**Rough Draft. Unedited. Can Change.**
Buddy was throwing a get together at Mickey’s restaurant, gathering the entire 35 and under crowd in Belle City and even a few of the neighboring towns. It had been weeks since Meadow, Ashton, Rose and I went to Mickey’s together, but we were excited for a night out. Supposedly, when Buddy threw a party, he’d play all the good songs on the jukebox, having cleared space in the main room for a dance floor. Though it was Friday, it wasn’t the first one of the month; it was just a good time to throw a get-together I suppose.
I didn’t bother to walk through the restaurant when I arrived. Walking straight to the back of the wraparound porch, I found the girls standing against the railing, giggling about something.
“Miranda, girl, you’re late, but you’re cute so I guess you get a pass,” Meadow mused.
The temperature had been muggy and hot all day, but with the coming of night, an autumn coolness could be felt in the air. I wore a pair of my favorite dark wash jeans and my cowboy boots with an off the shoulder white blouse I’d found on a sale rack at Saks over a year ago. My hair swung in it’s low ponytail; I’d put it up, hoping to keep some strands away from my face.
“I’m glad you approve,” I chuckled.
“So does he, it looks like…” Rose nodded towards the backdoor of the restaurant. I turned to look, spotting Owen standing with Mickey, Parker, Connor, and Buddy. All the guys were focused on their conversation, but Owen was staring at me, smiling as I searched for a piece on my hair to fiddle with. Owen had thrown on something different from his uniform of t-shirt and worn jeans. He was wearing a flannel red button up, with dark wash jeans and black casual shoes.
“Is there something you want to tell us?” Meadow pried.
“Nope.” The anticipation in all three of their faces fell. They were all pushing for something—it was obvious.
“Seriously?” Ashton finally spoke.
“Seriously…he’s just helping us fix the bakery. That’s it.”
“That shouldn’t be it,” Meadow muttered, getting nods of agreement from both Ashton and Rose.
Before I could respond, the siren call of our favorite song in high school—the one we all agreed was our theme song—suddenly thumped through the speakers.
“Let’s go girls!” Shania Twain’s voice called and we answered with smiles, dancing and singing along.
Meadow always loved Shania Twain in high school, dubbing herself Shania’s number one fan. Man! I Feel Like a Woman! became ‘our song’ during senior year. We were so young back then, all with very different aspirations, supporting each other just the same.
Meadow clenched her fist, pantomiming a microphone, and belted her favorite part. “Man! I feel like a woman!” We all laughed, continuing to dance.
I tried my best not to turn and look at Owen and the guys, but I failed. The couple times my eyes did drift toward him, he’d already been watching me. My heart raced. Finally, I paused to catch my breath from singing, until Zac Brown Band blared through the speakers and we were right back to singing, this time to Chicken Fried.
It was hard to disagree with most of the words. There was nothing like Belle City, Georgia. Granted, there wasn’t another New York either, but there were plenty of big cities that housed rich people and polluted air. Towns like Belle City housed folks that cared about the little things, pulling together when someone was suffering, enjoying back porch parties where the air was clean and familiar. Belle City had its own charm.
Before I could continue comparing the two places, all the guys were walking out on the porch—Mickey, Buddy, Connor, Parker, and Owen. The melody slowed; I knew who it was before he sang the first lyric. Connor took Meadow’s hand and walked her to the makeshift dance floor, where other couples were slow dancing to the sounds of Tim McGraw and Faith Hill. It’s Your Love had always been one of my favorite songs. After all, it was Tim McGraw, my favorite.
Buddy stared at Ashton. “Wanna dance?”
We all stared as we waited for Ashton to answer.
“Buddy, you have two left feet,” Ashton laughed. “I’m joking, c’mon.” So they agreed to dance while Rose and I stood amongst the rest of the guys.
Mickey tilted his head towards Rose and then the dance floor, and not five seconds later I was the last girl left. Parker and Owen stood there, awkwardly.
“I’m going to head inside to grab some of those cheese curds.” Parker tossed his finger over his shoulder, marking his exit.
“Guess that leaves us.” Owen drew my attention to him as Parker left.
“Guess so.” I smiled, trying my best to hide my nerves.
“Dance with me…” He offered his hand. I looked up at his face, dissolving at that smile beneath the beard that I’d grown fond of.
I took his hand, believing that he’d guide me to the dance floor inside, but he didn’t walk in; instead he twirled me around.
When he saw the shock in my expression, he laughed. “Let’s just dance right here. Right now.” I looked in his eyes, as he grinned. How could I say ‘no’ to him with a look like that?
So we danced.
I couldn’t speak, but didn’t have to; we moved in unison, and it was all the thousand words that we’d been dying to say to each other. The Tim McGraw ballad ended, and Lady Antebellum’s Just A Kiss kept us close. I hated to admit it, but it felt good being wrapped in Owen’s arms. His cologne smelled like spice and leather; so good. I glanced up, as we moved back and forth to the music, watching the stars glimmer above us; watching the moon gleam down on us. We were under the spotlight together and I didn’t know what to make of the feeling.
Before I could settle, Owen backed away. As usual, our eyes connected and we stared at each other before we began to move closer. I was sure we both felt the same thing, saw the same intention in one another.
We were so close…
“Miranda, get in he–…” Meadow paused, as Owen and I nearly jumped away from each other. “Sam’s boyfriend just proposed.” She smiled and winked my way before she turned and walked back into Mickey’s. We’d all went to school with Sam and engagements were huge around town. It was the first step of joining two people together. Ironic that Sam’s engagement had just prevented Owen’s lips and mine from connecting. Oddly enough, I couldn’t decide whether I was disappointed, or relieved.