Some cute boys I don’t recognize are near the stage in front of the lead singer, whose hair is in a Beatle cut just like half the guys in the tent. Alice says the boys are from La Grange, Hinsdale’s biggest rival in football. It seems every girl in the tent is looking at them. I glance their way just as a boy in the group checks me out. He has black hair and black eyes, and he dances through the crowd, maintaining eye contact with me all the way. His friends follow. When he reaches me, he asks, “Dance with me?”
“Sure.” I shift away from Jillie to face him.
Then, right by his side, Shelby appears, pigtails bouncing against skin aglow from the first weeks of summer sun. “Hey,” she says. She starts dancing with a real heartthrob with sandy bangs that keep falling into his blue eyes. She smiles at me like we’re fast friends.
I ignore her. I can’t believe she’s pretending everything’s just fine. I focus on the black-eyed boy. We do the Swim, hips wiggling, arms circling around. We even pretend to take breaths over our shoulders, and we both laugh. I can’t be upset when dancing. The rhythm lifts my spirits; the harmony quickens my pulse.
When the song ends, Shelby pulls me aside and says, “I’m fuckin’ sorry, okay?”
“That’s supposed to mean something to me?” I refuse to engage her prodding toffee-colored eyes.
“I know you’re mad, but Trish said to stay away from you, said you’re fuckin’ bad news.”
Trish Carlisle sat behind me way back in sixth grade English. I haven’t had one class with her since then. I got A’s on our tests; she got D’s. She always said, “I hate you” when our teacher returned our papers. I didn’t know she really meant it. It floors me that after all this time Trish is telling people I’m bad news. I wonder who else might be holding grudges for unspoken rules broken when most of us still wore undershirts, not bras.
“You dumped me because Trish told you to?”
The band begins Peter and Gordon’s A World Without Love. The boys start dancing in front of us, and we join them.
“Trish is my neighbor,” Shelby says, bopping in time with the blond guy. “She bugged me about you every day, every fuckin’ day.”
“Why don’t you just go be with her then?” I move to my partner’s other side.
“I’ve missed you,” she calls to me.
After a few more dances, the boys ask if we’d like to take a ride. They are clean, polite and silly, much like our classmates. They seem safe. I check in with Jillie, who has been dancing with Alice.
“So, I’m thinking of taking a ride with these guys,” I say.
“And Shelby?” she says.
“It’s not like I invited her.”
“She only came over because those boys were paying attention to you.”
I look over at my dance partner. He has a devilish smile. “So, I’m gonna go, then. See you tomorrow?”
“Alice’s coming over, too, in case you flake,” Jillie says. She waves me away and resumes dancing with Alice.
Knowing Jillie will be too curious about the rest of my evening to stay angry for long, I leave the tent with Shelby and the boys from La Grange. They lead us to an old Buick convertible parked nearby. I climb into the front seat next to the raven-haired lad, who is driving. He puts his arm around me, and we ride through the hot summer night, the warm wind soothing salty, suntanned skin as we head for a diner that sells giant sodas.
A couple hours later, the black-eyed boy clings to my side as we mosey toward my stepmom’s front door. He reminds me of a bloodhound drooling for Purina’s Gravy Train. Absent a dance floor, I feel no magic between us. On the porch, he leans in for a goodnight kiss. I turn my head and call to Shelby, “I’ve missed you, too.”
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish