The air outside was cold as she stepped out of her dad’s car. It was only nine in the morning and she was already awake and out of the house. As she looked at her friend’s unusually big house, she still couldn’t believe that she was actually going to the homecoming dance. “Do you have all your stuff?” her mom asked from the front seat. Lilly managed to take her eyes off the house to take her backpack and swung it on to her shoulder.
“Yeah, I’m pretty sure I do,” she replied, taking her ironed dress from the hook in the car.
“What time do you need to get picked up tomorrow?” her mom continued.
“I don’t know, mom,” she sighed, “I’ll just call you guys.” After giving her parents each a kiss on the cheek, she closed the car door.
“Behave!” her mom told her.
“Have fun at the dance,” her dad added. Smiling, she waved at them even thought she knew they were going to wait until someone answered the front door.
“I will!” With that, she turned around and rang the doorbell to Zoe’s house. Almost immediately, the door opened and Zoe appeared, her face showing a big grin.
“About time you got here!” she yelled, pulling her into the house. After they both waved to Lilly’s parents once more, Zoe closed the door and the two headed for the living room where their other friends were waiting. Lilly took a seat next to Krystal who greeted her with a sudden splurge on how she got a last minute date.
“You mean to tell me that I’m the only one going stag?” Lilly asked out loud. Everyone looked at her with expressions that showed a slight hint of guilt. She ran her hand through her thick black hair and sighed, leaning back on to the chair.
“We tried to get you one, too, Lilly,” Zoe said as she took Lilly’s dress and hung it up next to everyone else’s.
“But the guys were either already taken or didn’t want to go,” someone else added. Lilly looked to who it was and noticed Tina sitting at a chair across from her, and then sighed again.
“It’s alright,” she said.
“Are you sure?” Krystal asked. Lilly nodded as a reply and Zoe clapped her hands together, her grin back in place.
“In that case, let’s get ready!” she squealed. “The boys will be here at any moment now!” The girls got up excitedly and walked towards a corner of the room. Lilly got up as well, but wasn’t as intrigued as the other girls at the pile of make-up and hair products that were laid on a bright pink table. Not into the whole make up thing and too lazy to do much with her hair, she just grabbed one of the hair irons and plugged it in one of the many outlets.
Endless hours were spent gussying each other up – and persuading until Lilly had finally given in to letting Krystal put a tiny bit of make up on her – and by the time the girls were done, Zoe’s mom had already cooked dinner and set the table. Eleven seats, adorned with Christmas lights, surrounded a dark blue-covered table. The cover itself had intricate designs of white flowers all over it. On top of the table was the most delicious-looking food: pasta, salad, rolls of warm bread, and all sorts of little appetizers. The whole thing looked stunning, but all Lilly could stare at was the lone seat at the end of the table where she would be sitting. Alone.
She walked up to the table, trying to shake off the thought, and let her fingers feel the soft table cloth. The plates, she noticed, were a pure white and were shining in the light. Silverware was on each side of every plate and a wine glass – despite the fact that they weren’t even drinking wine – sat by them as well. The whole thing didn’t make it seem like they were just in Zoe’s house.
“Lilly!” Zoe’s voice said, making Lilly jump a little. It had been so quiet and as she looked back towards her friend, she realized everyone else had already gone. “Come on, we’re taking pictures outside.” Zoe took her hand and led her to the back porch. Behind Zoe’s house, there was an extraordinarily beautiful scenery of a lake and trees that were bursting with red and orange leaves. The group was already gathered and it was only she and Zoe that were missing. Quickly, they joined in and Zoe’s mom smiled.
“You all look so pretty!” she gushed. The girls couldn’t help but smile and giggle at the compliment. “Alright, everyone ready?” There was a sudden burst of muttering as everyone wondered if their hair looked alright. Once they quieted down, Zoe’s mom smiled again before raising the camera and taking several pictures: simple ones, silly ones, serious ones. They could have used up the entire memory card if it weren’t for Alexis reminding them that the boys would be arriving soon.
It wasn’t long before Alexis’s prediction came true. Soon enough, the boys started to show up. Lilly kept watch at the window and announced who the next boy was so his date could answer the door. It wasn’t something she wanted to do, but it was better than just sitting there and hearing the girls talk about how hot their dates would probably look. So, one by one, as the boys came Lilly called out their names and one of the girls would get up and anxiously wait at the other side of the door to open it.
Once all the boys had finally arrived, pictures were taken again. Lilly took no part in being in the pictures and, instead, took the pictures along with Zoe’s mom. She had no date, so what was the point? They took pictures of every couple as they put corsages on each other and took a picture of all of them as a group. After pictures, everyone gathered at the table and began to eat. Just as she predicted, Lilly sat alone at the end of the table. Although everyone was talking to her, it still didn’t feel quite the same.
Eventually, 6:30 had come and it was time for them to leave for the dance. Just in time, a limo pulled up in front of the house and the driver got out and opened the door. They filed in, their voices filled with excitement. “Dude, this is so awesome!” one of the guys, Paul, commented just as Krystal sat next to him. Several voices agreed with him as they sat. Lilly went in last and thanked the driver for closing the door.
The drive wasn’t too long, but it was long enough for everyone to get slightly tipsy from the alcohol the guys managed to sneak in. It was only Lilly that resisted the urge to have more than one drink. At the gym of their school, music was already blasting from the inside. There, the crowd wasn’t too big yet, but the teachers were already making their rounds making sure no one was dancing too close.
As the time passed, more and more people came in and the crowd in the dance floor grew bigger. The music pulsed in everyone and sweat dripped from all of their faces. Lilly danced with her friends until, suddenly, a slow song came on. It was her cue to get off the dance floor and join other students that had come to the dance stag. But while they had their friends that they went there with, all her friends were with dates in the middle of the crowd.
Impatient, Lilly checked the time on her phone and found that it was only nine. It had only been two hours since the dance started and there were two more to go. She sighed and put her phone back in her purse. After she closed it and looked back up to the crowd, arms wrapped around her waist. Confused, she turned and the confusion left, but shock replaced it. “What are you doing here?” she asked, a smile on her lips.
“I just thought I’d stop by,” Liam answered, running his hand through his short brown hair. His dark brown eyes took a moment to take in Lilly. “You look stunning, by the way.” Lilly rolled her eyes.
“Thanks, but not really,” she said. Liam chuckled and crossed his arms across his chest. “I thought you weren’t coming,” Lilly continued, looking up at him. Her head – despite her heels – just reached above his shoulders, which moved as he shrugged.
“I got this call from Krystal yesterday,” he said, not taking his eyes off the crowd. “She said you were the only one that needed a date. At first, I didn’t want to go so I turned her down. And then I thought about it as I was lying in bed last night.” Finally, his eyes looked to Lilly and they locked with her matching brown eyes. “And I just couldn’t shake this image of you standing awkwardly in the side, looking completely stupid.” Lilly narrowed her eyes at him and he smiled in return. “So, after much contemplation, I decided to go, but only for an hour.”
“But how?” Lilly wondered, still not taking her eyes off his. They were just so… beautiful. “The door closed at 7:30 and I didn’t see you at all.”
“I have my ways,” Liam replied, winking. Lilly’s expression lightened as he did this and a smile appeared on her face again.
“So, now what?” she asked him.
“Now, I take you out of here and we’ll roam downtown instead.” Her eyebrows knitted in confusion at his figure now turning around and walking away.
“I have to tell-”
“Just text them later, they’ll understand.” Seconds passed as Lilly stood there dumbfounded before shaking her head and following Liam out the door.
It was far too cold for Lilly as she stood outside in her halter dress, the hem of it just resting inches from her knees. Liam was already taking his coat off and handing it to her. “Um, thanks,” she said, putting it on.
“Yeah, well, I don’t want you freezing your ass off and having to call 9-1-1,” he joked. Shaking her head, Lilly walked beside him, her arms crossed in front of her chest to try and keep the heat in her body. Liam’s hands were shoved in his pockets as he looked ahead of them. Downtown Grand Rapids, although small, looked beautiful in the night.
The click-clacking of Lilly’s heels against the sidewalk filled the silence between the two as they walked. For what seemed like forever, but was probably only minutes, neither talked until Lilly couldn’t take it anymore. The thought has been haunting her since they walked out of the school. “So why did you decide to come again?” she asked, looking down at her heels.
“Because I didn’t want you to be alone,” Liam answered, not even thinking about it as if he was expecting the question.
“Because you didn’t want me to be alone?” Lilly repeated and he nodded in reply. “Interesting.” Liam shot her a confused look.
“What do you mean ‘interesting’?” he asked her.
“I mean,” she said, “it’s nice of you to do this.”
“Oh,” he whispered.
“Well, that’s what friends are for, right?” At the same time, their stomachs clenched. There was that word again – the word that haunted them throughout their high school life: friends. Hesitantly, Liam nodded. They were engulfed in silence again.
Soon, they reached Rosa Parks Circle and they sat on the concrete steps, tired of walking. Lilly took this opportunity to slip off her heels and set them next to her. “Those look painful,” Liam commented, grimacing.
“They are after a while,” Lilly agreed, “but they make me seem taller than I actually am.” Liam chuckled and got up.
“Stand up,” he said. “I want to see the difference when you’re not wearing heels.” Reluctantly, Lilly stood. The top of her head reached just at his shoulders. Liam chuckled and just as Lilly raised her hand to playfully slap his arm, he grabbed her hand. Surprised, Lilly stared at him as he reached to take her other hand then led them to wrap around his neck. His own arms wrapped around her waist as he pulled her closer to him.
“What are you doing?” Lilly whispered, her breathing slow.
“It’s homecoming night,” Liam answered, “we have to dance.” He began to sway back and forth and Lilly, still somewhat shocked, followed.
Soon, she found herself resting her head on his chest and felt his body hum to an unknown song. After some notes, Lilly recognized the song to be Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol and started to hum along. Everything else around them was silent except for the few cars that passed by sometimes and their humming.
When the song finished, Lilly looked up at Liam and he tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear. “Do you realize now that we can’t be just friends?” he asked her, his voice low as if afraid someone would hear him. Biting her lip and averting her eyes to one of the buttons on Liam’s shirt, Lilly nodded. Sighing, Liam, using his finger, lifted her chin up so she looked at him. “I can’t keep it in for much longer, Lilly,” he added, “I’ve been practically in love with you since freshman year and I can’t stand being just your friend anymore.” Suddenly, he pressed his lips against hers and Lilly closed her eyes, embracing the moment. When he pulled away, she smiled and wiped off the lip gloss from the corners of his lips.