In high school, she wanted to meet the love of her life underneath a blanket of stars, looking out into the distance as the sea meets the sky. She wanted it to be during an autumn night in a place where the leaves refuse to change colors and the transition of seasons ambiguous and unclear. She wanted a fairy-tale happily ever after, to be swept off of her feet and brought to a castle on a hill where she would be able to fall in love with her prince day after day. But, reality can be so much more different than the lofty ideas of a teenage girl pining for love.
She sat on the bench at the bus stop, listening to an autumn playlist she had made on her phone. Every few minutes she would check for the bus schedule but to her dismay, the website would stop loading halfway through. She had twenty minutes to get home and she despised being late for anything, especially if it wasn’t her fault. Filled with impatience, she started to go back and forth between sitting and standing to check for any sign of the bus.
“You’ve stood up four times now in the past three minutes. I don’t think the bus is going to come any faster,” someone said from behind.
She took out her headphones and turned around. She recognized him right away. It was a boy from her Japanese language class who sat in the back of the room. They barely spoke but were on friendly terms whenever they were partnered together for class.
“It’s a force of habit,” she replied, turning back to check for the bus. “You haven’t gone home yet?”
“I guess that’s what it looks like, doesn’t it?”
She turned and gave him a look of disapproval.
“Sorry,” he said half-apologetic. “I was working on a personal graphics project and I lost track of time.”
She folded her arms and looked at him from head to toe. She could smell the faint scent of cherry blossoms coming from his direction. She loved the scent of cherry blossoms, although she had never seen an actual cherry blossom tree before.
“So I guess it’s my turn, then. Why haven’t you gone home yet, Miss Representative,” he asked, taking one step towards her.
“It seems like you already know. Winter Ball is coming up so our meeting ran a little later than usual today,” she replied, rolling her eyes.
“You know I’ve never been to a dance before?”
“Wait, really?” she looked at him in disbelief and astonishment. “You’ve never been to a dance before? Not even in middle school?”
“Nope. Not even in middle school.”
“You should definitely change that. This year would be a good time to start!” she said in excitement. “The venue is really nice and the decorations we’re planning on buying are-”
“It’s not like I’ve never wanted to go,” he said, cutting her off. “It’s just that I’ve never really had anyone to go with.”
She looked at him with wide eyes and her mouth agape.
“I’m sure you may not have noticed before, but I don’t really hang around anyone in particular. I’m kind of a drifter, going from group to group but never staying long enough to become close. I get to know an inside joke or two, but that’s it. That’s the extent of my friendship with most people, if not all. So it would be kind of weird for the loner kid to show up at a dance, don’t you think?”
He looked away in embarrassment. He hadn’t expected to share one of his secrets to a girl he barely knew. But being with her made him feel strangely comfortable and certain. He felt certain that it would be fine to share this much. She wouldn’t attempt to pry for more information, to tip-toe over the walls that he had built around himself. He was certain of at least that.
“You know, now that I think about it, we’re probably the same you and I,” she said, amusement in her voice. “The only reason I joined council was so that I could finally belong to something. I got tired of jumping from group to group and failing to remain relevant. But even now, it can be so tiring, pretending to be someone that I’m not.”
Their eyes locked and a sudden calm entered their hearts. So this is what it’s like to find someone like me, they both thought. It was an event that had never occurred in either of their lives until this point. They had always been desperate for human interaction, but never enough to go out to find someone like them. They had always settled for a tier below their ideals.
“Hey, do you hear that?” he asked.
“What are you talking about? I don’t hear anything,” she said in bewilderment.
“It’s ballroom music. You don’t hear it?”
“I thought you’ve never been to a dance before?”
“That doesn’t mean I haven’t listened to ballroom music.”
He smiled at her as he took off his bag and held out his hand. She laughed, her cheeks blushing a light pink, and reached out to him. He pulled her close and they began to dance, twirling and moving from side to side. And as the sun set, creating long shadows that stretched across the ground, unknowingly both of their dreams were fulfilled. He didn’t have to be alone anymore and love had come to her. They both knew that it wasn’t a happily ever after, but they would make sure that it came damn close.