Everyone is cheering as Booker flashes me with his brightest smile. I grin back, my eyes filling with tears, my heart filling with fear. “Most beautiful woman in the school,” he whispers in my ear. Wayne Jones, our class president, suddenly erupts on the loud speaker, his unnaturally loud voice magnified to ear shattering volume, causing a collective cringe. He blabs on about our relationship while I drag Booker towards the exit.
Raucous cheers overwhelm the gym, as the sea of people parts. I feel six emotions each incomplete, conflicting, and simultaneous. The clapping and yelling subsidies into an electrified silence. Booker faces me, brushing a strand of hair from my face.
“I love you,” he says, as Eric Clapton’s Wonderful Tonight plays.
I relish his strong hand on my hip, pulling me close to him. I shake my head. “We have to go,” I say.
“I won’t let them laugh,” he says, then he steps into me, compelling me to step back, and we’re dancing.
His dreamy eyes sparkle and he leads me to the rhythm of the song, almost hypnotizing me; but I see them. Most of the girls gape at us, with eyes wide, the way they’d stare at a newborn baby. There’s Alice scowling. In my mind’s eye, my dress falls to the ground, while people I’ve seen everyday for more than three years cackle hysterically; a naked me scrambling for the exit, even though the faster I run the louder they laugh.
Booker pulls me closer, our hips squarely facing each other, pressing together, letting me discover all of him. “It’s okay. Just follow my lead,” he whispers in my ear. Then he squeezes me tighter than my boa constrictor dress had.
If a hurricane rages outside, I don’t hear a single rain drop. I no longer fear all the eyes watching me and judging me. I no longer care. There is only his body and my body. There is only him moving me rhythmically. There is only me savoring being moved by him. The power of the entire universe flows through us, conspiring to make man woman whole again. As he guides me and I hide my head on his chest, as content as a swaddled baby, we glide across the dance floor. Our souls join. My rapidly weakening resolve to resist, my disappearing imperative to save myself for marriage, withers in the heat of his embrace.
Our dance ends with a chorus of cheers. His hand rests firmly on my hip but I’m a good Christian girl. My face blushes with desire. I take over holding my torn dress. He leans into my space, whispering: “I want you” in my ear. I want you too, I think but don’t say, because I’m a good Catholic girl.
“You guys are so cute! What a wonderful dance,” Sandy says, as she plops her hand on my shoulder.
“Thanks Sandy,” Booker says.
“Sandy, I have to leave. Alice tore my dress. Can you find her and punch her in the face for me?” I ask.
“What are best friends for?” Sandy replies.
Two minutes later, Booker and I wait outside for the Cadillac Escalade limousine that he rented. Standing there in the frozen evening wind, his thick build appears as powerful as that of a gladiator, making me feel secure. He smiles with eyes as gentle as those of a puppy, making me feel safe. The SUV limo pulls up to the vanilla colored curb. A tall and thin chauffeur opens the backdoor for us.
The black leather interior shines slick, smart, and terrifying; like the uniform of an officer in Hitler’s SS. Booker jumps in and sits down in the middle, leaving only a little room for me. He extends his hands, inviting me to sit into his clutches. I take half a step towards him, then hesitate, somehow managing to stop myself. My hand self-consciously grasps the gold cross around my neck. Booker inspects me for a moment, then scoots away to the opposite side of the backseat.
“You coming, baby?”
“Of course,” I say, crossing the border into enemy territory.