The small mirrored room was filled with people when I entered the ballroom lesson. I caught sight of a few familiar faces: there was Barath, the guy who had been the very first to ask me to dance at my first ballroom party a few weeks ago, there were several of the newcomers whom I had become friends with in the few short weeks since I had decided to join the University of Michigan Ballroom Dance Team, and of course there was James.
I dropped the phone like it had burst into flames. I looked around me, vaguely wondering if someone was playing a prank on me. The tiny pizza place was buzzing as it typically would be on a Friday night. My tables were all fine, and it wasn't like my boss could fire me for being on my phone considering I had put in my two weeks less than a week ago.
"Brandy," I caught my friends' arm as she started to type in an order, "Remember me telling you about that James guy I danced with at a party? He's like the captain of the ballroom team and all that?"
"Yes," Brandy answered, giving me one of those looks that a best friend gives you when she knows exactly what you're about to say.
"He just messaged me on Facebook, he asked me if I was doing anything tonight."
"Xaylia..." Brandy began.
"I've already got plans, but... Oh my Chanel," I squealed with excitement for a half-second before pulling myself together.
"Quick question," Brandy said with a smirk, "How old is he?"
I pursed my lips, "I don't know," I said tightly, "Don't judge me."
"You have a bit of a track record when it comes to older guys, Xaylia."
"There was just the one!" I hissed, not daring to say Ian's name considering everyone we were working with knew him. James was obviously older than me, but I clearly had no opposition to older guys.
When the restaurant slowed down enough not to need all of the servers who were there for the height of the dinner rush, I was quick to do my cleaning before heading over to Ann Arbor to join Whitney and her friend Becky for a night of intoxication featuring illegal beverages. I had a fifth of my favorite peach Ciroc waiting for me at her dorm and it was calling my name.
"So James messaged me on Facebook," I said with a flat tone when Whitney came down to let me into her dorm.
"He did?" Whitney looked surprised, "What did he say?"
"He asked me what I was doing tonight."
"I told him I already had plans with you,"I smiled cheerily, as if this James thing meant absolutely nothing.
"Seriously Xaylia, stay away from him. Carly told me that the upper-level girls make fun of all the newcomers that hook up with James."
"No worries," I waved my hand airily, "Now, where's my Ciroc?"
"So," James swept me up into the close hold of the tango, "How was last night?"
"Fun," I shot him a quick smirk, before looking over his shoulder. I knew it wouldn't be long into the lesson until he scouted me out to dance with him, "Didn't even end up leaving the dorm, one of those kind of nights."
"Well you could have been having an even better time with me," James said simply as we set off doing the basic step.
"I told you, should have asked me earlier," I said, my airy tone matching his, making it clear I wasn't buying it.
"You coming to Guys and Girls night?"
"Of course, I'm looking forward to it."
Guys and Girls night was a night at the start of the semester where all of the girls on the team got together and all of the guys got together to talk about dance-y things, and then got together as a full group and got wasted.
At least that's how I thought it was going to be.
I had on one of those outfits that was designed to take me through the entire day, from work, to dance, to a party: My A&F jeggings were stupidly comfortable, enough to be able to dance in, and a blue chiffon floral print tank was layered over a blue lace bralette from Victoria's Secret for added comfort for a day that wasn't about to end any time soon. The chiffon tank had a set of ruffles at the hem, which gave it added movement for dancing both at the lesson and at the party. It was a look that said, "I live such a busy jet-setting life, I can't even change my clothes," and the abundance of moose-logo-ed things said, "Look what a cool job I have."
When we went to go change partners, an unexpected pair of eyes caught mine across the room. It was Joey, and dancing with him was the slightest bit of torture: he was so nice, and he wasn't exactly bad at ballroom. He was funny, and we found our conversations running into the start of the next set of movements we were supposed to be practicing. And when we had to switch partners again, we promised to find each other at the party tonight. If I couldn't have him as a partner, we could at least be friends.
"I don't think we've met."
The lesson had ended and I was in the process of swapping my ballroom shoes for navy converse and I glanced at the guy standing to my right, "Probably not. I'm Xaylia," I held out my hand.
"Jonathan," he shook my hand, "So you're Xaylia?" He asked.
"Um, yeah," I glanced awkwardly at the floor. It wasn't like I was lying about my name...
"I've heard of you-" Jonathan began.
"It's probably the name," I shrugged, "Not exactly very common-"
"No, it's not that," he cut me off, "You just transferred, or something, right?"
I rattled off the name of the local community college, "It's sort of surreal being here honestly."
"So what made you join ballroom?" he asked, genuinely interested.
"I did a bit of ballroom back in like, seventh grade, and had to stop because I couldn't find a partner. I did a semester of ballet at community college, so it just seemed like something I would like," I smiled.
"Yeah, being on the team is fantastic..." I tuned out whatever Jonathan was saying until he was pulled away by another team member, only really focusing on one thing.
He had heard of me. People were talking about me. I had no idea why, but I felt like a character in one of my favorite books: one of those girls people did talk about. A Blair Waldorf, a Skye Hamilton: an alpha.
I smiled. I had a good feeling about this school. I had a good feeling about the slightly reckless decision to join ballroom. I had a good feeling about whatever this night was going to bring.