dance song '97
"C'mon, Chloe, we've been here for hours! Can't we go home?" I
gave her the pouting look that always worked so well for Clark.
"We've been here for hours, Pete. You only showed up twenty minutes
ago." Chloe didn't even have to take her eyes off of her computer
screen to attempt a smackdown. I tried again.
"Yeah, but really, who cares if the track team might be infected
with pesticides that make them faster? It's getting dark outside
and everything. Besides, wasn't Clark supposed to be helping?"
Chloe's hands stopped typing. Oops. Shouldn't have said the C-
word. Lana smiled at me in sympathy.
"I'm tired too, Pete." Suddenly her eyes brightened. "I know! We
can take a dance party break!" Both of us turned to stare at her.
"Let me guess, the cheerleaders taught you that?" I was always
amazed at how much venom Chloe could put into a single word. And it
wasn't even a dirty one.
"No, Lana, it sounds...cool. What is it?" Anything to stop writing
about wanna-be athletes who were pushing the sound barrier.
Lana smiled at me. "Well, Pete, you pick a silly and bouncy song,
one with a good beat, and you turn it up really loud and dance. It
gets your blood moving, and it's a quick break from whatever you're
Chloe raised her eyebrows. "And what kind of silly and bouncy song
did you have in mind?"
Lana turned her smile on Chloe, who looked like she was about to
grin back, but suddenly remembered that she was the Boss, and we
were trying to distract her. "I didn't bring any CDs with me. But
I bet Chloe has something. Don't you?"
Chloe leaned down and rummaged in her bag. "If it'll get you two
working again and all of us out of here before breakfast, I'm sure I
can find something." She flipped through her CD case and pulled one
"Here. Bouncy and silly, but post-punk with feminist sensibility."
She handed the CD to Lana, who walked over to the stereo we'd snuck
into the Torch offices a few weeks ago.
"Sleater-Kinney? I've never heard of them." Me either. Chloe just
tucked her hair behind her ears and commanded, "Second-to-last
track. And crank it. If we're going to do this, let's do it
right." I was momentarily distracted by the deep vee of her orange
tank top. 'No, Ross, no! Those are friend curves! Look what
happened to Clark; don't go there, man!'
A single drumbeat filled the room, and both of the girls pulled me
out of my seat.
"Pete, this is definitely not a spectator sport. Come on, 'Ladies
Man,' shake that ass!" I definitely had to stop loaning Chloe my
I started bobbing my head, but was quickly distracted by looking at
the two of them. Chloe was almost flailing around, all bouncing
feet and hair flips. Strange how spastic was always sexy on her.
Lana, on the other hand, moved like a cheerleader: sexy moves
trained into her, smooth but unnatural. I wondered what she looked
like if she ever let go, late at night in her room. Chloe was
laughing, moving behind me and waving my arms in time with hers, and
I pushed her into Lana.
"Hey, personal space mean anything to you, Chlo?" Lana reached out
her arms so Chloe didn't fall over, and suddenly they were almost
touching, still dancing but...differently now. Eyes locked, Lana
stopped moving her hips in perfect time and started following Chloe,
who was always this close to being out of rhythm.
Lana left her hand on Chloe's arm, and it looked like she leaned in
for a moment, hair brushing Chloe's shoulder. They both had stopped
smiling. All of a sudden I felt uneasy, like I was intruding on
something. Chloe put her hand on Lana's other shoulder, and they
twisted from side to side, never breaking contact but never getting
closer. I moved to the left a little, so I could get a better look,
and there. There it was. Eyes big and intense, that little frown
between Chloe's eyebrows that she got when she was concentrating,
and Lana was tilting her head ever so slightly, so that if they
moved in just and inch, they'd be...
Man. That explained a lot. Lately every time I saw them they were
giggling, sharing clothes and stories about horses and first
crushes. Chloe lit up last week when Lana showed up at school
wearing Chloe's new black skirt, and Lana was the one who put those
red streaks in Chloe's hair. Like they were marking each other and
didn't even know it.
The song only went on for about three minutes, but it was enough
time for me to see that I had to do something, because they stepped
apart quickly, Chloe turning to me and glaring, asking if I was
ready to work now, and Lana pushing stop on the CD player all
flushed. Sure, if you looked at it the right way you could see that
Lana was always...somehow flat with guys, like she wasn't really
interested. And Chloe acted tough, but neither of them had had much
luck with the opposite sex lately.
Now they were living together, seeing each other every day, and
maybe Chloe's low-cut shirts were really directed at someone else;
maybe Lana's smiles weren't about Clark anymore. It all came down
to being afraid, and Chloe would deny it with her last breath,
all 'intrepid reporter takes risks and is scared of nothing,' but
she'd never do it.
And Lana...Lana'd never, unless she was sure. After all, the last
person she'd been with was dead. So it was up to me.
I put the plan into action the very next day; no use wasting time,
right? I cornered Chloe in the Torch during lunch, and I brought
coffee. Chloe's always easier to deal with if you bring sugar or
caffeine with you.
"So, Chloe, you're friends with Lana, right? I mean, that's a
stupid question. You guys live together, you let her move in, and
so I guess that's a yes." I backed off quickly, cursing myself for
not thinking this out first. Chloe had that look on her face, and I
knew I had about five minutes before she started grilling me on
exactly what I meant by that.
"The thing is, I'm really glad, you know? That you're friends.
Because I think you need Lana. I mean, a girl. As a friend."
Chloe sucked in a breath and turned to look at the Wall of Weird,
and I couldn't see her face but I knew I'd been too obvious.
I kept talking, hoping that I could make it better. "Because, you
know, Clark hasn't been around much lately, and I'm busy with
football, and she really seems to get you. She makes you happy, or
something." Chloe twisted her hands behind her and tipped her head
down. She'd done the exact same thing when she'd told me about how
she'd told Clark that she just wanted to be friends, and he'd
agreed. I never said 'that's what you asked for, Chloe, that's what
you said you wanted,' but I never had to. No one would believe it,
but Lana's more direct than Chloe, for all her aggressiveness and
pushing for answers. Chloe smiles when you hurt her, and Lana does
too, but Chloe'll never tell you.
"Thanks for your concern, Pete, but I wouldn't exactly call you the
expert on what I need. Or whom I need. I don't tell you that
you'll have to accept Lex or lose Clark as a friend, do I? I let
people have their private lives, so just back off, okay?" I shook
my head and tried to tell her how that wasn't the same thing at all,
but she turned around and man, she looked hurt. Like I'd poked
something secret and hurting inside of her, and now she was afraid
everyone would see it.
"Um, I'm gonna go. I didn't mean anything by it, really..." And as I
took one last look at her, leaning against the desk and staring out
the window, she was smiling.
I drove over to the Talon, confident that my second try would work
out. I planned out what to say the whole way there; and luckily
enough, the Talon was almost empty when I walked inside.
Lana was wiping the counter halfheartedly, humming along to a song
on the stereo.
"Hey, Lana, what CD is that?" 'Good, Pete, now just stick to the
"Um, it's the band that we were listening to in the Torch
yesterday? Sleater-Kinney? Chloe loaned them to me." Lana twisted
the rag in her hands. She looked nervous, but not as nervous as I
was. I gestured toward a table for two, and she nodded.
"So, Lana, you know how you can tell things about a person by the
music they listen to? And how sometimes you can see things, in
their music, that they don't?" I hoped she'd know what I meant; I
sounded like Chloe at a deadline, manic and unable to stop talking.
Lana tilted her head to the side, like I'd make sense if she looked
at me sideways. "Yeah, Pete, I see what you mean. Why?"
I rushed the rest of the words out, unable to remember the rest of
my slow and careful speech that would ease her into it. "Chloe
likes the Indigo Girls."
Lana looked puzzled, so I tried again. "And Melissa Etheridge."
"Pete, I don't really know those bands very well, so I'm not sure
"She listens to Ani DiFranco too. Um, and, um, k.d. lang." I
couldn't remember any more names, but it didn't seem like I'd need
to. Lana blinked a few times, then her face turned pink, her hands
dropped off the table to her sides, and I swear, her smile was wide
as one of Chloe's real ones.
"Pete, I think I know what you're saying. You are saying what I
think you're saying, right?" She looked fragile then, and I nodded
quickly. I didn't want her face to look like Chloe's, so I nodded
again, and then felt like one of those dashboard dolls and stopped.
"Um, I'm going to go. But Chloe's in the Torch right now, and, oh!
Lunch is almost over, so you'll be going back to classes, and so
will she, so, uh, I guess you'll both be there after school?" Well,
at least I waited until after I'd told her to become an idiot.
"Yeah, we'll be there. Deadline tomorrow, after all. And you have...
football practice, right? I should tell her that you won't be
coming?" Lana stood up, almost bouncing in place, and for a minute
she looked free, like Chloe dancing. I think that's where she got
the sneaky grin, too. I just nodded and left, afraid to say
But I couldn't leave it at that. I had to make sure, because Chloe
wasn't supposed to be sad, and sometimes you just couldn't get her
to understand. I wasn't sure Lana was...forward enough. Or something.
I waited until the school was empty, and tiptoed over to the window
in the door of the Torch. I couldn't hear shouting or Chloe's
typing, which you shouldn't have been able to hear through the door
but you still could, so I looked in.
Lana was running just the tips of her fingers up and down over
Chloe's bare arms, and they were kisisng. Softly, as though it was
only their first, but Chloe's hands were on Lana's waist, and their
heads were tilted just right. Lana was nudging Chloe's lips open,
her hair falling forward and mixing with Chloe's, and it looked
better than the black streaks had.
Chloe pulled away for a second, and I held my breath, but all she
did was smile at Lana. I could see the two colors of lipstick on
Lana's mouth, pink and a warmer red blurring into each other, and
Chloe raised a hand to run her thumb firmly over Lana's lips.
Lana's mouth tipped open, and I caught a glimpse of a tongue pinker
than the lipstick licking once as Chloe traced the rim of her
mouth. Then the colors were gone, and Chloe was running the back of
her hand over her own mouth, and their faces looked more naked now,
Both of them leaned in, not up, and I could see them pushing their
bodies together, not even stopping for breath, it all getting hotter
and wetter and I had to look away, because they were my friends and
I was happy for them. But not that kind of happy.
I took a few steps down the hall, where I couldn't be seen, and I
did the one and only Pete Ross Dance of Ultimate Success, which
involved arm-pumping and yes, ass shaking. Which I will deny to
Chloe till my dying day. I heard a snicker behind me, and I spun
around so fast that I fell into the lockers.
Clark leaned down to help me up. "Any particular reason for the
"You're the original Mr. Dork, and I'll thank you to not judge my
moves, for they are cooler than yours will ever be." I brushed my
shirt down and glared at him. Oh shit, the Torch!
"Right, and I'm sure I'll be seeing them on 'Soul Train' any day.
Hey, are Chloe and Lana working on the paper? I promised to help,
but I haven't been able to--" I cut him off before he could walk
over to the door.
"Yeah, they're in there, but they're busy right now."
Clark turned to me, confused. "Busy? Busy working, right? And I
should be helping."
"No, Clark, they're busy. His face didn't change. I sighed. "Man,
for a guy who can see through things, you're really blind."
Clark walked back over to me. "What does that mean? You're being
weird, Pete. What's going on?"
I slung my arm around his shoulder and led him toward the door,
outside, a sunny afternoon, and freedom after a good day's work.
"C'mon, Clark, let me tell you about the birds and the birds."