Two Hearts Stand Alone Pt. 01byphotodad©
A bit of a warning before people haul off and flame me in comments or start pegging the #1 star: This is a long story. Near the end in part 2 or 3 there may be a hint of eroticism, and nothing in that regard until then. This first part is all about character development. So, if you're looking for a get-off-quick limerick, please look elsewhere.
To everyone else who prefer a book-like heart-warming tale, please enjoy and I hope you can give me 5's.
Christine was drifting off in her bed when she heard the familiar soft double tap on her window. As expected the window opened and for a brief moment the sound of crickets drifted inside before the window closed behind her visitor.
"How'd you do?" she mumbled.
"Eh, 54.08 on the 400," came the reply. "I came in third."
Christine turned in her bed to face the welcome intruder. "That's not a terrible time for you Chris. What about the relay?"
She could see the brilliance of the smile light up the room. "Second place. We're going to state, C!"
Anyone outside the relationship would have expected her to jump up and smother the figure in hugs. But this was Chris and Chris. Instead, she sighed in satisfaction, worn out from her own trials of the day. "I knew you could do it."
Chris kicked off his shoes and fell back into the bed for what seemed like the millionth time. He looked over to the darkened face. "What about you? How did your recital go?"
"As expected. Rubbed my hands raw waiting for my turn twice. I don't know why they keep putting me last."
He touched her nose lightly in his ritual expression of affection for her. "You know why, and you won't admit it. They save the best for last."
She twitched her nose in mock annoyance at the itch he created. "Whatever. If I was the last to go for piano, I could have easily picked up the violin, played, and run screaming for the exit."
Chris turned on his back, staring at the ceiling. "Was it really that bad?"
Christine gave a weak chuckle. "No, I guess not," she breathed resignedly.
He smiled broadly at the ceiling. "I knew it. You enjoy performing!"
She grunted in exacerbation, "so? Quit telling me 'I told you so!' It's so annoying! What time is it?"
"Just after midnight. That bus ride was so long...and hot."
She sniffed. "Yeah, I can tell," she giggled. "Go take a shower before you mess up my sheets even more with your icky boy sweat!"
He got up and took off his shirt, heading for her bathroom. "You're lucky I can tolerate girl cooties, or I'd never lie in your bed next to you!"
"You mean unlucky, eww." She took one of her pillows and flung it into the back of his head. "Go on, clean up! I want to ask you something serious when you get back out."
His smile from when he was playfully hit faded and he turned around. "What is it?"
"Go shower," Christine said plainly. "It might be easier to ask if you don't smell like a hog."
He turned back to the bathroom and closed the door behind him. She sat up and turned on her bedside light, steeling herself to make the plummet of faith when he got back. Propped up against her headboard, wearing only one of his t-shirts she borrowed long ago and a pair of sensible bikini undies, she couldn't help but think about everything that had brought her to this point. Little did she know, Chris was thinking the exact same thing.
It seemed so long ago when they met at recess on the playground. He was quite taken with her from the start. For kids, there seems to be no better icebreaker than tag. No one plans it, just someone tapped her arm, yelling "you're it!" She ran around, chasing various kids before zeroing in on Chris. She slapped his back and yelled "you're it!" He turned and tagged her instantly, repeating the phrase. This triggered a slap fest until one of the other kids called for a new rule – no tagbacks. So the game resumed a more interesting flavor, but whenever one of the Chris's got tagged, they gunned for the other, it seemed. They both received a substantial amount of ribbing for their unintended display, and just like that, they avoided each other at recess, playing with their own loosely formed group of friends.
Their mutual avoidance came to an end in fifth grade when the Sadie Hawkins dance was announced. Chris's mom prodded him to take a girl to the dance "because it would be cute." He begrudgingly agreed, and at a recess, he finally found Christine alone walking along the outside of the gym, waiting for her friends to finish eating in the classroom.
His stomach was full of knots, but he mustered up enough courage to eek out, "uh Christine."
"Yes?" she responded in her signature chipper tone.
"Hello," she turned toward him, looking confused.
"Oh no," he thought. "She's mad at me for talking to her." But, the thought of facing his mom and telling her he chickened out sent chills through his body. Better Christine say no, than telling his mom he couldn't do it. So, he managed to mumble out loud, "are you going out with anyone?" He wasn't sure what that phrase meant, but he heard one of his friends say she was, and he figured it must mean someone had already laid claim to her company.
She giggled slightly. "No, I went to a movie with Ben and his parents, but I'm not really 'going steady' with anyone."
"Oh good." He was stalling, wondering how long he could keep talking and not pee his pants, he was shaking so bad.
"I guess...why do you ask?" Christine looked around the yard to see if one of her friends would rescue her from the awkward moment Chris created. Sure enough, one of her friends made her way out of the school hall and was strolling lazily through the brilliant sunshine toward her. "Hurry up, you twit," Christine thought to herself.
Chris saw the friend and nearly panicked. He definitely didn't want to ask in front of anyone for fear of the taunts that would surely result from the impending rejection. He sucked in a deep breath and his mouth seemed to vomit the words all at once. "I was wondering, rather my mom wanted me to ask someone to the dance, and I was wondering if you would." He stared at her in disbelief of himself. "This is not going well," he thought.
Christine seemed rather confused, yet she was also amused at the rapid expulsion of words she just witnessed. "You want me to ask someone to go to the dance for you?" she asked rather sarcastically. Yet, to his surprise, she turned away from her approaching friend and headed for the shade of the gazebo.
Chris didn't know that she was purposely helping him out by giving him a bit more time, but whatever the reason was, he took the opportunity. "Um, no. I was wondering if you would go to the dance with me?"
She replied, "Oh...I hadn't thought of that."
"Sorry, you can say no. I understand..." he spewed.
She made a decision in her head. "Since you're the first to ask. Sure, I'll go with you." With that, she spun around and ran to meet up with her friend.
Chris's mom was very excited to hear that he got his first date, and peppered him with questions about the dance. Being a fifth grade affair, she learned that it was a barn-themed dance, with casual attire recommended. Early in the week, she prodded him to call Christine to set up the time he should pick her up. So, after finding her in the directory, Chris bumbled through getting the time squared away.
When he got home from school the afternoon before the dance, his mom whirled around him, ushering him into the shower, and laying out his best jeans and the new flannel shirt she bought him that morning. He emerged from the shower and she fussed about how he needed to brush his hair. After about 15 seconds of argument over whether he did or didn't, she grabbed the brush and smoothed his hair to her liking. He put on the outfit picked out for him and endured another round of his mom fussing about the way his collar laid and other details. Before he and his parents headed out the kitchen door, his mom grabbed a box out of the fridge. The four minute drive was crammed with his mom giving pointers over her shoulder at him. Open ALL doors for her, including the car door. When she talks, don't interrupt. Suggest a meal you like at the restaurant, but let her decide and order for herself. That kind of stuff.
Christine for her part was amused by the sudden call from Chris. She waited patiently for Chris to stammer out what his mom obviously asked him to, then yelled a shortened version of the question to her mom downstairs, then relayed the answer to Chris on the phone. If her dad was home he would have chuckled at the production. But, that day, he got home just in time to endure the excited chatter between his wife and his daughter. His older son, Tom, was making fun of Christine at dinner, saying it was "just a fifth grade dance that don't mean nothin'." He snapped Tom's mouth shut with a stern look and told him to let Christine have her fun. It was, after all, her first dance. He then corrected Tom, saying "and you mean 'doesn't' and 'anything,' don't you?" He smiled when the reply was "yes, sir."
When Christine got home on dance afternoon, no prodding was necessary for her. She made a beeline for the shower, and spent an hour primping her hair. She tried on different looks in the mirror, ponytails, hair up, hair down, bangs, or no bangs. She finally settled on pigtails and no bangs to keep with the Sadie theme. And that was the easy part. She completed the hard part of picking out what to wear this morning, laying everything out on her bed. Assembling the outfit took the cooperative effort of her and her mom a week of indecision.
As she was finishing up, the doorbell rang. Christine's mom answered it and allowed Chris inside and directed him to their large living room. She noticed his parents waiting in the car and motioned them to come inside as well. She met them cordially and to Chris's embarrassment, the three talked about him and Christine as if he wasn't there. The cool plastic box in his hand started warming up and getting slick with his stress perspiring through the palms of his hands.
If he thought he was nervous now, it wouldn't compare to when Christine appeared in the hallway and headed toward him.
"Hi," Christine said weakly. Chris answered with a barely audible croak, but Christine was able to discern a reply identical to her greeting. After both looked everywhere but each other for a bit, Christine decided to bail Chris out. "Oh, is that for me?" she asked, pointing to the box in his hand.
"Uh, yeah. My mom said I should give this to you."
She took the plastic box from his offered gesture and opened it. Remembering a tip her mom gave her last night, she asked, "Could you put it on?" Christine saw the quizzical look from Chris and clarified with, "on ME?" and stretched out her arm toward him.
He took the wristlet made of white daisies and yellow dandelions from its loose moss nest and slipped it over her hand. "I hope you like it. If not, you can tell my mom. She picked it out."
"That's not nice," she frowned and lightly slapped his flannel shoulder. "It's pretty. Thank you."
They were suddenly aware that the house was quiet, and looked up at their parents just in time to be blinded by two camera flashes. "Okay! Picture time!" Chris's mom announced.
Christine's mom nodded. "Everyone outside!"
The couple endured a camera flash barrage while standing next to each other against a large pine tree in Christine's expansive front yard. The attention-induced embarrassment was blessedly put to an end when Chris's parents decided it was best to hurry to dinner so that the couple could get to the dance in time. They were invited by Christine's mom to stop by anytime for a chat, as the adults seemed to become friends very quickly. Everyone loaded into the car, Chris being directed to open a door for Christine by a stern look from his dad.
At the restaurant, Chris debated in his head whether his parents would let him and Christine have their own table. On one hand, it would be nice to finally talk to this pretty and popular girl alone. On the other hand, it could be immensely awkward, as he didn't have a clue on what to talk about. For all his worry, it was settled quickly when his dad told the hostess that they needed a table for four. They all perused the menu and when it was apparent all were ready to order, his mom broke the ice. She peppered Christine with all kinds of questions. Subjects ranged from hobbies to pets, and from school to after-school activities. The waiter came and took everyone's order, and when he left to get the drinks, Chris was thankful that his mom directed her conversation toward his dad.
"So, where's your grandma?" she asked Chris.
"She's watching her 'evening soaps' as she calls it. There wouldn't have been enough room in the car if she came along."
"She's a real nice lady."
"Yeah. She is."
"So, I didn't know you played piano," she said.
That led them through conversation for the rest of dinner. They each took turns talking about how they started lessons, the music they were learning, the quirks of their music teachers, and on to their own differing viewpoints about school and their friends. Everyone passed on dessert, and Chris's dad took care of the bill.
They were dropped off in front of their school's gym, and Chris presented the principal with their tickets. He was wondering about her amused look until they rounded the partition and at once the combined hum of kids talking and music blaring changed to only the music being heard. Without being told, Chris figured out why all the eyes turned to stare at him and his date. Everyone else had arrived "stag." They were the only "couple" to show up together, and Christine was the only female with a corsage. Both froze in their tracks, each thinking in their own way about how big a mistake they just made. Of course the tide in the gym was divided with boys on one side, girls on the other, and Moses himself couldn't have made a more perfect separation between them. Heads of clique members gravitated together to whisper about the pair, and to the two Chrisses, there might as well have been a stage spotlight searing them with its intense beam. Their principal sensed what was going on and came up to them.
"Chris, Christine, don't worry. It's completely appropriate to come here together. The rest of them are just jealous that they didn't think of this dance the same way you two did. Go on and have fun," she encouraged, giving both of them a gentle nudge on their backs.
Neither knew exactly where to "go on" to. In their eyes, the gym had sharks on one side, grizzly bears on the other. The center of the floor was the generally accepted dance floor, but appeared to have been designated "dead man's land" and was just as barren. With a huge sigh, Chris started for a diagonal line across the dance floor, his intended goal being the refreshment table at the back. Christine hesitated for a brief moment. The LAST thing on this Earth she wanted to do right now was be the first on the dance floor. But, Chris had won some of her trust during their conversation at dinner, so she followed his lead. About half way across toward the table, the pair was stopped by a couple of the more popular girls, and they complimented Christine's corsage. They asked Chris all kinds of questions about it like where he got it, how he came up with something so close to the dance theme, and so on. He answered the questions the best he could, throwing in heapfuls of B.S. to complete the answer. Christine grinned at some of his embellishments, but didn't say anything to contradict his "facts."
It didn't escape some of the boys the amount of attention Chris received from the girls, so a small group of them came over in an attempt to gather some of that attention by osmosis. The small gathering eventually pulled in more and more kids and for a few brief moments, the dance floor was the place to be. The crowd still had a visible separation of gender, but it was the closest to a mingling the dance had become that night. The sea eventually parted again, pulling the pair apart by natural force and sucking each into their respective male and female sides.
The DJ tried a tested method of getting people to dance, and put on "Electric Slide." Girls being girls, a small group of the popular ones decided to be silly and emerged on the long vacant dance floor to perform the loosely-choreographed associated dance routine. Chris was happy to see that Christine was in the center of the group and he knew that her popularity was still intact. Following the end of the song was, of course, "Macarena." More girls came out to join in. "Boot Scoot Boogie" closed out the line-dance favorites and made way for a series of high-energy, well-known (to the girls, at least) dance tunes. The DJ grinned as he had saved yet another dance.
Christine bowed out after a bit, and Chris noticed, taking a chance to be a shining-armor savior. He stopped by the refreshment table and went up to Christine. He was happy that it seemed that no one noticed his intrusion into the opposite sex whirlpool. Chris offered his date the punch and cookies he picked up on the way over and jumped at the sudden chorus of "aww's" that erupted from her friends. They snapped shut when Christine shot a "just hush" at them. She leaned in to thank Chris in a whisper and continued on to let him know that she was having fun.
She was finishing her snack when the music changed to a slower pace. Chris turned to go back to his friends, when Christine caught his arm. "Aren't you going to ask me to dance?" she asked.
He glanced around as if unsure if this was a trap. "Are you sure?"
"I don't know. You haven't asked me yet," she responded coyly.
"Would you care to have this dance with me?"
She put her arm inside his and replied, "I'd love to."
Her friends were giggling and whispering amongst themselves as they moved off toward the dance floor, but hushed when the couple stopped a few feet away and faced each other.
"So..." Chris started, but just stood facing Christine. He figured, correctly, that dancing on this side of the floor would be less embarrassing than being in earshot of the jeering remarks from the boys.
"Well, uh, I got you out here."
"Yeah you did."
He bent in low to her. "What do I do now?"
Christine's older siblings left a legacy at the schools they attended for excellence in dancing and performing arts. So, from watching their practices, she already knew what should happen next. But she didn't realize that many of her classmates didn't have that advantage. She smiled kindly and said, "your hands my hips, my hands your shoulders. Then just move to the song."
He did as told, resulting in the familiar middle school dance waddle. It wasn't the most graceful, he knew, but Christine seemed to accept it. The boys on the other side went silly at the new making-fun material, but a few noticed the jealous looks some of the girls had on their faces. At the end of the song, Chris asked his partner if she wanted to go back, but she shook her head no. So, they continued dancing into the next song, and before long, found themselves shuffling in the middle of a number of new couples.
The night wound down with the obligatory "Hokey Pokey," "Chicken Dance," and a "Limbo Stick" contest. The giggles and smiles gave way to a short prize ceremony. Chris and Christine won "Cutest Couple" by default, though if there was competition, the teachers agreed later that they would have won anyway, since they led the slow dancing. Christine also won the award for "Best Themed Attire" with her pigtails and country corsage. The other prizes were awarded and everyone headed for the door.
Chris' leadership demonstration at the dance caught the eye of the new music teacher, Mrs. Allison, at the school. She talked with his grandmother the next night at Mass, who in turn talked with his parents, and the team signed him up for the children's choir. He protested that night, saying he was already an altar server, but his grandmother wouldn't have it. "Then you'll go to Mass twice on the weekends now, won't you?" she admonished. He couldn't say no to her and answered with a "yes ma'am." He was good at serving. Last month, he gained an extra $200 in gift money after being asked to serve at three weddings and a funeral. If there was a Mass that the Bishop was attending at his church, the first altar server scheduled was Chris. He enjoyed it, and normally would enjoy being asked to sing in the choir, but with piano lessons, the Program for Academically Talented Students extra homework, Boy Scout meetings and activities, and serving, his schedule was rapidly filling up.