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Funny Romance Coming of Age

Gilly didn’t protest when he dragged her inside, but she stopped dead when they made it to the main room. “Sir, what the fuck.”

“You’ve got to give it a chance!” He grabbed her by the hand and pulled her onto the dance floor, which was full of people that couldn’t have been younger than sixty. “C’mon. You look like you know how to dance.”

“I know how to do anything,” Gilly retorted. She glanced over her shoulder. “But I’m showing more skin than anyone else here. These grannies will throw me out in a horde.” Thank God she had gone with the dress that hit at her knees, even if it had straps.

“You’ve got my jacket,” he whispered. He’d already put a hand on her waist and another on her shoulder. “You look fine.”

“In a man’s coat with heels and no underwear?” Gilly sighed. “I suppose I could ask someone to knit me a sweater.” She looked up and saw his blush. “It would’ve ruined the lines of my dress!”

The room was large and radiated warmth. The surfaces were all wood, and all highly polished, while the lights overhead were a soft, buttery yellow that made her think of the staircase from Titanic, both in its old-timey sense and the way it made her feel like she was in a movie. Little white linen carts were stationed around the room with food, and a band onstage played jazz music. The carpet was soft and vintage-looking, the room full of the white heads of people surely older than the building. 

“What is this?” she asked him, fascinated.

He smiled at her as they swayed around the room. “It’s the dance night of a retirement home. My grandmother was here before she died. Dad and I only visited a couple times-- we weren’t close, she was Mum’s mother. But I kind of like the way it feels. It’s not all surgical and white, it just takes you back in time a little bit. Quiet. I reckon the residents love it. Gran certainly did. I visit here on bingo nights and such, mostly as a way to pay homage to Mum.”

Gilly pictured Jack sitting in this same room full of tables, playing bingo with gaggles of old people. She smiled slightly. “That’s very strange and wonderful of you.” She glanced around the room. “But we’re not supposed to be waltzing. We’re supposed to be jazzing. Flipping each other around or something.”

“I don’t know how to jazz. I know how to waltz. I also know the Jitterbug.”

Gilly laughed. “The Jitterbug is like a million years old, you dinosaur.”

“Uncultured swine.” He gave her that half-smile again, the one from an hour ago: it was just a little thoughtful but very real. She thought it might have been the most Jack Andrews expression he could make. “I’ll teach you sometime.”

“Only if I get to lead,” Gilly told him, and she switched up their hands, putting hers on his waist and bringing his hand higher up her back.

“I get to be dipped and spun?” He looked delighted.

Gilly gave him a grin of her own. “If you don’t step on my feet.”

Jack smiled, and they swayed around in silence for a few minutes, Jack laughing when she spun him into her chest, Gilly trying not to stare too much at the way his hair caught the light and how his face seemed to glow when he smiled. 

“This reminds me of that story where the girl dances with the devil,” Gilly said. She shot Jack a exaggeratedly suspicious look, and he chuckled. “How does it go again? She doesn’t know he’s the devil until she looks at his feet, and then he throws her into hell.”

“I always liked to think of that story in a romantic light,” Jack said. They danced past one of the white food carts and he snatched a lemon bar. “I bet she knew who she was dancing with the whole time. She just thought she could bring out the best in anybody.”

Gilly scoffed. “What, the devil? Uh uh.” She stood up on her tiptoes to take a bite out of the lemon bar he was holding, and noted with irritation that he was several inches taller than her. “I would’ve run out of there if I knew it was the devil.”

“Yes, but you’re sensible,” Jack pointed out, looking at his half-eaten lemon bar with a wounded expression. “She was in love. Besides, it’s not as though it ended badly.”

Gilly raised an eyebrow. “She was thrown into hell?”

Jack waved the lemon bar in the air. “But who lives in hell? The devil. I bet he sent her there to make her his queen. Consort. Princess. Whatever.” Onstage the music switched up into something that was actually appropriate to waltz in.

“I guess you could think of it like that,” Gilly mused. “But I’m pretty sure the moral was to listen to your parents. The girl’s mother told her not to go out dancing that night.”

“It makes me giggly to think of mothers all over the world terrorizing their pretty little girls with that story. Probably doesn’t work.”

“Boys don’t giggle.”

“I giggle,” Jack said. “I like the word. Why do girls get rights to giggling? They say men chuckle, it’s meant to be all serious and deep. But I tell you, when I laugh, I sound like a pig getting off.”

Gilly laughed for real at that, bringing a hand to her mouth to stifle the noise. One of the older women dancing nearby smiled at her over her partner’s shoulder, her eyes glittering with the promise of someone who had seen a lot of couples over the course of her life.

She didn’t hate the idea of that.

Jack looked very pleased with himself, and stuffed the rest of the lemon bar into his mouth. “I like your laugh. You should do it more.”

“You’ll have to say funny things,” Gilly said, moving in closer for a new dancing position, resting her head halfway up his shoulder. His sandy hair smelled like pine and vanilla.

“I’ll do my best,” Jack said, winding his arms around her waist. She liked that he kept them at the small of her back.

She spoke into his green sweater. “This might be the strangest date I’ve ever been on.”

“That’s my reputation,” he said proudly. “Leave a review, if you please.”

Gilly pulled her head back a little to look at him sternly. “That’s cheesy even for you.”

“I never promised anything.”

They left around midnight after talking with a few of the older women who had been friends with Jack’s grandmother. Gilly was poked, prodded, and questioned from all sides, while Jack had his cheeks pinched red and a pair of knitted socks pressed into his pocket. When the women left to go to bed, they seemed quite satisfied, though Gilly could hear them discussing her heels all the way down the hall.

Jack taught her a sea shanty on the way back to the college dorms, and they got into an argument over whether or not Snape should have survived, though Gilly managed to get him to admit that Snape would probably have rather died than be locked up in Azkaban.

He didn’t kiss her hand as they departed, and she didn’t look back over her shoulder at him as she walked away.

Except that he kissed her on the cheek instead. And she didn’t look over her shoulder because she walked backwards, keeping him in view.

They were unconventional people, branded a number of names by their peers, some nice and some rather unkind. Gilly was known as a standoffish girl to everyone who wasn’t her friend, who studied hard and who looked down her nose at any boy who came near her. Jack was a player, destined to die young, who said cleverer things than the girls expected and could outdrink most of his friends. The things people knew about them were entirely untrue, though Gilly and Jack felt they didn’t owe anyone the truth. Gilly would never settle down; Jack would never date. Their friends didn’t expect a match.

But their friends didn’t know either of them very well. They floored each other that night.

December 09, 2022 20:30

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1 comment

Amany Sayed
15:55 Dec 11, 2022

Very cute and lovely ending! You've really made some interesting characters here.


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