I still do not know why I had agreed. I knew I would not have a good time. I was sure of it. I was a nobody at my school… an absolute blend in. Though that’s not what my reflection said. She said, look at us. We’re gorgeous. I didn’t think so. But there was no turning back now. I was ready for homecoming. And I was going.
I’m glad my mother agreed to my condition… I had to pick out my own dress. If I left it up to her I’d be standing here staring at an oversized fluffy pink scrunchie. I have no idea what drew me to this particular dress though. It was cool, sparkly, funky and really cute… everything I wasn’t… everything I wanted to be. But there I was, wearing it. And if I was being honest with myself, I’d say I was feeling a little more than just really cute. My mother and I had done my too long, naturally straight hair up in wild curls. The pins we used had purple rhinestones on them and they a flawless match with the dress. I was wearing hot pink fishnets and metallic silver skyscraping heels. The dress was a deep purple color with a shiny black sash along the waist. I loved it.
“This isn’t you, Francis Nora James,” I said aloud. “But you don’t wanna be you tonight.”
“Nora!” Mom called from downstairs. “It’s time to get going. Come on down so we can take pictures.” I heaved a sigh and made my way out of my sanctuary. Mom’s gasp was Spanish soap opera worthy when she saw me. Dad smiled a little smile.
“Well, I’ll be damned,” he laughed. “Hell must have frozen over. Is that Nora? In heels?”
“Oh, you look beautiful, honey.” Mom gushed. They had begged me to go to the dance. I was sure all Mom wanted was to see me dressed up, and Dad wanted to see me go out and enjoy my youth. They were good to me… but they worried too much.
“Thanks.” I smiled. At least they made me feel good. Mom took about 1000 pictures before she let Dad cart me off to the dance. I felt the insecurity crop back on me the closer he got to the school. I no longer had my reflection to tell me how gorgeous I was. The butterflies began to die and pterodactyls took their places. The car stopped, but my heart was still racing.
“The dance ends at one, right?” Dad asked. I nodded. “I’ll be out here at one then. Have fun, Nora,” he smiled and put his big hand on my teeny shoulder.
“Thanks, Dad.” I got out of the car and looked at the school. I took a few deep breaths and walked towards the entrance. Maybe if I walk slow, I thought, I’ll miss the whole thing. But there was no stalling. I just had to get this over with and I just couldn’t put this cute dress to waste.
There were a lot of people outside, many of them with dates… many in groups. I was alone. But that was fine. It was normal. I didn’t have friends, and the few people I did talk to wouldn’t be here. Some people smiled at me. Others made no attempt to hide their disgust. They probably thought I looked weird… like I was wearing too many colors or something. I finally made my way inside and took a moment to appreciate the décor. The Homecoming Committee did a decent job. I could hardly recognize the basketball nets.
The dance was well under way. Some were making use of the dance while others were busy trying to find their friends. I heard lots of, “I love your shoes!” or “I almost got that same dress!” or “My hair can’t do that!”
The boys were staking out the very few girls that had come alone… probably hoping to score. But I knew none of them would look at me. No one ever noticed me. They wouldn’t tonight… not even in my pretty dress. I found a safe spot by the wall near the refreshment tables and sat in one of chairs.
“You need to move,” I heard an annoying voice say. I looked and fought the urge to roll my eyes. I didn’t hate people, but I did hate this girl. But I’m pretty sure the feeling was mutual. Girls like her and me were just destined to hate each other. I knew I would hate her within the first five seconds of meeting her. “You are in the way and I need something to drink.” I wanted to say, That dress makes you look like a desperate old woman. It’s so sad when you’re not even 18 years old and your boobs are sagging to your knees. Your make up makes you look like a pigeon and your hair looks like it’s been rained on for a week… But I didn’t.
“I’m sorry, Leah. Let me get out of your way.” I scooted my chair over to give her room.
“Eww… how do you know my name?” She must not have recognized me. If she had, she would have flipped the punch bowl over my head. I looked up at and batted my eyes. All I wanted to do was smack her.
“Who doesn’t know you?” I said with forced charm. She seemed pleased with that answer. But that was the only conversation I had for most of the night. The wall became empty; I was the only girl left who hadn’t been asked to dance. I looked at the time. 11:00. I had been there nearly the whole dance and had not danced once. I hadn’t talked to anyone and no one had talked to me. I just sat there for hours and was miserable. I knew it would happen. I just knew it. But I started to cry anyway.
“I’m so pathetic,” I whispered to myself. “Why am I even here?” I should get up and leave… and just walk home. I don’t belong here. No one wants me here. No one even knows I am here. And I bet no one thinks my dress is cute. I was getting up to do just that and collided with something tall. I looked up… and up and up and met a fantastic pair of baby blue eyes. He held my shoulders to stop me from falling over.
“Hi,” he said, and I melted a little.
“Hi,” I managed to say back.
“I was hoping you would dance with me,” his voice, laced with traces of a southern accent, made its way into me. He was asking me to dance….
“You want to dance with me?”
“Yes, if that’s all right.” I couldn’t believe it. He wanted to dance with me. I never thought something so simple would make feel so wonderful. I felt my soul come to life. I felt… good. I felt so good.
“Your date won’t mind?” I asked wanting to be sure. This had to be too good to be true.
“She’ll survive. Besides, I wouldn’t be much of a gentleman if I didn’t ask a pretty girl in a pretty dress for a dance, now would I?” he answered. I was sure I was blushing. No one besides family had ever called me pretty. Just standing next to him made me feel pretty. And he liked my dress. I think I was in love…
He held his hand out to me and I slowly took it. He led me out to the dance floor and spun me out with a stylish flair, eliciting an involuntary giggle from me. He spun me back to him and smiled at me. He wrapped his free hand around my waist and began to move us in time with the music. I felt my body tingle as he touched me. I looked up at him and he was looking down at me, his gorgeous blue eyes shining.
“Your laugh is adorable. What’s your name, sugar?” he asked. I wanted to sigh at the sound of his voice.
“Nora. My name is Nora.” I said, trying hard to control my voice. He called me ‘sugar’…
“All right then, Nora. I’m Isaac.”
“Hi, Isaac,” I reveled in the way he sounded when he said my name. I was felt drawn to him… Don’t be silly Nora. You’re probably flipping out because he asked you to dance. He’s just being nice… I said to myself. Then why do you feel so… so… Why does it feel like you’ve arrived somewhere you’ve been waiting a long time to get to? Why does it feel like you’ve been waiting for him?
We continued to dance for the rest of the party. We danced every song, even the slow ones, and we talked about nothing important. I found out he was a senior, two years above me. He was going to the military and was an only child. He made me laugh when he told me he thought he could throw me across the gym because I was so tiny. He thought it was cute. And every time he smiled at me, I was sure my heart would stop. Stop it! I berated myself. You’re being ridiculous. Sure he’s hot… but so are lots of other guys. So why do you feel this way… Why, Nora, why?
It was the end of the dance and Isaac gave me a slight bow. I couldn’t help but giggle. I can’t remember the last time I had laughed so much.
“It’s been a pleasure dancing with you, Miss Nora,” he said… just like a southern gentleman. I looked at him, my eyes wide.
“Th-Thank you, Isaac,” was all I could say. Then he took my hand and placed a light kiss on it, like they do in movies. I felt my heart explode with emotions for him. My heart was screaming and doing backflips. My body was frozen.
“You’re very welcome, sugar.”
“Bye…” I whispered. He leaned down and pecked my cheek, gave me one last smile and walked away. I don’t remember leaving the gym. I don’t remember getting into my Dad’s car… and I don’t remember getting home.
I remembered Isaac. I remembered that he smelled like the earth after it rained. I remembered he said that he noticed me because all the other girls looked alike and my dress was bright and beautiful, and that so was I. I remembered staring at myself in the mirror. I looked at myself hard as if I had never seen my reflection before. I was cute, I finally decided. But I could use improvements. I always thought my hair was too long… I’m too short to have so much hair. And I loved colors… and my dress proved it. I was happier on the inside than I looked on the outside.
I wanted to be more than pretty… I didn’t want to turn heads… I wanted to break necks. I wanted to let Nora shine through… the Nora I saw when I closed my eyes. She was beautiful but in such a different way. She was bright, loud with awesome short spiky hair. She wore mismatching colors and clashing patterns and looked damn good that way. Everyone loved her. And I loved her too. Maybe Isaac will too…
I couldn’t wait any longer. I had to do something about this now. I ran downstairs and got a pair of kitchen scissors. I smiled wickedly at my reflection and ran my hands through my long locks for one last time.
“This isn’t you, Francis Nora James…” I said. “But it will be soon…”