Dinner at Gino’s Pizza was fun for almost everyone. Amberlyn and Skyler had somehow pulled together half the cheerleading squad and half the football team into a huge group date, complete with pictures at the gazebo downtown.
All the parents had us line up with their cameras for group shots. I somehow managed to be squeezed in between Aiden and Skyler, almost as if they’d planned it that way. Or more like Aiden had planned it that way.
Aiden always seemed to pull me into position so that in order to make the group shot look right, Skyler would have to drape his arm around my back. Neither of us were complaining. Skyler even left his arm around my waist much longer than necessary for the shot. A couple times I felt his thumb move as if he was fighting the instinct to rub my back.
I wanted him to rub my back. I wanted him to pull me into his arms right there in front of the whole group and kiss me the way he’d kissed me two weeks ago.
My heart plummeted when Amberlyn’s mom insisted that he stand with her together over by the elegant maple tree with the multi-colored leaves. Amberlyn’s mom positioned Amberlyn and Skyler into various romantic shots. Him pinning on Amberlyn’s corsage, her pinning on a boutonniere, him with his arms around her. I had to look away. I ran right into my date, Aiden.
“Hey,” Aiden said, directing me away the maple tree. “My parents will probably want some shots with just the two of us.” He wrapped his arm around my shoulders and almost cradled me against his body like he was trying to comfort me. I fought the urge to cry and instead wrapped my arm around his waist.
“Thanks,” I whispered. Aiden unexpectedly leaned over and kissed the top of my head. He was an incredible friend.
Amberlyn standing up, clearing her throat, and raising her glass of pop yanked me out of the recent memory from an hour ago. “Can I have everyone’s attention?”
We all turned, and conversation halted. Skyler sat beside Amberlyn, her hand on his shoulder as he played with the napkin beside his barely eaten slice of pizza.
“I’m so glad we could all come together tonight for the homecoming dance!” She said it in her classic cheerleading voice as if she were giving a cheer rather than a toast. “I just want to say, Congratulations to the football team for their fabulous win last night! Can they get a round of applause, guys?”
The girls all clapped and some of the guys cheered along as if they were the reason we’d won the night before. The real reason we’d won was because Skyler had thrown a million passes directly to me and I’d run the ball what felt like hundreds of yards for dozens of touchdowns. My daydream was exaggerating, but not by much. We had been completely in sync all night.
Tonight, we should have had the same connection. Yet there he sat across the table looking miserable and here I sat cradled under the arm of my very perceptive, and understanding, date.
“I also want to thank my boyfriend, Skyler,” Amberlyn continued. She paused and looked down at him with a loving smile and squeezed his shoulder. He raised his eyes to hers and smiled what I could tell was a fake smile. “This was his idea to get all of us together in a group and I personally think it was a totally awesome idea.”
“Yeah, way to go, Skyler,” Logan called out, his arm draped around the back of the chair of a pretty blonde cheerleader. Skyler reached across the table and bumped fists with Logan.
“The other part of his idea,” Amberlyn said. “Was that all the guys in the group needed to make sure all the girls in the group never sat out a dance, unless they’re tired of course. So, you boys make sure the girls don’t get bored, okay?”
“I think we can accommodate you on that,” Logan said with a smile. The little blonde cheerleader giggled and lowered her gaze.
The only guy I really wanted to dance with was already claimed. I felt no desire to attend the dance at all. I shoved my plate away and folded my arms in frustration.