There’s no response from Andy while the girls are gallantly attempting to hold back giggles.
“Are you okay?” I ask him.
I see his brain starting to reboot, as he stammers, “You… you… like, you’re amazing. I mean, like, you look absolutely gorgeous, Tina. I know you always look good, but… wow!”
I believe we’ve achieved our objective. The poor boy is stunned.
Chapter 36: The Country Club Dance
My heart flutters and my stomach is playing host to a butterfly convention as I pin the boutonnière on his suit jacket. Andy seems equally nervous as he pins a white orchid corsage on the left side of my dress under the watchful eyes of my friends and family. Talk about pressure! He handles the pressure remarkably well as I’m not poked by the pin in any of the three attempts it takes to attach it to my dress. Of course, Aunt Jen’s camera is not idle through all this.
“Your mother will never forgive me if I don’t send her a few pictures,” Aunt Jen explains. I’m sure that a select few dozen of the pictures will show up on computers in both the Quinn and Jeffers households before we get to the dinner. Isn’t email great?
A few hundred pictures later, Andy escorts me out his car. I feel like a fairytale princess embarking on the night of her life. It’s both a wonderful and a scary feeling.
He’s driving the same Honda CRV that we used on Monday. I suspect his mother has been giving him etiquette lessons which he is having a hard time remembering. He almost forgets to open the door for me, remembering just before going around to the driver’s side.
“Sorry about the chariot,” he apologizes as he holds the door for me. ”My folks took Dad’s BMW so I got stuck with Mom’s car.”
“It’s great,” I say as I climb nervously into the little SUV. “At least we don’t have to walk. I don’t think I’d get too far in these heels.” Not to mention the dress, I think to myself.
He waits patiently as I try to bring my skirt under control—there’s a lot of material here and some of it seems to have a mind of its own. My satin panties and nylon slip create a slick interface which makes getting comfortable a little difficult as well. I feel as if I’ll slip right off the seat: this dress is going to be a lot of work tonight. The heels aren’t making things any easier either—the things we girls do to look good. I’m beginning to wonder whether or not this formal date was a good idea after all.
As I wrestle the last vestiges of wayward skirt into the car and get comfortably settled, I comment, “Just be glad you don’t have to wear one of these things. They can be a pain sometimes.”
He blushes slightly—now that’s strange. He replies, “I don’t know. I think it looks really great on you. It’s definitely worth the effort, I’m sure. I mean, you’re the prettiest girl I’ve ever seen.” He just stands there staring at me.
“Umm, Andy,” I point out to him, “I’m all set. Shall we go?” This boy is really nervous. I suppose this is his first ever real live formal date. Come to think of it, this is my first real date as a girl. Maybe the rampaging butterflies in my stomach indicate that I’m not entirely comfortable yet either.
During the drive to the club, neither one of us knows what to say. We’re not sure where we stand or even where to start figuring it out. We make several false starts at shallow conversation as we dance around the main topic both of us are really interested in. You know, like, how he feels about me and how I feel about him. Neither one of us wants to say anything stupid and blow the relationship. It’s awkward with a capital A. Finally, I can’t stand it anymore.
“Andy,” I begin, after deciding to take the bull by the horns—I’m sure my relationship consultants are having a heart attack by now, “Can we just get to the point and get it over with? I just want you to know that I felt something special when you gave me a boast into that tree on Monday and you’ve been on my mind a lot since then. I mean, like, all that time. I think you felt something too. The feeling scared me to death and I can see it was a surprise to you too. The last thing I wanted when I came to California was to fall for a guy. Honest, I really don’t need this complication right now. I was looking forward to nice laid back, uncomplicated summer. But you do something special to me. I don’t know where this is going to go, but I’m willing to explore things a little if you are. From what I’ve seen, you’re a wonderful guy and I guess what I’m trying to say is I’d like to get to know you better.” If nothing else, that comment should get the attention of my eavesdroppers.
As I say my piece, I notice that Andy’s grip on the steering wheel is getting pretty intense. His knuckles have turned white and I think he’d crush the thing if it wasn’t made of some pretty sturdy material. All the blood has drained from his face and he’s broken out in a sweat. Maybe the girls were right about taking it slower.
“Are you alright, Andy?” I ask with concern. “You don’t look so good. I don’t mean to scare you. Look, I’ll just drop it if you want, but I want you to know I think you’re a pretty cute guy. I’m not planning on throwing myself at you—honest. If you don’t want to be more than friends, I’m good with that too. I just want to get to know you better. From what I’ve seen I think you’re someone pretty special.”
He continues to hold the steering wheel in a death grip and stare down the road. Maybe bringing my feelings out in the open was a really bad idea.
“Look, Andy, I’m really sorry,” I tell him with concern in my voice. I’ve probably blown it and I’m feeling pretty bad right now. My eyes are starting to water—something which is not allowed after spending so much time and money of this makeup. We’re not fifteen minutes into the date of my girl dreams and my big mouth has already destroyed it. I guess there is something to the girl approach to relationships.
Andy pulls over into a mostly empty parking space on the side of the road and turns off the car. He is still staring out the windshield. After a minute he takes a deep breath and turns to me.
“Tina,” he slowly says, “I was serious about wanting to be just friends when we talked at my house last week. But—to tell you the truth—I felt something at the tree too, and it scares me to death. When you pulled away from me after I helped you up the tree, I was afraid I’d scared you off. You avoided me like I had the plague or something the rest of the hike. To tell you the truth I was kinda’ happy you did since I didn’t know how to deal with my feelings. Heck, I still don’t. I haven’t been looking for a girlfriend, but you’re all I’ve been able to think about this week.
“When Mom suggested that I ask you to the dance tonight, I didn’t think you’d come. It wasn’t until your cousin came by the store and told me she thought you liked me that I thought I might have a chance. Both she and Mom ganged up on me and made me commit to calling you. Calling you was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I thought for sure you’d tell me to take a long walk on a short pier.
“Look, Tina,” he continues, “I’ve had lots of friends who are girls, but I’ve never had a girlfriend nor been on a real date. I don’t know how to do this and I’m scared to death. I’m mean, you’re an incredibly beautiful and confident girl and I can’t believe you’d even consider going out with a bumbling geek like me. Like, you’re way outside my league. I mean, I know how to behave on a date—theoretically—but I’ve never actually done it before. Mom’s been trying to tell me all week how to conduct myself on a date. I’ll try to do it right, but, like, I’m new at this. I don’t want to do anything stupid to scare you off. Tina, I’d really like to get to know you better too.”
He gazes at me with pleading eyes.
“Andy,” I reply, “I think I’m more nervous than you are. When I look at you, I see this wonderful caring and incredibly handsome guy who is way outside my league and I hope I won’t embarrass myself around you or be an embarrassment to you. To tell you the truth, I’ve never dated a guy before and I find this formal dinner-dance really intimidating. We could have started with something simpler, you know. I’m also afraid I’ll do something stupid which will scare you off.”
He loosens his grip on the steering wheel and color returns to his face. “It’s hard for me to believe you don’t already have a boyfriend back home or that you have never dated. The guys in Alaska must be really blind, deaf, and dumb—as in stupid 'dumb'. Anyway, I guess this dating thing is really new to both of us. Now we know each of us is scared of the other, why don’t we just try to relax and work together on this? Just let me know when I screw up and be patient with me.”
“Same, here,” I say. “Let’s just take it slow and easy and explore the relationship game together. Feel free to let me know when I screw up too. We need to get through this evening without really embarrassing ourselves. It’ll be easier if we help each other.”
“It’s a deal?” he asks.
“Deal,” I respond, extending my hand. We shake on it.
“I’m still nervous,” he points out.
“Me too,” I say, “but at least we know where we stand. Heck, we might find we can’t stand each other by the end of the night. My Dad says that people rarely live up to our fantasies. Let’s just see where this goes.”
“Sounds good to me,” he says with a smile. “I hope I don’t shatter your fantasies too badly.”
As he starts the car and we resume the journey, I check my makeup in the vanity mirror attached to the sun visor. I’m really glad my tears didn’t overflow. I really don’t want to mess up my makeup.
For the rest of our relatively short drive we start exchanging basic information like favorite colors, foods, etc. I find out that he is a fan of the color green, he has a thing for Cheetoes accompanied by a glass of cold milk, he likes suspense novels, and he wants to study graphic arts when he gets to college. I inform him that we must be made for each other as I’ve yet to meet anyone else who thinks Cheetoes and cold milk make a fantastic combination. He looks surprised at my revelation and agrees that he’s never met anyone with the same culinary appreciation. By the time we arrive at the country club, we’ve both relaxed considerably.
Pulling up to the stately main building of the country club is intimidating. I’ve seen it before—in my previous life—but as we wait in the line of cars I’m still impressed by the facility. The structure is made to look somewhat like an old Californian Spanish mansion. When we arrive at the entry, a valet opens my door for me and helps me out of the SUV. I can tell the valet likes his job as he smiles as he attempts to discretely look me over. He must get to greet all the girls as they arrive. Andy comes around and awkwardly offers me his arm to escort me inside.
When we enter the building Andy produces two tickets to hand to a member of the staff who shows us to our designated table.
Dr. and Mrs. Lang are already there as well as another man, a young man with a pretty—if slightly overweight—girl in a green satin off the shoulder dress which shows more cleavage than I’d be comfortable with, and another distinguished looking couple who could be in their early 60s. The three older men rise as we approach the table. The younger man is elbowed by his date and he rises too. This is so old fashioned, but kinda’ nice. Andy takes care of the introductions.
“You know my parents, Tina,” he starts. “I’d like you to meet Mr. & Mrs. Miller, Mr. Rana and his son, Aban. I’m afraid I don’t know your date, Aban.”
“I’m Laney White,” the girl says with a somewhat forced smile as she looks at me with a challenge in her eyes—I wonder what’s bugging her?
“Pleased to meet you, Laney,” Andy continues, “Everyone, this is Kristina Jeffers visiting from Alaska for the summer.”
“It’s good to see you again, Dr. & Mrs. Lang,” I respond demurely, “and to meet the rest of you.”
I reach for my chair to sit down, but Andy beats me to it. He gallantly pulls it out for me and eases it in as I smooth my skirt under me. I have to remember to sit up straight so my pantied bottom doesn’t slide on my slip causing me to fall off the chair. Once I’m settled the men all sit down again.
The table at which we are sitting is round and I’m seated between Andy and Aban. The fact that I’m supposedly from Alaska stimulates a lot of conversation. Mr. Miller—a construction contractor of some sort—starts to regale us with his adventures during the rough and tumble days associated with the construction of the Alaska oil pipeline in the 70s. He asks questions about the current state of life in Anchorage in an attempt determine what’s changed since he left there in the late 70s. I remember enough of my Alaska lessons to sound as if I know what I’m talking about and he seems satisfied. Through all this, I notice Mr. Rana watching me with interest, though he doesn’t say anything. It’s as if he is evaluating me. It’s somewhat creepy.
We chat for almost twenty minutes before the meal is served. Fortunately, the focus shifts away from me as we begin to pick at our salads. I try to strike up a conversation with Laney, but she seems to be somewhat aloof and I don’t really get anywhere. Eventually I give up and just listen to the flow of small talk which flows around the table. The adults are obviously very familiar with each other and they quickly move on to topics which have little interest for us teenagers.
As we are waiting for the next course, Aban turns to Andy and comments across me, “Andy, old buddy, how’d you get such a beautiful girl to go out with you? I was beginning to think you didn’t like girls since I never hear of you dating or anything. I’m impressed. You hit a homerun this time, buddy. Tina has to be the hottest girl here tonight. Be careful, dude, someone just might try to steal her.” That last comment doesn’t sit too well with Laney. Actually, the comment doesn’t sit well with me either. The guy is brash and rude. It’s pretty obvious he intends to be first in line to attempt the theft. Looking over at Andy, I note he’s not particularly pleased either.
“Actually,” Andy replies, “I think you’ve done quite well yourself.” Speaking partly across the table to Aban’s date, he says, “Laney—you look lovely tonight. I can’t imagine what you see in Aban, but I’m glad you’re here.” Returning his attention to Aban, he continues, “Tina and I are just good friends, aren’t we?”
You gotta hand it to good old Andy. He seems concerned about other people’s feelings unlike Mr. Full-of-himself, Aban. At least he’s not treating us girls like possessions.
“Yes, we are, Andy,” I give him a quick smile before addressing Aban.
“And thank you for the compliment, Aban. I think your date is equally attractive. You’re a lucky guy to have her join you tonight.”
Somehow, Aban doesn’t get the hint that he needs to be kinder to his date and less obnoxious. As we work through our main courses, good old Aban continues to hold himself up as God’s gift to women and attempts—in his own twisted way—to flirt with me. It’s pretty obvious that Laney is starting to regret her decision to go out with Aban tonight. It also seems she’s holding me somewhat responsible for distracting her date.
I find myself feeling pretty full long before the food is gone from my plate. I’m not going to be able to eat it all. The guys don’t seem to have any such problem, in fact, Andy asks to finish off part of mine as I’m obviously not going to. I sort of miss the days of being able to eat everything in sight. Soon—I remind myself—I’ll be a guy again and will be able to hold my own at the dinner table. Laney quits also long before the boys. She’s definitely having a tough evening. I can feel for her knowing the effort that it takes to prepare for a date like this one. I really want to talk with her to see if I can help her get over her animosity towards me. Maybe that’ll help her feel a little better about the evening.
Addressing Laney, I state, “I need to find the little girls room, Laney. Can you show me where it is?”
She just shrugs, but Andy points to a hallway and tells us it’s just around the corner.
I give Laney the girl look which says let’s go together. She doesn’t look as if she wants to go, but eventually shrugs her shoulders again and the two of us wander off together clutching our small purses.
As we get out of earshot, I tell her, “Laney, I really think that dress looks cute on you. The color contrasts your Auburn hair perfectly. Also, I want you to know that I realize what a jerk your date is being tonight. I really don’t see why that is. He should be proud that a pretty girl like you would go out with him.”
She sighs, “He’s right, you know. Like, you’re probably the prettiest girl here. There’s no way I can compete with you. You’re skinny and I’m pudgy. I worked all day to get ready for this date and he doesn’t pay attention to me at all. It’s like I’m window dressing or something. We’ve gone out a couple of times and he’s been somewhat of a jerk before, but nothing like tonight.”
“I feel for you, girl,” I commiserate with her. “I’m lucky to have a pretty considerate date tonight. You know, Laney, you don’t need to compete with me. Just relax and have fun. You’re a beautiful girl on your own right. You don’t need to be skinny to be beautiful. My favorite hobby is distance running which accounts for my being too skinny. It’s not like I’m trying to look like a starving waif from a third world country. I can use a few pounds. Also, I’m not trying to steal anyone’s guy. I’m don’t really need the complication of a boyfriend right now. And really, I do think you look attractive tonight. I bet there’s more than a few guys here who’ll try to sweep you off your feet in the dance. As far as Aban goes, I wonder where guys get off acting like that?”
We join the queue waiting for open stalls. Fortunately it’s not too long.
“His Dad’s the same way—if not worse,” she says. “I know a couple of women he’s tried to date since his wife died, but few go out with him a second time—if at all. It’s as if the world revolves around him. He used to treat his wife like a possession—I just don’t know how she dealt with it. I wonder if it’s some foreign traditional role thing.”
About this time a stall comes available and I duck into it. Have you any idea how difficult it is to manage a big skirt and drop your panties to relieve yourself? It’s hard to do and keep everything clean and the procedure takes time. No wonder it takes so long for women in the bathroom. Once more I vow to be patient with women when I become Chris again.
By the time we complete our business and freshen up our makeup Laney seems to have overcome most of whatever was bugging her about me. We’re almost friends but I can tell that there’s still something bothering her.
Just before we enter the banquet room, she stops me and—after looking furtively around us—she says in a whisper, “Tina, I don’t know if I should tell you this, but you impress me as being a genuinely nice girl and I’d hate to see something bad happen to you. Anyway, I’m sorry for being bitchy at dinner. Also, I think you should know that I overheard Mr. Rana directing his son to check you out. It seems he thinks you’re not who you say you are, but I think he’s wrong. After all, you’re such a nice girl I can’t see you being deceptive. Anyway, girl, like, I just thought you should know.”
I give her a quick hug, “Thanks, Laney. I can’t imagine what he’s talking about, Anyway, it’s good to know. Now shall we just go have fun tonight, girl friend?”
“Sure,” she replies with a genuine smile. “Thanks for being nice.”
“No problem,” I smile back at her. “We girls need to stick together around these clueless males.”
“You got that right, sister,” she laughs.
A much happier Laney joins the table for the dessert course.
Dessert is in full swing by the time we rejoin our table. As we finish, some important person stands at the podium and gives a longwinded speech which is more significant to the club members than to me. Looking around the table, it appears our other tablemates aren’t much more interested in the proceedings than I am—particularly the teenagers.
With dinner over, everyone finds another place to be while the staff does a quick change of the ballroom back into a dance hall. Andy and I head out through the patio area and onto the golf greens for a bit of fresh air under the starry skies. Aban and Lancey tag along with us. Like he did at dinner, Aban dominates the conversation. His favorite topic seems to be himself with side trips into peppering me with questions in an obvious attempt to get me contradict myself about my past. I’m careful to not engage him in any kind of debate. Fortunately, I’m able to keep the responses short and sufficiently vague so it’d be hard for him to prove that I’m not who I say I am. He definitely tests my knowledge of my legend to its max. I’m also having a hard time being civil to the guy. Daddy dear must have offered him some big reward if he can trip me up. He’s trying awful hard.
I’m not the only one getting annoyed with Aban’s behavior. Andy and Laney both look as if they’d like to bury the arrogant bastard in the nearest sand trap. I try several times to move the focus of the conversation off the two of us and include the others but to no avail. Aban seems like a smart young man in many ways, but he’s clueless in a social setting. Andy and I are happy to go when it’s time to head back in to dance. Unfortunately our tail follows us.
There are a number of tables set up near a bar and refreshment table in one corner and chairs lining the walls when we return. A DJ is set up in the opposite corner. The music is a mix of old 70s and 80s tunes with some newer pieces thrown in for the younger people and everyone seems to be enjoying themselves.
My first dance with Andy starts out awkwardly. I find my heels to be a bit of a problem. Neither of us are well versed in formal dancing but manage better as the evening progresses. I think we both enjoy the dances where we get to hold each other. I notice Laney and Aban spending a fair amount of time hanging out on the sidelines—she’s definitely not having a good night. At one point I see her join a group of other girls while Aban is off somewhere.
Suggesting we take a break, I leave Andy and join Laney’s conversation group. I’m happy that I actually know some of the girls—at least I did in my prior life—from school. After introductions, I’m accepted into the conversation like any other girl and we all chat for a few minutes about the dresses the girls are wearing and the boys at the dance. Several of the girls are here on their own with their families and appear envious of those of us with dates. I notice a group of guys on the other side of the room—probably having a similar conversation about the girls as they glance our way. The girls have also noticed them and are wondering why the guys aren’t asking them to dance. Having been in such groups before, I know just how intimidated the guys are by the large gaggle of girls chatting away. There’s no way those guys will try to break into our group.
“Do you girls really want those boys to dance with you?” I ask the group.
They give me the what do you think, of course we do look as if I’m asking the obvious.
“They’re never going to ask if we all bunch together,” I point out to them.
“What’s up with that?” one cute little brunette asks. “It’s not like we’ll hit them over the head or anything.”
“Believe me,” I inform the group, “those guys are scared to death of us and there’s no way they’ll risk being embarrassed in front of their buddies—or a group girls.”
“How come you’re such an expert on what guys are thinking?” a petite redhead asks me.
“I’ve talked with my big brother about this many times,” I lie convincingly. “He had a real confidence problem around girls too.” Actually, of course, I’m talking from personal experience but that’d be too weird to mention in present company.
“Okay, Miss Expert,” another girl asks, “what do we do to get them to ask us to dance?”
“First of all,” I tell them, “We should break up the group and give them an opportunity to approach us individually. Why don’t you,” I nod at the redhead, “wander over to the refreshment table and make sure you pass close by the boys. Linger at the table for a few minutes and see what happens. If a boy comes up to you, just smile and say hi and make a little small talk—build up his ego a little. Let him know that you’re not going to make a fool out of him. Just be nice. We’ll see what happens.”
The girl looks at the rest of the group for support and they all give it. Taking a deep breath and fanning her face with her hands to settle her nerves she says, “Okay, here goes. Wish me luck, guys.”
I give her a hug for encouragement and whisper in her ear, “Remember, girl, smile.”
The rest of us watch as she follows instructions. The boys eye her as she saunters past and a flurry of whispered discussion occurs in the group as they see their opportunity. Finally one tall boy prevails and leaves the group—also heading for the refreshment table. As he walks up behind her it’s plain that he nearly loses his nerve and glances back at his friends all of whom encourage him, mouthing, “Go on!” Our girl group is praying hard for the lucky girl. After some awkward conversation, the two finally connect and within minutes they’re out on the dance floor.
“Wow,” one girl exclaims in amazement. “It worked. It really worked. I’m next!”
In the end, most of the girls are successful but others aren’t. Some of the guys are just too intimidated to make the move. Grabbing the little brunette I drag her over to the few boys left. One is Jim from the store.
“Hey, Jim,” I open the conversation, “Ya’ skin any polecats lately?”
He just stands there gaping at me with his mouth open. His friends look at him in surprise.
“Remember me, Jim?” I remind him. “The store—last Monday morning? You helped me pick out a pocket knife. The name’s Tina.”
“Uh, y-y-yeah,” he stammers. “I’ve seen you around tonight.”
“I’d like you to meet Missy here,” Yep, that’s what she goes by. Her real name’s Melissa. “Would you do me a big favor, Jimmy, and dance with her?” I use my sweetest voice and bat my eyes at him.
Missy is goggling at me wide eyed. The scarlet face would indicate that she’d like the floor to open up and swallow her right then and there. I know she wants to dance, but is too shy to make the contact. So is he. Somebody has to do something.
“I’ll dance with you, Missy,” one of Jim’s friends says when Jim doesn’t make a move then leads her out on to the dance floor with a parting shot to his friend. “Jim, why don’t you dance with Tina?”
“Sure, why don’t you dance with me?” I ask, trying to look coy.
“Where’s your boyfriend?” He nervously looks around as he asks.
I point out Andy who currently is dancing with Laney. “He’s busy right now.”
We dance for one song, and I suggest to him several other girls who’d love to dance with him. It seems he was unsuccessful in finding a date for the night and needs the encouragement.
As the evening wears on, Andy and I end up dancing almost exclusively with one another. I find that I really like being held in his arms. Occasionally we take breaks and wander out on the dimly lit patio and chat together. I can feel the barriers between us falling with every minute we share together. Our comfort level with each other is constantly rising like a gentle warm tropical ocean tide. Before long, we find ourselves holding hands or with his arm around my waist whenever we’re not dancing. I find myself looking for opportunities to snuggle up to him. He doesn’t seem to mind either. I’m starting to feel magic in the air, and become aware of Mrs. Lang watching us. She looks so pleased that she could cry for joy. Her little boy is growing up. This night is turning out beautifully. I wish I could hold on to this feeling for ever.
Throughout the evening I see Tiff, with her date. Things don’t seem to be going that well for her; they seem friendly enough, but there’s some obvious emotional distance between the two of them. During one slow dance, I noticed his hand slide down to her bottom. Almost instantly she whacked him on the shoulder and hissed something at him. Instantly, his hand returned to a more appropriate location.
As the evening is drawing to a close, Mr. Rana asks me to dance. He’s really quite good and expertly leads me round the floor. It doesn’t take me long to relax and follow his lead.
“You’re not bad, Miss Jeffers,” he comments about half way into the song.
“Well,” I reply, “I haven’t done much dancing so you can’t expect much.”
Leering like a shark eyeing a meal, he informs me, “It isn’t your dancing that I’m complimenting, my dear.”
Oh, crap. What the hell’s coming now? I don’t like the sound of this one little bit.
Thanks, yet again, to Gabi for polishing the story!
It's that time again—sigh—when I have to take a break to deal with everyday real life. It's tough as my muse is screaming to continue. I'll dabble as I can, but probably won't post again for several months. I've roughed out five more chapters and—let me tell you—they're worth waiting for. Life continues to get more and more interesting for our heroine/hero with a few big breaks in the investigation plus coming to terms with girlhood with all it's relationships. Tina is soon faced with some big choices.
Thanks to all of you who continue to support the story. I won't let you down!
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