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.