Friday, July 3, 2015

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

"I've had six drinks you need to get on my level girl!"

"CJ, it's a Wednesday night, I don't want to die."

"I'm going to buy you so many drinks," CJ had a dorky smile on his face.

"Well if you're buying," I winked and CJ winked back.

I had invited Alex out to karaoke with my roommates and I the day before. When we both declined a slightly awkward group text to hang out with one of our underage friends, CJ snap chatted me asking what I was up to tonight. I politely extended CJ an invite, and Alex forced him to join us. 

Alex was talking to my roommates and CJ had slid into the booth next to me. There was something disturbingly familiar about our physical proximity, and when we found ourselves at the less-crowded bar at the Blue Leprechaun, it could have been January: 

Once upon a January night, my roommates went to Blue Lep to meet up with Alex and his roommates. My best friend Sarah was in town and CJ surprised us by coming out with Alex.

"I'm buying you a drink," CJ had touched my arm, and when we made our way to the downstairs bar, he got us a round of tequila shots and mixed drinks. As we did our shots, CJ seemed to find every excuse to lean in closer to me, to touch my hair, or put a hand on my waist. 

While CJ was flirting with me at the bar, Alex was telling Sarah (who would later tell me and I would run in circles around the bathroom panicking) what CJ told him earlier: "Things are really bad with Sarah right now, make sure nothing happens with Kaitlyn tonight."

Those words would kick off the whirlwind of the semester.

In April, we were standing at the exact same spot at the bar, waiting on a round of Jager bombs with Alex. I felt an arm snake around my waist and I didn't know how to feel about it. CJ was leaving the next day to see Sarah, he shouldn't have his arms around the one girl he had a history with. CJ put in another order with the bartender and the three of us barely finished our drinks before two more shots were in front of CJ and I, and CJ handed me a beer. 

"I learned open tango in lesson today," CJ burst out, "I've got to show you! Alex, watch the drinks," CJ's hand went from waist to take my hand.

Luckily, mostly everyone at the bar was upstairs for karaoke so we only had to weave the open tango around the empty high-top tables. We would end up ballroom dancing at the bar...

It was an uncommonly cold April night, the temperature had dipped below freezing. The similarities between the January night at Blue Lep and the current one were intensified by the fact that I had to wear my parka. But there was on major difference: in January, CJ didn't run out of the bar to take a phone call from Sarah.

An hour later, I grabbed my parka and Alex and I went on a mission to find CJ. We cornered him in a parking lot. Literally cornered him between a car and the building next to it, giving him no room to run away from us, only to hang up the phone and face the wrath of his two best friends.

"What are you doing?" I shouted the second he hung up the phone, "This could actually be your last time out with us. Ever. And you're not even going to hang out with us?"

"Seriously dude. I wanted you to come to hang out with us and you blow us off?" Alex added.

"I'm sorry-"

"CJ, you're going to regret going to MIT," I spat out the words that had been on the edge of my tongue all week.

Sarah had bought CJ the plane tickets to compete with her at MIT's competition this upcoming weekend. Sarah and him had broken up this past Sunday and he was supposed to leave tomorrow. 

"Kaitlyn please, I don't want to hear it-"

"No," I cut him off, "You don't want to hear it but you need to," I looked at Alex, who gave me a nod to continue, "You've got friends here, and you don't have long with us. You're completely throwing us away. And this weekend, of any weekend, we're all doing some really cool stuff. Things are going to go badly with Sarah, like they have for months now. We're all going to have an awesome weekend and you're going to regret not being able to have an awesome weekend with us. You don't want to hear this, because I'm right and you know it."

"I know, I know it's going to be bad and I would really rather be here, but-"

"But what, CJ?" I looked at him earnestly.

CJ couldn't answer me. 

"And if you can't even give me an answer, that's saying a lot," I  shrugged.

At that, Alex took over, telling him that his relationship with Sarah was toxic and that as a friend it was taxing to deal with him dealing with her. 

It was a parking lot intervention. Any romantic feelings I had once had for CJ had long since disappeared. But at the end of the day, I cared about him as a friend and for some reason I couldn't shake that. As a friend, I hated watching him bend to Sarah's damaging will. But I couldn't force him to do anything.

I wasn't Sarah.

I wasn't going to manipulate him, to make him see reason, to make him live his life with only certain people in it. I could if I wanted to, it would be easy, he was vulnerable. But I couldn't do that and still be able to lay my head down on my pillow at night. I wasn't going to try and tell him who he is.

I wasn't Sarah.

History can repeat itself. The point of history, however, is to learn from the mistakes of the past, so, when in a similar situation, one can choose a different course of action.

As I watched CJ head home, leaving his friends behind, I realized he was just trying to go back in time to when things were good with Sarah. History may repeat itself, but there is no way to go back in time. History had happened between January and April, and if CJ ignored those lessons, he would simply make the same mistakes.

But they were his mistakes to make.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Monday, June 15, 2015

Joey and I pushed some newcomers out of our usual spot in the studio. When it came time for the Latin half our lessons, Joey and I always took the spot right in front of Steve and Susan, and we weren't treating our summer lessons any different. We did our warm-up rumba, but it felt weird to do it next to people from all of the other teams, not just b-team like usual. It also felt weird to be so obviously outshining the people all around us. With the occasional glances in the mirror, it just seemed like we were putting in so much more energy than everyone around us: our smiles were brighter, our legs were more precise, our arm styling was bigger. It was the first time Joey and I had danced together all week owing to Joey's trip to Bonnoroo and it felt great to get back to it. After the warm-up dance, we started working on the rumba basic. Summer lessons were all about technique, which was awesome, but Joey and I couldn't remember the last time we did the rumba basic, our routines had become more complex over the past year. Armed with new information pertaining to a step we hadn't done in ages, Steve and Susan put on the music and let us give it a try. 

When the song ended and two minutes of doing a rotating basic were over, Steve and Susan stopped in front of us. 

Steve put his arm around Susan, "Kaitlyn, we think you need to get a masters. That was fantastic, you can't just graduate on us now," Steve and Susan were both beaming. 

I blushed under the weight of such a compliment, "It might be too late to apply for a masters, but if you can pull some strings," I winked. 

"Seriously, stay around longer. That was really good," Susan said. 

To get any sort of compliment from Steve and Susan was rare, and to me that, that compliment in particular, meant so much. For a coach to say that they want to keep making you better was such high praise. From someone raised in a competitive arena, this meant a lot.

Joey and I were the last to leave lesson, we ended up talking to Steve and Susan after before heading back to campus in my car. As Joey and I listed off everything we had learned and what we still needed to work on, I found myself glad I was driving because it physically prevented me from reaching for my cell phone. All I wanted to do was text CJ about Steve and Susan's compliment; he was the only one who would truly appreciate what they had said, especially that they had said it about my latin (the style I was notoriously bad at).

Getting pizza with Joey, Alex, and Cassie post-lesson was the perfect distraction to keep me laughing and remind me that despite the hellish past couple weeks I had had, I still had good people by my side.

A half hour later, my wedges clattered on the damp pavement as I power-walked the three blocks to Walgreens in a drizzly rain. I snagged a box of "warm light brown" hair dye without a second thought  and raced back to the car. I threw the box on the passenger seat with unnecessary force, and then I started to cry.

Joey had made two comments today that began along the lines of "If you lived here," insensitively referencing the fact that I didn't belong in Ann Arbor anymore. It had been the city I once ruled, it fit every Gossip Girl-esq fantasy I'd had since I began reading the books in seventh grade. But it wasn't mine any longer, and I couldn't shake this feeling that I didn't belong anymore. My own roommate, who was once my very best friend, had driven me out of my own house and turned my group of friends against me with lies. Joey had just gotten back from a week at a music festival, and was getting ready to leave the next day for another. And then he was here for a week before I went home for a week's vacation, and the day I got back he was leaving for Texas forever. My only other ally, Alex, was currently sleeping/spending all of his time with Cassie, which meant I couldn't hang out with him as often as before. Joey had a girlfriend, this sophomore Amelia who's kind of a slut, which naturally left me as the odd man out.

I read a quote once that said that the smarter you are, the harder it is to find friends because you expect as much from them as you're willing to give yourself. That is the sad truth. I am lonely. There are small moments where I don't feel alone, and I love them, but then everyone moves on. My three closest friends lived far away. Joey would always rather hang out with some girl who would potentially suck his dick than hang out with me. Alex was well, Alex.

And then there was CJ. He was that rare person that I just connected with. It had been sudden and spontaneous and great, then he dropped me on my ass. And then we reconnected, and he did it again. He was that person that when Joey was ditching me for some girl who would suck his dick, I would text or hang out with and I wouldn't feel as lonely anymore. But now I was actually alone.

I reached my Uncle Rick's house, where I was currently living and I swiped the tears out of my eyes so my ten year old cousin wouldn't ask why I was crying. I made myself a cup of chamomile tea and slathered dye on my chopped locks. A double chocolate cookie, a half hour of letting my hair marinate, and a shower later, I blew out my newly lightened long bob and admired my summer hair color.

After staring at myself in the mirror during our latin half of the lesson, my hair just felt so dark, which normally didn't bother me, but it just didn't look right. My shorter hair cut meant my hair was now more on my face, as opposed to pulled back behind an ear or with bobby pins like it normally was when it was long. I think it was the dark hair next to my full dark brows, dark eyes, and the vampy lipstick I had on with an all-black dance look that set me off.

Sometimes you just need a change. Everything had changed in the past month, hair included. But I had to believe that change wasn't all bad. I went to bed without even opening CJ's text message thread. To not share the general ups and downs of life with CJ Anslow was a change, and even though it didn't feel like a good change, I knew the good would reveal itself in time. Sometimes you meet someone, and its so immediately clear that the two of you, on some level, belong together. Whether it's as lovers, or friends, as family, or something completely unique; you just click and can be unconditionally yourself. You meet these people thought your life, completely unexpectedly, and they help you make your life better. I don't know if that makes me believe in coincidence, or fate, or sheer dumb luck, but it definitely makes me believe in something. And I believe that one day, I'll connect with someone like I connected with CJ, but that person will be in my life to stay.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Monday, June 8th, 2015

"Holy. Hell," my eyes went wide in terror and I turned to look at Joey, who looked just as horrorstruck next to me.

The lobby of our coaches' studio was practically bursting at the seams with college kids. It was the first of the team's summer lessons, and practically everyone who was in Ann Arbor for the summer had turned out.

"Kaitlyn! You're here!" my friend Teresa's voice carried over the chatter in the lobby, "This is so weird, I went to change and there were all these newcomers in the bathroom and everyone was changing in the stalls. I didn't have you to change in the middle of the bathroom with!"

"Oh my God," I hugged her, "I had to change in the stall too and I couldn't remember the last time I actually did that!"

Teresa was in our carpool group for b-team lessons over the school year, and since we always got to lesson at the same time, we would head straight for the bathroom and change into our dance clothes in the middle of the room, without bothering to change in the stalls. There had been no one's underwear I've complimented more.

Our coaches welcomed us all back with a warning, the same warning we got at the first summer lesson last year: that this would be the most crowded of the summer lessons, that people would stop coming, until at the end of the summer, only the committed remained. We did the first warm-up waltz, and Joey and I maneuvered around all of the newcomers. It felt good to be back, after two years of lessons at this studio, it felt a little bit like home. When we rounded the corner to where Steve and Susan were analyzing the room, Joey turned me to promenade and both of our coaches' heads turned to us. They returned the smile that was on my face. It had been a month and a half since we seen Steve and Susan, which was practically a record for the past two years of our dancing careers.

After an hour of Steve and Susan cracking jokes about Joey smoking weed, two guys on the team dating each other, Alex being a terrible dancer, it felt like things were back to normal. When the waltz lesson ended and everyone began to head back to the lobby to change shoes for the second half of the lesson, Steve made a b-line across the studio for Joey and I.

"Missed me, de-ah?" Steve said in his British accent before hugging me and kissing me on the cheek.

"I've missed you terribly Steve," I said, kissing his cheek back, "Have you missed me?"

"I have," and in a rare moment, I could tell Steve wasn't joking.

Steve and Joey shook hands, and we started talking when we were interrupted by Mitch, one of the most awkward people I knew.

"Steve, can I pick your brain about waltz?" Mitch asked.

"If it's quick," Steve said, and over Mitch's shoulder, I stuck out my tongue, and Steve tried to conceal a laugh before I went off to change my shoes.

When the rumba lesson ended an hour later, Steve wove around the crowed to find Joey and I once again.

"So what has your boy been up to lately?" Steve drawled in his British accent, slipping an arm around my waist.

"Which boy?" I asked, "Joey? Alex? You just talked to them."

"CJ, of course," Steve smirked, squeezing my hip, "What's he doing now?"

"Oh him! I wouldn't know," I shrugged.

"You two were thick as thieves! What the hell happened to him?"

Steve and Susan somehow knew everything about their student's lives. Steve and Susan became great ballroom dancers by being very observant about their own dancing, and I think they turned their powers of observation to detect what went on with their students outside of their studio.

"Um, long story short, he got back with his ex-girlfriend, and she didn't like us being friends, so he chose his dysfunctional relationship with her, over his friendship with me," I said it lightly, with a slight laugh, "So I have no idea what's going on in his life, but Alex might still talk to him-"

I dragged Alex into the conversation, who was quick to attest to CJ getting back together with Sarah and then ditching all of his friends. But Steve seemed to only listen politely to Alex, I could feel him side-glancing at me as he kept his arm around me, almost tenderly. There were moments where we knew that our coaches knew too much about our personal lives, and this was one of them.

Eventually Steve's attentions were taken by someone else, and Alex, Joey, and I went to change out of our dance shoes. Swapping my t-strap latin shoes for platform wedges, the three of us gathered our things to leave, and poked our heads back into the studio to say goodbye.

"Hey Kaitlyn!"

As I was halfway to the door, I turned back around to see Steve motioning for me to come back. He put his arm around my shoulder, "CJ's a fucking idiot if he chose any girl over you," he whispered in my ear.

I couldn't help it, I threw my arms around Steve and hugged him, "Thanks Steve."

"See you next week?"

"See you next week," I smiled and Steve kissed my hair.

Sometimes, our coaches' all-knowingness wasn't a bad thing.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Monday, June 1st, 2015

I hitched my dance bag over my shoulder and descended the stairs of our loft studio with one last wave to Joey. The car keys on my Vera Bradley lanyard clinked together as I rounded the corner where my car was parked. I hadn't even passed the corner Panera Bread when I stopped dead in my tracks. A shiver shot up my spine: CJ's Honda barreled through the mountains of dirty slush and ice built up along the curb to parallel park into the spot where my Grandpa's old Ford was currently parked.

Through the front window of the Honda, I was zipping up my hot pink winter coat when CJ leaned over and kissed me. The kiss lingered for a moment before we smiled at each other and then got out of the car. I had the same dance bag over my shoulder, and CJ and I were talking about food as we passed where I was standing, frozen on the corner.

The memory caught me off guard, and it wasn't until I knew that CJ and Kaitlyn of February were safely inside the studio I had just left that I actually got into the old Ford. I hadn't realized it when I parked, but I had that parking spot was exactly where CJ had parked when we drove to practice after we had sex for the first time.

I hadn't heard a whisper from CJ since the day after his job interview the previous week. We had texted the day he left, but when he said he was waiting to pick up Sarah from the airport, I took that as my cue to say goodbye and I hadn't heard from him since. The next day, he deleted me off snapchat. Two days later, I spent most of Memorial Day crying because Whitney was making my life miserable. All I wanted to do was to call CJ, to have someone to talk to, other than my Mom, who understood everything. I was so close to just hitting the button, but something held me back: what if he didn't pick up, what if he did and then said that he couldn't talk to me, what if he really didn't want to be my friend? The thoughts only caused more tears to race each other down my cheeks, and I felt more alone than ever before.

CJ didn't know I wasn't living at 815 Lawrence anymore, he didn't know that the few days between when he left Ann Arbor and when I left Ann Arbor were absolutely miserable. He didn't know that I missed him more than ever. It was because Whitney was going crazy that I ended up at CJ's house one February night, which led to us having sex the next day, and brought me back to the parking spot I was currently sitting in.

I slammed the car into drive, and rocketed out of town, hitting the expressway at a far faster speed than necessary. The wind from my open windows lifted my hair from my still-sweaty-from-dance neck. CJ wasn't the first guy I'd had sex with, he wasn't the first guy I genuinely liked, but it wasn't until I drove farther and farther from Ann Arbor that it began to make sense why I was still hung up on him. At first, James was just a thing, but when he returned to Ann Arbor a year later and we started hooking up again, I did like him. It wasn't a massive crush, but we did have a natural chemistry that couldn't be denied. But then I looked him in the eye, told him we weren't hooking up anymore, and that was that. I really liked Philip, and when that started going south, I was quick to be the one to call it off. With both of those guys, I had gotten the last word. Things had ended on my terms. CJ was the only guy in my life so far who had had the upper hand, and what was worse, was that even when he was the one to call it off, it was only with words. His actions said otherwise, which left me only to wonder where his heart truly lied. I don't know if it hurt me more that there was a chance his heart didn't want me in his life, or that he was too afraid to actually listen to it.

But the thing that hurt me the most, was that I had lost a friend. I had just gone out for drinks with James twice in week, I had been texting Philip last week, but clearly CJ and I couldn't have any sort of contact or he would fall in love with me. CJ's challenge to my inner alpha was a blow in itself, but loosing him as a friend was the worst kind of treachery.

 I had trusted CJ, only for him to betray me. It's a risk you take when you trust anyone. But, the ninth circle of hell is reserved for traitors, and that doesn't sound like a pleasant place.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Actual Thursday, May 21st, 2015

A long weekend in Ann Arbor simply means more days in the week for drama, and it kickstarted with the arrival of my ex-best friend. True to my vision, I strode up the stairs of Joey and Alex's in my Barbie pink peplum top, black ankle jeans, black high-heeled sandals, and my black patent leather clutch tucked under my arm. I was sad that I didn't yet own the distressed black jeans of my fantasy Thursday (I would buy them the very next day), but I was extremely grateful that Sarah wasn't a part of the crowd sitting around the kitchen table.

"Ceej!" Joey beat me up the stairs and him and CJ bro-hugged.

And then CJ's eyes turned to me. We held each other's gazes for a moment.

"Missed me?" I smirked.

"Always," He said softly, walking over to hug me.

"Kaitlyn? Oberon?" Alex called from the fridge.

"Hook me up!" Already three beers deep, I was clearly not banking on having to go in for my 10am call-in shift the next day. I settled just shy of opposite of CJ at Joey's circular kitchen table.

"So Kaitlyn, this is a confidence booster for you," Alex said, holding his phone out to me, "Last weekend Kaitlyn and I hung out with my old roommate Ethan and our old friends and after we left, Ethan sent me this," Alex announced to the group at large.

"Awh," I smiled softly at the sight of the text before Alex put his phone in the center of the table for all to see.

-Ethan Warren-
I may be in a happy committed relationship blah blah blah but damn Kaitlyn is hot

"I was walking down the street with her yesterday," Joey began, "and seriously every guy was checking her out. This one guy literally did a 180 in his chair to keep looking at her when she passed."

"Kaitlyn's the hot girl of the friend group, obviously," Alex beamed.

"I have nice clothes," I shrugged, trying my hardest not to blush and to avoid CJ's eyes.

"Kaitlyn, you look awesome in anything," Joey corrected me.

"Eh, not quite everything," CJ teased.

I smirked and sat back, taking a sip of my drink as the topic changed. What a perfect conversation to have upon CJ's return. I couldn't have even imagined such a spiteful moment in my fictional version of this day. I knew CJ had to be inwardly squirming  at this conversation: the "hot girl of the friend group" was the girl he let away, twice. He could have had the girl who made heads turn on his arm, but he chose Sarah instead. Looking good is the best revenge.

On our walk to the bar an hour later, the stiletto of my new shoe made well-deserved contact with CJ's  shin.

"Oops," I chirped as CJ stopped and grimaced in pain.

"I just made a joke!"

"You think that was for the joke?" I scoffed, stalking away.

"Ok, fine," CJ caught up with me a moment later, "I deserved that one."

I glared at him over my shoulder, throwing open the door to MASH, an underground bar.

As we all stood around the bar, waiting our turn to order, CJ found me again, "What do you want to drink?"


CJ smiled and nodded for me to follow him to another end of the bar.

"Picklebacks?" I beamed when the bartender slid two shots of whiskey, and two shots of unmistakably green liquid that was obviously pickle juice alongside two beers.

"You like these?" CJ looked surprised, "I should have known," he shook his head.

I smiled, and we clinked our whiskey shots together before throwing them back. We chased the whiskey with pickle juice, which perfectly neutralizes the bite of the whiskey. We picked up our beers and left to rejoin the group. At least I still had drunk CJ to buy me drinks.

As closing time approached, I went around saying my goodbyes, purposefully saving CJ for last, but before I could hug him he took my hand, "I'll walk you home."

"Ok," I bit my lip. More alone time, which I didn't think was allowed.

"So how are things?" I asked when we got back to my house and settled on my porch loveseat under the glow of the christmas lights that decorated my porch all year long.

CJ sighed, "I'm still trying to figure everything out, I just haven't had time to do nothing. My family's been on my ass about finding a job and I've been traveling every weekend. I've got another interview next week for a job in Albany."

"What's the job in Albany?" I asked, CJ was from Albany.

"It's kind of lame, it's for a plastics company."

"Would you want to take it if it worked out?"

"I don't know, I don't know if I want to be here or home. I want to be close to my mom but I know I can dance here. And-and," in that next moment, CJ threw his arms around me and completely lost it, "my mom told me she wants a divorce."

As CJ bawled into my shoulder, I hugged him back in shock. I knew he had been holding that inside all evening. Ever since I had walked in Joey and Alex's door, he had to have been waiting for this moment. These are the things you want to tell your best friend. But, oh my God, why? Why couldn't I just be mad at CJ and yell at him until he cried and let that be that? Instead I literally have to be supportive because I couldn't move under CJ's full weight pinning me down.

So we talked about his family, the job prospects, CJ avoided talking about Sarah, how he was mentally, all while CJ pulled me close to him. CJ kept his arms locked around me, and I rested my head on his chest.

"How are you? Like, really, how are you?" CJ asked earnestly.

That question always got me. CJ was one of the few people who would ask me that, look me in the eye, and actually care.

"This summer's been crap," I admitted and launched into how I've been on edge because of Whitney and how I feel even more lonely than usual because of how she's trying to steal my friends, "I've got two friends, that's all."

"That sounds awful," CJ hugged me.

"And you know you gave me 24 hours to plot your murder when you told me you were coming here yesterday. And as I tried to put my scheme into action, I realized something."

"You really scare me sometimes," CJ shivered.

"I realized that it's really better to let you live, because you're the one who threw away my friendship, and I'm a pretty great friend," I turned so I could look CJ in the eye, "You're the one who did this to me, and you're the one who has to live with yourself. I deem that punishment enough."

For the second time that night, CJ collapsed onto me, "I'm an awful person."

"No CJ," I pushed him off of me, holding him at arm's length, "You're an awesome person, who's done some awful things, namely to me. And until you see and believe that you're an awesome person, you're going to keep doing awful things to the people who see the things in you that you can't see."

"I'm so sorry Kaitlyn, I really am. You're one of the best people I've ever had in my life."

"Sucks you can't keep me there."

"I'm going to try and figure things out this weekend."

"CJ, I'm not going to wait for you. I've been waiting for you to 'figure things out' since the start of the semester. Make a choice and stick with it, but I'm not going to let you keep dragging me through the mud in the process. Because that's just hurting me."

"I never meant to hurt you, I really didn't. You deserve better."

"That's why I had to call you the other week, I'm sick of being hurt."

CJ was crying again. He was holding my hands and crying.

"It makes me sad that we can't be friends."

"Me too," CJ muttered, wrapping his arms tighter around me.

I went inside soon after to go to the bathroom. I kicked off my heels and returned outside with a blanket, throwing it around the both of us.

"You know you don't need the heels," CJ said as we snuggled together under the blanket.

"But I like them," I smiled.

"You don't need the high heels, you don't need the makeup," CJ's fingers entwined with mine, "You're just as pretty when you first wake up in the morning as you do now."

"You would know, wouldn't you?" I teased, conscious of how CJ's hand that wasn't holding mine was wrapped around my legs, keeping me as close to him as possible.

"Yeah I would, and I'm glad I know."

"You know, I don't regret anything that happened between us. I should, but I can't. You were one of the few people I really trusted."

"I don't regret anything either. Only how it ended, and maybe that it ended," CJ added that last part as a quiet after thought.

"Yeah, you really should."

CJ ended up staying at my house until 4:30am, we ended up laying on the couch in my living room, talking softly until I almost fell asleep. How many nights had we had like this? Where we talked for hours about life, tangled up with each other? How many of these late nights made me question CJ's relationship status? How many of those nights made me with that things could have just worked out between us?

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

Today's monstrous downpour of rain left the sky over Ann Arbor unnaturally clear. The earlier humidity had dissipated, meaning that our loft studio wouldn't be ludicrously hot. I pulled open the door to the very loft studio in question, and my new black stilettos popped on the staircase.

"Hey Kaitlyn!" Alex popped out from the front studio as I arrived at the top of the stairs, "I'm so excited for post dance drinks!"

"Excuse for me to break out my new heels," I smiled, exaggeratedly flipping my curls over my shoulder.

"But Kait," Alex lowered his voice, "Look ou-"

"Hey Partner!" Joey's voice boomed from the hallway lobby.

"Hi Joey!" I turned with a smile, but halfway, my smile froze on my face.

It was just the person I was hoping to see. Just the person I was wearing my favorite deep-v black leotard and my destroyed black jeans to see. Topped with my leather jacket and stiletto sandals, it was a look made to put fear into the hearts of men. More specifically, it was a look that would make CJ Anslow know his life was over.

When CJ had snap chatted me that he had a job interview in Ann Arbor the day before, I had spent all of Wednesday viciously plotting his murder, wondering if our paths would cross the next day. They hadn't, until now.

Two weeks ago, I had crossed paths with the back of Sarah's head. And now I was staring right at the front of it.

The three of us stared at each other, my smile still frozen on my face, "Well, this is unexpected," I stated dryly, taking a deep breath and turning down the hallway.

I threw my bag in the changing room with unnecessary vigor.

"Kaitlyn?" Joey popped his head through the curtain.

"I'm sorry, I tried to warn you," Alex pushed Joey out of the way and pulled back the curtain to the changing room.

"Shhhhh," I beckoned Alex and Joey into the fitting room and yanked the curtain closed behind them, "If I make it out of this practice alive, you guys both owe me a beer," I hissed, "But, if Sarah comes out with us tonight, I'm not coming. Alex, CJ will ask you if they can come because of the three of us, you'll be the easiest to break. Be prepared," I rounded on Joey, "You get your ass into the big studio and claim it as ours, this is my town, my studio, Sarah can suck it in small studio. Now go, my little minions."

I got the big studio. Just like the other week, CJ and Sarah were stuck in the small front studio. Alex gave me periodic updates if they were still actually there, and I was waiting for the relief that would come from news that they had left.

That relief still hadn't came when the studio was closing and I swapped my leotard for a hot pink peplum top. With the reappearance of my distressed black jeans and heels, my look went from badass to Badass Barbie. I hitched my bag over my shoulder and strode out of the dressing room to face my fate.

No Sarah in the hallway.

But before I reached the end, I stopped dead in my tracks.

"So, what are you guys doing tonight?" I heard CJ's voice from around the corner.

"Um," Alex paused, probably sharing a look with Joey, trying to decide what to say next.

"Dominick's," Joey blurted out the name of our bar of choice of the night, known for their oversized mason jars of sangria and outside seating.

"Can we come?" CJ asked enthusiastically.

"Well, um," Alex was most likely giving Joey another awkward glance, "You can come CJ, but, um, Kaitlyn's coming so, sorry Sarah."

That was my cue. Every face turned to me as I rounded the corner. CJ's was bright red, Alex looked abashed, Joey was smirking, and Sarah looked like she had just gotten punched.

My eyes locked with CJ's, "At least someone chose right right," the words slipped icily from my lips. I could have sworn CJ flinched under my glare, "Let's go boys," I nodded for Alex and Joey to follow me down the stairs, my heart racing, both from the conversation and from trying to make sure I didn't trip down the stairs for my grand exit. I had gotten just what I wanted: the last word.

If Thursday could be the perfect day, that's how it would go. But Thursday hasn't happened yet, I don't know if it's going to rain, and I don't know if I'll see CJ at all. The only part of that story that is true is that CJ does have a job interview in Ann Arbor tomorrow, and that over the weekend I bought strappy black heels, a hot pink peplum top, and the torn-to-shreds black jeans I'd been eyeing for months in Abercrombie. CJ did snapchat me to tell me about the interview, but he didn't try and make any plans which means 1 of 2 things: 1. Sarah's coming with him or 2. He actually took my "Sarah or Me" ultimatum to heart and is done and done with me.

By the way he's been snap chatting me all evening, I fear it's the latter. You bet I'll be wearing my new heels around town all day just in case of an accidental run-in.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Wednesday, May 7th, 2015

"What's wrong with you?" I flipped my gold-rimmed aviators up onto my head, surveying CJ without the brown tint. 

"What's wrong with you?" CJ snapped back.

"In two years, I have never seen you wear a polo," my eyes narrowed as I studied his dark teal Express polo, "You look like a real person."

"Makes me look good, doesn't it?" CJ winked.

"It's about time you started looking like a real person," I scoffed.

"CJ looking like a real person, no way!" Alex interjected sarcastically and I was reminded that CJ and I weren't the only ones in the room. CJ, Alison, and Alex were sitting around Alex's liquor-bottle-strewn kitchen table. 

"Hey Ceej," Joey said, entering the room behind me.

"Hey Man," CJ and Joey bro-hugged, "How was practice?" CJ glanced at the two of us.

"Good," Joey answered, "I can lead a running right turn now."

"Really? I can't even do that right, at MIT whenever we did one I just yelled 'heel turn!' at Sarah. I can't lead it right, Alison knows," CJ chuckled, with a glance at his partner.

Alison giggled, "I just do it because I know it's in the choreo."

"For the first time we could do it in context today," I smiled at Joey.

"Drinks guys?" Alex offered, standing up.

"Grab me a beer, dude," Joey answered.

"Scotch, neat," I said, eyeing a bottle on the table and a moment later a glass was in my hand.

"Something is wrong with you?" CJ piped up as I reached to pull my sunglasses off my head.

"What?" I asked curiously.

"Your hair is different," It was CJ's turn to narrow his eyes.

I leaned against the kitchen counter, depositing my sunglasses in the tote bag that was still on my arm, "It's just parted down the middle."


"Why do you care?" I raised an eyebrow.

"It's different," CJ shrugged.

"I'm going for a more high-fashion look," I tossed my curls over my shoulder, "Everyone was wearing center parts at the Met Gala."

"What's that?" CJ looked befuddled, "Was it something here?"

"And you call yourself a New Yorker," I scoffed, "It's a fashion thing."

"You're weird."

"You're an idiot."

"Let's go watch a movie!" Alex suggested, cutting off our bickering.

This was our last time hanging out before CJ left for home, it was only proper I spent most of it yelling at him.

Joey and Alex's upstairs family room had one couch and one armchair. CJ, Alison, and Alex took the couch, and I swear I saw a flicker of disappointment when I passed up the last seat on the couch for the armchair. 

Midway through 'Now You See Me' I went to the bathroom and when I rejoined, CJ made a discreet effort to tempt me onto the seat next to him. I obliged, under the premise of a youtube video.

As soon as the youtube clip of The Wiggles was over, we returned to the movie and CJ slipped his arm around my shoulder. I was keenly aware when it sank to my waist, settling on the sliver of skin where my cream crop top ended and my gold high-waisted shorts began. 

I sighed, leaning into his chest. 

Time is a fickle concept. In two weeks CJ and I went from sex to Starbucks: CJ and I went from being closer than ever, to him telling me that we couldn't be friends in my favorite place. In another two weeks, we went from Starbucks to holding hands on this very couch. It was as if CJ just couldn't let me go, but come tomorrow morning, the time would come to say goodbye for good. 

CJ's fingers entwined with mine. 

CJ was doing it again- cheating on Sarah without technically cheating on Sarah. When Joey went to take a selfie of all of us on the couch, CJ took his arms off of me as if I had burst into flames, like baby Jack Jack in The Incredibles. He knew exactly what he was doing. 

When we went to say our goodbyes, something told me this wasn't goodbye, plus CJ and I couldn't say a proper goodbye in front of Alison, Alex, and Joey. We still hugged for a very long time. 

Not but two hours later, CJ texted me to come over and help him pack with Alex. I obliged, only when CJ promised me I could share the burrito Alex was bringing him. 

The way to my heart is through my stomach, after all. 

I trekked across campus, and when I knocked on CJ's door, I heard Alex coming down the stairs. 

"Don't let her in!" CJ's voice floated down from his open bedroom window. 

"I can hear you!" I called back, gazing up at the window that had so often been the indication that it was morning when I spent the night at CJ's. 

Laughter fell from the bedroom window, "I know!"

Alex opened the door, and I followed him up to CJ's apartment where I threw my purse on the floor and plopped into one of the kitchen table chairs. CJ came out of his room and promptly tried to flip my chair over. 

"Where's my burrito?" I shouted, steadying my chair. 

"Hi," CJ put his arms warmly around me, pulling me into a hug.

"Hi," I said flatly, spotting the burrito and lunging across the table for it, "You know I'm not actually going to help you pack, right?"

"Yeah, I figured," CJ shrugged.

It was one of those nights where CJ seemed like he couldn't keep his hands off of me. Overtime he brought another packed box into the kitchen, he would mess up my hair, tickle me, or put his arms around my shoulders. 

When he emerged and put his shirt over my head, my protest of, "Your shirt is going to have makeup all over it," was interrupted by  CJ's ringtone. 

He seemed slightly shaken when he went into his room and closed the door to take the call. It could only be Sarah calling him this late. 

He stopped trying to find excuses to touch me after that. 

"So I'm going to try and get on the road at 7 tomorrow morning," CJ said when Alex was in the bathroom, "Make me breakfast before I go?"

"That's so early," I groaned, "If you really," I dragged the word out, "want me to, you've got to call me to wake me up, I ain't settin' no alarm."

Alex and CJ said their final goodbye a while later, and CJ promised he would see me in the morning when I left with Alex. 

The next morning, CJ and I would sit out on the porch having eggs and bacon for a solid forty minutes. We would talk, and then sit in silence. I was wearing my bathrobe over my nightgown, with no makeup, and I hadn't even bothered to run a brush through my bedhead. After our many mornings spent together over the past two years, this seemed an appropriate setting to say goodbye. 

"I'm so sorry about everything," CJ whispered into my hair when it was finally time to say our last goodbye. 

"I know," I muttered into his shoulder. 

"I'll see you soon, ok?" CJ promised, "I'll be back, I'll be bored and make the drive back to Ann Arbor."

"I hope so," I smiled just a touch, "I'll miss you, I do miss you."

"I miss you already," CJ pulled me close, and for one final time, he kissed my forehead and let me go. 

I sat on my porch and watched CJ's car turn down my street and out of sight. Even though it was barely 8am, I couldn't fall back asleep when I curled up in my bed. Through everything, the extreme ups and downs of our friendship, I wouldn't have traded our friendship for the world. When we were friends, we were great friends. When we weren't, it was the stuff of which novels are written about. I would miss him. Something about CJ and I just inexplicably clicked, and I would miss having that person who understood me completely. The Kaitlyn and CJ Saga had come to it's end, and as I tried to fall asleep, I couldn't help but wish that it wasn't over. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Monday, May 5th, 2015

For the first time since Thursday, I left the house not wearing high heels. Commencement meant everyone looked all put together on campus, quite contrary to Ann Arbor's usually hippie style. I had gladly blended into the well-dressed crowd.

But now, graduation was done, and it was back to flip flops for the walk to the studio. My other reason for looking perpetually on point this weekend was that my unofficial rival was in town. CJ's maybe ex-girlfriend Sarah should have left town earlier today, so yoga pants and a sweatshirt was all I donned for my walk to ballroom.

I had just recounted to Alyssa on the phone how my gossip-loving roommate Elizabeth had spotted CJ and Sarah holding hands after commencement. My minion had immediately texted me this development from across the Big House. I wasn't pleased by the news, but I was pleased that I had a minion to report the latest drama to me. I had become the Michigan version of Blair Waldorf.

Alyssa was continuing her latest tale of roommate drama when I ascended the stairs leading to our loft studio. I smiled at Alex, who was sitting at the end chair facing the stairs before turning the corner to the hallway that was used as a lobby. I glanced around for Joey, but instead say a sheet of unfamiliar black hair.

The black hair could only be one person: unfamiliar to the studio, she was familiar to me.

It was Sarah.

Phone pressed firmly to my ear, I blew past the dark haired figure to turn the corner to the changing room. Like a seasoned vet, I flipped on the lights and dropped my bag.

Like someone who wasn't a seasoned vet at dealing with girls who may hate my guts because I momentarily stole their boyfriends, I threw my hair over my shoulder, held my chin high, pressed my phone to my ear, and flew back down the hallway. My pace was just fast enough to indicate I had more important things to attend to than hang out waiting for my partner, but slow enough to not show intimidation.

My heart was pounding out of my chest as I bolted back down the stairs to continue my phone conversation outside until Joey got there.

I could have sworn CJ told me she was leaving Monday. This was completely unexpected, and I had no clue how to handle it. For someone usually good with words, I didn't have the slightest clue what to say to Sarah.

Fifteen minutes later, I hadn't seen Joey. Had I missed him during my brief run into the studio? For the sake of not looking like I had surrendered my practice space to Sarah and to actually practice if Joey was there, I tossed the door open again.

Midway up the stairs, CJ walked from the front studio. Upon hearing my voice talking on the phone, he turned and gave me a quick wave. In that split second, I saw an apology in his eyes.

CJ was still wearing cargo shorts. CJ had been at the studio for at least fifteen minutes and hadn't changed into dance pants? Something was wrong.

And I knew that something was me.

"Is Joey here?" I asked to the lobby at large. Everyone's head turned toward me, and Sarah wasn't in sight.

"No," Alex responded over the music.

"Thanks!" I said peppily and turned on my heel, "Ok, we're good Alyssa," I chirped into my phone, hopping back down the stairs again.

I paced the block until Joey got there.

"Sarah's here," I said in lieu of a greeting.

"What?" Joey's eyes lit up in shock.

"I'm still shaking," and I described our encounter a half hour previous, "So this might be a little awkward, I don't know what kind of a trap I'm walking into, and I'm not even wearing a kick-ass outfit!"

"Oh shut up, you can kick anyone's ass in anything."

Eyes peeled for a flash of black hair, I walked into the studio a third time and changed into my purple standard skirt as fast a humanly possible. God forbid Sarah walk into the changing room when I was in my underwear. I pulled down my grew cami to show the most of the illusion of cleavage created by my push up bra. I was ready.

And by ready, I mean I screamed across the studio for another minion, "Alex!" I hissed loudly into the main studio.

Alex scampered over from where he was helping a newbie.

"Am I loosing my mind, or was that Sarah?"

"Oh my God," Alex pushed his hair back in his characteristic way, "I didn't get a chance to warn you when you walked in. It was her."

"Damn," I hissed under my breath.

"I saw you do a double take when you got in," Alex noted, "They're in the front studio so you're safe in here."

"At least I get the biggest of the three studios," I shrugged and Joey joined me.

It took a solid twenty minutes of quickstep for my heart to return to a normal pace and my hands to stop shaking. Dancing in a billowing skirt with my long hair being thrown about with every turn gave me a much needed boost of confidence. It also helped that the last time Sarah had seen me dance, I sucked considerably more than I did now, so if she caught sight of me in the mirror, not only would I be looking glam, my dancing was clearly better too.

An hour had soon passed without sight of CJ or Sarah, and at the next opportunity, I beckoned my minion to my side, "Are they still here?"

"They left," Alex reported, "I saw CJ leave a little bit ago on his phone, and Sarah wasn't with him. I assume Sarah got mad that you were here and left and CJ had to go do damage control."

A dark smile stretched across my glossy lips, "Well look who got to practice tonight: me."

"You've got an evil look going on," Joey noted as Alex went back to practice.

"The North is my territory, this is my studio, and I'm not going to let some bitch from the East take my practice space."

"You are a queen," Joey smiled.

"I just stand my ground and she self-destructs," I smirked, "She left the studio and I'm still here, therefore I win this round."

"King and Queen in the North," Joey high-fived me, invoking our old Game of Thrones inspired nicknames.

I almost reached to adjust my invisible crown.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Wednesday, April 28th, 2015

I closed my notebook, shut my laptop, and for the first time in hours got up form my desk chair. My take-home exam was done, and I needed a drink.

Luckily, my friends and I had been drinking every night since Friday. Clearly, we were all graduating seniors who cared deeply about finals week.

I was greeted at Alex and Joey's house with a glass of champagne and a shot of Jack. A-Team had just returned from their last lesson and a few of the most well-connected B-Team members had been invited to join them at the bars that night.

"Hey," CJ put his arm around my waist after I tossed back my shot.

"Hi," I instinctively leaned back against him, "How was your last lesson?"

"Susan made us cake!" CJ piped up excitedly.

"So you guys finally got your post-lesson drinking with Steve and Susan?"


"Old news, that was B-Team a month ago," I smirked.

"But did you get a cake?" CJ tossed back.

"I am a little jealous because I'm going to guess Susan is a pretty good cook," I admitted. We hadn't gotten a cake.

"You guessed right, she made this seven-layer crepe cake that was amazing!"

"Susan and I are remarkably similar," all year, people had been saying I reminded them of our coach, and as the year went on and Susan and I became closer, I began to see it myself. We even dressed similar for the pro show at the Ohio Star Ball in November, "I'm a good cook, so I assume she is too."

It was lightly raining as we made our way to the bar and I flipped up the hood of my cropped lightweight sweatshirt. I was squished in our booth between Alex and Alison, but I could tell someone was trying to catch my eye from across the table.

When I excused myself to go to the bathroom a while later, CJ followed. I didn't make it to the bathroom before CJ cornered me. We seemed to have the same conversation that we've had a million times: me yelling at CJ for being a crappy friend, CJ apologizing, CJ telling me about his current mental state, CJ being vague about Sarah, me yelling at CJ for being stupid about Sarah.

Our conversation continued to my favorite drunk food place, Menna's, and when CJ offered to walk me home. The earlier light rain had thickened, and we walked back with our arms around each other. When we encountered the awning of one of the coffee shops on my route home, CJ put his other arm around me to pull me under it.

Temporarily shielded from the rain, time seemed to slow: my arms were around CJ's shoulders, and his around my waist, pulling me impossibly close. We were laughing and the gravity between us went unchallenged. The darkness of 2:30am couldn't hide the unmistakeable flash in CJ's eye and the way our heads were naturally inclined toward the other's. I could have sworn CJ was going to kiss me. I leaned in toward him; half daring him to do it, half wanting him too.

But our lips never touched. May times we had been in this similar place, stopping chemistry from completing a reaction right at the last moment. CJ's conscience was the perpetual buffer.

But maybe that reaction had ran its course. We had done our time as more-than-friends, however brief as it had been. And maybe that experiment shouldn't be conducted again.

Despite the nature of the experiment, I had hoped all along that friendship would be the outcome. He said he did too, but I couldn't help the nagging feeling that CJ couldn't separate friendship from "feelings" when it came to me.

"I keep thinking about something you said last night," CJ said, sitting down again on my porch bannister.

"I said lots of things last night," I wracked my brains, trying to think of what words were sticking in CJ's mind. I sat a foot from CJ on the banister.

"I just keep thinking about how you said you weren't the prettiest girl in the world."

"Well, I'm not, there's no way my love life would be four years of failure if I was-"

"You're beautiful. I should have told you more," CJ's hazel eyes locked with mine.

"You told me twice," my lips turned upward in the shadow of a smile and the shadow of a memory, "That's more than anyone else."

"I think we both know the most recent time," CJ said confidently.

I nodded. As dark as it was on my porch, it had been just as dark in CJ's room one night when he looked me in the eyes and said it.

"What was the other time?" CJ asked.

"Purdue's competition, our first one together. You had known me for less than a day. I came out in my red standard dress and you just said it. You didn't say that I looked beautiful, but that I was."

CJ took my hands in his, "Kaitlyn, you're the most beautiful girl I know. And I'm so glad I know you."

"I'm glad I know you too," our fingers intertwined, "I wouldn't trade our friendship for anything."

"I don't know where I'd be right now without you."

CJ got me talking about makeup school, and I ended up crying and in CJ's arms.

"I just want to do what I'm passionate about, I want that every minute of every day."

"I want to be as passionate about my job as you will be about yours," CJ smiled at me as I wiped an inevitable tear from my cheek.

"It's what I live for: the people and things that I'm passionate about," it was ultimately the combination of alcohol and three days until graduation that had me in tears. And maybe, just maybe, it had something to do with the guy holding me in his arms. There was no one else I had opened up to in sic an intimate way. And even though I didn't get any fairytale ending, I didn't regret it. I didn't want a fairytale, with a white knight and a magical kiss. I wanted friendship. I thought that was easier  to obtain than a white knight and magical kiss, and sometimes with CJ truly challenged that assumption. But then there were nights like this, where I felt like friendship would win out in the end.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015

I smiled serenely over the top of my plastic cup of margarita. Sitting around the table with Joey, Alex, and CJ was like sitting around the table with the older versions of my three brothers. They all talked nonsense, there was lots of giggling, and I knew that boys never truly grow up.

I hoped that my brothers would grow up to be better people than the guy who sat next to me on the couch when the four of us plopped down to watch netflix. CJ wasn't even that drunk when he put an arm around my shoulder. He still wasn't that drunk when his other hand entwined with mine. 

Joey was sitting on my other side, and his eyes bore into the hand of mine that was holding CJ's. I felt the burn of his stare and I could feel the cogs turning in his mind, trying to decipher the meaning behind the cuddling happening next to him. 

I didn't think anything of it. My feelings for CJ had been long since locked away. The only thing that worried me was that CJ probably didn't think it was nothing. He wasn't a heartless human like I was.

The hour grew later and when it was time to leave, CJ left with me. 

"See you later," I waved to CJ as I went to head north to my house, knowing CJ would be going south to his. 

"Hey, are we cool?" CJ reached out for my arm.

"Yeah, we're cool."

"Can I walk you home?"

"Sure," I shrugged. It was nearing 2am and I couldn't turn down any guy walking me home, "Is this ok?" I asked after a few feet, "It's just the two of us, I thought that wasn't allowed."

"I'm walking you home, aren't I?" CJ responded, "I don't even care anymore, to tell you the truth."

"I was worried that the four of us hanging out wouldn't count as a 'social ballroom setting,'" I couldn't help but snap, referring to the conversation that we couldn't be friends outside of ballroom, where we were forced to be together.

CJ sighed, "Kaitlyn, I've got a week left in Ann Arbor, I want to spend it with my friends. I don't care what she says about it at this point. I don't think it's going to last long once I get home anyways."

"Good," I shrugged, tossing my curtain of curls behind my shoulder.

"How was this weekend?" CJ asked.

"You missed out, it was a blast."

"How was your party?" My party meaning the lingerie party.

"A smashing success, if I do say so myself. But I am sad that I didn't get to kick anyone out," I frowned, "I was on security detail."

"Who put you in charge of security?" CJ laughed.

"Myself, duh. No guy is going to say 'No' to me when I'm not wearing pants."

"Eh, that might be an overstatement," CJ winked at me.

"Puh-lease, I don't even break out the goods for this party and I'm still best dressed two years running," I smirked. Was it a little bit evil of put the vision of myself in lingerie in CJ's head? Absolutely, and that's why I did it.

There's nothing more tacky than cheap lingerie and that was about a third of the outfits at the lingerie party. The other third were girls in decent lingerie but covering it up with robes. The final third were newcomers entirely unprepared for such an event who, at 18, didn't have any reasons to own fancy lingerie, wearing their best everyday bra and panties.

Then there was me. My sequined push up VS bra actually made me look like I had boobs and my semi-sheer matching panties were kept from being too revealing with strategically placed rhinestones. It was classy, very Victoria's Secret Fashion Show, but still kept the most important things to the imagination. With huge curls and my signature nude pumps, I'm positive I would have erased all thoughts of Sarah from CJ's mind.

But he would never know, or see my second best lingerie combo, because he had been at MIT with Sarah all weekend. 

"We were all kinda dead from the lingerie party for the bar crawl, but we rallied," I said, referring to Saturday's ballroom bar crawl, "We just went hard all weekend."

"I wish I could have been there, but we killed it at the comp!"

"You know we all wanted you to do awful, right?" I said it matter-of-factly, "Every one of your friends wanted you to do badly because you went with completely the wrong intentions."

CJ sighed, "I don't blame you."

"It was your last weekend here and you ditched us. We should never want you to do badly at a competition," I said honestly.

"But I still killed it-"

"CJ, I don't give a shit about the dancing, I hardly give a shit about how any facet of your weekend was because I can tell you that the dancing was probably the only good part."

"I can't say you're wrong-"

I raised one eyebrow.

"But I feel validated as a dancer, at least one good thing came of this weekend, right?"

I shrugged, "You keep telling yourself that."

"How've you been?" CJ turned his head so he looked me in the eyes, "I haven't gotten to ask you that recently."

"Well, who's fault is that?" I muttered.

"Hey," CJ stopped walking and took my hand, "Just because I haven't gotten to ask you don't mean I haven't wanted to."

"I've been lonely," I admitted, "Whitney has been being awful to me and I miss my mom and I can't talk to you and soon everyone's going to go their separate ways and it's going to suck to leave it all behind."

"Graduation is scary," CJ agreed, "I'm kind of not looking forward to it."

"Why not?" I asked as we rounded on my house.

"No more distractions," CJ said.

"Yeah," it was my turn to look him in the eye. I knew exactly what he was thinking. For CJ, graduation meant having to truly reconcile with who he is.

"And Kaitlyn?"


"I'm sorry about everything. The last thing I want is for you to feel more lonely because of me."

I nodded and CJ and I sat down on my porch.

"So how are things with Whitney?"

And as I launched into my story, CJ listened in the way that only a friend would. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Saturday, April 18th, 2015

Red solo cups dotted the white tablecloths. Except for my table. My table of seniors featured multiple travel coffee mugs, a few soda bottles, and my own Starbucks cup. My friend Cassie and I had just made a run back to my house to refill all of our alcoholic beverages. Living conveniently five minutes from the venue for our ballroom end of semester party was convenient for maintaining my buzz through the endless executive board campaign speeches and the lecture from the outgoing President.

The senior slideshow had us all laughing as Joey, Whitney, and Josh talked about all of the seniors in turn. Joey and Whitney said surprisingly nice things about me, and I was still sharing a smile with CJ, who was across the table from me, when Alison's slide appeared.

"Alison is amazing!" Joey practically shouted, "Everything I just said about CJ goes double for her, except she's NOT A DICK!"

The entire room erupted in laughed, none of it even as close to as loud as mine. Alex and Cassie were on either side of me, and the three of us, as CJ's best friends, were absolutely loosing it. I caught Joey's eye, and he gave me a nod that clearly said 'that one was for you.' If I wasn't wearing glitter eyeliner, I would have probably cried with some combination of laughing too hard and gratitude for Joey just calling out CJ for being an asshole in front of the entire ballroom team.

And with the final slide, the tables were pushed back and took the floor for the famous last rumba. The last rumba is supposed to be an emotional thing, many tears have been shed, but when Joey through in the new move we learned in our lesson earlier that day, I said "we should try that again," and it felt like we could be at practice.

"We would end up using our last rumba to actually practice," Joey said with a smile as the song ended and we hugged.

Another rumba started, and I was barely out of Joey's arms when someone else took my hand.

"I get your second dance?" I asked as I settled into hold with CJ.

"Best friend privileges," CJ smiled just a bit. We spent the entire next few minutes looking each other right in the eyes, as was the nature of the rumba, but many unspoken things passed between us. When the song sounded like it was going to end, CJ dipped me and then pulled me in close, "I'm so proud of you. You've gotten so much better this year, and I'm glad I got to be apart of it," CJ whispered as he hugged me, "And I'm so sorry, about everything. There aren't words to tell you how bad I feel, you are the last person to deserve what I did to you. You are my best friend, you've become this amazing dancer, and every time I think about you I just feel so awful, and I miss the hell out of you."

"I miss my best friend more than anything," my whisper quivered, "I wish it didn't have to be like this."

"Me neither," CJ said, and we hugged for a second more.

"See you at Alex and Joey's after this?" I asked.

"Yeah," CJ nodded and I turned around to go back to my table.

If my life was a movie, this would the moment where we literally kissed and made up: where the boy would grab my hand as I turned around and kiss me and it would all be ok. Everyone would smile and applaud and know that all was right with the world if CJ and Kaitlyn were on good terms again.

But my life isn't a movie and in real life, you don't get a second chance for the same mistake.

I felt the strangest sense of deja vu: at the ballroom welcome week party at the start of the semester, CJ and I found ourselves in the corner of the ballroom house sharing a cup of straight vodka. It was the night where CJ nearly cried when I brought up why he didn't talk to me all summer.

Four months later, we were in another corner of the ballroom house. I had a cup of rum and root beer in my hand, and CJ had tears in his eyes, "And I'm supposed to go see her at MIT this weekend and I just can't see any way it's going to end good."

"Why are you going then? You've only got two more weekends here with all of us," I gestured around the party.

"I don't know ok, I'm just trying to get back to where I was before I got depressed," CJ insisted, not looking me in the eye.

"Don't keep people in your life who bring you down, and I've not heard you say one good thing about Sarah this entire semester. Just keeping it real," I shrugged, taking a sip of my drink.

Drunk CJ didn't bother trying to defy gravity, and it felt natural when we seemed to spend the entire party together. And by spend the entire party together, that meant I yelled at him for being an idiot and he couldn't tell me that I wasn't right. But something about our physical proximity felt good. It was like I didn't have to try and be someone I wasn't, and that person was still friends with CJ Anslow. We might not be as close as we once were, and there was no way we were going back to being more-than-friends, but there is something about chemistry that can't be denied. And despite all of the deliberate attempts to alter that chemistry, destroy it completely even, it just couldn't go away.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Saturday, April 11th, 2015

I wove expertly around the line of silver dancers that snaked around the gym floor. While everyone was wearing their ballroom best, I was wearing my grey Michigan Ballroom tank with a pair of cream sequined shorts and flip flops. I truly felt like an upper level dancer: I wasn't dancing any syllabus smooth, which was the first event of the day. I only needed to be ready for gold standard, which meant I woke up at 7:30 to start getting ready, and at just past 10, I arrived at the Michigan Ballroom Dance Competition. I spotted Joey behind the judges table, and blazed a path through the crowds of dancers to reach him-


I was intercepted by none other than James Hammond.

"Good morning!" I said with a beaming smile as he picked me up and hugged me. James was helping out as deck captain.

"You ready for today?" James asked when he set me down.

"As ready as I'll ever be," I smiled, "It's my last competition, can't hold anything back now."

I hugged Joey good morning next, and once our coach, Steve, announced the next round he stood up and kissed me on the cheek in greeting.

I woke CJ up with a phone call a few minutes later, telling him to get to the competition to see gold standard. When I was in my signature red standard dress a while later, CJ arrived showed up just in time. Even though we weren't friends and CJ wasn't dancing until the open events at 8pm, he insisted I call him to make sure he wakes up in time to see me dance gold standard.

Even though we weren't friends, CJ was by my side in a second when we saw that we didn't make the final. This was the first competition all semester we hadn't made this final, and I felt hollow inside. CJ and I had made a deal that if we placed high enough in gold, and were getting beat by couples also competing novice, we would hop in and dance novice standard later that evening.

"No novice," CJ pouted.

"No novice," I confirmed, my voice hollow.

CJ put his arms around me, holding me for only a moment, "We'll watch the videos and figure out what happened."

Even though we weren't friends, we were still a team.

I basically had to slap Joey out of being a sore loser to make sure he had his mojo back for gold rhythm. And by slap Joey out of being a sore loser, I mean give him a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a pep talk.

We won first in gold rhythm.

A few hours later, we would win gold latin too. It made up for not making the standard final.

As soon as I switched into my dress for novice smooth, a cloud of compliments seemed to follow me. This was the first time anyone would see me in a stoned dress, and I felt like a princess. The dress didn't exactly fit me, one of the girls on the team had found it in the basement of the ballroom house and was letting me borrow it. But for this one competition, it would do, and I was sparkling. Standing in line for novice smooth was absolutely surreal, I was about to take the floor with dancers I looked up to. I was honored to be there, and even though we didn't make the final, the experience meant the world to me. Two and a half years ago, Joey and I joined the ballroom team and foolishly said that we wanted to dance novice before we graduated. There was a point where we said we would settle for gold, but we reached our goal.

I wore my friend Natalie's old dress from middle school for novice rhythm, and luckily it had a small enough amount of fabric that I didn't look like I was a middle schooler. Taking the floor for rhythm, I felt a surge of energy even after all of the hours dancing: this was going to be our last three dances ever. Each step I took, each move of my arm, each facial expression was treasured. When the music ended, I didn't have a single regret.

Seven numbers went up on the callback board a few minutes later. As horribly cheesy as it sounds, my eyes filled with tears when I saw ours. I had three more dances, and I was so grateful. To final in a novice event made me so happy, and when I walked back onto the floor for one final time I could swear I was shinning more than my dress. We were on the floor with so many of my friends. CJ and Alison, Bryan and Cassie, Marissa and Philip, Carolyn and Ross, Dan and Nicole, and new friends Javier and Ilana. It was just pure fun.

We got fifth, not even seventh! I had a novice ribbon to add to my collection. We had done it: after all of the hours we had put in, we we could call ourselves open dancers. To do this in two years was unprecedented.

I mason jar of gin and tonic was sweating beneath my false nails as I held court in Joey and Alex's kitchen at our unofficial Michcomp after party. I smiled at the irony of who surrounded me as a bunch of us stood in a circle: immediately to my right was James, two people to my left was CJ,  and directly across from me was Philip Prete. Michcomp itself was the historic event that would bring all three guys I've ever slept with together in the same room. The after party forced them all into a more concentrated space, and it felt slightly surreal. A few drinks later, I found myself in a shockingly familiar position: in a corner of the party with CJ.

Joey once described CJ and I as two people who gravitate toward each other. It wasn't until this competition that I realized why laws of nature are considered laws: they aren't meant to be broken. It was almost work to fight the gravity between CJ and I, I had to make a conscious effort not to talk to him. Now that CJ was getting more intoxicated by the sip, he made it perfectly clear that I didn't need to fight gravity anymore. We were in a corner of Alex's room, right behind the door, and every time it would open, he would pull me in close to him so I didn't get hit. Some yelling happened: I registered my unhappiness for our non-friendship for the 100th time, and CJ admitted that things were (once again) not going well with Sarah and they were having a talk the next day and he didn't know if it was going to make it past tomorrow. But we talked like friends, real friends, for the first time all day.

I spent the rest of the party holding court in Alex's room, sitting on Philip's lap for part of it, talking with our MSU friends, doing shots with Carolyn, and when a wave of people left the room and left the door open, I went to close it to keep out those who weren't members of the inner circle. Someone caught my eye from across the hallway: James looked... lost. In the split second before I closed the door, I realized what I was witnessing: James was realizing that he had officially been dethroned. I smiled to myself, and felt the weight of my invisible crown return to my head. Two years ago I joined the ballroom team and fell right into the rush of the glittery, boozy lifestyle. It took two years, I made the glamorous world into a world of my own. I had become the queen of this team, on and off the dance floor.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015

I was at Starbucks and had zero desire for coffee. I had survived my day thus far on the one cup I had chugged on my way to work, and frankly I knew caffeine would only heighten my emotions while I knew CJ's entire point at meeting me in public, on neutral ground, was so I didn't explode. I knew his caution meant the conversation that was going to follow couldn't have a positive outcome. 

A reading was open on my laptop but my eyes were glazed over as I stared at it, not reading a word. After this weekend of CJ's serious distantness, and witnessing him ditch Easter for a six hour phone conversation with Sarah, I was forcing him to tell me what was going on. 

It was a few minutes past our 5:15 time to meet, and I casually turned around from where I was sitting at the bar that faced the window, where the people passing by outside were a constant source of interest. I turned to see CJ fixing his coffee and snapped my head back around. I didn't want it to look like I was looking for him, I hoped I didn't turn around too fast so I caught his attention, then my cool-girl cover would be broken...

It was a minute or so until a cup of coffee was set down next to me. Just long enough to confirm that CJ had to look around the coffee shop for me. 

"Hey," CJ avoided my eye, "What's up?"

"Hey," I yanked out my earbuds and snapped my laptop closed, "What's going on?" I said coldly.

"So Sarah and I are probably getting back together, we're talking about it."

"Ok." I said blankly, "Go on."

"We don't think I was in the right mindset when we broke up, and we're trying to work it out. But in this process, Sarah's not cool with you and I hanging out, and I think she's right and I don't feel comfortable asking her to be cool with it. We can be friends in a ballroom setting with other people around, but we can't hang out one on one." CJ looked at me through the corners of his eye.

I looked him right in the eye, "You need to take whatever feelings you have for me and crush them like a bug." I spat, "If you have any intention of making this work."

"That's what I'm trying to do, and if I'm even going to try, I can't hang out with you. Are you ok with that?" CJ asked. 

"Why in the world would I be ok with that?" I snapped, "I'll deal with it because I obviously have no choice in the matter, but I just lost my best friend. Again. Because at the end of the day, I thought we were still friends, no matter what happened."

"If you ever need something, you can still reach out to me. I just can't guarantee anything."

"Besides Sarah, how's everything?" I asked. I don't know why I asked, I don't know if I cared, but maybe it was force of habit to care, but maybe I just didn't want to talk about this anymore. 

"This weekend has been awful," CJ admitted, "I'm just so overwhelmed, I'm debating asking them for medication when I go back to my second appointment. I really don't want to, but I had the worst breakdown of my life on Sunday. I was in the shower, and it just all hit me and it was so bad and I didn't know what to do. I think I've just got to finish my work stuff, and get through school, and then I'm going home for the summer and I just need to do absolutely nothing and get my shit together and then take on the job thing."

"I'm sorry CJ, I really am. I would say if you need anything just ask," I shrugged, "but you probably just shouldn't." my tone went ice cold, which seemed to mirror the chill that settled in my heart. 

What was friendship if you couldn't hang out together? What was friendship if you couldn't go to the other person when you needed a friend?

We weren't friends. As CJ talked and I gazed out the window at the many people passing by, I felt the return of the grip of loneliness. I could have been sitting alone.

"I hope you can figure things out," I said, "Do what makes you happy."

"I'm trying, I really am. I made the biggest decision of my life while I was in a bad place, mentally, and I'm trying to fix things."

"The biggest decision of your life?" I narrowed my eyes, "Like job things?"

"The breakup."

I wanted nothing more than to pitch myself out of the window. If breaking up with Sarah was the biggest decision of his life, he needed to sort out his priorities. 

"Well, thanks for telling me this time, instead of leaving me totally in the dark," I said indifferently, "Even though I had to beat it out of you a bit."

"I told you I was going to talk to you today!"

"Only after I insisted," I raised my eyebrows.

Our conversation shifted to the upcoming competition, "I'll still be there for gold standard," CJ smiled just a bit as he pulled on his coat.

Was that his way of saying all wasn't lost? Ballroom had been what kept us civil last semester when we weren't talking. CJ seemed to leave suddenly, and I felt hollow sitting at Starbucks. I didn't know whether I wanted to cry or kill someone. I was caught somewhere in the middle and all I knew for sure was that CJ and I were no longer friends. 

Friendship wasn't conditional. 

Monday, April 6, 2015

Sunday, April 5th, 2015

I emerged from the classroom in Purdue's union belonging to our ballroom team for the day, debuting my red standard dress for the first time this year. My hair was pulled back into three intricate buns, and a smoky eye was paired with bright red lipstick to complete my dancer disguise.

"Wow, you're beautiful."

I let an unexpected smile touch my lips as CJ gave me an obvious once-over, "Thank you," I felt so flattered at this compliment. For someone I had known for less than 24 hours, CJ's words seemed so genuine. I couldn't help but believe them as I strutted out onto the dance floor for newcomer smooth...

That was the first time CJ Anslow said that I was beautiful.

A year and a half from the competition at Purdue that brought us together, CJ would look me in the eye and utter those words again.

"You're beautiful," CJ smiled, smoothing my hair back from my face.

I giggled, "Shut up, CJ," I shoved him lightly.

"I mean it," CJ said, "People don't tell you it enough, but it's true," CJ pulled me closer to him and our lips met.

"Well, thank you," and the smile that spread across my lips wasn't unexpected.

With a white lace bodycon dress topped with a white cardigan and a pearl statement necklace, it was officially spring. I swapped the gold floral heels I had worn to church that morning for flip flops and tied my curls back with a brightly colored scarf for the Easter dinner I was hosting at my house. Shortly after 3pm, my pasta was finished, Joey turned up with soda, Alex arrived bearing a pot pie, CJ (after reportedly hanging out in his car on the phone) came inside with a box of wine, Terrance brought dessert, Cassie came over with a salad and Bryan, who bearing a six pack. My table was set, complete with a centerpiece, my house was clean, and my housewife status was obvious as we all sat down to what became a wonderful Easter dinner. Everyone seemed to have a great time, except for CJ, who spent the entire dinner time texting and then left to take a call before I brought the desserts over to the table.

Four hours later, everyone was watching a movie and sipping on coffee to counteract the wine when I decided it was time to confirm whether CJ was actually alive or not. His car was still parked outside my house, but he was nowhere to be seen. Clutching a white mug of coffee to match my white dress, I paused at the top of my porch steps, and shivered not from the cold, but from the onslaught of a memory:

It was a February night when I stood upon this very spot. It was then that I realized I had been watching CJ fall for since we had rekindled our friendship back in January. That February night, a foot of snow had covered all of Ann Arbor, but it felt like winter was ending- it was as if CJ's true feelings were like the first blades of grass poking through the melting snow. But in the true fashion of never-ending Michigan winter, I couldn't help but wonder if this was the beginnings of spring, or just the thaw before another storm.

I felt my lower-lip quiver: even for the past month and a half in which Ann Arbor had remained within winter's grasp, it had been spring for CJ and I. But this previous weekend, when I had been running around Columbus, CJ had been at a ballroom competition where Sarah also happened to be. The two of them had had some kind of heart to heart, where Sarah was now keeping tabs on him to make sure CJ's depression-deal didn't keep him from actually living life. Which translated to her constantly calling him to make sure he was doing something. I should have seen the red flag on Wednesday when CJ and I were walking back to his house from the union and Sarah called and he didn't tell her she was with me. "I don't know how she'd take it if I told her I was hanging out with you," CJ had said when he got off the phone. I had rolled my eyes. Friday, I met CJ for his appointment with the counselor at school, and he didn't tell me much about it, saying he had to process it all. In typical CJ fashion, he invited himself over for dinner, but not long after he came over did he step out to take a call from Sarah, that lasted 45 minutes. In not-typical CJ fashion, he left almost immediately after dinner, saying he was expecting another call. My Saturday night was equally as lonely, and when I invited CJ over to hang out he said "maybe," and CJ never says that when it comes to hanging out with me. A bad feeling had been eating at my stomach all weekend, and it wasn't from the ab workouts I was doing for the open rhythm dress I would be wearing for Michcomp. It felt like it was last summer, CJ wasn't talking to me all of a sudden with no explanation.

It took me about two seconds to find CJ, I simply retraced my footsteps of where I normally pace around my block when I was on the phone. When he saw me, he waved me off, not meeting my angry eyes. When I turned back to my house, I realized that as spring had settled over Ann Arbor, it was another blast of winter between CJ and I.

Two hours later, I left for practice. CJ was sitting in his car, still on the phone. He waved me off again when I approached his car, but I threw the sweatshirt he had left in my house in the window of his car and stalked away. Even though I was wearing a dress and flip flops, I could have sworn I was in the middle of another winter blizzard.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Saturday, April 4

"It's over."

The three syllables echoed in my empty house as I whispered them to myself.

The fact that I was alone in my house made them true.

While I had been running around Columbus the past weekend, CJ had been running around a ballroom competition. Sarah had been there too.

I saw exactly one sign, and that's when the bad feeling began to manifest itself in the pit of my stomach:

"I don't know how she'd take it if I told her I was hanging out with you," CJ said on a Thursday afternoon when he ended his phone call with Sarah as we walked from the union back to his house.

"Yeah," I muttered, looking down and flicking away a stray brown leaf with the toe of my navy converse.

Friday morning, I met CJ back at the union, with bagels and cream cheese for the both of us. He had asked me to go with him to his counselor appointment. and after breakfast, we went upstairs and I waited with him until his named was called and waited for him to get back. We went downstairs for fries and frosty's at Wendy's after and CJ said he was still processing everything.

That evening, CJ invited himself over for dinner, but he had only been at my house for about ten minutes when he stepped out to take a call from Sarah. He was gone for 45 minutes, and when he got back we had dinner, and CJ only hung around a few minutes longer. This was extremely unlike CJ to just leave like that, and also extremely unlike CJ to not text me for the rest of the night. That bad feeling that I had felt bite me the day before returned in full force. My stomach was clenched, and it wasn't from the intense ab workouts I had been doing all week in preparation for my novice rhythm dress. Hanging out with my friends that night, I felt the absence of CJ by my side. The empty seat next to me on the couch seemed pronounced: was I loosing my best friend? Was I loosing my best friend again?

Tonight I invited CJ over to hang out. CJ said "maybe" and I found myself all alone. Whenever my phone buzzed, I kept hoping his name was going to show up on the screen, and each time I found myself disappointed.

CJ's silence felt oddly familiar: it felt like the summer. Now that Sarah was back in the picture, I could practically predict how this was going to go: In his current time of emotional vulnerability, CJ would go back to what he was comfortable with, and Sarah would gladly step in. CJ, being the nice guy he thinks he is, wouldn't tell her I was still hanging around, he would make her feel like she was the only girl in the picture to make her feel better. Which would leave me out, again.

I had lost CJ as a friend once, and I thought it was the strength of our friendship that brought us together again. By the knots in my stomach, I knew I was loosing him again.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Tuesday, March 10th

"So, there's a red, thorny something on the passenger seat for you," CJ said, putting his hand on my back and walking a few paces in front of Alex and Natalie, who were also snagging a ride home with CJ from practice.

I gave CJ a look, "What's the occasion?"

"I need to talk to you, that's why I asked you to walk out to get my shoes with me when you got here."

"You should have tried harder, I could have waited to try on the dress," I motioned to the mass of sequins, tulle, and velvet that was in my arms.

"Yeah, I was fighting a loosing battle there," CJ smiled.

I laughed, "You didn't stand a chance, sorry. Trying on the open dress wins. Glad you know your place," I hugged the open smooth dress closer to my chest.

"I know where I stand. Just try and be discreet about the thing," CJ said mysteriously.

"Can do," I nodded.

"But I still need to talk to you, I wasn't counting on guests."

"Drop me and Nat off first, then Alex, and come back to my house?" I suggested.

"Good plan." CJ beamed mischievously.

I successfully snuck the rose in and out of the car without Alex or Natalie noticing by hiding it inside of the ballroom dress, and I only had time to warn my roommates that CJ had to talk to me and swap my pink winter coat for a fleece jacket before CJ called that he was outside.

I slid back into the passenger seat of CJ's car, "So...?" I began.

"It's done. I got Sarah to call me and say that it's over and she's done."

"So she finally got her head screwed on straight?" I raised my eyebrows.

"She finally did and I'm so glad," and in one swift motion, CJ kissed me, "I've been wanting to do that all day."

"You know you screwed me over right?" I said, cutting off CJ's gushing.

"It's not like that-"

"When you get backed into a corner, have some balls and get out of it," I snapped, "If my metaphorical balls are bigger than your real ones, we have a huge problem here."

"I'm sorry Kaitlyn, I really am," CJ took my hands, "I never wanted you to end up in a bad position here, and I didn't want to be in that position, because I like you."

"Have some balls next time!"

CJ hugged me, "I'm sorry, I'll make it up to you, I promise."

"I forgive you," I hugged him back.

And then we kissed.

"I finally have a clear head, I just wanted to tell you, I could hardly focus at practice." CJ sighed.

"One question: Did you tell Sarah we slept together?" I asked bluntly.

"Yeah, I told her before she came to Michigan. And she was all 'it's fine,'" CJ shook his head, "She was loosing it, big time."

"You're telling me!"

So we kissed. And the door of the CJ and Kaitlyn just being friends saga officially closed forever.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Friday, February 27

It was 24 degrees outside and it felt like summer, with a fresh breeze lifting my loose curls from my shoulders as I traced the familiar route to the gym. I had a call in shift in the morning that I didn't have to go in for, and had spent the morning luxuriously lounging in bed watching the new season of House of Cards. Spring break had begun, and at 24 and sunny, this was as spring break as it was going to get.

CJ beat me to the gym, with two Pancheros burritos for lunch, "Sorry my breath is going to smell like Mexican food now," he said as we dove into our burritos.

"Well mine is too so that's your fault," I said with a smile. Joey had left that morning for spring break,  and I had thought today would be the first day in weeks that I would go without ballroom practice. CJ was filling in for Joey at my b-team lesson the next day, and suggested we practice before hand so we weren't a total shit show dancing together. CJ had been waiting for this moment for a year and a half now: ever since he became our mentor, CJ told me that if Joey ever had to miss a lesson he would love to fill in. 

We ran waltz and quickstep, dancing with CJ always felt great, and it had been a long time since we seriously worked on dancing together. For the first time, I didn't feel like I was miles beneath him in ability level. CJ still knew loads of moves I didn't, but as far as technique went, we were almost evenly matched. 

Sunlight poured through the windows into the spacious, mirrored room we had all to ourselves. Outside, students in parkas moved swiftly to and from classes. I was grateful for the little escape that was being able to dance, it was it's own temporary world within the hustle of college. Even with as fast as we were moving across the hardwood floor, life seemed to slow down. I didn't have control over anything except the step I was currently taking, not even the next step, and I couldn't dwell on the steps past.

In between a set of quicksteps, CJ kissed me. This was the closest to public that CJ had kissed me in since we opened that can of worms; and I was unsure of if this was going to open to second can.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the name 'Sarah Chen' illuminate on CJ's phone. I pretended I didn't see the text as I turned on House of Cards and dumped the contents of my clean laundry from Yesterday on the foot of my bed. CJ settled on the other side of the bed, his attention on his phone as I folded my laundry and packed for break.  I could sense something was bothering him, but I let him deal with it as I puttsed around and paid attention to my show.

When House of Cards finished, I flipped on How I Met Your Mother. It was CJ's favorite show, and he was forcing me to watch it so I could understand his many references he made to it. It visibly brought his tension down, and once I finished my little odds and ends, I settled down next to him. We sat there comfortably, shoulder to shoulder, for a while. It was a little bit until CJ put his arm around me.

After our second episode of HIMYM, CJ closed the laptop instead of letting the next episode play.  He put his arms around me, "I feel so awful, Sarah's making me feel so bad."

"What's up?" I resisted the urge to roll my eyes.

"Sarah's just saying shit that I never loved her," CJ buried his head in my shoulder, "And none of it was ever real, and it just makes me feel like crap."

"Well, you know the truth, and sometimes that's all that matters."

We didn't stay on the subject for long, and we didn't keep talking for that long after.

"You know just how to make me feel better," CJ said, after we spent several minutes making out.

"I'm good at that," I smirked.

He did seem happier, but what guy wouldn't when he had a cute gal pal to make out with?

Did this make me some rebound chick, when he was texting his recent ex one minute and sliding his hand up my shirt the next?

"Stupid practice rule," CJ groaned.

"You made it!" I tossed back, "Plus I don't have to go to practice, my partner's in another state."

"Stop tempting me."

"The day doesn't end after practice. There's a thing called tonight." I noted. After yesterday's afternoon sex, we made a rule that we had to have sex an hour before practice, minimum, to give our legs time to recover.

"Are you sure you're leaving tomorrow?"

"Gotta get home to the dog."

"I'll pick you up after practice to pregame and then we can go to Alex's party, and then sleepover?"

"Sounds like a plan," I smiled and CJ kissed me deeply.

He kissed me goodbye in my living room, and I felt the stings of a nearly-public kiss for the second time in a day.

Two hours later, my VS yoga pants and blue tank were swapped for skinny jeans and an edgy velvet accented babydoll tank. Paired with tan fringe wedge booties and a grey knee-length duster cardigan, the outfit was completely house party appropriate.

My mauve nails clutched a tea cup of sweating white zinfandel as CJ sat opposite me at his kitchen table.

"Why do you have to put on lipstick?" CJ pouted.

"I had to see my completed makeup look, duh," I raised my eyebrows, dead serious, "Makeup artist life, get used to it."

"But it's gonna get all over me."

I shrugged, "You're about to shower, who cares?"

CJ reached for my chin and gently brought my lips to his.

I giggled when we broke apart and with my thumb I wiped the glossy stain of my lips from his.

Another glass of wine later, CJ finally got up to shower, "You know what?" CJ said, right before he leaned in to kiss me again, "I don't even care."

I was smiling serenely when I pulled my laptop out of my bag to watch House of Cards while CJ showered. I smirked at the irony of opening Blogger and writing about CJ while at his house. I almost didn't want CJ to get out of the shower.

"You probably shouldn't drunk text Sarah," I suggested bluntly.

One of CJ's elbows was looped with mine and with his other hand, CJ was texting, "I know, I'm trying to wrap up the convo."

"Good move."

CJ didn't succeed and the last time I saw him would be when we arrived at Alex's party and I went straight to the kitchen and CJ went to the bathroom. While I chatted, played beer pong and flip cup, and kept Drunk Whitney alive, CJ spent the entire party on the phone in Alex's room. Alex and I literally kicked down the door when everyone started to leave to make sure he was alive.

At this point, I was regretting leaving my laptop at CJ's. I packed my purse full of beer for Alex's, leaving no room (or desire) to tote my computer around town on a Friday night. I was now facing a pivotal moment called: do I go back to my house and not watch House of Cards until I could get my laptop back from CJ at lesson, or do I go back to CJ's to make sure I had my laptop in my possession?

House of Cards won that battle.

"Kaitlyn," CJ began as I curled up next to him, "Promise me something."

"What?" I asked.

"Promise me you won't break my heart."

I sighed, "And if you were to break mine, I would break your neck."

CJ hugged me, "I really like you."

"I like you too. You're my best friend CJ."

"You're mine too," he kissed me, "I don't feel any pressure with you."

"Things feel... natural between us," I agreed, and from there, I let chemistry take it's course.

For the second time, I woke up naked, cuddled up with my best friend. I liked this new side to our friendship. CJ went to shower before he had to get to lesson, but he never made it in the shower. I heard his voice shaking thought the wall that separated his room from the bathroom. CJ was on the phone and I went back to sleep knowing nothing good could come of this call.

"She's psycho."

I blinked, allowing CJ's form to materialize at the foot of the bed, through my haze of sleep.

"Sarah book a flight. She's coming here tomorrow for three days."

If I thought shit had hit the fan before, I didn't even want to know what was coming. And I couldn't get to Ohio for spring break fast enough.