“I can’t dance,” she says in an exasperated tone. The night has been long and her heels were killing her. She and Jay were seated at a table near the back, hoping to dodge more of her high school classmates. So far Erin hadn’t seen one descent classmate to talk to. She knew this was a bad idea, yet Jay had somehow talked her into it.
“I don’t believe you,” he teased, his eyes twinkling. Erin turned so her body was facing his.
“Even if I could, these damn heels would make me fall in less than a second.”
“I’d be there to catch you.” Erin’s heart lurched. He always knew what to say, damn him.
“Maybe,” she thought, reaching for her close to empty glass of wine and bringing it to her lips.
“Do you, uh, want more?” Jay asked, motioning to her now empty glass.
“Yes, please. My hero,” she replied with a wink. Jay rolled his eyes and stood up.
“Be back in a few minutes,” he called over her shoulder. She chuckled. They had only been partners for a few months now, but he was growing on her fast. And the man knew how to wear a suit. When Jay had come to pick her up that evening, Erin was speechless for a good five minutes or so, seeing him standing in her doorway, looking so dapper. She was happy he had agreed to come. Then again, it wasn’t like she needed him or anything—not a single acquaintance of hers had shown up.
“Erin?” She froze. Erin could recognize that voice from a mile away. She slowly shifted uncomfortably in her chair to face the person the voice belonged to, her former best friend.
“Jessica, hi,” Erin said, her voice going high. She was really bad at feigning friendliness. “I didn’t think you would be here.”
“And miss our reunion? What, are you crazy?!”
“I guess so…” she muttered, under her breath.
“Is this seat taken?” Jessica asked, pointing at the chair directly across from Erin and Jay.
“Nope, it’s all yours,” she heard someone answer. She glanced over her shoulder and looked at Jay coldly, as he set down her wine glass in front of her. Jay was having too much fun tonight. She gave him a “you’ll be sorry for this,” look. He casually shrugged it off, taking his seat next to his partner. Jessica’s smile grew wider as she flashed her pearly white teeth at Jay, setting her purse down in front of her. Erin raised an eyebrow.
“So, I know Erin…” Jessica started. Erin rolled her eyes, ignoring the flirtatious look Jessica gave Jay. “But she neglected to mention you.” Jay gave Erin a questioning stare before answering.
“Jay Halstead.” He reached his hand over the table, shaking Jessica’s. “Nice to meet you.”
“You too,” she said with a playful wink.
“I need to run to the bathroom…make-up needs redoing,” Erin intervened, grabbing her purse that was strung around her chair. “Be back in a second.”
“I think you look great,” Jay commented, with a smug smile.
“You two are too cute.” Jessica reached for a drink. “How did you two meet?”
Erin and Jay exchanged confused looks. They had already worked out their story but didn’t think they’d stay long enough to tell it. Or rather, see anyone to tell it to. Jay started.
“Well, uh, we met at grad school,” he said, rubbing the back of his ear. Erin rolled her eyes. Awkward much?
“Yeah, yeah, definitely.” Erin chuckled. She could tell how nervous Jay was…and may have enjoyed it a little too much.
“Jay was in one of the classes I was taking,” she added, brushing her hand against his arm. Time for the acting to begin. “He came up to me one day and asked if I was interested in grabbing dinner with him,” she went on. “I agreed and from then on, it was love at first sight.”
Jay snorted and Erin punched him hard in the side. He flinched. “Right babe?” Jay, in between laughs, replied with a simple “mhm.”
“So you two have been together for a while then?” Jessica asked, glancing from Erin to Jay, back to Erin.
“Yeah,” Erin answered, “and it’s been the best years of my life.” Their cover story was getting funnier by the minute; Jay and Erin both knew it.
“Is she good to you?” Jessica asked with a smirk. Jay paused for a second, piecing together an answer. That question wasn’t one they had come up with an answer for.
“Oh yeah, of course. Except she hogs the bed sometimes, eats all the sweet stuff in the house, never lets me watch my sports games…” Jay started, knowing he’d get an immediate reaction from Erin. And he did.
“Ow,” he cried, once he felt Erin’s heel digging into his shoe. “What was that for?”
“You know what it’s for, sweetie,” she replied, innocently with a hint of frustration. “What about you, Jess? Meet anyone special?”
“I’m still waiting…” she answered, looking down at the table. “It feels like every man I date, they always end up breaking my heart when I least expect it.” Jay cast an apologetic look her way, smiling gently.
“When the time’s right, everything will align. Just like it did for me.” There he went again…always knowing what to say. “You’ll see.” He gave a slight nod. Jessica met his gaze with her own, before adjusting her dress and standing up.
“Do you want to dance with me?” she asked Jay. He and Erin were both caught off guard.
“Finally, someone who wants to dance, thank you.” Jessica giggled. She was acting like she was still in high school. Erin scoffed and stood up, took one more drink from her glass, and grabbed Jay’s hand.
“How about that dance?” she asked, pulling him away from Jessica before he could answer. Jay followed her lead, trying to keep up with her. They mingled with the other couples, trying to fit in. Jay drew Erin close and wrapped his hands around her waist. She reciprocated the gesture, wrapping her arms around his neck.
“What if you fall?” he asked playfully.
“You’ll be here to catch me.”