This is the third time in two days I’ve given my best puppy dog eyes to a guy. I’m three for three for getting shot down.
“Sean, you’re my last hope.” I’m currently deciding whether to push out my bottom lip and bat my eyelashes. Too much?
He shakes his head, “No can do. The show goes up at the end of the month and I need to be at rehearsal.”
“Do you know anyone else here that can tango?” Exactly twenty three days before my first tango competiton and my partner bails. I feel itchy in my own skin. I scan the throngs of college kids passing me. Damn Keith for doing this.
“Sorry, Ash. I’ll keep my ears open. I’ll text you if I hear anything.” He gives me a wave as he walks off.
I fight shredding my nails. I need to move. I step off the gravel path onto the wide green. A familiar bob of frizzy red hair meanders past.
“Sean shoot you down too?” Lindsay asks as she props her sunglasses on her head.
I nod once. “I’m doomed. None of our guy friends have time to learn ballroom.”
“They have lives. What’s up with that?” She smiles sympathetically as she unwraps carrot sticks. The carrots make me smile. Lindsay is determined to become Miss Universe before she turns thirty. Which means cardio and carrot sticks for the 200th day in a row. Her mom always sends chocolate cupcakes with the desperate hope her daughter will snap out of it.
When she sees I’m still moping, she nudges me, “Aw, come on. You’ll find someone. No worries.”
I snort, “My pain has eased so much thanks to you.”
She laughs and digs a small UPS box out of her backpack. “Will a chocolate cupcake help?”
“No, but I never turn down free food.”
We pass stout brick academic buildings on our way back to the dorm. Lindsay nods and waves to members of the different sports teams, drama clubbers, and musicians. Somehow, with her crazy hair and her ray-bans, she fits in with all of them.
She stops mid-crunch. “I know who you could ask.”
I lick chocolate frosting off my index finger. “Shoot.”
I raise my eyebrows. “Since when can he dance?”
“He plays frisbee. He’s not uncoordinated. And he’s relatively cute.”
Alright, she caught my attention. Still, a cute guy in that close of proximity…”It could be awkward.”
“What happened to your desperation?”
With a mouthful of cupcake, I muffle, “I can be desperate for a little bit longer.”
And wouldn’t you know it? Guess who we see strutting across the green… “Hey Lucas!” Lindsay yells and smiles. I feel the urge to hide the remnants of my cupcake.
He looks up and smiles. When she waves him over, all he can do is obey. As is typical at my school, there is a slight hipster vibe about him. Hair that’s just a shade too long, flannel over a band t-shirt.
But she’s right. He is cute. I mentally step back and let Lindsay do the talking.
“Lucas, how are your ballroom dancing abilities?” she asks.
He arches an eyebrow, “Non-existent.”
I would’ve stopped there. Not so with Lindsay. “Want to acquire some? Ash desperately needs a dance partner.” She peers down at her watch, “And I’ve got class. Catch ya later.”
We both watch her leave. Silence. He turns to me. “What for?”
“Tango competition. Don’t worry, I won’t make you wear all the sequins.” I run my hand through my hair, letting it curl and fall down my shoulders. Bad nervous habit.
He checks his phone and starts texting. “Well… it sounds interesting. But I’m not really a tango person.”
I smile, but I know. He’s already checked out of this conversation. “Color me shocked.” I see the frisbee tucked under his arm. “Do you guys have a game coming up?”
He slides his phone into his pocket. “We’re about to go against Union.”
“I remember playing against them. God, they were brutal.” I feel exposed standing here with nothing to say. “Good luck with your game.”
I turn and march towards my dorm. Chalk it up to another awkward experience in my life. What was Lindsay thinking trying to browbeat this guy into ballroom? I don’t want to think about it anymore. But right now, it’s all I can think about. Why did Keith just leave? No explanation, no injuries.
As I punch my card into the door, I hear my name. “Ash! Wait up.” You’ve got to be kidding.
I sigh, “What’s up, Lucas?”
“You said you played?”
I roll my eyes, “So you were listening.”
“One of our guys is not answering texts or calls. The game’s in an hour. Can you fill in for him?”
“Shouldn’t you be a little more concerned that he’s not responding?”
He shrugs, “Knowing him, he’s holed up in his room playing COD. So… can you?”
“Maybe,” I watch him relax, “If you agree to help me with tango.”
I’ve caught him off guard. “Like I said, me and tango don’t go together.”
I shrug. “Good luck, then.” I turn to walk into the dorm. Let him see what it feels like to need someone else’s help.
“Shit, shit. Alright. Bail us out tonight and if you’re any good, I’ll do it.”
I turn back, smiling. “Great. Then let’s go warm up.”