Chapter 24 – Every Single Time

 

“Oooo, everything looks so sparkly.” Rayne bounced beside her three friends as they towards the gym.

“Those are a lot of twinkly lights. Like a lot.” Cordi laughed “Now, where are the boys? It’s cold out here.”

“Right over here.” A voice called from behind them. Blaine headed up the procession of boys. “You guys look amazing. Cordi look at your hair!”

“You’re not so bad yourself.” Cordi hugged Blaine quick hello. Anson stepped up to her, running a finger through her hair. “Aren’t you cold? Where’s your jacket?” She slapped his bare arm.

“I’m a man. Men don’t need a jacket.” He puffed out his chest before a shiver overtook him. “Besides, it gives me an excuse to hug you.” He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close.

“You need an excuse now?” Her feet danced towards him, the soles not meant for icy conditions.

“I wish you weren’t wearing that silly jacket. Cause I can see that you’re wearing a skirt, and I’ve never seen that before.”

“Not just a skirt. A dress.”

“And Blaine was right, look at your hair. Straight, curly, doesn’t matter.” He inhaled deeply. “Can we please go inside so these lovely ladies can take off their jackets? I ask this for their benefit, not mine.” He looked up at the other guys.

“Sure you do.” Caleb grabbed Rayne’s hand and pulled her towards the entrance. They handed in their tickets, wandering over to the coat check area. Cordelia slid her jacket off her shoulders and heard the hitch in Anson’s breathing. She grinned and turned with a serious face.

“Everything okay?” She twisted so the skirt twirled around her knees.

“More than okay.” He pulled her tight and brought her in for a deep kiss. “Remember how you asked why I started dating you?”

“And you got mad at me.” She nodded.

“I did. And would again. Because of this.” He grinned a big, toothy smile. “You are the most beautiful girl in the room.”

This time it was Cordelia that pulled Anson in for the kiss. Her fingers threaded into his hair and held his face to hers. She controlled the kiss in a way she never had before. When she pulled away, Anson was looking at her a little stunned.

Anson touched his lips with his fingers and reached forward to pick up Cordelia’s discarded coat.

“Compliments like that will get you everywhere.” Cordelia smiled and turned back to her friends. “Let’s go get some punch and then do some dancing.” She took Anson’s hand and walked into the throng of people, half of whom were openly staring at them. People still weren’t used to this version Cordelia. This girl who was starting not to care what they thought.

Armed with drinks, they found a table off to the side of the dance floor and settled into chairs. Bianca plucked a sucker from the lollipop centrepiece. “I love the Candyland theme. It’s so colourful!” She looked around at the coloured squares and candy cut-outs all over the room. A giant blow-up gingerbread man bobbed at the front of the room surrounded by students taking pictures in lewd poses.

“Pictures, and then we dance!” Kyle grabbed Cordelia’s arm and pulled her up from her chair. “Keep our seats warm, boys!” The four girls ran from the table to candy village set up in the corner of the room.

 

“It looks like some kid’s playroom puked all over our gym.” Danni looked around at the sparkly, pink streamers filling the room.

“This isn’t what my playroom looks like.” Robyn raised an eyebrow at the younger girl.

“I think that kind of high school party would be illegal in all the provinces and the territories.” Danni giggled, shrugging off her jacket.

“I’ll take that.” Chad grabbed her coat and jammed it on a hanger.

“Thanks, Chad.” Danni watched the older boy. He was far more attractive than she’d ever given him credit for before. When he smiled at her, his left cheek dipped into a deep dimple.

“You look hot in that dress.” His deep voice rumbled like a purr.

“You like it?” She took a step closer to him, smoothing her hands down the fabric.

“I more than like it.” His fingers danced along the line of her hip. “I’d like to see a little less of it.” His hand moved to slide the neckline further down her shoulder.

“Ms. Monroy. Mr. Schore.” The guidance councillor, Mrs. Richmond stepped out from behind the coat rack. Danni pushed Chad’s hand away and stepped back. “Having a good time?”

“Yes, ma’am.” Danni nodded while Chad stood silently, arms crossed.

“Why don’t you go join your friends?” She suggested “Before you lose track of them.”

“We’ll get right on that, Mrs. Richmond.” Danni turned and pulled Chad out of the coat room.

“Yes, ma’am. Right away ma’am.” Chad mocked. “Aren’t you still the good little princess?”

“Jack ass!” Danni pushed him away.

“Who’s a good girl? I am. I am.” He sing-songed, holding up a hand.

“You are a jerk.” Danni pummelled her fists against his chest. Chad caught her wrists, laughing. Her heel caught on the floor and she stumbled. He held her close, stabilizing her. Her laughter died as she looked up into eyes so light green they were off-putting. “How come I’ve never noticed you before?”

“Because you were too busy with your little group of do-gooder friends?” Chad grinned down at her, his thumbs tracing along her collarbone. “And I never really noticed you before either. Cause I don’t like good girls.”

“Dan!” Jon’s voice startled Danni away from Chad. “What the hell?”

“Don’t worry, we’ll continue this later.” Danni whispered to Chad. “Hey Jon, grab me a drink, okay?” She skipped towards her ex, linking her arm through his.

“What was that with Chad?” Jon’s voice was edged with jealousy.

“What? That?” She glanced over her shoulder, winking at Chad. “That was nothing. He was just teasing me.”

“I don’t… he shouldn’t do that.” Jon’s hand tightened around her wrist.

“Ah, it’s all coming back to me now.” She shook off his hand.

“What is?” They stopped at the refreshment table.

“Why we broke up.” She took a glass from Jon and took a long drink. “You were all prudey and wouldn’t sleep with me, but you got super jealous whenever I even looked at another boy.”

“I’m not super jealous.” Jon picked up his glass. Danni simply raised an eyebrow. “Okay, okay, this time, I’m super jealous. But you don’t see the way he’s looking at you. And you don’t see how you look tonight. You look… wow, you just look so hot.”

“That’s the idea Jon. And tonight, I’m here to have some fun. So, if you’re up for fun, then we can play. If not, I’ll probably be playing with Chad. Understand?” Danni handed him her cup, “Now, refill this and pour a little something extra in there while you’re at it.”

“Remember how I’m driving tonight?” Jon filled the cup for her, “I don’t have any extra, but Chad probably does.”

“Are you telling me that that is not your extra special belt buckle?” She tapped her nails against the thick metal belt buckle.

“I forgot to fill it, so it’s probably empty, but you’re welcome to check.” His voice was lower than normal. Danni’s fingers played with the latch that kept the miniature flask in place. They had just released the hook when Jon jolted forward. Danni turned to glare at the girl who had bumped into them.

“Hey watch it.” “Oh my god, I’m so sorry!” The two girls said in unison. Danni stared at the pretty girl with the long brown hair.

“Oh, Danni… hi.” The voice was familiar. So familiar, but the visual was so disconnected that it took Danni a minute to realize who she was looking at.

“Oh my god, Cordi?”

“Of course.” Danni’s former friend smiled “Who else would I be?”

“I have no idea, but can you blame me for being surprised?” Danni grinned, “This isn’t the Cordelia I know,”

“A lot of things have changed, Danni.”  Cordi’s voice lowered to an even, confident tone.

“Yeah, I guess they have.” Danni’s eyes glanced to the side where Jon was standing, waiting for her. She waved a hand for him to go away.

“Can we talk?” Cordelia looked her directly in the eye, but the stare was different from the girl who used to ask her to talk.

“I think we need to.” She followed her old friend towards an empty corner. Her brain still couldn’t connect this girl with the long, swinging skein of hair and strong, confident walk with the girl she used to have to convince to wear anything other than that blue sweater.

When she reached the corner, Cordelia crossed her arms over her chest and turned back towards Danni. “So…”

“Yeah, so…”

“I don’t even know where to start.” Cordelia ran a hand through her straight hair, still trying to get used to the feeling. She almost longed for the nest of curls that would capture her fingers and her frustration.

“Well, there’s always an apology.” Danni leaned against the bleachers, her drink in hand.

“Whenever you’re ready.” Cordelia’s eyes darkened minutely.

“So, we’re back where we started. Neither of us thinks we did anything wrong.”

“Oh I know what I did wrong.” Cordelia closed her eyes and took a deep breath. When she opened them, she saw Anson walking towards them. She could see the anger on his face even from this distance. She lifted her hand for him to stop. Danni glanced over her shoulder and then back at Cordelia.

“Yeah, I know what you did wrong, too.”

“I wasn’t talking about him.”

“Then what were you talking about?” Danni undid the little flask that was still in her hand and began pouring the contents into her cup. Jon had been wrong, it wasn’t empty.

“You Danni. You were my mistake. I let you lead our friendship for so long that we both lost sight of what was healthy. Of what our friendship had become.”

“You didn’t let me lead, Cord. You never took the initiative. You made me take the lead. You forced me. I tried to get you to break out of your shell.”

“Maybe you used to, in the beginning. But the last couple years, you’ve enjoyed calling the shots.”

“So what if I have? I know what I like. There’s no reason that I shouldn’t be able to do it.” Danni downed half her drink. “Besides, you liked hanging out with me.”

“Of course I did, Danni.” Cordelia rubbed her eyebrows. “You were my best friend. I liked making you happy.”

“And now? Now, you like making Anson happy, right?” Danni leaned back into the bleachers.

“Of course I do. He’s my boyfriend. Like any of my friends. I want us to be happy. But there’s more, Danni. I’m making myself happy.”

“Making yourself happy means letting him dress you up? You’re his little doll.” Danni looked down at the outfit Cordelia was wearing. “It is a pretty dress though, and those shoes are awesome. He doesn’t have horrible taste.”

“He didn’t pick this out, Danni.” Cordelia sighed “I did.”

“You did? But, you’ve… Bianca picked it out?”

“No, Danni, I did. I went to the mall all by my lonesome and I went to a store and I bought a dress that I liked, because I thought it made me look pretty. I’m almost like a real girl now.” She rolled her eyes. “I’m shy, Danni, not incompetent. Regardless of how you made me feel.”

“I never thought you were, Cordi. You’ve just… changed so much, so quickly.” Danni put down her drink and shifted her feet. Her feet were getting uncomfortable in these boots.

“And you haven’t? You’re all buddy buddy with Robyn now. This time last month you wanted to run her over with a truck, and laugh while you did it.”

“She’s not so bad. She’s actually pretty funny.”

“And she’s dressing you now?” Cordi raised her eyebrow. “Don’t try to tell me that that’s not her dress? Cause I can see that she and Teagan are in your clothes. You wouldn’t make that outfit.”

“No, I wouldn’t, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like it. Just like you dress yourself. I dress myself. I may have just taken a little assistance from friends that support me. No matter what choices I make.”

“Even if they’re bad ones?” Cordelia’s eyes shot to where Jon and Chad were standing together watching Danni closely.

“My decisions, Cordelia. Mine. Not yours. Not any of your busy body friends. Mine. You guys were so quick to turn your back on me when you didn’t like the decision I made. You don’t get to judge what I do now that we’re not friends.” The silence hung heavily between them.

“I guess that settles it then.”

“Yeah, I guess it does.”

“Can we at least try to be civil to each other? All this fighting is exhausting.” Cordelia picked at the edges of her sleeve, wanting nothing more than to be out of this corner.

“Sure, Cordelia, whatever. Have a nice life.” Danni turned, blinking back tears she wouldn’t let anyone see her cry. She walked away quickly and headed towards Robyn and Teagan, bypassing the two boys waiting for her. “Guys, can we just go dance? I fucking hate this town sometimes!”

“Did you and little miss prissy pants have a little fighty whitey?” Robyn mocked.

“Shut it, Rob.” Danni dragged the other two girls out onto the floor. “They may not be my friends anymore, but I’m not going to fight with them anymore either. End of conversation. We will not be discussing them again. Now dance!”

 

Cordelia watched as Danni pulled her new friends onto the dance floor. Arms crossed, she let the tears spill over her eyelids and down her face. That was it. The words she’d been dreading. She hadn’t really believed it was true. She’d needed to hear them spoken out loud. To know that she and Danni were finally agreeing on something again. She felt Anson step up beside her, but he didn’t touch her or talk to her, he just waited until she was ready.

“I guess now I know for sure.” Cordelia sniffled and straightened her back.

“Hang on a second.” Anson ran a finger under her eyes, wiping away the tears. “You don’t want to go out there looking like you were crying, right? You don’t need to give them the satisfaction.”

“I don’t care what they think. I’m allowed to be upset.” She sighed and took his hand. “Dance with me?”

“Every single time.” Anson led her onto the floor as the music changed to something slow. Cordelia wrapped her arms around him and leaned against his shoulder. On the other side of the dance floor, she saw Danni wrap around Chad. The two girls’ eyes met across the floor. Danni nodded before grabbing Chad’s face and pulling him down for a kiss. Cordelia felt her tears dry.

“Thank you.” She whispered into Anson’s shoulder, still staring at her oldest friend. There was no going back now.

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