You smile at him. He sort of quirks the corners of his mouth up? Barely.\n\nYou don't want to make too many assumptions. You're afraid he doesn't really like you as much as you like him.\n\n[img[]]\n\nHe's the [[love of your life]] after all.
If you reached out and held his hand, would he hold yours, too?\n\nMaybe not. After all, he's driving.\n\n"You could take the back entrance and avoid the traffic." A voice from the backseat says.\n\n"I might just do that." He replies.\n\nA joke dies on your lips.\n\n[[Sit in quiet until you pull up at the restaurant]].
The music is all dubstep and pounding beats until it changes.\n\n"All those couples out there, here's a <i>sloooooooooooooowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww</i> dance." The MC says, tortuously slow himself.\n\nYou take a gander at Ethan, hoping your eyes do not look\n\n1. Too desperate\n2. Too confused\n3. Too wild\n\nYou both lock eyes. His expression is unreadable, but that's probably because you can't read expressions that well anyways.\n\nAnd then, he shrugs.\n\n[[What does that even entail]]?!
Well now you're in the gym and the lights are bright and Ethan and you are excited about that bass that you can feel in your chests. \n\nYou are briefly reminded of <<cyclinglink "Jeremy and the six year plan" "your first introduction to the strange world of parties" "your dad's observation that 'kids who party too much die young'" "your dad's statement of 'I'm giving you six years to live if you party like that every night'">>.\n\nYou lost Grayson and Isabella but you can't bring yourself to care. You simply nod your head in time to the music.\n\nNo one is really dancing proper yet. After a couple minutes of this, you are able to convince Ethan, Steven, and Julia to the middle of the dance floor with the rest of the already gyrating masses.\n\n[[Not like you want to dance like that]].
[img[]]\n[[Steven]] jokes, "Don't talk with her about anything but anime. That's all she watches." Isabella giggles politely.\n\n"Do you like Fruits Basket?" You ask. She curls her hair around her finger aimlessly.\n\n"Yeah! I do, actually."\n\nThe conversation dries up quickly. [[Grayson]] keeps a hand on her shoulder, while [[Julia]] silently twiddles her fingers.\n\n[[Ethan]] has turned to talk with Steven.
Later that night you'll go home and revel in the memory of him grabbing your hands. The slow dance. The smile.\n\nThe stars exploding and raining bits of shiny paper, glittering below.\n\nLater that week you will dream of it again and again and wake up with the wonderful memory of it, real and sweet.\n\n[[The love of your life|]].\n\n[[*]]
You can't! You are too embarrassed. Instead, you look at the lights and let the music rush over you.\n\nYou are jumping up and down and you let go of his hands. It's too bad, but you're having fun together.\n\nA couple people gyrate in front of you. It's borderline pornographic and kind of weird. Not really sensual or anything.\n\n"They're not even in time to the music." You mutter and Ethan kind of leans in and asks "What?"\n\nYou shake your head. He doesn't need to know that you were criticizing them for being off-beat.\n\n[[Keep dancing]].
OK. You're outside, waiting in line. You wave hello to a couple people you know and observe the party bus that just pulled up.\n\nWhoa. It has a stripper pole. w HAt\n\nNevermind.\n\n[[Cut to the chase]].
[img[]]\nSchool has passed without a hitch. You worry the entire afternoon about the affair, decked out in your red dress and feather boa. You stare at your phone and await the dawn of the final day.\n\n[[At Sophia's house]].
"Just go with him". One says.\n\n"Why are you even panicking? Baby. You're a baby." The other one says.\n\nWow, so much for that.\n\n[[Consult parents for advice]].\n[[Panic quietly to yourself]].
a memoir to my experiences of winter ball 2013\n\na loving week poured into making this game
[img[]]\nHe punched you in the nose in sixth grade and you had the audacity to punch him back.\n\nThat was the beginning of the hate/love relationship you had. You would hang out with him even though you told yourself you hated him.\n\nBasically, you went through <<cyclinglink "all your phases together" "your morbid phase" "your psychic phase" "your weaboo phase" "your too good for you phase" "your hipster phase" "your gang leaders phase" end>>.\n\nYou used to LARP together during lunch, only much more dangerous. "Gang Games" you called it. You would push each other down stairs, shank each other with rulers, slip dirt clods and spit into each others' food. You were like hitmen, only worse because you had a personal vendetta. You began to form gangs.\n\nOnce your factions formed, Nick naturally took opposite yours and Chandler's side. It all really came from the idea that "what you learned, you learned from the movies". So caught up in this middle school drama.\n\nValentine's Day rolled around, and you were in limbo on whether to get him a gift or not.\n\nYou bought a piggy bank for him because it was cheap. He similarly bought you a cheap box of chocolates.\n\nEveryone thought you were dating. Your best girlfriends thought it was toxic and it was. You gave too much and he took everything.\n\nHe was so good at lying. But you were too.\n\nJulia eventually ended it, like a true friend. \n\nHe was a poisonous, evil, sexist pig. You called him a fascist, which doesn't make sense now, but it fit well enough at the time.\n\nYou signed his yearbook with a biting "Thanks for being my first Valentine." And you ended it with a period. Cruel.\n\nSome days, you hear "There Ain't No Rest for the Wicked" and think of him belting it into the sky, the both of you tossing your heads back in laughter, capricious laughter.\n\n[[Danny]].\n[[Kyle]].\n[[Will]].\n[[Wyant]].\n[[Zach]].\n\n[[But I digress|Backstory, please]].
[img[]]Danny was a sixth grade guy. Brown hair, blue eyes, braces with the stylish glow in the dark rubber bands.\n\nYou probably liked him because he was nice to you, socially awkward, just-out-of-homeschool you.\n\nIt was a short lived thing. You were in science class together and you both picked up the class pet Spike at the same time. Holding hands--scandalous. Most people thought you guys were going out at this point.\n\nYou assume it's love.\n\nNext week he's making eyes at your blonde friend. Perky. Cute nose. Freckles. Incredible yodeling skills.\n\nYou examine yourself. Black hair, brown skin. Maybe freckles? You give yourself that. Plain face. Plain, plain, plain face.\n\nIt takes <<cyclinglink "two" "three" "four" end>> months for you to look at yourself in the mirror again.\n\nNowadays, you are easier on the eyes, grown into your disproportionate body and come out with curves and all. Nice one, puberty.\n\n[[Kyle]].\n[[Wyant]].\n[[Will]].\n[[Nick]].\n[[Zach]].\n\n[[But I digress|Backstory, please]]
Ethan decides to go ask about the reservations and you follow him.\n\nThey just tell you that you'll have to wait a little longer.\n\n[[Wait even longer|w4]].
"Pictures time!" Isabella's mom crows cheerfully.\n\nAs you start posing, you exclaim "Oh, crap. Here, I forgot to give you this!" You whip out the boutonnière and cringe slightly at the tape and pin job.\n\n"Thanks!" He really is a cool dude. He tries unsuccessfully to pin it to his collar and it takes a couple tries on his part. Eventually, Steven just pins it on for him and you finally turn to smile at the cameras.\n\nBefore the camera flashes, Ethan's hand slips around your waist and your heart flutters.\n\n[img[]]\n\n[[Go eat already, you lovebirds]].
[img[]]\nw hh\nyeah\nhell yeah\ncan i get a hELL YEAH\n\nwhat the fuck how dumb can you get why did you type that uggghhh\n\nwait\n\n-HELL YEAH!\n\nPhew. You're lucky he's such a cool dude.\n\n[[Let's talk about that, then]].
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[img[]]\nChandler, your buddy. Chandler, your bodyguard. And Chandler, pretty much your best friend.\n\nOriginally pudgy, the course of a year did well for him. Six packs. Biceps. Bam. Welcome to the gunshow much.\n\nAgainst [[Nick]], he was your fight all end all. He was incredibly awesome. And he would guard you to no end.\n\nHe was like your big brother. You wish you still talked to him, but friendships drift apart once you change schools.
[img[]]\noh shit sorry i didn't answer\nyeah i'm going to the dance\nam i gonna expect to see you there or what\n\n-Do you wanna go with me?\n\nOh boy. Things got a lot more complicated.\n\n[[Backstory, please]]?
[img[]]\nThe moon is so beautiful tonight. (Waxing gibbous, you think dimly. He's humming tunelessly and you strain your ears as if it's angels singing.)\n\n"Turn left up ahead." So-and-so says.\n\n[[Waxing gibbous, you think again]].
Except you can't because the reservation is taking for<i>ever</i>. You make idle chitchat with Steven and Ethan until then.\n\n[[Wait|w1]].
You can't look him in the eyes, but you steal glances upwards when he's looking vaguely to the right of you. You're inwardly a little glad that you're both so nervous.\n\nThis is actually happening.\n\nThere's confetti and for a moment you feel like it's the nebula above you, like the planets have exploded and started raining down on you.\n\nYou lace your fingers a little bit tighter and [[dare to look upwards again]].
[img[]]\nFreshman year was, to put it shortly, a race to popularity. And you were never very athletic.\n\nSo, Zach of course, mercilessly teased you. Everybody knows the story of the popular guy who pretends to ask a girl out as a dare.\n\nHe never quite did that to you, but it felt like he would pretend to be your friend and then say something so shitty it would send you spiraling into confusion.\n\nHe's just doing it to push your buttons, but of course, it's difficult.\n\nSophomore year has been sort of the same, but an interesting insight into his character came about as the result of Secret Santas in Honors Chemistry.\n\nYou unfolded your paper to find "Zachary" written sloppily in dark pen. What he requested?\n\nCrayola markers.\n\nHe was a biased idiot who thought he was superior to others and he asked for markers.\n\nZach is an outstanding reminder that there are all sorts of shades of people.\n\n[[Danny]].\n[[Kyle]].\n[[Wyant]].\n[[Will]].\n[[Nick]].\n\n[[But I digress|Backstory, please]].
You sort of just plunk your arms on his shoulders and interlace your fingers at the nape of his neck. He puts his hands at your waist, grabs his wrist at the baack.\n\n[[You are officially slow dancing]].
You encourage her to dance by swaying back and forth. You let Steven take the reins shortly after and she smiles a little bit. That's good.\n\nMeanwhile, you and Ethan simply dance side by side.\n\nHonestly? You'd really like to dance with him. \n\n[[Come up with an elaborate ploy]].\n[[Ask him to dance]].
Oh man. He's here.\n\n[img[]]\n\n\nSophia, Ashley, Irene, Karthika, and your sisters escort you down. You're falling down every step and you're white knuckling the railing. It shouldn't be this scary. Why is it? Why is everything suddenly fragile, including you and your heart?\n\nHe's turned around, talking on the phone, so you stand in silence. Awkward, awkward silence.\n\nWhen he hangs up, he turns around and says, "You look very twenties."\n\n[img[]]\n\nIt's a Gatsby styled party. Both you and Ethan were actually pretty excited about it--before he asked you, even, you were babbling over how cool it was that they chose twenties as their theme.\n\nYou smile. "Yeah. I--yeah."\n\nYour friends make a big show of waving goodbye and you walk to the car. He opens the door for you. You are mildly confused as to how to get into the car and you stammer incoherently as you explain how awkward you are. He laughs it off. (Must make a better impression.)\n\nThere are adults sitting in the back. Probably because he hasn't got his license yet. That's OK.\n\n[[The engine starts]].\n
So you reapply your lipgloss. Big deal! You just ate like, eight manicottis or whatever you call them.\n\nA couple people compliment your dress. You are getting antsy.\n\nYour dates are all waiting in the car.\n\n[[Get to the actual dance]].
"Let me meet him! Are you two going out?" Your mom asks. You awkwardly explain that, no, he just asked you to a dance. Your mom knows though. You can see it in her eyes that she can see it in <i>your</i> eyes that you have a big fat crush.\n\n"It's alright with me." Your dad says. (That's not really the problem, you think quietly.)\n\n[[Consult sisters for advice]].\n[[Panic quietly to yourself]].
You open the car door yourself and manage to not get your coat caught on the way out.\n\nInside there are others--[[Steven]], [[Julia]], [[Isabella]], and [[Grayson]].
[img[]]\nYou and your friends chatter excitedly about Winter Ball and your sister tapes together your boutonnière. You watch the 1997 version of Rodger and Hammerstein's Cinderella and enjoy it thoroughly. You kind of feel like you're waiting for your pumpkin carriage.\n\nYour phone rings.\n\n[[Pick it up]].
[img[]]\nIt's so bright. \n\nYou pretend in your head that you can reach out and grab it and present it to him instead of the taped-up, safety-pinned boutonnière you're holding now.\n\n[img[]]\n\n"Adults only Christmas party, huh? See all you elves and ho-ho-hos there." They all laugh. You exhale appreciatively.\n\n"Do they have hors d'oeuvres?"\n\n[[Ponder]].
[img[]]\nHe started singing "Pompeii" while Savitri complained about the quality of music these days. You swiveled around to face him and yelled "Bastille"?\n\nHe nodded in surprise.\n\nAnd archery was such a blessing. You could talk to him without teachers getting in the way. Laps were suddenly OK to run with him talking about <<cyclinglink "Phoenix Wright" "Animal Crossing" "Breaking Bad" "Doctor Who" "Futurama" "Sherlock" "music" "books" "anything at all">>.\n\nHe was a really cool dude. Sometimes you would do some really dumb things, like trip and skin your knees or make a joke that failed spectacularly. And he would just grin and help you up. Or laugh at your joke and pretend he understood the reference.\n\nYou made him a mixtape and that was pretty much the second you realized that there might be a little chemistry going on.\n\n[[Anyways]].
a story about winter ball and the love of my life
[img[]]\nThankfully, Ethan is not there yet. He just called to make sure about the location.\n\nYou feel like you're gonna drop your cellphone. You're legitimately shaking.\n\nYou hang up politely and wait in fluttery agony.\n\nYour phone rings again.\n\n[[Don't drop it]].
Except haha, not really. You can't order for your life in restaurants.\n\nYou engage in conversation about how awkward you are in restaurants. +20 social points.\n\nEthan orders for all of you.\n\nJulia has been sitting quietly. You attempt to engage in conversation with her, too.\n\n"What do you like doing?" You ask.\n\n"Baking."\n\n"Like, what? What do you bake?"\n\n"Um. Cookies, mostly."\n\nBoisterously, Isabella answers as well. "She's <i>sooo</i> good at making cookies. They're awesome."\n\nAwesome. The conversation has come to a complete stop.\n\nLuckily the server comes over and gives you all food shortly after.\n\n[[Eat]].
You do. Chatting is fun and peppered with a lot of jokes on your part.\n\nYou eat sloppily and dimly remember that your mom told you "etiquette is crucial". You slow down, but fail to close your mouth. So much for that.\n\nBoth you and Ethan accidentally burn your hands on the plate. Tough luck, dudes.\n\nWhen the check comes in, you start pulling out your money, but Isabella announces that she needs to use the bathroom.\n\n"You too, Julia. You're also invited. You. You!"\n\nYou realize she's addressing you but the guys are all pulling out their money and you are looking for your twenty dollars.\n\nShe drags you along. You hear one of the guys saying that you're going to powder your noses.\n\n[[Exasperatedly go powder your nose|nose]].
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[img[]]\nHe was pretty good looking actually. His hair had those awesome blond and brown highlights amidst his orange strands. He used to dress up real fancy and bring cool stuff to school. Come to think of it, he was probably one of the first cosplayers you'd ever met.\n\nHe wore <span style="color:#ff0000">red</span> pretty often. If it wasn't red, it was probably Star Wars related. (Kind of nerdy, but hey, you're not one to judge.) \n\nHe had a [[girlfriend|jamae]] that had <i>you</i> seeing red.\n\n
[img[]]\nYou log on at 19:33 to see the message staring at you. Easy enough.\n\n[[Apologize and answer]].
You're just here to have a good time.\n\nEventually, you all warm up to dancing.\n\nExcept Julia. She's just standing there, lips pursed.\n\n[[Grab her hands]].
"I danced with Julia, so you should dance with Ethan!" You goad Steven. Steven falls right into saying the right lines.\n\n"What about you and Ethan?" He yells over the booming speakers.\n\nGood. Your plan wasn't really that elaborate but you now have the incentive. You look at Ethan and hold out your palms.\n\n"Do you wanna dance?"\n\n[[He takes your hands]].
[img[]]\n"Steven! Nice to see you. I did my lab final yesterday." You mention offhand. Steven used to be your lab partner until he dropped out of Honors Chemistry and out of your school. You're surprised Ethan still talks with him.\n\n"Did you pass?"\n"No clue." You grin.\n\nSteven is holding [[Julia]] around the waist and being the forensic genius you are, you figure that she's his date.\n\nMeanwhile, [[Grayson]] and [[Isabella]] are a party of two, laughing with each other.\n\n[[Ethan]] stands next to you.
[[You’re in a car with a beautiful boy, and you’re trying not to tell him that you love him, and you’re trying to choke down the feeling, and you’re trembling.\n\nTrembling.|you're in a car]]
[img[]]\nKyle, now there's a story. PE, sixth grade, you were the slowest runner next to [[Chandler]]. Kyle was an absolute athlete. Close to breaking the school record held by the infamous TJ.\n\nAnd somehow you ended up making friends with him.\n\nSweet guy. Used to run in front of you and yell back "Come on, only a couple more! Don't give up!"\n\nWore a <span style="color:#ff0000">red</span> sweatshirt a lot. You both would run to your next shared class and it was exhilarating when that red blur would fall behind you. Sometimes you wonder if he let you win.\n\nThe next year, people start asking questions. Are you going out? Do you like--no, like like him? One day you boldly say yes and he doesn't hear. So much for that.\n\nYou used to have a lot of interesting conversations about theology, grammar, science. You were both nuts over that sort of stuff.\n\nThe end of seventh grade he asks you to go to a restaurant with him and you stupidly decline. Later, you beat yourself up for it. In your year book, he wrote "The keeper of your soul" and you sadly thought "The keeper of my <span style="color:#ff0000">heart</span>".\n\nThe next year, to put it simply, you forgot about him.\n\nIt's still good memories, just more as a friend than as a potential love interest.\n\n[[Danny]].\n[[Wyant]].\n[[Will]].\n[[Nick]].\n[[Zach]].\n\n[[But I digress|Backstory, please]].
[img[]]\nFriend of [[Wyant]], actually. You used to think that he was off bounds because your sisters used to know each other.\n\nIt was short lived. A rebound. Every now and then you see him and think about how awkward it would have been if you got together.\n\n[[Danny]].\n[[Kyle]].\n[[Wyant]].\n[[Nick]].\n[[Zach]].\n\n[[But I digress|Backstory, please]].
[img[]]\nYou simply nod at him. He nods back.\n\n"Sorry, I don't know you so well." You say, after a brief interval of silence.\n\n"Grayson."\n\n"OK." You respond.\n\n[[Isabella]] leans against him. [[Julia]] edges closer to Isabella.\n\n[[Steven]] and [[Ethan]] are engaged in a conversation.
[img[]]\n\nYou feel like your heart is going to hammer its way out of your chest. You're gonna faint like you did freshman year and they're gonna have to--\n\n"So, it's you!" They smile from the backseat.\n\n"Yeah." You say lamely. "Mmhm."\n\n(God, you can't think of what to say. This is gonna be awkward as hell.)\n\n[[Keep quiet]].
[img[]]\nSuddenly you feel like you understand [[Richard Siken's poems]]. \n\nYou are acutely aware that you are breathing and he is too, that you're both alive and tangible, that you could reach out and touch him. \n\nThat there are hearts beating underneath.
Ethan was actually friends with [[Zach]] before he was friends with you. You met him in PE of sophomore year. The only reason you started talking to him was because Savitri started talking about [[music]].
"Do you wanna dance?" You query amidst the teeming masses.\n\nHe nods.\n\n[[He takes your hands]].
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They finally call your group's name and you sit down. Isabella makes a couple remarks on the pictures while your menus are put down.\n\nWhat are you ordering?\n\n[[Margherita Pizza|nope]].\n[[Chicken Parmigiana|nope]].\n[[Chianti Braised Short Ribs|nope]].\n[[Macaroni Rosa|nope]].
[img[]]\n-Message received on 12/11 16:07 PM\n\n-Are you going to the dance?\n\n[[Log on]].
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Well, at least your dude game is hella raw. You comfort yourself by repeating it a couple times.\n\n[[Consult sisters for advice]].\n[[Consult parents for advice]].\n[[Cut to Saturday]].
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[img[]]\nShe looks familiar.\n\n"Did you go to my club before?" You ask. She nods. Her hair is prettily waved and her eyeliner is bombass, but she looks sort of nervous. Does she know anyone here?\n\nA quick glance at [[Isabella]] tells you that they're friends. [[Steven]] wraps his arm around Julia's waist and [[Grayson]] does the same with Isabella.\n\n[[Ethan]] has meanwhile put his hands in his pockets.
[img[]]\nOverly competitive in both sports and love, she sees you as a threat. In PE, she smacks you so violently across the face with a lacrosse stick that you spin, spraying blood. In indignation, you make sure to bleed on her brand new white shoes before being dragged to the nurse's office.\n\nThose were the days that you would fantasize about <<cyclinglink "smashing her face in" "tearing her limb from limb" "boiling her alive">>.\n\nEventually your crush faded. You never quite got along with her afterwards though.\n\n[[Danny]].\n[[Kyle]].\n[[Will]].\n[[Nick]].\n[[Zach]].\n\n[[But I digress|Backstory, please]].
Oh my God. They're <i>nice</i>.\n\nThere was a stint back in seventh grade dance finals where you had to "hold hands" (really just hover them over your partner's) and dance. It was kind of ridiculous.\n\nEvery boy's hands were <<cyclinglink "sweaty" "clammy" "shaking">>.\n\nIt doesn't necessarily feel "right" but it feels nice. His hands are warm. They're bigger than yours, too, so they wrap around yours pleasantly.\n\nActually, they're marvelous to hold.\n\n[[Look at him]].
OK, now you're panicking. You have to go to the dance with him. Holy hell, you didn't think this through. You were just really excited.\n\n[[Consult sisters for advice]].\n[[Consult parents for advice]].\n[[Panic quietly to yourself]].
This is the love of your life.\n\nWell, that might be overdramatizing it. You've had [[other loves of your life|tell me more]] before but that was then and this is now.\n\nNow, this is your crush for crying out loud. And he's asking you. Wow.\n\nTough decision. (But not really.)\n\n[[Answer]].
So you've had a couple crushes before. None of them were serious. Middle school flings that were more like awkward glances back and forth. Valentine's presents that consisted of dollar store items.\n\n[[Danny]].\n[[Kyle]].\n[[Wyant]].\n[[Will]].\n\nAnd the occassional hate crushes.\n\n[[Nick]].\n[[Zach]].
Your eyes must look as wild and trapped as a recently caged tiger. Like, you know, they didn't tranquilize it or anything, they just sort of smacked a cage on top of it and expected the tiger to be OK with the suggestion of a slooooooooooooowwwwww dance with their crush and now the tiger is kind of nervous and licking its lips and [[what's happening now]]?
[[Wait more|w3]].