I Am Rosemary's Granddaughter Chapter 5: Can't We Just Dance

Chapter Five
Can't We Just Dance

Highland Academy had a Prom, kind of. Our school wasn't huge compared to the other schools in Shelby County so instead of a "Junior-Senior Prom", it consisted of everyone. If you were fortunate to date a senior as a freshman, well...good for you. I went to Prom with Karen Anne, of course; but it was four months, fifteen days, six days and five minutes into our relationship, which was beginning to wane...on both of our parts.
I confided with Michael on how our relationship was faltering. He just responded that love's kind of weird and he wasn't sure what it would take to have him say that he actually loved someone.

"I mean, really love someone--to look past the pretty face and see my future with said person."
"I've been doubting any future with Karen Anne." Which was a half a thought. The other half was: "I want a future with you."
"But you're still taking her to Prom?"
"Well, yeah...I mean she bought the dress."
"And the flowers..."
"And got a limo for all of us..."
"And you just rented a tuxedo. Not sure if you're the winner or the loser in all of this."

Michael and I would meet up with Karen Anne and his date, Melissa Cantour when the limo came by my house first. Melissa was, what's the best way to describe her without sounding like a condescending bitch? Never mind, I can't do that as much as I could stop breathing.
Okay, Melissa-never call her Mel's, Lissa or (S)Melly-Cantour was how Karen Anne could have turned out if she had sold her soul to Miranda Priestly. She was the debutante of our school...except one would never want to ask about her celibacy. In fact, I never asked Michael about it either. He never would ask the particulars with Karen Anne and myself, so I kept the respect mutual.

The limo arrived at 5:45 PM and it took us to Karen Anne's house: a very "Dallas"-ish ranch house outside of town. There were no dusty roads or gravel paths: everything was pristine grass and shimmering concrete. I had been to Karen Anne's house twice (each time under the watchful eyes of her younger sisters) with that night being the second to final time I would step up to the door.
We stood at the doorstop in our barely fitting monkey suits as I rang the doorbell.

Karen Anne's mother answered the door. Mrs. English was, for the most part, an older twin of Karen Anne--she too, never wore jeans or sweat pants. One would think she was a vampire as she never seemed to age, never had a bad hair day and her face was always bright, shiny and happy.
I still wondered what she thought about me with her daughter.
"Oh, I see we have some classical southern gentlemen at our door."
"Yes ma'am." Michael responded.
"Good evening, Mrs. English," I replied.
"Please come in and I'll let Melissa and Karen know you're here."

We walked in and she quietly closed the door; but it still made a large "thud"--it was a heavy wood door that looked like Karen Anne's father had gone out and physically cut it from a solid oak tree. That wasn't quite off form the truth...I still don't know what Karen's father did for a living but whatever it was he was always working with his hands--building things bigger and better. He only said one thing to me: "Don't break her heart or I will break you."

We met the girls' who were complete in their too-expensive-for-one-night dresses and hair styled by someone who would never dream of using simple scissors. Michael was speechless for a moment.
"Prettier than a Nashville sunset."

Melissa merely nodded as he took her hand and we all posed for pictures.

Karen Anne; she did look beautiful...but she always looked beautiful in anything she wore while I looked...like some poor, awkward schlub with hair that was just a bit too scraggily that never tried anything with her.
Well, not exactly...we did do a lot of touching; or should I say massaging...we never did anything sexual. I loved the way she looked and I felt so inadequate in all departments in the very first time I saw her in a bikini (she 'innocently' asked me how it looked) and gave me subtle hints to take it off of her but I just couldn't--for as much as I loved her...I didn't 'love' her.

I didn't really even love myself and as the months went on we became more and more 'friend' like once again. It came to an apex at Prom.
We arrived fashionably late to the sound of an ever-persistent bass drum beat. Tragically for Michael the DJ had no idea who John Michael Montgomery--'JM Squared who?'--was.

The girls left to the restroom, we were not sure at the time why.
"I'm not liking this, Kris."
"Why?" I nearly yelled over the bass.
"What do I have common with Melissa?"
"Well, I- Just enjoy yourself."
"Don't think I can. This was a mistake to--"
"Wait, just wait a bit. It's just Prom...not a tryout for "American Idol" or graduation day. Who's going to remember what happened here two or so years down the road. It's not your first rodeo, right?"
"I'd prefer the rodeo to this."
"Maybe you should ask her to go to one?"
He grinned at that. I wasn't sure if the grin was because it was a good idea or if he was trying to envision Melissa navigating the bulls and blood and the dust of mud of the arena.

The girls returned in time for a slow dance and we took our perspective dates to the floor.
I had attempted to teach Michael a few slow moves and he tried to show me how to swing dance-it looked awkward then...and it still looks awkward now due to our different heights; but, I still enjoy it...in a better than sex and chocolate kind of way.

Despite our ability to waltz, our slow dance was done like everyone else was--a gradual step to the right or left in a circle. Karen Anne's face showed boredom.
"You okay?"
"Yeah, I'm good."
"Okay" I replied as the music swelled.

KA placed her head on my shoulder. You could say that it was an "aww" moment--if only I shared the sentiment.
The song continued and we both witnessed Melissa breaking away from Michael.
She stomped away, leaving him alone in a sea of couples.
"She left him," KA nearly yelled over the music.
"I can see that."
"I'm going to go see if I can talk to her; find out what happened."
I nodded as she let go of my hand and ran off the floor.

I took a few moments to walk over to Michael.
"Tell me again why I'm with Melissa tonight?" He asked.
"Because she asked you."
"But why did she ask me?"
I had a lot of different answers for him and a lot of them had to do with what was below his belt buckle, but I played it safe. "Maybe she really likes you and is just shy about it?"
"But I can't like her."
"Me and a girl like that? Ain't gonna happen, she--"
Karen Anne walked in-between us.
"Kris, would it be okay if I asked Michael to dance?"
He looked at me and then to KA.

I nodded as they stepped away and Karen took his hands in a slow dance even though I wanted to know what had happened between Mels and Michael...and then what did Smellie say to Karen Anne?

I stood from the side of the dance floor and watched them slowly move and I felt jealous. There had been a few times that the three of us were together and times when KA and Michael talked about...stuff but there they were, for supposedly one dance; perhaps for KA to find out what happened or maybe to place her head on his chest and breathe in the cologne that he always wore that made you want to actually buy western-theme clothes, a hat and try to ride a horse at a fast gallop to a remote place where you can just stare into his eyes. Well, those were my thoughts, but--the music had stopped and KA was looking at my zoned-out face.

"We need to talk."
"Okay," I replied. Her tone was a kind of a cross between someone trying to say "your mom died" and "I kind of loathe you...no offense," and does any conversation that begins with 'We need to talk' ever go well?
"We've been friends for a long time."
"Since ninth grade." It was loathe...and in any other hormonally challenged teenage "boy" this would be life's death keel.
"And in that time, we've never argued about anything."
"Why not?"
"Because we agree on things."
"That's the problem."
I expected something along the lines of something shallow, like: "your hair smells."
"I've wanted you to disagree with me. I want a boyfriend, not a lady-in-waiting."
All of the this could become a shouting match moments flew by me as if on fast-forward. "Why? I mean, you had good ideas. Why bicker about them?"
"But I want someone who will speak up for themselves., even with me."
"As much as you say that...I seriously doubt you're offering me a second chance."
"You're right. I'm not."
"Who is it?" I asked point blank. I wasn't expecting her to answer truthfully and I kind of really didn't care. I couldn't blame it on Michael, he wouldn't have known what to talk to her about me and I seriously doubted she would have asked him.
"No one...It's just the principle of it."
"I see."
There was a long pause, which became longer as the music stopped at that point.
"Well, I understand," I really wanted to act out a grandiose soliloquy, perhaps quote something by Sylvia Plath or John Hughes but nothing came to mind.
"Is that all you have to say? That you understand?"
"You want me to disagree you?"
"No. Well. Maybe."
"You've made your point. There's not much else to say."

I didn't hate her...I also didn't really love her so there wasn't a tearing of emotion like there should have been...like she may have been expecting.
"I want you to show some emotion."
"I am. I hope you'll find happiness with someone...even if he listens to everything you say."
And with that, I walked past her and out the door.

* * *
“So, you’re the one that got away?” Nola asked Michael from across a small table in a cramped college club. It was one of those places that allowed people under twenty-one but barred them from drinking any alcohol by giving them a vermillion letter on their wrist that glowed in black light.
The five of us-myself, Michael, Nola, Matt, Karen Anne--sat in a circle around the table.
Nola was a tall, olive-skinned, second year student. Matt was best described as a pre-hipster -hipster, complete with the goatee and John Lennon-inspired glasses. The only thing missing was a pocket-sized book of Nietzsche quotes in his front shirt pocket. He kept to himself throughout the conversation--the one KA controlled.

“Kind of. He was my ex’s best friend. We kind of went out for a few days-nothing came out of it though-told me he was seeing someone else and…well, that must be you.”
I nodded, still trying to hide the awkwardness of the situation. Here was my old girlfriend who didn’t seem to recognize me.
“I have to tell you; I used to have dreams about him.”
Michael looked down and then at me.
“He does get into your head,” I replied.
"So how is Kris doing?" Karen Anne went right back to Michael as if I wasn't even there.
"He's doing pretty good."
"Does he still do that high-pitch whiny voice when he gets mad?"
"Not so much now," Michael replied. "He's changed quite a bit."
"He was a character."
"Still is," Michael replied as he attempted to get a reading on me. My face was hiding any bitterness I had. My expression was like if I was a foreign exchange student on the first day of school who would just smile and nod at everything being said because she didn't have a freaking clue. But in this case, my face was hiding the rage of wanting to smash a glass over Karen Anne's head...but I had promised Michael I wouldn't kill her.

"Where did you meet, Mike, Allie?"
"We were at a rodeo and--"
"Oh-my-god, you actually do ride?"
"Not so much anymore."
"I thought you were just saying that. Oh, I feel stupid."
I didn't respond to that.
"So, you don't live in Cordova?" Karen turned her laser targeting scope back at me.
"No, Jackson, Mississippi."
"Long distance relationship? Looks like you made it work," KA replied as she looked at Michael.
"Thank you."

Matt took the moment to stand up. "I'll be right, going to get a refill on this." He didn't look comfortable and I assumed that he wanted to get away from Karen's prying questions...or maybe he was just really thirsty.
"I'll go with you," Michael replied--which made my heart jump. I wanted to grab at his hand but he looked at me, nodded and smiled as he spoke. "Can I get you anything?"
"No, thank you,” I replied as I put my hands on the table-in a desperate attempt to not look nervous.
"Karen Anne?"
"I'm good. Thanks, I--Whoa. That's a monster stone."
Michael took the opportunity move away from the table with Matt as KA grabbed my hand to look at the ring.
"Did Mike give this to you? Look at this. It’s gorgeous."
"Thank you."
"When are you going to have it?" She finally released my arm from her grasp.
"We're thinking June."
"I can’t believe I let him slip right by me. You’re lucky."
"Thank you."
"What’s your major?"
“Theatrical Arts.”
“Do you see Kris sometimes?”
“A bit.”
"He was a math whiz. Sometimes that’s all he thought about. I think it was his dad though-he was an asshole."
"That bad?"
"The guy was a control freak...I think he had a lot to do with why Kris was--I'm sorry, I shouldn't be talking about him like that. He's Michael's friend, and I--”
I looked at Karen Anne's face for a brief moment and she looked back at me--something was clicking in her brain. Nola's eyes jumped back and forth between the two of us.
"You look familiar to me, are you sure we haven't met before?"
"Not unless you've been through Jackson, I-- Excuse me for a moment. I'll be right back."
Michael and Matt had come back to the table.
"Kri-Allie, I-"
"I'll be right back," I replied as I looked at Michaels' expression--he was looking at Karen Anne when he nearly called me by my real name.
I walked away from the table and to the restroom.

It was unoccupied, thank God, as it took a few moments to keep from screaming my head off.
Here I was, having a micro-breakdown in a strange place while my nemesis was no doubt trying to weasel her way into my significant other's life.
"Do you want to dance, Mike? Kind of relive things?"
"One, just one though."
"Of course, silly boy."
"Can you still swing dance?"
"No one from Tennessee forgets how to swing."
"I can make you happier than her."
"I don't think so."
"But look at me!"
"I am, but you don't light up my sunset.."
"I can show you something that might raise your saddle horn.-

I ran out of the restroom, not that she would actually do something or that he would fall for it but something terrified me. I went back to the table to see only Nola and Matt. I looked to the floor and there they were, swing dancing to Chris Ledoux.

It was kind of like Prom all over again for me, in a way and it got worse as I saw Karen move in and kiss him and by that I mean she attacked his face for what seemed like an eternity.

Michael didn't wrap his hands around her body but he didn't fight her off either. He didn't push her away or slap her. Something I kind of wanted to do right then but instead I backed away.

The entire club grew cold, dark and everyone was staring at me; silently mocking me for not being able to keep Michael away from her--for allowing this to happen.
I kept backing up but I also heard Michael's voice.
I could only hear him saying my name in varying tones.
I ran out of the club and walked as fast as legs that were tired of walking could go.

I didn't want to say a thing to Michael. I didn't have to: I could just find a pay phone, call my grandmother and stay for the night. Of course, getting back to school would be an issue as I never got a driver's license. The thought of having to call my parents was out of the question; I'd rather sleep in a field of rocks and weeds.

There was a bit of paining to his voice....but his feet couldn't have been tired. He was, after all, so not putting baby in the corner.
I stopped-but I refused to turn around.
"I’m not going to apologize for not doing anything wrong. You don’t even like to dance."
"Maybe I do."
"No, you never have. Is that what’s wrong? I danced one song. I was going to ask you on the next-Even though--"
"So, you want me to look like this so you can piss me off, don’t you?"
"No, I want what you want. It's always been like that. I love you however you want to look. You want to jeans, Great. You can wear only a pair of chaps if you wanna."

Karen Anne had caught up to us, by the sound of her heavy breathing behind me.
"What’s going on?"
"Kristi, look at me, please."
I bit my lip because I really didn't want to turn around and face both of them. KA was not a problem for me but I had to wake up to Michael every day and he could hold this temper tantrum over me.

He waited three seconds and then gently trapped my shoulder to pull me around.
"You are the only one for me. You know that."
"I know, I know, but-"
Karen Anne's face was a cocktail of two-part confusion and one part frustration.
Michael moved in and placed his face against mine and then turned it to the side to kiss me.
"Wait a minute!" Karen's voice trembled a bit.
"I saw you and it was like prom all over again," my voice pitched up and by then my accent vanished.
"W-wait. Wait." Karen stammered.
"Didn't you say no one remembers prom?" Mike asked as he tried to get me to smile.
"Some of us do and--" I began.
"-What. The. Hell?" We turned to Karen Anne and I took a deep breath.
"Hello, KA." That took a lot to say but for some reason it felt satisfying.
"I’m sorry the evening ended like this, I--"
"Michael? What is going on? Are you a fag?"
"--But now, I'm not."

We walked away from Karen Anne, Nola and Matt, not wanting to explain the situation to them. We accelerated our pace a little bit though...because even if KA couldn't chase after us, the sound of her voice alone did.
"What the hell are you!"

We ran, once again, without another word to each other until the doors were closed and the engine was on....and until we peeled out of the parking lot as Karen screamed as if she was stabbed in the heart.
Maybe she had been-figuratively speaking.
“I’m sorry, Michael, for everything.”
“I have to admit, she tried hard.”
I looked in the side mirror as a crowd of people gathered around Karen Anne.
“Didn’t even care that I was sitting. Right. There. She asked me about my ring and everything.”
“She did that all through high school-even when she was going out with you.”
“The class reunion is really going to suck.”

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