Mom turned to me and shrugged her shoulders. “Do you want to go?” she whispered.
I badly wanted to go with Levi.
“Then go.” She nodded her head toward my room. “Go get dressed.”
Without hesitation, I turned and hurried in the direction of my room with the biggest smile that I could no longer hide. As I entered my room I couldn’t help but giggle when I heard Levi say to my mom, “I’m sorry for saying the f word in your house, Mrs. Watson.”
“It’s okay, Levi. Consider it your one free pass.”
* * *
Fifteen minutes later, I walked out of my bedroom wearing a black dress that probably shouldn’t have stretched out as far as it did. My feet were wearing a pair of flats because they were the only thing that didn’t make me feel exhausted from standing. Mom gave me her pearl necklace and earrings.
When I entered the living room, where Levi was waiting, he stood from the couch. “Whoa,” he said, staring my way. He didn’t say another word, or move an inch. Minutes passed, and still no movement.
“Levi.” I softly laughed nervously, tugging on the bottom of my dress. “You’re staring at me.”
“I know. I swear I’ve been trying to stop, but when I stare at you something weird happens.”
“And what’s that?”
“My mind shuts up.”
“Oh, crap,” Mom muttered, standing against the fireplace, watching Levi and I with a camera in her hands and tears falling down her cheeks.
“Mom, don’t cry.”
“I’m not, I’m not,” she promised, wiping her eyes. “It’s the dust from the fireplace, that’s all.”
She smiled and got more dust in her eyes as she took photos of Levi and me.
“I like him,” Mom whispered as she kissed my forehead. “I know I shouldn’t, but I like him.”
“You and I both suffer from the same issue, Mom.”
When Levi and I walked out to his car, he held the passenger door open for me. He hopped into the driver’s seat and turned the key in the ignition. My hands rested against my stomach as we drove in silence.
“I meant that, you know,” he whispered, his eyes on the road. “The part I said about there are girls and then there’s Aria. I meant that.”
My shoulders relaxed into the seat, and I stared forward out of the windshield. There were girls, and then there was me.
Slowly my left hand edged toward the middle half of the front seat, my palm facing up.
Slowly his right hand edged toward the middle half of the front seat, his palm facing down.
Slowly, nervously, quietly, we tied our hands together.
* * *
“Are you sure you don’t want punch? I mean, I know they don’t have diamond encrusted glasses, but they have these great plastic cups,” Levi offered for the third time. We sat in two chairs against the wall. I shook my head. I couldn’t stop pulling at the fabric of my dress, feeling as if I was standing out way too much and that I was way too fat to be there.
Girls kept walking over to us and asking Levi to dance with him, but he kept turning them down.
All of the girls looked really beautiful and very far from pregnant.
Maybe it had been a bad idea to come.
Levi rested his hands in his lap. His feet were tapping against the gym floor to the music. He wasn’t having much fun, and I felt awful about it.
“I’m sorry I’m so boring,” I said.
“You’re not,” he lied.
“Because I’m fat.”
He edged his chair closer to me and laid my head on his shoulder. “The way you talk about yourself makes me angry.”
“But look at all of those girls out there. You could have any of them. Clearly they all want you.”
“I don’t want them.”
“Why not?! They are everything that every guy wants. They are what you want.”
I felt him tense up and his foot stopped tapping. He removed my head from his shoulder. “Stop telling me what I want, okay?”
“It’s true, though, isn’t it? You want that?”
He rolled his eyes and pushed himself away from me. “Fine.” He started walking toward the dance floor, and I saw a few of the popular girls smiling his way. He smiled back. I felt sick. He was choosing them. It made sense. I was on the outside of their world and Levi belonged with them.
But then he kept walking past everyone. He walked out of the gym. I wanted to follow him, but I felt too stupid to do so. So I sat. I frowned like a dork, my hands resting against my stomach.
About five minutes passed before Levi reentered the room, looking very different than when he’d left. My cheeks heated up as the room erupted with laughter. He was wearing a fake pregnancy stomach and his eyes were locked with mine as he crossed over to me.
“What the heck are you doing?” I laughed, staring at how ridiculous he looked.
“Dance with me,” he said, holding his hand out to me.
“Dance with me,” he repeated, stepping closer.
“Dance. With. Me,” he begged, his eyes pleading with me to say yes.
He took my hands in his, and I stood up. The music was up-tempo and everyone was staring at Levi. “Just look at me,” he ordered, so I didn’t look away. He started dancing like an ape, all over the place, no sense of rhythm, and no care that others were staring at him.
I couldn’t stop laughing, and I started dancing with him. With no care, no fear, and no regrets. I kept looking at him and as he moved, his fake stomach danced, too. “Some people were just born to stand out, Aria. Just deal with it and keep dancing.”