Friday Fast Fiction: Jessie’s Dance

room - CopyJessie sat on a sofa in a small apartment waiting for her husband to return from work. He was late again. Why couldn’t he take the 5:15 and be home by 5:45? Sometimes he didn’t tell her he’d be late. He wasn’t “considerate,” a thought that sparked a memory of a simpler time in her life.

She was at the sophomore class dance at school. All the chairs the boys had sat on were empty. She was the only girl still seated. Her mother had insisted she go to the dance, saying that even if she weren’t asked to dance, she needed to hold her head up high and be confident. Jessie wasn’t certain how to look “confident,” but assumed that meant no tears.

Those who were dancing had become a blur to her.

“Will you dance with me?” The voice was soft and caring and for a moment she thought she was talking out loud to herself.  It was Raymond, a shy boy from her history class.

She straightened her back on the sofa and wondered what had happened to Raymond. Their relationship ended abruptly in the summer when he told he had to go away to camp. She told him he was too old for camp, but he didn’t reply. She soon started dating a boy who played on the football team and by summer’s end had forgotten Raymond until he asked her to go to the junior prom.  It was how he asked that stayed with her. On the final Saturday before the start of her school, he stood in her front doorway, holding a dozen red roses.

“Jessica, these are for you. Will you go to the prom with me?”

“How was camp?” she asked, hoping that Raymond would get a sense of how angry she was that he’d left her for the summer.

“My parents are getting a divorce, so they thought it best that I not be home for awhile.”

Jessie was overcome with guilt and quickly accepted the invitation, even though she expected the football player to ask her, and when he did a few weeks later, she told Raymond that the football player’s mother was dying and that she had to go to the prom with him. In fact, she married this feckless jock a few months after graduating from high school.

Her husband opened the door. “The bus broke down.”

She shook her head, promising herself that she’d find Raymond so she could apologize for the lie she had told him.

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