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.