Landon emerged from the crowd and came over to where Charlene was sitting with her friends. Inside, the music was playing, and people started to make room for a dance floor in the center of the main hall. "Hey, Charlene ... it's time for your dance, your dad asked me to look for you here and do the first dance together," said Landon, extending his hand to Charlene.
"Oh, my ... I'm not very good at dancing," she looked at her friends to bail her out, but they were actually encouraging her go for it.
"I can help you out with that, don't worry," he assured her.
She took his hand, and nervously walked inside. The guests were clapping for them, Landon turned her around to face him, they touch palms, and put his other arm around her waist. He put her other arm around his waist, their faces almost touched. She had never been that close to a guy before, she turned her face to her right, and saw her parents smiling widely looking at them starting to sway on the dance floor.
"Don't be nervous, it's really easy ... just follow my lead," Landon said, looking at her face.
She looked down on her feet, making sure she was not stepping on his toes. Her hands were sweating.
"You smell really nice," he said.
She smiled shyly. He started to converse with her casually to lessen her tension, at the same time, his hand was at the small of her back slowly pushed her closer to him.
Landon was talking about frivolous things into her ear, their cheeks sometimes rubbed with each other. Being much older, he was more experienced in his approach. But rather than enjoying his gentle touches on her back, and seduced by his lips grazing on her earlobe, she felt uncomfortable with their closeness. She politely stepped back and said she was tired. Landon watched her as she walked away from him, he knew what he was doing, he would've gone further if Charlene had let him. He realized he was dealing with a nice girl who probably had never been kissed, it was an instant attraction for him. Charlene was a challenge, a new exciting one.
All the guests had gone home, the Friedman's had gone up to the guest rooms and so did her parents. Charlene was still helping the maids cleaning up with Charlotte. They were in the kitchen, packing leftovers to be distributed to the workers and put back the China and silverwares back in their places.
Charlotte yawned, "I'm so tired, Charlene, it's almost midnight ... can I go upstairs?" she could barely opened her eyelids.
Charlene laughed softly, "Okay ... you just go ahead, I still have a lot of things to do here," she told her sister.
"Oh thanks ... I'll make it up to you," Charlotte gave her a hug and a kiss, and went upstairs.
Mrs. Jones, the head housekeeper came in from the back door, she walked over to Charlene, "There's a young man at the gate, he said to give you this," she whispered as she handed her a small gift box. "And there's a note," she added.
Charlene took the note and read it, "Sorry I'm late. Happy Birthday, Charlie." Her face was beaming, and immediately opened the small box which contained another note that said "Something fun and exciting" she laughed. "Is he still out there?" Mrs. Jones nodded but grabbed her arm when she was about to bolt out the door.
"Charlene! I could lose my job for this," she pleaded.
"Just tell them I went upstairs to bed, it's our little secret," she said and went out the door. She ran across the front lawn, and when her shoes got in the way, she took them off and went running barefoot with her shoes in her hand.
He was leaning against the tree right outside the gate, he was wearing a clean white long sleeved shirt with blue jeans. He rolled the sleeves up to his elbow, a couple of buttons on the top was undone. Clean shaven as usual, a toothpick hanging at the corner of his thick plump lips. The boy with the ice-blue eyes she had been waiting for was looking right at her.
"Tommy! Did you just got back?" she asked as she opened the gate.
"You look amazing!" he couldn't believe his eyes when he saw her. "Happy birthday, beautiful," he said as he took her hand and kissed it.
"Thank you," she said with glee.
"I'm sorry I couldn't come earlier, I just got back from Goldstone, got myself cleaned up and came straight over here," he said without taking his eyes off her.
"I'm glad you're here," her heart skipped a beat because of how good he looked that night.
"I thought I drop by and wish you a Happy Birthday," he wanted to see her so badly and couldn't find a better excuse for it.
"Where are you going now?" she asked.
"Samuel and Ryan are with their girlfriends at the lake, they asked me to join the bonfire ... so I guess I'll be heading there after this," he said.
"Can I come?" her eyes were hopeful.
"What? But it's really late ... aren't your parents going to be looking for you?" her request was unexpected.
"I told Mrs. Jones to cover for me, it'll be fine," she insisted.
"Are you sure? I don't wanna get in trouble," he was hesitant.
She grabbed him by the arm, "It's fine! Let's go! Just make sure we get back before sunrise."
"Wait! Wait! Charlie ... " he stopped her.
"I have something for you," he said. He took off his gold necklace with a cross pendant that he'd been wearing all the time. "I don't have a gift for you ... so I thought I give you this," he put on the necklace to Charlie's neck.
"What? Are you sure? You've always been wearing this," Charlie was surprised by the gesture.
"It's from my mom ... before she left, it's pretty special ... just like you," he smiled. She touched the pendant and felt honored for the simple yet very valuable necklace that is now hanging around her neck.
She kissed his cheek and made him blushed, "Thank you ... this is the best gift anyone had ever given me," she said.
They went to the lake on a motorbike, it was the first time she had ever been on one. She held on to him tightly, that made him smile. It was also the first time she had ever spent a night outside of her home, at a lake, by a bonfire. It was a lot of firsts, and it was exciting for her. She didn't care that her dress got dirty from sitting on the ground, even though they had blankets lined up for them to sit on. They were drinking beers, and she wanted to try.
Tommy tried to prevent her from it, he was already responsible for a lot of things that night. "It's okay, Tommy, ... I can handle it," she was stubborn and opened the can anyway.
Tommy shook his head, "I don't wanna go to jail for this," he muttered.
They all laughed. They shared some stories about Tommy, and the things he had been involved in, how he got his scars, the fights he'd been in, all of them of course were filtered down to the point it wasn't scary for her but enough for her to know a different side of the boy who had been shy around her.
His friends seemed to love him. They knew he was falling head over heels over her, and they wanted her to get to know him better. They noticed the necklace she was wearing, they knew he was going to be in a lot of trouble for this girl.
Charlene was blending comfortably with them, they never felt a vibe that she was distancing herself from them, despite of her very posh upbringing. If anything, she enjoyed being with people who made her feel free to be herself. She felt as if she had just been given the chance to get to know herself, the part of her who was not her parents' little girl, the person inside her who loves adventures, who was curious and wanted to try everything. With Tommy and his friends, she can be that person. She opened up another can of beer, she actually liked how it tasted.
Tommy sat right next to her the entire time, not once he tried to get touchy with her. She wanted to lean on him so badly, but she didn't want to be the first to make the gesture. He was cool and calm, a façade he put up to cover his nerves. Charlie was different, not the kind of girl he can get his hands on without permission, not the kind he's used to. That did not mean he didn't want to, not at all.