“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Ashley said. “It’s only been an hour into the party and somebody spiked the punch.”
“Don’t worry,” Paul reassured her. “Pastor George’s wife already removed the punch bowl and they’re putting out two-liters of pop instead.”
“I think they need to have someone watch the refreshments table more closely,” Ashley said.
“Maybe we should appoint ourselves that job.” Paul grabbed her hand and pulled her gently in the direction of the table.
“I think you just want to be closer to the snacks.” Ashley teased, but followed easily along with him.
They were volunteer chaperones for the New Year’s Eve party at the Methodist church. Paul was active in the youth programs anyway and was more than willing to help out.
This was the first year he and Ashley were old enough to be chaperones rather than actual party goers. They’d been going to the church every New Year’s Eve since the time they were in their early teens, and were excited to be some of the ‘adults’ now.
Still, they felt very young in relation to the other chaperones and seemed to fit in better with the kids than the adults. Paul’s younger brother Jacob was just fourteen and this was his first year at the party. Their mom and dad were glad to have a place for the kids to hang out that was close to home on a night that traditionally had drunk drivers on the roads.
The last thing the adults wanted was for anyone to leave this party with any alcohol on their breath. She suspected Paul was more than thankful to use the excuse to stand next to the wide array of homemade cookies, potato chips, and veggie trays.
Ashley pulled up a chair, took off her heels, and started rubbing her feet.
“It’s going to be a long night if your feet hurt already,” Paul said.
“I think we should re-designate the dance as a ‘sock hop’ and then we can all be more comfortable,” Ashley replied.
In reality, they could make the party into anything they wanted. There was a dance in one room, Karaoke in another, board games, card tables, and lots of food.
Mostly the kids were just glad to have a safe place to hang out with their friends and know they wouldn’t be exposed to less wholesome activities.
Ashley and Paul were content to hang out where they could be a part of the dance and watch the disco ball throw colors around the room as the teens swayed to the beat. The song shifted to a slower love song and Paul reached out his hand to Ashley.
“Would you care to dance with me?” he asked. “You can leave your shoes off if you’d like.”
She grinned up at him and let him pull her from her seat to lead her out onto the floor. They didn’t look out of place since they weren’t that much older than the kids, and technically were still teenagers in the literal sense.
Ashley couldn’t help think back to the conversation she’d had with Caleb while riding horses together the day before when he’d realized how much younger she was. She felt comfortable with Paul; he was exactly her age. They’d grown up listening to the same music, graduated high school side by side, and rode the same school bus together right up until the time he was old enough to buy his truck.
She rested her head on his chest as allowed herself to get carried away in the rhythm of the music and his heartbeat. She took a deep breath and inhaled the scent of his cologne. He always smelled so good when he was away from the barn and had taken the time to get cleaned up.
He looked down at her with creased brows. “What’cha thinkin’ ‘bout?” he whispered.
“I really like you, Paul.”
“I really like you too,” he whispered back. She could hear his apprehension. He was probably waiting for the ‘but’ at the end of her thought. He was probably nervous she’d decided that ‘like’ was the only emotion left in her heart for him.
“Okay, I really love you,” she admitted and smiled up at him. He let out a breath he’d been holding.
“I really love you too.” He leaned down and kissed her gently, then pulled away quickly with a smile.
Ashley realized that they should be setting a better example for the other kids, so she pulled slightly farther away from him.
She remembered the old joke that they should be dancing far enough away that you could fit a good sized Bible in between. It was a good reminder. They were, after all, at a church dance, and they were supposed to be chaperones.
She decided it was a good time to glance around the room and keep their eyes peeled on the other kids rather than each other. Everyone else seemed to be acting appropriately, which was good.
Still, all the chaperones remained on high alert looking for signs of the culprit who had spiked the punch. He, or she, was still someone in the building.
The remainder of the evening went off without incident, and when the countdown began, Ashley allowed herself to steal one more kiss to celebrate the New Year and gave Paul a long hug.
Then they broke apart and went around the room hugging and wishing everyone a happy New Year. It was a great night. The party broke up within another half hour and both Jacob and Ashley were yawning as Paul took them on the short drive home.