She could hardly breathe, her heart was jumping so high in her chest.
After all of the preparations, all the effort, here she was. Dressed in the new outfit she’d painstakingly chosen at the discounted designer clothes store, she felt almost pretty.
She’d managed to find an outfit she could afford with her babysitting money: a pair of green drawstring pants that miraculously fit her pear-shaped, chubby body and a bright orange, sleeveless terry cloth top.
Her short hair was styled in its usual two round parallel curls on either side of her face which her brother had nicknamed “doo doo curls.” Her short bang unfortunately only accentuated the width of her face, but there was nothing to be done about that.
The freckles that sprinkled her nose and cheeks from summers spent at the pool were the only color on her face.
She’d had her parents drop her off at the club where the party was well into things. She knew it would be painful to walk into it. Better to be in a crowd than risk being seen too clearly.
She entered and walked in quickly, grateful for the darkened atmosphere. It was a disco-themed party for the 7th grade dance club, and so everyone was dressed accordingly and the venue was an actual disco. Instead of alcohol, soda was served.
She went from room to room, seeking two things: the few friends she had that might be there too, and him.
She found the friends and nervously stood, Sprite in hand, the condensation from the outside of the white plastic cup dripping down her hand.
She sucked the inside of her mouth along the braces that lined her upper and lower teeth, finding a strange comfort in the metal that was at the same time so maddening to her.
Through the pulsating lights, she saw him finally: Scott Prewitt, in all his glory. He was the most popular boy in school, blonde and tan. She sat behind him in Spanish class where, amazingly, he’d spoken to her a few times. Not just to pass papers back or anything. He’d made little jokes and seemed to enjoy her laugh.
She had looked forward to this afternoon for weeks, imagining that here, in the lights, in her new clothes, he’d maybe talk to her, which would be incredible.
She forced herself to smile and step forward from the shadows into the light, even though she was so nervous she could barely breathe and felt dizzy.
And just as she did, Scott Prewitt looked right at her and smiled and waved, his face beaming. She couldn’t believe it! It was happening! Her dreams were coming true.
Finally, everyone would see her differently. Because Scott Pruitt saw her, they’d value her, too. Everything would change.
She waited, breathlessly, as he walked towards her, her cheeks almost aching from smiling.
Just as she was saying “Hi Scott,” eyes twinkling, he walked passed her and grabbed Susie Moore, the most popular girl in 7th grade, in a hug, which made Susie squeal.
For what seemed like a lifetime but was actually several awkward seconds, she stood there as her “Hello Scott” hung in the air anemically before being dissipated by Susie’s squeal.
She stepped back into the shadows as she felt the familiar, hot flush of shame shoot down the length of her body.
She drained herself of feeling, determined not to cry. “That will teach you not to hope,” she said to herself as she pinched her arm, punishing herself for thinking things could ever be any different.
She found the restroom as quickly as she could, and there she remained for the full agonizing 40 minutes until her parents came to pick her up again.
Once home she sought and found numbing comfort in a pint of vanilla Haagen Dazs ice cream, and fell asleep into a full-stomach-sugar-induced coma.
Her hope did not have it so easy. A large piece of hers had fallen out of her heart and onto the floor of the disco, where Scott Pruitt and Susie Moore danced across it over and over again until it became unrecognizable.