Andrea and Gio took a break from dancing. They sat at the family table at the hall his parents had rented for dinner in a building on the main square in Altgeld. The crisp white tablecloth glowed in the dim lighting from the DJ’s lights. The glitter on the pink, tulle table runner sparkled as did the white roses gathered in a bouquet around a white pillar candle as the centerpiece. Each table looked the same, subtle and tasteful, providing a beautiful setting for the party-goers in their fancy clothes.
Gio sat next to her but rather than facing ahead where his parents and everyone else danced, he faced her with his knees spread apart and her chair drawn close, so her knees fit between his legs.
“Are you having fun?” He held her hands but let go to twist one of her curls around his forefinger.
“Definitely.” Out of the corner of her eye, she caught his grandmothers’ smiles from across the table. Knowing she couldn’t hear them with the loud music Andrea laughed at Gio. “You know your abuelas are watching us.”
“So, should you be touching me this much?”
Gio leaned closer and flashed his dimples. “Do you want me to touch you more?”
Her stomach flipped but she laughed. “Who’s the bad influence now?”
“How have you liked your first quinceañera?” Gio took a sip of his water. “What’s been your favorite part? Aside from seeing me in a tuxedo.”
“That is great. Though you’ve taken off a bit of it.” She wiggled her eyebrows. His jacket hung on the back of his chair and he’d removed the tie and undone the top two buttons, giving her a peek at his chest. “I don’t know though. It’s been so much more than I expected. The ceremony at the church made me tear up, at least the English parts I could understand.”
A group of young children moved to the tunes and she pointed to the little girl holding a doll dressed like Poppy. “The doll exchange was adorable.”
“Yes, my little cousin will probably sleep with that doll for a year.”
“But my favorite part was the shoe changing ceremony. I didn’t think your dad was going to make it with all the tears in his eyes. He might have put Poppy’s high heels on the wrong feet.”
“Right?” Gio laughed. “He’s always been sentimental. I guess giving your little girl her women’s shoes and officially saying your hija is grown-up is hard.”
Andrea looked out on the dance floor at Miguel with Poppy and her friends, dancing to a Madonna song. Miguel tried to copy the moves of the younger girls, making everyone laugh, including Andrea. She snapped a picture with the disposable camera and forwarded the film by turning the dial in the corner with her thumb.
Gio covered his face with a hand. “Jeez. Poppy gets to grow up and Papà tries to act like a kid.”
“I think it’s nice.” Her dad would never dance with her and her friends like that. She checked the camera. “One picture left.”
Gio grabbed it from her hands.
“Hey, give me that. I want a picture of you.”
“Let’s take the last one together.” He stood and walked around the circular table to his Nonna Ruiz. He handed her the camera and pointed at Andrea. The music was too loud for her to hear what he said, but he came back around and sat by her, pulling her close with an arm around her shoulder.
“Sonrìa. Smile.” Gio’s lips brushed her earlobe.
His grandmother snapped the photo, the flash leaving its impression on Andrea’s retinas in the darkened room.
Nonna passed the camera back and Gio advanced the film. The wheel kept spinning.
“Yep, saved the best for last.” He handed Andrea the camera and she put it in her clutch. She grabbed her water and took a drink, setting the plastic cup on the table as she drained the last swallow.
“Would you like some of the champagne? My parents said we could have a glass if we wanted.”
“That’s different.” She looked around at the other tables. A couple of Gio’s cousins had a glass in front of them, too. They looked to be close to her age. “Why would they allow that?”
“My parents rarely drink. It’s just for the celebration. I’m not having any because I have to drive.” He held his hand up and gave the three-finger Boy Scout salute. “Don’t drink and drive. Just say no. Muy importante.”
“That’s okay. I can barely walk in these shoes sober, I don’t need to add alcohol.”
“Do you ever?”
“Drink?” Andrea frowned. “I used to sometimes. But not anymore.” Or ever again if she could help it.
“On the wagon, eh?” He held her hands again and squeezed them with his.
“I just…” She looked at their hands, rubbing his thumbs with hers. “I see what it’s done to my dad and… I don’t want to be…” She swallowed, unable to find the words to explain.
Gio lifted her chin with a finger and kissed her. “Lo siento. I didn’t mean to bring up a bad topic.”
“You didn’t. I’ve done some stupid stuff and—”
“And we already had this conversation. The past doesn’t matter. Right?”
“Yes.” She put her palm on his cheek. “I am thirsty for something stronger though. How about a soda?”
“That I can do.” He glanced behind her and then leaned in and kissed her again.
“Was that for your abuelas to see?” She fingered the starched collar of his white shirt.
“No.” Gio pushed his chair back and stood leaning in to speak into her ear. “For the guys from my school watching you from behind. To let them know you’re off-limits.”
“Nice.” She laughed. “But since you haven’t left my side, I think they know that already. Not that I mind you kissing me.”
Gio touched her cheek with his fingertips then walked toward the bar to get their drinks, leaving Andrea alone at the table. She watched the dancers while she waited, smiling again at Miguel who now danced with Carmen to Mony Mony.
The impossibility of the voice made Andrea jump. She turned. Dana stood over her in a sequined red dress, arms crossed and a smirk on her face. The blond guy next to her obviously wasn’t one of Gio’s cousins. Andrea’s stomach clenched.
Great. What is she doing here?
Andrea stood. Even with the two-inch heels, Dana stood a couple of inches taller than her. A fight wouldn’t break out at a party like this, but Andrea had been in too many in the past to give anyone a free edge.
“Hey, Dana.” The guy didn’t say anything. He smirked, glancing at Andrea’s chest.
“Nice dress.” Dana gave her a saccharine smile. “Let me guess, from Jenny? You lucked out because she’s still trying to buy your friendship since nobody likes her anymore.”
Andrea’s face burned but hopefully the darkness would hide it. She glared at Dana’s date and then at Dana.
“Yours is great, too. The loose skirt hides those stubborn bulges, right? Where’d you get it? Bitches-R-Us?”
“Ooh, burn.” The guy laughed. “You didn’t tell me she was rad.”
“She isn’t.” Dana’s fake smile disappeared. “She’s a white trash mental spaz. No wonder Gio is dating her.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Andrea narrowed her eyes.
“It means he’s only dating you for one reason.” Dana wrapped her arm around the guy’s waist, flipping her hair over her shoulder. “He knows you’re easy. Everyone at Altgeld knows that.”
“They don’t know me. And neither do you.” But Andrea’s chest tightened. Dana could have told him anything. He could have spread it around at their school.
“Hey, Phillip.” Gio stepped to Andrea’s side holding two plastic cups of soda. He set them on the table and put an arm around her waist. “What’s up?”
Andrea frowned at the tightness in Gio’s voice and the muscles of his arm as he held her. No love loss between him and Phillip it seemed.
“Not much.” Phillip glanced at Andrea’s dress again. “Dana wanted to say hi to her… friend.”
Andrea raised her eyebrows and opened her mouth to tell him off, but Gio tightened the hand on her waist and she stopped. On her left, his abuelas watched them with furrowed brows.
“Nice.” Gio squeezed Andrea closer to his side. “Well, we’re going to dance. Catch ya later.”
He pulled her onto the dancefloor, sweeping her into his arms and swaying to Wonderful Tonight. Andrea shook and he held her tighter.
“You okay?” he asked
“I-I’m fine.” She wrapped her arms around his neck and laid her head on his chest.
“You’re not fine. You’re shaking.” He kissed the top of her head. “How do you know Dana?”
“She goes to my school. I… I don’t want to talk about it.”
Andrea glanced again at Gio’s grandmothers watching them from the table. They had their heads bent together, nodding as they talked. Nonna frowned.
Heat scorched her face. She hadn’t even thought about not making a scene with Dana. As soon as she opened her nasty mouth, Andrea wanted to put her in her place and didn’t care who heard it. It was like with Dana and Christy in the cafeteria. Or with Stanley in front of Gio at the mall.
Like her dad with the cops.
“I think you should take me home.” Andrea sniffled and looked at the people around her. She didn’t belong here.
Gio stopped dancing and made her look at him with a knuckle under her chin.
“Why? What’s wrong?” He glanced to his left.
She followed his gaze to where Dana and Phillip sat laughing with the other kids from Altgeld who went to school with Poppy and Gio—the other non-trailer park kids.
“Nothing, it’s getting late and… and I want to leave. That’s all. If you don’t want to take me, I can get a ride.”
“I’m your ride. Are you sure you want to leave?”
“Yeah. I mean if it’s okay. Unless you need to stay.”
“No. It’s almost eleven. The important stuff is over.” He gave her a half-grin. “And by that, I mean the food.”
She tried to smile, but it probably looked as fake as it felt. As fake as she felt.
“Let’s say adios to my family then we can go. Okay?”
Not trusting her voice to be steady, she nodded.
After a round of hugs and kisses—even from the grandmas—they walked to Gio’s car. Words wouldn’t come. How could a night that started like a fairy tale, end in a horror story? But it made sense. Even Cinderella had to leave the ball before her true self could come out. Andrea didn’t have the fairy godmother to help her.
As they walked toward the door, she glared at Dana laughing across the room.
Yep. No fairy tale would be complete without a wicked witch.
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