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.