Why is he staring at me? Ilyssa Jordan asked herself. Is there something in my teeth?
She turned her face toward the window and ran her tongue across her teeth. Nope, they’re clean. She was about to breathe a sigh of relief when a second, more horrible thought popped into her mind.
My nose! Omigosh, I’ve got something in my nose!
Before she could turn back to the window, Grant Pratt spoke.
“You look so beautiful,” he said, the tremble in his voice betraying his nervousness.
“Thank you,” Ilyssa said, smiling, “again.” So that’s why he was staring. “I love the corsage you got me; I’ve never seen a more beautiful flower.”
“It looks a lot prettier on you than it did in the box,” Grant told her.
Oh, wow, Ilyssa thought. “Thank you.”
Grant looked like he wanted to say something else, but instead he just smiled. Ilyssa decided she liked the sound of his voice, so she decided to keep him talking.
“It was so cool of you to get this limo for our date,” she said.
“It was Mr. Grayson’s idea.”
“You’ve got some pretty powerful friends,” Ilyssa told him.
Grant glanced at her corsage. “You’d be surprised.”
Up front, Alfred Beagle slid a cassette tape into the limo’s tape player, then hit a switch that caused the tinted glass that separated him from his passengers. They both looked at the rising glass in confusion, then the music started to play. Ilyssa reached over and put her hand on Grant’s as Joe Cocker’s You Are So Beautiful began to whisper from the speakers.
“Yeah, right,” Steve Aparo said as he slid his arm around his date’s waist. “If Pratt shows up with a date, I’ll quit the football team and join the chess club.”
“That’s mean, Steve,” his date said.
“Well, Aparo,” said Coach Giordano, one of the chaperones, as he walked up and put his hand on the boy’s shoulder, “we’re sure gonna miss you on Friday nights.”
“What do you mean, Coach?”
“Well, before you go inside, you might want to take a look behind you.”
The blond-haired halfback turned around in time to see the object of his ridicule exiting a limousine. As the driver held the door open, Grant held out his hand.
“Hey, Coach,” Steve said as he glanced at the chaperone, “if she barks, I get to stay on the team.”
“Kid, I hope you can tell the difference between a pawn and a knight, ’cause this girl is definitely not barking.”
Steve turned around, and all he could say was, “Coach, can chess players get a scholarship?”
All heads turned as Grant walked up the sidewalk with an attractive Vietnamese girl on his arm.
Mr. Kane, history teacher and another one of the chaperones, met the couple at the door. “Good evening, Mr. Pratt.”
“Oh, hi, Mr. Kane.”
“And who is this attractive young lady?” the teacher asked.
“This is Ilyssa Jordan, my date,” Grant said, grinning from ear to ear.
“Miss Jordan,” Mr. Kane said, “we are overjoyed that you are with us this evening.”
“Thank you,” Ilyssa said.
“May I say that your dress is absolutely incredible. It appears to be fashioned after the style worn by the Greek women of the early third or fourth century. And with your hair up like that with the tiny curls, it looks like you’ve stepped straight out of a museum. Exquisite. Absolutely exquisite.”
“Thank you, Mr. Kane.”
Mr. Kane opened the door to the gymnasium and held it for the young couple. “Go on in, have fun, and Happy Valentine’s Day.”
Once inside, Grant and Ilyssa were once again the center of attention. The first to approach was a group of girls, the Dance Committee mostly, who had come over to greet them. Before the boy knew what had happened, they had swept Ilyssa away from him and were showing her around.
Knowing he didn’t have a prayer of rescuing her, Grant made his way over to the snack table. He had just poured himself some punch and was about to take a drink when a hand on his arm stopped him.
“Hey, Pratt,” a boy much larger than Grant said, “who’s the babe?”
“She’s a friend from out of town,” Grant said. “Her grandpa and my dad used to work together.”
“Oh,” the boy said. “So, how did you get her to come with you? Was this a mercy date, or are you paying her to be here so you don’t look like a dork?”
“Nope,” Grant said. “This is an actual date.”
Ilyssa had finally gotten away from the Dance Committee when she spotted Grant. She had a pretty good idea what was going on, and decided to help him out.
“How sweet,” she said as she walked up to him, “you got me some punch.” She took his cup, kissed him on the cheek, and slid her free hand into his. “If you are finished talking with your friend, maybe we can find someplace a little more private.”
“Uh, oh, yeah, sure,” Grant said. “Sorry, Mike, but the lady wants to be alone.”
As they left Mike and the boys who had just joined him with their mouths hanging open, Ilyssa added a little more wiggle to her walk. She gave Grant another kiss on the cheek and whispered, “You owe me big time.”
They both laughed.
Finding a small table, they sat down and began to talk. While they talked, Ilyssa sipped on Grant’s punch.
“So,” he said, “did you get the grand tour?”
“I only got to see what was on the way to the bathroom,” Ilyssa answered.
“Oh,” was Grant’s reply.
“They wanted to get me alone so they could find out why I was here with you,” she told him.
“Don’t you want to know what I said?”
“I don’t know,” Grant said. “I guess, if you want to tell me.”
“I told them we met in New York on New Year’s Eve, and that you were one of the sweetest boys I ever met. I also told them that you were very romantic, and that you were possibly the best kisser I had ever known.”
Grant was glad the lights were lowered somewhat, so that Ilyssa couldn’t see his cheeks turning red.
“And now,” she said as she emptied the cup, “I want to dance.”
“But, I’m not really that good of a dance–” He didn’t have time to finish his sentence before she grabbed him by the hand and pulled him onto the dance floor.
The music was already playing, and Ilyssa fell into step like a pro; Grant, on the other hand, struggled to keep up. He was just getting the hang of it when the music stopped. Before he could lead her back to their seats, the band began to play a slow song.
“We can sit this one out if you want to,” he told her.
“Nonsense,” she replied. “You invited me to this dance, and that’s what we’re going to do. Now, put your arms around me.”
Grant did as he was told. Ilyssa reached back and slid his right hand down to the small of her back, then placed one hand on his shoulder and the other in his free hand.
“One more thing,” she said. “Both hands better stay where they are, if you catch my drift.”
As they began to dance, Ilyssa put her head on Grant’s shoulder and let him take the lead. Grant could smell her perfume and took a deep breath, hoping to imprint her scent into his memory forever. Neither of them noticed when the music stopped.
“I had a wonderful time,” Ilyssa said as she held tight to Grant’s hand while he walked her to her hotel room, another expense covered by Dick Grayson.
“Me, too,” he said.
“Where did you learn to slow dance like that?”
“Uh, Amanda showed me,” he confessed. “She was so excited when she found out that you were going to the dance with me, that she insisted I learn to dance at least a little bit.”
“I’m glad she did,” Ilyssa said, smiling. “But, from now on, I’m the only one who gets to teach you how to dance.”
“You mean that?” Grant asked. “You really want to go out with me again?”
“Let’s just say that you’d better not wait another month before you call me, or you will be in big trouble.”
Grant checked his watch. It was almost midnight. Both of their curfews had been removed for the evening, since Alfred was chaperoning them away from the dance, but, nevertheless, they knew it was time to end the date.
“Well, here’s my door,” Ilyssa said, still not releasing his hand.
“Yeah, I’d better go.”
Their fingers remained intertwined.
Grant checked his watch again. “I really don’t want tonight to end,” he confessed.
After a few more minutes of holding hands and staring into each other’s eyes, Ilyssa glanced at his lips.
“Could I, uh, kiss you good night?” he asked.
“If you don’t, you can forget about calling me again,” she told him.
Grant took her other hand in his and stepped in closer. Ilyssa closed her eyes and tilted her head slightly to the left. Their lips met, and time stood still.
When they finally pulled apart, Grant told her goodnight and turned toward the elevator. Ilyssa waited until the doors slid closed, and he was gone before opening the door.
“Well,” she whispered, “I guess I told the Dance Committee the truth, after all.”