Just the Way You Are

A little background: LaNae has a big secret: her name’s not really LaNae. It’s Catha. LaNae just sounds better. And Catha/LaNae is off to college and dating and (her biggest dream) her first serious relationship. Here she’s at her first dance at college, hoping for her dreams to come true but not sure how to make it all happen.

This selection was originally published in Just the Way You Are, copyright 2005 by Katie Parker.

 

Well, where is he?

JTWYA cover largeWe’ve been at the dance for almost an hour. I’ve danced twice, but not with anyone special. At least, not anyone who said, “Oh, LaNae, I’m desperately in love with you. Will you marry me?” And now I’m sitting alone in a chair along one of the walls of the cultural hall. I haven’t met a tall handsome stranger, or a short ugly stranger, or anyone!

Do I not look interesting enough? Not cute enough?

I think about going to the refreshment table again. At least then I’ll look like I’m doing something.

Or maybe not. Maybe then I’ll just look like a pig.

I can see people on the dance floor having a good time. Even Mandy is out there. (She looks like a grasshopper, though.)  Why aren’t I out there? I wish my dad had let me go to more dances when I was in high school, so I’d know what to do now. I feel so behind, so backwards.

Someone sits down in the chair next to mine. I look over and see that it’s Monica, the girl we rode up with.

Not a guy, of course.

A word I would use to describe Monica is pointed. Her chin and nose come to delicate points on her face, and her gaze is pointed when she looks at you. She’s very pretty, though, with heavy dark eyebrows and large brown eyes, and long thick brown hair. She makes me feel very unsophisticated and bland. Why would she even sit by me? What would we talk about? If I say something,  I’ll at least look social. And the tall handsome stranger, wherever he’s lurking, will see me, LaNae, the dazzling conversationalist, and–

“Honestly, these guys are all chickens out here,” Monica says.

“Huh?” I say.

“They’re all chickens. They’re just hanging off by themselves and not asking anyone to dance.” Monica’s voice has a sharp, scornful edge.

“I just wish someone would ask me to dance,” I say.

“Oh, these guys are never going to ask you to dance,” Monica says. “They won’t ask anyone. You’ve got to go ask them yourself, if you want to have any fun.”

“I always thought guys were supposed to be the ones to ask,” I say and hear the plaintive note in my voice. No wonder I’ve been sitting here for so long.

“Oh, no,” Monica shakes her head vigorously. Some of her long brown hair falls forward, and she brushes it back from her face with red nails. “I mean, they can and some do. But so can we.”

A guy with blond hair walks by. I remember that he was one of the freshman guys I met at  home evening on Monday. “Hey, Monica,” he says, stopping just before he passes us.

“Hey, Corey,” Monica replies with a big smile on her face. “Well, don’t you just look handsome tonight?” She reaches out and lightly taps his arm.

“Thanks,” Corey says with a laugh in his voice. He pretends to slick his hair back.

So she’s laying on the charm, is she? Well, I can play that game, too. “Nice shirt,” I blurt out, raising my eyebrows and hoping I look just a little mysterious.

“Thanks,” Corey says, straight to me, sounding more serious than he did to Monica. Oh my gosh. It worked! He looks around, and then he glances at me again. I steel myself and meet his gaze, trying to look vibrant and full of fun. He looks around again, and then his eyes rest on me. “I should know your name,” he says finally. “But it seems to have slipped my mind. I’m Corey Donovan,” he says, extending his hand.

I shake his hand smoothly, and almost introduce myself, but Monica speaks abruptly. “Oh, I’m sorry,” she says. “I should have introduced you two sooner. Corey, this is LaNae. LaNae, this is Corey. Well, now we all know everyone. Would you like to dance?”

She said it so quickly that at first I don’t realize what it was that she had said. Then Corey suggests, “Hey, it’s a fast song. Maybe all three of us could go out.” He glances at me again. “Is that okay?”

I don’t know what to say so I shrug. “Sounds like a plan,” I say, wondering if Monica will be mad.

“Well, then let’s go,” Monica says. Her smile tells me that she’s not offended.

The three of us go out to the dance floor. I watch Monica dance. She is definitely a better dancer than Mandy is. She seems to make every move count, yet doesn’t overdo it. Mandy just looks kind of gangly.

I dance too, trying to make every move count, yet not overdoing it. I look at Corey.

Corey looks at me.

He’s looking at me!

I force myself to keep looking at him, and to smile.

He smiles back.

Soon the song is over. “Hey, thanks for the dance, guys,” Corey says to both of us. “I’ll see you around.” And he walks away.

Well, that’s that. Maybe he wasn’t too impressed with me after all. Oh well, his nose is kind of on the big side, anyway.

“So as I was saying,” Monica says as we go back to our seats. “We’re not going to have any fun if we just sit here all night.”

“Yeah,” I agree. Though I’m not sure I’m going to have any fun if I have to go out and ask guys to dance all night, either.

No. It will be fun. Monica can do it and so can I. After all, I got Corey’s attention (for a minute), didn’t I?

We both sit down.

I’m trying to come up with a good reason why I can’t go ask a guy to dance when someone approaches me. “Would you like to dance?” I hear a male voice say.

Someone is asking me to dance.

I look at him, wondering if I’ve seen him before. Then I glance at Monica. I can tell Monica is sizing him up, too. And she doesn’t look impressed. Maybe she’s just jealous because he’s asking me to dance and not her.

 “Sure,” I say, smiling up at him.

He leads me to an empty spot on the dance floor. I tingle with pleasure, wondering if he saw me earlier with Corey and Monica, and said to himself, “That girl there. She’s cute, she’s vibrant and full of fun. And she makes every move count when she dances, and doesn’t overdo it. I must ask her to dance.”

It’s a slow song this time, which means I have to put my one hand on his shoulder and hold his other hand the whole time. It seems kind of romantic. And it’s my favorite song playing:  “One Love, Forever and Always.”  I used to curl up on my bed at home and listen to this song with headphones and dream of someone who might love me enough to sing it to me. I wonder if this song is some kind of a sign.

“What’s your name?” he asks.

“I’m…LaNae,” I tell him. My heart beats faster. I almost told him my real name.

“LaNae,” he repeats, as if the name confuses him. “That’s an unusual name. Is it French or something?”

“I don’t think so,” I say.

“Oh,” he says.

There’s a pause. My heart continues to pump madly.

“So what’s your name?” I ask, after catching my breath.

“My name is Emmett Potter.”

“You were at home evening, weren’t you?” I ask.

“Yes, I was,” he says. “Are you going to school?”

“Yes.”

More silence.

“Are you going to school?” I ask him.

“Yes. At OU. But I think they should call it UO.”

“Me too,” I tell him. “What year are you?”

“I’m a freshman. I just came back from my mission.”

“Oh, how nice,” I say, pleased that I have a returned missionary in my arms (or at arm’s length, anyway), and that he goes to OU. “Did you enjoy it?”

“Yeah,” he nods. “It was a good mission. I love the people. I wish I could’ve taught them all the gospel.” He pauses. “But it was hard, too. The work was hard, and the other missionaries didn’t always work like they should.”

He’s a valiant one, too, I note. I hold his hand just a little more tightly.

“So how do you like it at OU?” I continue the conversation smoothly (and feel quite proud of myself for doing).

Emmett seems surprised that I would even wonder. “So far I’d have to say that it’s a definite experience.” He laughs a little.

I look up at him. He really isn’t bad looking. “What do you mean, ‘a definite experience?’”  I tilt my head just a little, trying to show a playful glint in my eye.

He looks pleased. This flirting thing could be fun, I decide.

“Well, of course it’s different living away from home,” Emmett begins. I smile encouragingly. “And making peanut butter sandwiches at my apartment gets old really fast.”

“Have you ever tried the dorm cafeteria?” I say. “I eat there.”

“Yeah, I go there for lunch sometimes. That’s definitely an experience,” Emmett asserts with a grin. We both laugh. “That Salisbury steak is nasty.”

“Yuck,” I say, and we laugh again. Wow. We have been conversing. We have been bonding! I look up warmly at Emmett.

There is a short silence.

“Do you like dogs?” he asks me.

“Do I like dogs?” I repeat, feeling confused, as if I just stepped into the wrong conversation.

“Yes. What do you think of dogs? Would you own one if you could?”

Dogs, I think. Furry animals, sometimes small, sometimes large. What made him think of dogs, I wonder. Did one wander into the dance? I look around but don’t see any.

“Yeah. I like dogs,” I say finally. “We have one at home.” Then I laugh. Emmett must have been setting me up, and I fell for it at first. But I’ll beat him to the punch. “Maybe we should just feed the Salisbury steak to him.”

Emmett laughs so hard that I wonder if maybe that dog question wasn’t a set-up. Does he really want to know if I like dogs? Or maybe he has one he’s trying to give away and wonders if I want one.

One love, forever and always. Always, darling, it had to be you.

“What subjects do you like in school?” Emmett asks me.

Nobody has ever asked me so many questions before. Could he really be interested in what I have to say? “I’m an English major, but I don’t know what my favorite subject is,” I say honestly. “I like different things about different subjects. And I don’t like the homework in any of them,” I add.

Emmett laughs a little.

Our conversation continues through the end of the song. Emmett asks me several questions, ranging from how I would rate my testimony to what I’d do if I were driving and it started raining so hard that I couldn’t see the white lines down the middle of the highway. They’re deep questions. Meaningful ones.

But it doesn’t stop there. After the song, Emmett reaches into his back pocket and pulls out a little notebook and a pen. “Can I get your phone number?” he asks.

Oh my gosh. I can’t believe it. Could this be the start of something big…something eternal? Trying to keep my voice from trembling, I give him my number. He asks for my name again, and I tell him, “LaNae. LaNae Battersby.”

“Battersby, huh?” he says, writing busily as the dance floor empties around us. I imagine that some of the other girls around are green with envy. This guy who is a returned missionary is obviously interested in me. Imagine that!

“Battersby,” he repeats. “That must start with a B.”

“Yes,” I say. “Most of the time it does.” But he doesn’t laugh at my little joke.

“I’ll call you real soon, then,” he promises, and is gone.

I float back to my seat on clouds of glory. He said he would call me! Emmett. Emmett plus LaNae. Mr. and Mrs. George Battersby are pleased to announce the marriage of their daughter, Catha Elaine, to Mr. Emmett Potter, for time and all eternity…

No. No, I won’t think about it. Daydreaming like that is stupid. I only just met the guy. Besides, he thinks my name is LaNae. Can I put “LaNae” on my wedding announcements as my name? Is there any way I can keep the man that I marry from finding out what my real name is?

One love, forever and always…Always, honey, I will love you. The words echo pleasantly in my mind.

“So how was it?” Monica asks me before I even sit down. She had been talking to Jason, who is in the branch presidency. Seeing me, Jason says, “Well, I see she’s back. Bye,” and leaves.

“It was okay,” I say, not wanting to sound overexcited. “He was nice.”

“I met him at family home evening,” Monica says.

“He was nice,” I say again, suddenly feeling threatened by the fact that Monica already knows him.

“Well, that’s good. Wish some nice guy’d ask me to dance,” Monica says.

“He asked for my phone number,” I tell her.

“Oooo.” Monica sounds impressed. “Well, that does sound promising.”

“Maybe so,” I say modestly.

“I need a nice guy to ask me for my phone number,” Monica says. “That Corey guy is pretty cute. But he’s not really my type. He seems a little bit more down-to-earth than I am, you know?”

I wonder what Monica means by “down-to-earth” and “type,” but I don’t ask. What type am I? What type is Emmett?

“Of course, two different people are what make a relationship interesting,” Monica says.

I see Corey looking in our direction from the refreshment table. Then he looks away. Then he seems to be walking toward us. He’s probably coming over to talk to Monica.

“I need a drink. I’ll be right back.” I quickly dart into the hall and find the nearest water fountain. I gulp water like a camel, and then fall into a chair and close my eyes. I like to quit while I’m ahead. That way I can’t mess anything up.