“I look ridiculous,” said Milo as he tugged on the sleeves of his new suit. The finished outfits looked like something one might wear to a gala or fancy cocktail party. Charlie’s suit was a deep blue color with a crisp white shirt and tie underneath. Milo’s, on the other hand, was a dark magenta which matched the darker complexion of his smooth skin perfectly. It was clear, however, that Milo was not used to wearing clothes that fit so snuggly. He was usually seen in loose fitting pants and sweaters or even crop tops. This did not mean that he looked messy or unkempt. Quite the opposite. Charlie thought that Milo looked perpetually like a street model who just casually put together the perfect assortment of clothes. Milo couldn’t possibly look better than he already did normally. Yet, Charlie couldn’t help but stare at Milo. He was dumbstruck that Milo could somehow look even better than he normally did.
Bear had also been dressed up with an adorable red bowtie around his neck.
“You all look wonderful,” said Juno, stepping off the elevator behind them. “The perfect gentlemen.” They had agreed to meet on the roof as Juno said there was one more important detail to iron out.
“Gross,” said Milo, shifting in his clothes once more. They both turned to look at Juno and their mouths fell open.
She was dressed in an elegant lilac colored satin gown that made her practically glow like a princess before them.
“You look amazing,” said Charlie.
“Obviously,” said Juno, giving them a twirl. Her ukeytar hung from her back in its case.
“You wanted to talk to us about something?” asked Milo, who already seemed bored by the whole evening despite the fact that it hadn’t even started yet.
“Oh yes,” said Juno. “Tonight being a party, I thought it might be wise to have a word or sign in case there’s trouble. You know, in case we get separated.”
“Why would we get separated?” asked Charlie, who was only just now realizing he might actually be required to be social at this social event.
“Well you know,” continued Juno. “In case we start socializing or one of us is getting a drink. Or what if something comes up and only one of us notices and the others are busy dancing.”
“Dancing?” asked Charlie in a terrified voice, as if he’d just been told they might be asked to fight a giant monster at the party. “Oh no, I will not be doing any of that.”
“Well you might,” said Juno. “It is a party after all. “What if some adorable young man approaches you and asks for a dance? What are you gonna tell him?”
“I’ll tell him, no thank you sir,” said Charlie resolutely. “I don’t know how to dance and even if I did, interacting with strangers makes me itchy.”
“Just tell them that,” said Milo. “It would definitely be a turn off.”
“You don’t know how to dance?” asked Juno in surprise. “But anyone can dance. Don’t you ever hear a beat and just have to move to it?” As she asked this, she gyrated her body to an imaginary song. Charlie was quite sure he had never felt the sudden urge to do anything of the sort in his entire life.
“No, I have not felt that urge,” said Charlie.
Juno threw up her hands in exasperation. “Well if we’re going to a party, then there’s no time like the present.” She laid her instrument case on the floor and told Bear to keep an eye on it. He sat next to it, prepared to guard it with his life. She then approached Charlie and held out her arms, beckoning him forward. “Come on.”
“Oh I don’t think—” he started.
“Just do it you big wuss!” chided Milo.
Charlie took a deep breath and then stepped into her arms. It took a moment to get his hands placed correctly as she had to correct him several times. But once in place, he held on for dear life as she counted out four steps, moving him slowly in a tight square across the ground. After a few rotations, he thought that perhaps, he might be getting the hang of it. He even felt himself guiding the movements, if only slightly.
“Oh my God, Charlie! You’re leading!” Juno laughed.
“I think leading is a strong word for what I’m doing, but thank you,” said Charlie, his cheeks reddening.
“Okay, now you have to try it with music,” she said as she stepped away from him. “Milo, step in for me.”
“Um, what?” asked Charlie, all of his anxieties rushing back into his head. Dancing with Juno was one thing. She was kind and safe and encouraging. Milo was crude and judgmental, not to mention the fact that he looked incredibly handsome in his suit. Charlie couldn’t dance with someone who was judgmental, crude AND dashing. It simply wouldn’t do.
“Oh come on, Juno,” whined Milo. “Do I have to?”
“Just for a few steps so he can see how it feels with music,” she said. “I also taught Milo how to dance. Pretty soon you’ll both be graduates of the De La Cruz Dance Academy.” She laughed to herself as she stepped away and pulled her ukeytar out of its case where it sat on the ground nearby.
Milo walked up to Charlie and held out his hands. “Let’s get this over with,” he said.
Haphazardly, Charlie placed his hands on Milo’s waste. Milo wrapped his hands around Charlie’s neck and the two of them looked down at their feet, trying to get the placement right. As they did this, Juno began to play a light tune.
“You’re stepping on my feet,” snapped Milo.
“Sorry,” said Charlie.
“You’re count is all wrong,” said Milo as they moved in a lopsided square, nearly stomping on one another.
“Sorry,” said Charlie once more.
The music crescendoed, but they were too busy snapping at each other and apologizing to hear it.
“Owww!” cried Milo as Charlie stepped on him again.
“I’m sorry, I just can’t get it right. I—”
Charlie was about to make up some excuse about having two left feet when he looked up into Milo’s eyes at the exact moment that Milo looked up into his. The world exploded around them. The music filled their ears with such intensity that everything else melted away. Suddenly, they were all each other knew. All each other had ever known. They moved in perfect harmony, spinning as stars and comets and whole galaxies danced around them. No one was stepping on anyone now. Were they even standing on the roof anymore? No, they were floating, twirling through a black night sky permeated by the twinkling of every star that ever was or ever would be. Fireworks erupted around them in brilliant reds, blues and golds. Charlie felt himself being pulled towards Milo. They were close, but he wanted to be closer. Both of them closed their eyes, leaning in as another barrage of fireworks lit up the night sky.
“That’s it! You got it!” shouted Juno. Charlie and Milo looked up to find that the world had returned to normal. No stars. No fireworks. They stared into each other’s eyes, breathless for a moment longer, then quickly stepped back from one another, suddenly awkward and unable to look each other in the eye.
“Great job,” said Milo awkwardly. “We should um—”
“We should get going,” said Charlie, clearing his throat.
“Exactly,” said Milo.
They turned to look at Juno who was smiling deviously as she placed her instrument back in her case and then threw it over her shoulder. “Uh-huh,” she agreed with them.
“Wait, we’re bringing our—” started Charlie, pointing to the ukeytar.
“I’m not about to go into battle without my relic,” said Juno. “And you shouldn’t either.”
“It’s dinner, not a battle,” said Charlie.
“It’s negotiations,” replied Juno. “And negotiations with rich men are always a battle.”
Milo nodded and picked up his umbrella which was leaning against the wall next to the elevator. Charlie followed suit and affixed the backpack to his back. Finally ready, the four of them descended in the elevator and set out into the chilly night.
Okay I LOVE this chapter so much. This is one of the only chapters that was written out of order in the first draft. In fact, it was one of the last scenes I wrote. I came up with it while listening to a song and just had to add it in and I’m so glad I did. Sometimes our final additions to a story are the most important!