The Eternal Dance
By Kees Schuller
You look around the room. The place is busy, and the air is filled with the happy noises of a night of revelry.
You love New Years. Something about the atmosphere, the sense of renewal, the cold outside and gathering with friends speaks to the poet in you.
“Hey, Gavin” Debbie taps you on the shoulder. “Are you even paying attention?”
Louise laughs “Oh, let the dreamer stare into space if he likes. We are doing fine without him right Marcus?”
“Nah. Debbie, drag that dreamer back to reality. Maybe you should kiss him. Might wake him up”
You shoot him a poisonous look as Debbie smiles at you.
“How about it Gavin? You need a wake-me-up?”
“Noooo. No. No thank you. I’m fine. I was just thinking about New Years”
“Oh no” Marcus rolls his eyes “Here he goes again. What’ll it be this time, Shakespeare? Moliere? Chekhov?”
“Hey, nice one! You got their names right for once” Louise says.
“No, this one is by me actually” You say with a smile. Louise and Marcus are good together. Even though you don’t like the fact that your best friend is dating your sister, you have to admit that.
“When the days are short and nights long,
When the cold closes in,
When the old gives way to new,
Then we gather round again
“While the wind howls outside,
We’ll brave the cold and snow,
To sit with friends and talk and laugh,
Whilst the fire burns low”
“Oh bravo” Debbie hugs you tight while you try to wriggle free “I like the part about low burning fires. So romantic” She smiles at you again.
Louise glances between the two of you and raises an eyebrow, as Marcus smiles knowingly. “Is something going on that I don’t know about?”
Before Debbie can open her mouth you jump up. “Nope. Nothing at all. Anyone want another round? I’ll go get it”
You march off to the bar, smiling for so cleverly escaping that awkward situation. When you reach the bar you hold up four fingers, and turn back to look at the table.
And jump when Debbie is right in front of you.
“I thought you might need some help getting the drinks. Hey wait a minute” she says and cocks her head “I love this song! Lets dance”
She grabs you and pulls you out onto the floor. Past her head you can see Marcus and Lousie staring at you. You are sure that Marcus is explaining the situation between you and Debbie. Despite spending a lot of time with the three of you Louise hasn’t seen any evidence of it yet.
You sigh, and dance with Debbie. May as well.
This never ends. The eternal chase, the eternal dance, you trying to avoid her, her chasing you.
You have to admit, it is fun to be caught sometimes. Being chased thrills you.
But, for all this, she was not happy. You had never gone beyond a dance, a kiss, a moonlit walk.
You know that she wants more. She probably wants you to love her, to sweep her off her feet, to carry her across the threshold of your house after your marriage and ravish her, you think with a wry smile. Not really all that appealing to you.
Its not that she couldn’t be attractive, you think as the two of you dance to the slower song, her body pressed tight to yours. Its just that you’ve been friends since you were little. Neighbours, then kindergarten, then grade school on up to high school. And its just not that type of relationship.
I mean, you’ve tried to make it work before. You know thats what she wants, so why not? Its not like you have anything else to do with your time, and if it makes her less stressed, helps her deal with Physics major with the Pre-med on the side, then why shouldn’t you try to help her?
But, it never amounts to anything.
You look at her, and force yourself to smile. Her chin is resting on your shoulder, and she has a contented smile on her face.
When you look up again Marcus and Louise are dancing. At first the surge of protectiveness makes you want to go over there are pull your friend away from your sister and sock him. But, you force it away, and nod. The two do make a good couple. And he has never stayed over at her apartment and she never at their loft, so its all good.
You look down and she is smiling up at you. “Yes Debbie?”
“Do you want to go outside? It might be nice out there”
“Uhh” You stall for time. There has to be something that can distract her from that. The last time that she asked if you wanted to go outside she ended up trying to make-out with you.
And that had not ended well.
“I don’t think so. I’m a bit cold, and its almost midnight. I don’t want to miss the countdown”
“Oh” She looks down again “Ok then”
She looks so crestfallen that you almost change your decision, but it really is getting close to midnight.
You untangle yourself, and sit her down at your table “I’m just going to go get Marcus and Louise and some hot cider. I’ll be right back”
You leave her doodling in the condensation on the table.
“Ok, where are they?” You’ve checked the floor, the bar, the other tables, the other room, the boys bathroom, had someone check the girl’s bathroom, and still nothing.
You zip your sweater up, and step out the door.
The street is empty save for a single taxi cruising by. It has been snowing, and everything is covered in a soft, white, cold blanket.
And there, against the wall, their fingers tangled in each others hair and lips locked together are Marcus and Louise.
“Guys!” They jump “Keep it PG! Whoa” You feel that overprotectiveness again, and have to remind yourself that Louise is actually older than you and that Marcus is a nice guy. “Its almost time for the countdown. Debbie is in there alone. Get back in there and cheer her up and I’ll get some cider”
The two straighten their hair, and Louise tugs Marcus’ jacket back into its proper place. As you start off she hurries to catch up and gives you a flat stare before beginning to berate you.
“And why does Debbie need cheering up? You kiss her and dump her again? She’s a nice girl Gavin. You’d do a lot worse than her, and not much better. She is better than a lazy jerk like you deserves, but Marcus says she loves you”
Loves you? No, whoa, no way. Not that. Its just an infatuation. Gotta be.
“Whoa, what has Marcus been telling you? I haven’t done anything”
“You’ve been leading her on” Marcus grabs your arm to hold you back from going to the bar “She doesn’t know whether you like her or not. She thinks you are just playing really hard to get and being an ass. Which you are”
“Gavin you make up your mind one way or another. And you tell her what your decision is. Because its time for you to stop making her sad and crazy. If you don’t make the decision right now, you better make it soon” Louise brushes past you, and goes to sit down with Debbie.
“Dude, your sister is a great girl” You shoot Marcus a glare which he doesn’t seem to notice “But I would not want her to be angry at me. You better figure this out” He claps you on the shoulder and leaves you standing there in a bit of a daze.
You’ve been leading her on? Well, maybe, but it wasn’t like that! It was supposed to help her, to make her happier.
Except apparently it is doing the exact opposite of that.
You look over at the three of them sitting together and sharing a joke. Debbie is smiling again.
Your three best, no, your three only friends.
And you have to decide about one of them, make a decision that will change things forever.
You start off to the bar to grab the ciders, wending your way across the floor as couples dance to Ol Lang Syne.
Damn. You thought that you had this figured out.
You always figured that if you dated her a bit and then showed that you weren’t interested she would start dating one of the guys that was always chasing after her. You never could figure out why she wouldn’t just date one of them instead.
And now it makes sense. Not an infatuation, but she really does love you, or at least thinks she does.
You sit back down just as Louise finishes telling a joke. You missed the punchline.
“Here’s the cider” You look at the expectant faces of Marcus and Louise “I’ve thought about what you two said, but you can’t expect me to have an answer already”
Debbie looks at the three of you in confusion “What did you two say?”
Louise passes a mug of cider to Debbie “We were asking him what he thought about the idea of me moving in with them. Three can pay the rent better than two, and then I can spend more time with Marcus”
You sputter and start coughing out the cider you inhaled.
No! No way! Your sister and your best friend in your house in the bedroom next to you, and no! Not happening!
But you can’t say anything without giving away that she is lying.
As she gives you an innocent look the countdown starts and you all jump to your feet.
“10, 9, 8…” Marcus puts his arm around Louise and they smile at each other.
“7, 6, 5…” Debbie looks at you half expectantly, a look of hope on her face.
“4, 3, 2…” Everyone is looking at the TV screens around the room as you slip your arm around Debbie’s shoulders.
“HAPPY NEW YEAR”
The cry rings out around the room as the four of you clink you mugs together.
As the evening winds down and the drinks have all been drunk you help Debbie up from her seat and wrap her coat around her.
Marcus and Louise are sitting off in a corner, Louise basically in Marcus’ lap. You don’t even care anymore after the long long talk that they had with you about boundaries and romance and the fact that you are nowhere near qualified to talk about romance. Debbie was asleep.
As you support her down the street a light snow starts to fall.
You look at her, and with the snow falling around you and her hair framing her face you realize for the first time how beautiful she really is.
“You are a good friend. And I don’t know why you are so unsure all the time, but you really are a nice guy. So thank you”
As the two of you walk through the park and the snow falls all around you sigh.
You have a lot of thinking to do.