The air inside is stuffy, the music is loud, and the place is packed with high school kids. Lara feels awkward as she makes her way slowly through the crowd until she comes across some girls she knows from class where she can safely stand around for a bit, waiting for something to happen. Ainslee is long gone, who knows where, but it’s SO not cool to hang around with your kid sister at one of these dances. Never mind the fact that Ainslee knows everybody and everybody knows her, and that Lara could never keep up with her anyway. She decides to be the older and the more sophisticated of the two, and wonders why that idea feels too stupid for words.
She has reluctantly agreed to join in a little all-girl group and gyrate to the music when she sees Douglas across the dance floor. He has his hands in his pockets and is deep in conversation with one of his friends, and it’s kind of embarrassing when he catches her staring. But he smiles and points at her and winks and then he’s walking over and touching her on the shoulder and asking her to dance. It’s a relief to be rescued and she wonders if boys think girls dancing in a group is weird. Gawd knows they’d never be caught doing that with their friends. The next dance is a slow one, the Beach Boys, Little Surfer Girl, and he hums along with it in her ear, his cheek gently touching hers. Do you love me, do you surfer girl?
She’s no surfer girl, that’s for sure. More the kind of beach lover who never gets her bikini wet. She likes Douglas. They’ve been seeing each other lots lately, sort of on dates, meeting and doing stuff together. But they’re not going together. At least Lara doesn’t think you could call it that. Although they have been teetering on the verge of it. Several times Douglas has fiddled around with his school ring when they’re talking, slipping it up and down on his finger, saying maybe he should give it to her. Let her wear it. Wondering if she wants it. But he never takes it off and she never knows what he wants her to say. It’s become a little shared joke. And she really hasn’t got a clue whether she’d actually take it or not if he finally really offered it to her. So it’s all just up in the air. But he’s a nice guy and he’s good-looking, and he smiles all the time. And he always asks her to dance. Or go with him to the movies. Or walk with him to class or come for a ride in his car which he drives too fast. Despite that he makes her feel comfortable and she likes spending time with him. He kisses her and it doesn’t feel all weird. Even though Ainslee has started to refer to him as Dog-lips just to tease her. Dogs should be so lucky to have lips like that.
It’s a normal thing for kids to go steady for the school year and then break up for the summer in this little town. The tourists from the big cities are just too tempting and the summer flings on the beach are too much fun. Maybe because they both know this is bound to happen to them when they get their summer jobs, they’re being cautious about pretending there’s anything permanent between them. No guilt if there’s no promises.
Later Lara sees Ainslee dancing with Gerhard. Lara sits beside him in chemistry and sometimes they’re lab partners. His german accent and his white-blond hair and incredible blue eyes make her kind of crazy and nervous. But he’s always polite and aloof. He doesn’t have a girlfriend. He doesn’t say much. Trust Ainslee to bring out the fun side of Gerhard – who knew he even had one. Ainslee waves at them, and when Gerhard turns around to look, she makes a face and points to his handsome head as if to say “Shit! Do you believe who I’m dancing with?” Douglas laughs. Gerhard looks confused, as if he’s trying to remember where he’s seen them before. Or what he’s doing here.
On a bathroom break before the last dance Ainslee grabs Lara by the arm and tells her excitedly that she’s just done her the hugest favor of her entire life! Lara feels herself start to cringe at whatever is coming next.
“When I go out there, stay here for a couple of minutes, okay? and when you come out Gerhard is going to ask you to dance and you’re going to say yes and finally admit you’ve had a mad crush on him forever! There’s no time to explain the rest, just do this, it will be SO MUCH FUN!” None of this makes much sense or results in Lara feeling any less nervous. Ainslee’s idea of fun seldom jives well with her own. But she knows better than to not follow instructions when Ainslee has a plan. One way or another, she is sure to regret it later.
Sure enough, when she exits the washroom, there is Gerhard, stiff smile on his face, saying he would like to dance with her. She smiles stiffly back and he takes her stiffly into his arms. He is not called Ger-HARD for nothing. Then when she thinks of all the possible implications of that observation she blushes madly and chokes back her laughter by loudly clearing her throat. Gerhard becomes suddenly mesmerized by something on the other side of the room. Scared that she might actually say something to him? Or maybe just giving himself a moment to think up a safe topic.
“So. You are Ainslees sister. You do not look alike.” She feels like she should appologize for not being Ainslee-gorgeous. But she just agrees with him that yes, they’re very different. How does she like the chemistry class he wants to know. She tells him she hates it. Chemistry is too boring for words. He looks at her like she’s suddenly grown two heads. Someone bumps into them and when she looks around there’s Ainslee, grinning like crazy, dancing with a smiling Douglas. What the hell is he smiling about now, she wonders. Then she feels mean. And a bit miserable.
“Gerhard!” Ainslee shouts above the music. “Did you tell my big sister yet that you’re driving her home? I’m catching a ride with Douglas!” Lara doesn’t know whether to feel mortified or miffed or a bit of both as Ainslee and Douglas dance off in another direction. She looks up at Gerhards incredibly handsome face and sees him gazing wistfully after Ainslee. But he seems to be stoically resigned to his fate and willing to do whatever Ainslee wants. Lara just feels gawky and graceless and wonders what good can ever come of all this. Maybe some of the girls who have been drooling over Gerhard for months will see her with him and be jealous. Other than that she can’t think of anything at all.
As usual, Douglas drives too fast and gets Ainslee home first. As Gerhard and Lara pull into the driveway, both equally relieved that their stumbling attempts at conversation are finally coming to an end, they are stunned to see Ainslee under the porch light putting her hands on both sides of Douglas’s face and pulling him towards her and kissing him smack on the lips. Then she smiles and waves her hand at them and disappears into the house. Gerhard is mumbling should he walk Lara to the door and she hardly lets him finish before saying no, thanks, see you, and has barely managed to get herself out of his car with the door closed behind her before he’s pulling away and driving off into the night.
Douglas has his hands in his pockets and a brilliant grin on his face as he meets her halfway up the walk.
“Your sister is a bit crazy” he offers, as if he’s telling her something she doesn’t already know. She agrees that sometimes Ainslee does weird stuff. He shakes his head and shrugs his shoulders, but he’s still smiling as he asks her if she’d like to go see a movie tomorrow night.
“Oh. Well. Ummm.” She stammers and then manages “Yeah, okay.” He says over his shoulder that he’ll pick her up at 7:30 and then he hops into his car and drives away. She watches as his headlights disappear and then she turns around and goes into the house.
Ainslee grabs her in the dark and she gasps and wants to scream but is able to stifle it. Even though there’s more than one reason to be screaming. She listens to her little sisters excited loud whispering prattle. “Was it awesome? Did he kiss you? MY LIPS touched DOG LIPS! Ewwwww, can you believe that? I kissed old Dog Lips on the lips! What happened with Gerhard, Lara, does he want to take you out? Do you not just love how I did all that?”
“Geez Ainslee, shut up. You’ll wake everybody up. Let’s go to bed.” But she doesn’t stop asking questions until Lara finally tells her that Gerhard is not the slightest bit interested in her big sister. He’s interested in Ainslee. And no amount of being shoved in Lara’s direction is going to change that anytime soon.
“I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but you’re just going to have to go out with him yourself Ains. Pretend you like chemistry.” Or not. She scarcely thinks it matters.
“Oh man” Ainslee sighs. “I guess you’re stuck with old Doglips. Can’t say I didn’t try to save you from that.”
Lara sighs herself and pulls the covers up to her chin and closes her eyes. And smiles in the darkness. There are worse fates, she thinks.