I laid in bed Sunday morning thinking of the dance last night and wondering why Michelle had seemed so happy despite how the night ended. The school had surprised me by its complete lack of size. I just never really thought about how small some private schools were when compared with the three-story block where I went. I was also rather shocked that the dance was taking place at the school instead of some reserved ballroom. Michelle’s birthday party seemed a far grander affair than this supposedly important dance. Upon entering the building, I understood the advantage of a dance at the school. The first hallway appeared as a small street out of a black and white movie.
I admired the details as we slowly walked arm-in-arm down the faux streets. The street lamps were electric instead of gas, but quite beautifully made. There were shop signs above all the doorways and the walls were covered in various materials to simulate brick and wooden buildings alike. Michelle quite gleefully pointed out the ones in which she had a hand. A thin fog in the air definitely added to the illusion the girls had been attempting. Overall, I found the effect to be quite lovely, even though they’d be winning no awards from Hollywood. There were just three hallways leading up to the gymnasium, which was decorated as a candlelit ballroom, complete with chandeliers.
Between dances, Michelle gleefully told me about her school life, gossip, and which girls were actually sweet rather than faking as we were introduced. She was definitely smiling and managed to do a fair imitation of being attached to my arm, save for when I made a quick stop in the restroom. While there, I checked my phone for messages. My business was still booming which brought me a mixture of pleasure and distress. Leisure was becoming a very precious commodity. A message from Emma saying that she wouldn’t be up for a movie but still wanted to see me brought some concern. I couldn’t help wondering if Regina actually managed to find some way to get to Emma.
The night grew more unfortunate when I came back to find that one of the girls “accidentally” spilled punch on Michelle’s dress. I helped her clean it off as best as I could, but the dress was sure to stain. I saw spills like this several times at father’s hotels when he had me doing various tasks. To make matters worse, Michelle’s dress tore when someone managed to step on it as we danced. Then, as if that wasn’t enough, the night came to an abrupt halt as fire alarms and sprinklers went off in the school. I gently held her as we waited for David to arrive with the limo. Then the most curious thing happened. Michelle started giggling. She then explained how even her mother wouldn’t be furious about a dress getting ruined while escaping a burning building. I was a bit taken aback when she followed this revelation by pulling me down by my jacket and kissing me.
The ride back to Michelle’s home was spent dodging the various ways she wanted to keep in touch. My phone number was likely to change soon when I “go back home,” and I was horrid at checking my email. Nonetheless, I did give her one of my alternate email addresses and told her I’d write when I could, which I planned on doing. The poor girl could obviously use some decent company. After I saw her to the door where her mother put on a display of distress over the girl’s school having caught fire, not that any of us actually saw smoke, David gave me a lift back to the mall. I swore I saw a surprised Alma in the window when the bus pulled up, but I saw no sign of her when I boarded.
Luckily, my parents weren’t too inquisitive about how the dance went, since my thoughts carried me through breakfast. Mother seemed a bit better tempered about me going on a date today, but she had to mention that she’d be calling Regina later to see how the girl was “holding up.” I sighed and went to my room where I spent an hour working on homework due tomorrow. Then I hurried off to catch the bus to the train station. Emma started texting me while I rode the train, asking me if I was there yet repeatedly and implying greater exasperation with each text. One more bus, a brief stop at a florist, and a short walk later, I arrived ten minutes before eleven.
Emma’s home was probably considered the eyesore of the neighborhood, though not because of any failure on upkeep. The siding was a startling shade of purple, bright blue shingles adorned the roof, and the trimming was a matching shade of blue to the shingles. There was even a purple picket fence encompassing the yard. The lawn gnomes, flamingos, and other decorations added to the feeling that I was entering a strange toy land from whence I may never return. I knocked on the door only to have Emma calling “COME IN” from somewhere inside. Opening the door, the inside seemed subdued compared with the out.
The entryway opened straight into a living room of a milder purple than the exterior. I took my shoes off at the door and set them next to a pair of pink and black plaid Vans on the shoe mat. The plush, white carpet felt great under my feet as I followed Emma’s voice to her room. “James! This way. Here boy! You can make it!” Emma was laying on a zebra-stripe comforter with pink trim that matched perfectly with the other zebra-stripe and pink decorations throughout the pink room. Making a point to look around, I stated, “So this is what a girl’s room looks like. Is entering truly safe?” She threw a pillow at me. “I guess not. So what happened to the movie?” Her amused stare made me feel like I was missing something. My eyes finally zeroed in on a pink cast covered in autographs on her left leg.
“I was out skating with some friends last night, and this dog ran out in front of me right when I was landing a Caballerial. Managed to fracture my tibia when I bailed, but the dog’s fine!” I chided myself for blaming Regina so readily last night when Emma canceled the movie. “I don’t know if I’d feel right beating a cripple at games. Are you sure you want me to stay?” She grabbed a crutch from the other side of her bed and then pointed it at me. “Don’t make me beat you down, man-slave. Now get me a coke from the fridge while I’m still in a good mood from the flowers, assuming they’re for me. ” She followed the statement with an impish grin. This girl was beautiful in the way a fairy princess was in a children’s story, vibrant and slightly otherworldly. I was having difficulty not openly checking her out, so I gladly retrieved us both cokes from the fridge after handing over the wildflower bouquet.
She patted the bed next to her when I reentered the room, so I sat and handed her a drink. “Good, man-slave. You get a treat.” She held something up to my mouth, so I obliged her and ate it. The “treat” was delicious, a sort of crunchy cookie with a creamy, chocolate filling. “What is that,” I inquired. “Hello Panda cookies. I love these things. Be a good man-slave and get my pillow, and I’ll give you another.” I rolled my eyes, but went ahead and grabbed the pillow she had thrown. “Man-slave? Really.” She shrugged and replied, “Best Friend For Hire. Man-slave. Little difference. Gramps told me about your business, so I checked out your site. I bet you’d get more hits as ‘Man-slave For Hire.’” I laughed. “Thank you for the suggestion. I’ll be sure to take that under consideration.”
Emma tucked the pillow behind her and handed me another controller from her night stand. We started off playing Tekken 6, and I was barely holding my own against the onslaught of attacks. Eleven matches and six cookies later, she “rewarded me” when I lost, I was “officially schooled” at Tekken. She sent “gramps” a picture of her last victory. Timothy texted her back within a minute and, apparently, told her to let me pick the next game. She had Modern Warfare 3, so I decided to test her abilities. She was good. Very good. After a good hour of play, we bested all of our opponents, and I was slightly ahead on points. “Going to send Timothy that one,” I asked with a grin. She stuck her tongue at me and told me to get more Coke while she ordered pizza. Having discussed what we like for toppings while we played, I agreed.
Passing through the living room again, I noticed a series of pictures on the wall that appeared to have been taken at various dances she attended. To my amazement, there wasn’t a single picture of her at a dance with a guy. Each one had her paired with a different girl, which led me to wonder if she shared my lack of experience dating. My thoughts were interrupted by “Man-slave! A challenger has appeared!” Emma was wearing her headset and chatting with someone whose gamer tag was “TheTinyDragon” when I entered. “Shh.. He’s back in here. Hey there, man-slave,” she giggled, “Looks like you and I are going to try taking on my friend.” I smirked. “I hope your friend knows what she’s getting into.”
I turned out to be the one who had gotten into a match for which I was completely unprepared. Our opponent was insanely good. TheTinyDragon continually put us both to shame, which didn’t seem to bother Emma at all. We only took a break long enough to pay the delivery guy between matches. “I can’t believe your friend. I’ve never felt like such a complete newb before.” Emma laughed and responded, “Don’t feel bad. She’s the second best I’ve ever met.” I didn’t make any attempt to hide my incredulity when I inquired who could beat this dragon. “TheLittlePrincess is her gamer tag. No one likes playing her though. She does things with characters that literally shouldn’t even be possible when she gets bored of beating us.” This surprised me. I would’ve thought such a person would be banned for hacking. “No one has reported her?” Emma just shook her head and said, “You could try if you ever meet her, but good luck with that.”
We quit playing after TheTinyDragon had to log, but I added her on my friend list before she left. Then we laid in Emma’s bed watching Never Let Me Go, which was my first time even hearing of the film. I definitely considered the movie to be an emotional roller coaster, but I managed to keep my cool while Emma attempted to empty a box of tissues. Mrs. Wilson returned home during the movie. She had apparently been at a birthday party for one of her friends. “You know, Emma, you might attempt watching something that doesn’t bring you to tears when on a date with a guy. It’s not the same as dating girls.” Emma looked over at her mom with tears still running. “But this is such a good movie. Everyone should see it.” I was still chewing over her mother’s words and trying to decide if I heard what I thought I did.
“Yes, I normally date girls, but gramps insisted that you were fun. What do you think of the movie so far?” Mrs. Wilson walked off as I assured Emma that I was enjoying the movie. I was considering whether or not I should take off after the movie when Emma suggested that we watch Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World next. I couldn’t possibly pass that up, especially not with Mrs. Wilson inviting me to stay for Dinner. When I left that night, I did so with mixed emotions. I wasn’t positive that what we did together qualified as a date. Emma might just think of me as a friend, though she did say she wanted to hang out again. Overall, I found myself happy that I spent my day in a purple house being called a “man-slave.” I wouldn’t mind hanging out with her anytime I was free.