awkwardly, her eyes pleading for a rescue.
Clenching my fists, I turn to leave.
“No,” I say to myself. “I won’t let that punk steal another girl from me!”
With newfound courage swelling in my chest,
I storm onto the dance floor and march toward them, maneuvering between couples. I tap Jimmy on the shoulder. He glares at me, but I don’t care.
“May I cut in?”
Before he can say, “No,” Kara jumps from his arms and into mine.
Instinctively, we start fox–trotting.
A few seconds later, my courage wanes as I realize I’m dancing with the prettiest girl in the room. My palms are so sweaty; I fear my hands will slip from Kara’s grasp.
The song ends.
My arms fall out of frame. “Th–thanks.”
I drop my gaze and step away – but Kara grabs my arm.
“This is the last song,” she says, “and I owe you a full dance.”
I shove the words out: “Uh…sure.”
“All I want for Christmas is You” starts playing. We swing dance to it. I’m so flabbergasted; I can barely do the basic steps and only remember to let Kara turn a few times. Her billowing skirt looks like a blossoming flower each time. She never stops smiling.
The song ends all too soon.
“Thank you for the dance,” Kara says.
I nod. Then I sigh and walk away. The fantasy is over. The clock’s striking midnight.
“Wait!” calls Kara.
I glance back as she rushes toward me. My stomach twists so much; it looks like her hair braid.
“I have a gift for you,” she says, reaching into her dress and producing a card. She takes my hand, puts the card in it, and folds my fingers onto it. “Merry Christmas!” she adds, gazing at me for several long seconds.
She walks past me.
I’m a frozen statue as people clear the floor, but eventually I look at the card.
It’s her phone number!
I turn around just in time to see Kara walk off the floor and wink at me.
My mouth curls into a smile.
I know what I’m doing for the New Year’s Eve.