This is Part 8 of the story of How I Met Superman. To get caught up, you can find the preceding chapters here.
It’s not like it was some red-carpet event, but getting invited to certain parties could be tricky. This one was tricky because it was so small. It’s not like Patrick was going to miss the fact that I’d arrived uninvited, given the tiny space and so few people. It was for about 20 friends, and at his parent’s house, and he would definitely notice if I were there.
I arrived with Dawn, though, only because Keith and Dawn assured me it was okay. There were lots of snacks, M&Ms, darkness, beanbags, good music, and my Homecoming picture with Patrick propped up on the china cabinet in an 8×10 gold frame. That last one I didn’t expect at all. I stood in the dining room, staring at it, with a Coke in my hand. In the photo, I had a bundle of baby’s breath pinned to the side of my head.
“It looks like you have popcorn in your hair,” said a deep voice behind me.
I whirled toward Patrick’s chest. He was looking past me, at the portrait, and offering a pained sort of smile. “I meant to take that down. I knew you were coming.”
“I’m sorry. Keith said it was okay, and – ”
Patrick shook his head. “Don’t. It’s fine.”
We fell into silence. We both just stared at the picture.
“My mom likes it,” he finally said.
“Have fun.” He took a sip of his soda without meeting my eyes and walked away.
As dusk fell over the party, no one turned on any lights. It lent an air of mystery. With the lights out, it was hard to see anything. And with the music so loud, it was hard to hear anything. There swirled, then, a curious air of inculpability. I’m sure we weren’t the first teenagers to think of it.
Couples began breaking off together, and the room got darker, and the dancing got more intimate. I stood on one side of the room and noted, with embarrassing certainty, that I knew exactly where Superman was at all times. Despite the dimness, despite the booming bass, despite the fact I looked like I was carrying on conversations, I had him continually in my peripheral vision. Keith claimed that Superman wanted to dance with me, but I saw no evidence of this. I sidled closer. I put my drink down. I made sure I was alone. I moved closer still.
Then I sighed deeply. Either this guy was completely clueless or he was really, really not into me. I assumed the latter and ate more M&Ms.
I began peering through the dark for my life-preserver, Dawn, when Superman’s closest friend, Orlando,* scaled a beanbag chair and straightened before me.
“Hi,” he said shyly.
I nodded. Orly was enormous. He was at least 6’2” – more than a foot taller than me. I wondered if he were going to send some kind of message from Superman. The two of them had just been standing together in the kitchen.
“Want to dance?” His smile had a charming sideways look to it.
I glanced into the kitchen while my brain synapses began shorting out, like some kind of crazy sparkler, trying to register some sense to this. I had expected Superman to be asking me to dance, not his best friend. But he was no longer standing there. Obviously, Superman wasn’t into me. Or else he wouldn’t have left and let his best friend come over and ask me to dance, right?
I sighed deeply. The disappointment, I was sure, was showing up in my shoulders.
I lifted them slightly, then glanced back at Orly. I had to step back to look all the way up at him. His smile was sliding off his face.
“Of course,” I finally said.
He rescued his mouth into a grin. I looked away so he wouldn’t detect any disappointment in my eyes.
Orly ensconced me, and we swayed to a slow song by Journey. I kept thinking of Superman, but tried to get any silly dreams wiped out of my head. I needed to give up. He was clearly not interested. This was his best friend, after all, and he wouldn’t allow this if he –
“Can I … ” Orly leaned down closer to my ear. But he didn’t finish. He backed up, and gave me an embarrassed smile.
He watched my face for a second, then took a deep breath. “Can I kiss you?”
His smile was lopsided again – a strange mixture of hope and doubt. I stepped back a little, more taken aback by the politeness than the directness. Can he kiss me? It sounded like something Edward Darcy would have said. The kind of thing a Victorian guy says to a girl who wears ribbons in her hair and wants dried corsages on her dresser top. …
“Yes.” I nodded. The politeness, I have to admit, charmed me. It made my heart stop a little.
He leaned down and kissed me. And my one clear thought – while I tried to keep from being smothered by Orly’s sweater – was that Superman was definitely not into me.
Otherwise his best friend would not be kissing me like this. …
Click here for Part 9: The Rescue. …
*Names changed to protect the Don’t-Want-To-Be-Googled.